One of the hardest things about parenting is the fact that there are so many questions and so few definite answers on how to best take care of our kids. As that tiresome old cliché goes, kids don’t come with instruction manuals.
When we’re in doubt, we can consult the experts. Though I’m a research psychologist with a doctoral degree, I’m no different from other parents in this regard. I also look to experts who specialize in child development for guidance.
Our lawmakers should be doing the same when considering legislation. However, House Bill 25 is being debated on the Texas House floor today without adequate consideration of the research that shows it will grievously harm transgender youth if it becomes law. That’s unacceptable and dangerous to trans youth in Texas, including my child.
In short, the bill would prohibit trans kids from participating in school sports on teams that align with their gender identity. In other words, this bill would make it illegal for trans kids to both have their gender affirmed and benefit from the positive effects of sports participation.
HB 25 runs counter to everything we know about what is best for kids. The experts agree on both the benefits of sports participation and the wisdom of affirming trans kids. Of course, you don’t need a Ph.D. to understand that children should be loved and accepted for who they are and allowed to play with their peers. Those of us who are parents already know this.
Experts recommend this same type of unconditional acceptance and support when a child expresses that their gender is different from the gender they were assigned at birth. In fact, affirming trans and gender-creative children, along with helping them to access gender-affirming medical care, is recommended by a broad consensus of respected professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Medical Association. The more gender-affirming care for children is studied, the more research shows that this is the best path for parents and caregivers to take.
Clearly, the opportunity to participate in a beneficial activity like school sports should be made available to all children. Experts recommend protecting access to sports participation for children who would benefit most from these activities, including trans youth. Positive sports participation has been shown to protect against important negative mental health outcomes, like depression and suicidal ideation, which is especially important for trans youth, who experience higher rates of both.
If there’s one thing that parents don’t need to consult with experts to know, it’s the fact that their most important duty as a parent is to love their children with all of their hearts, unconditionally. Our biggest job is to accept and support them throughout their lives and especially when they’re young.
Let me make this clear: Creating a law which will deprive trans kids of the right to participate in school activities is wrong and would enshrine discrimination against a vulnerable minority group of children into law. This is heartless enough, but those who champion this discriminatory law have also put forth more extreme laws, including laws that would prevent trans kids from accessing crucial medical care. This bill is clearly a part of a systematic attempt to strip away rights from trans kids and their parents.
The state must stop these biased attacks on trans kids and legislate based on what we all know: all children deserve to be fully accepted and safe as their true selves.