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After several delays, Texas House approves bill banning gender-affirming care for minors

Protesters against SB 14 gather at the Texas Capitol on May 12, 2023.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
The Texas Newsroom
Protesters against SB 14 gather at the Texas Capitol on May 12, 2023.

Update: On Monday, May 15, four Democrats joined Republican lawmakers to pass SB 14 in the House. If the Senate approves the House's changes, the bill will head to Gov. Greg Abbott.

Texas is one step closer to banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors who live in the state.

On Friday, the Texas House of Representatives voted to preliminarily advance Senate Bill 14, a measure that would prohibit the administration of puberty blockers and hormone therapy to people under 18 years old who are transitioning.

Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, told lawmakers from the House floor that he believes gender dysphoria should be treated with counseling rather than gender-affirming care.

“In contrast to experimental medicine and surgery, professional counseling and psychotherapy is a proven alternative that helps children overcome gender dysphoria,” he told lawmakers.

The legislation is one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priorities and has already passed the Senate.

Under the Senate version, minors currently on transition-related medical care would have to stop their treatment after the bill goes into effect in September.

The version passed Friday in the Texas House, however, would give transgender minors a period of time to wean off treatment.

Still, trangender-rights advocates say the legislation is hateful and will have a negative effect on the lives of transgender minors.

Sofia Sepulveda, the community engagement and advocacy manager with the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas, said SB 14 is just one of many measures targeting people in the LGBTQ community.

“It feels like every other day there is legislation or there’s a hearing targeting the trans community,” Sepulveda told reporters Friday morning. “We are literally fighting for our lives.”

Mental health impacts 

El Paso Democratic Rep. Mary Gonzales told lawmakers Friday that their rhetoric directly harms kids.

“Nearly one in three LGBT youth have reported that their mental health was poor,” she said. “Most of the time, because of anti-LGBT policies and legislations. That means that our actions, our words are hurting children.”

Even if the bill doesn’t become law in Texas, research shows the debate around it could still affect transgender and non-binary kids’ mental health. A January 2023 report from The Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ+ support and advocacy group, showed that kids felt angry, stressed, sad and hopeless when hearing about policies that would restrict their health care, participation in sports, and put limits on LGBTQ+ community spaces.

The political fights accompanying these proposals have the same impact on trans adults: A 2021 study in the Journal of LGBT Health found “exposure to negative media messages was associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and psychological distress” for transgender adults, even when researchers controlled for other mental health issues.

Rep. Christian Manuel, D-Beaumont, is one of the first Black members of the House who is openly LGBT. Manuel recalled his own experiences dealing with homophobia as a young person and reiterated the importance of providing access to care.

“These are things that prevent people from harming themselves, hating themselves, and allows them to be able to, basically, have a form of therapy that lets them know that it is okay to be themselves,” Manuel told fellow lawmakers.

Next steps for the bill

SB 14 is now one procedural vote away from being approved in the House. The Senate will then discuss any amendments added during the House debate — and, if approved, the bill would head to the governor's desk.

Friday’s vote has been a long time coming. House lawmakers were originally scheduled to vote on the proposal last week, but some Democratic lawmakers used a procedural move to delay the vote twice.

Democrats tried the same tactic again Friday, but were unsuccessful.

House Democrats also presented 19 amendments for SB 14, ranging from creating a study on suicides in transgender youths in Texas to exempting puberty blockers and hormone therapy from the ban.

All 19 amendments were rejected by the GOP-led chamber.

“I think it's important for us in the House to send a message to 30+ million Texans that we care about Texas children,” said Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, adding that he considered gender affirming care to be child abuse.

Several House Democrats joined Republicans in voting to move SB 14 forward. Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, said children were too young to decide to take hormones, citing laws prohibiting people under 18 from getting tattoos or going to tanning salons.

“These policies and regulations are in place because we recognize that children should be protected from actions and activities which have harmful health risks or lifelong consequences,” she said.

Meanwhile, Texas LGBTQ-rights advocates have vowed to keep pushing back against this and similar legislation.

“The one thing about our community is we’ve been resilient,” said Equality Texas’ Sofia Sepulveda. “We’ve existed for thousands of years and we always find a way to survive, and that’s exactly what we are going to do.”

Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán reports on Texas politics and government for The Texas Newsroom.
Aurora Berry is the 2023 Legislative Fellow for The Texas Newsroom.