This article mentions suicide. You can reach a trained crisis counselor through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-8255 or texting 741741. For LGBTQ mental health support, call The Trevor Project’s 24/7 toll-free support line at 866-488-7386.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than 60 people spoke up for transgender children at the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) council meeting today, providing personal accounts and reading testimony from families with transgender children.
This meeting comes two days after PFLAG brought a lawsuit against Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texas DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters and Texas DFPS itself. PFLAG represents three Texas families with transgender children and has legal counsel from Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas.
Masters attended the meeting, but had to leave halfway through public comments, citing a prior engagement.
“To everyone here today, I have heard you and I see you,” said Masters to meeting attendees before public comments began.
“Then do something,” said an attendee in response.
The meeting’s public comment period lasted for nearly three hours. Each speaker only had two minutes at the podium. Most of the speakers read from anonymous testimony submitted by families with transgender children.
“How do you silence the voices of the next generation without consequence? They live in isolation, turn to suicide and hide from help in fear of condemnation. They trust no one,” said Laura Kilaen, reading from testimony. “As a parent all I wanted to do is keep my children safe and happy. Both have proven to be difficult.”
Kilaen was in tears as she read the account, saying “this isn’t even my story.”
“We have spent the last four years building a support system for our son that includes a family of allies, trusted doctors, a therapist, accepting community, loving friends and a supportive school system, after a suicide attempt in 2019,” Kilaen continued. “We cannot go backwards–it will only lead to darkness.”
The testimonies presented at the meeting mirror the accounts in PFLAG’s lawsuit: A child comes out as transgender and parents consult medical professionals, the child starts gender affirming care and their life improves.
For families with transgender children, Abbott’s Letter disrupted their happy days. Now, they fear for their children and worry that state agents will shatter their families.
“Despite overwhelming evidence that our child’s choices are their own, we live in fear of even discussing these needs with our pediatrician out of fear that we will be targeted by CPS,” said Lindsey Huber, also reading testimony. “Imagine that you could not take your child to the doctor because of fear that the government would snatch your child away from you. What kind of freedom is that?”
A few people shared their personal stories with the DFPS council.
“Two years ago was the day I set to die. Last year was the year that I started gender-affirming care,” said Ginny Pham, a transgender Texan. “This Pride Month, I’m standing here today so that trans youth do not have to walk down the path of thinking that being trans is tragic. Pride to me is resistance, living resilience as a model for our community. Joy is a trans right.”
Morgan Davis, a former Child Protective Services agent, also spoke at the meeting. Davis, a transgender man, started the transition before conducting initial interviews with some of these families. He found them “exemplary.”
However, the investigations continued despite his and other agents’ findings. In May, he resigned from the agency over how the investigations were handled.
“Our unit is gone, all 150 of us. We want to do what we can to take care of these children. I want to be the advocate that I want that needed as a child, please let me do that,” Davis said.
As he left the podium, meeting attendees gave him a standing ovation. A later speaker asked the council if they would rehire Davis and the other agents who resigned.
Davis says that he likely won’t return to DFPS if the investigations end and instead focus his work on child advocacy.
What Davis heard in the meeting resonated with what he saw during the investigations.
“These families are passionate about their child’s welfare. They’re passionate about giving their child the medical care that is prescribed to them. And I’m blown away by their bravery,” Davis said. “All of these people showed up today to have a teaching moment and say, ‘you just might not know, and if you don’t, please let us tell you in terms that will resonate with your heart: These are our babies, our children.'”
Hours after the meeting, a Travis County Judge issued a temporary injunction that prevents DFPS from further investigating the families represented by PFLAG, as well as the families of PFLAG members.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that DFPS Commissioner Jamie Masters left before public comments began. It was brought to KXAN’s attention that Masters was at the meeting for part of the public comments.