When Karen Krajcer moved to Austin five years ago with husband Chris and their two children, my wife and I were the beneficiaries in two ways.
Though they lived only two blocks from us in San Antonio, we hadn’t met them until we heard they were selling their house. Chris’ firm, Lake Flato Architects, asked him to join their new Austin office. We were able to buy their excellent house and to get to know them.
Now the Krajcers may have to move out of Texas – not because of another career move but because the Texas Legislature may well pass some of several bills regarding the treatment of transgender children.
You’ve probably heard of the bill that would require transgender children to participate in school sports only as the sex assigned to them on their original birth certificate, even though politicians have been unable to find a single case of transgender girls excelling in girls sports in Texas or virtually any other state. The NCAA has threatened to cancel the immensely lucrative Final Four men’s basketball tournament in Houston in 2023 and San Antonio in 2025 if the bills become law.
But a number of other bills targeting families with transgender kids are even worse. I learned of them when a mutual friend sent us a link to testimony Karen Krajcer gave before a Texas Senate committee last month. She was required to be brief, so it lasts only four minutes because so many parents and others signed up to testify against the bill. You can watch her testimony here.
“If these [bills] pass I cannot live here.” testified Krajcer, whose child told her at the age of 6, “Mom, I am a girl.” Krajcer was not totally surprised.
In addition to being a freelance writer, Krajcer testified she serves as a court-appointed special advocate in Texas, trained to represent abused and abandoned children.
“Many trans youth end up in foster care due to rejection by their families,” she said, not needing to emphasize how wretched Texas’ underfunded foster system is. “These bills seek to break up loving, stable families just because parents support their children.”
At the end of Krajcer’s testimony state Sen. Judith Zaffarini, the Laredo Democrat whose district includes part of Bexar County, asked, “Ma’am, you said if these bills pass you could not continue to live here. Could you explain why?”
“Correct,” Krajcer said. “Because I could be charged as a child abuser. I would not be able to provide my child with the gender-transitioning care that she needs. And right now … all that means is affirming who she is, using the pronouns she prefers and driving her to therapy. And I won’t be able to help her when she does approach puberty and more medical interventions are necessary.”
One of the bills Krajcer was testifying against, Senate Bill 1646, would legally define the treatments recommended to be considered by her pediatrician and her child’s therapist as criminal “child abuse.” They would be penalized under the same current law that criminalizes child sexual assault. Under the bill, “abusers” would by law include anyone “administering or supplying or consenting to or assisting in the administration or supply of a puberty suppression prescription drug or cross-sex hormone to a child.”
Krajcer, her husband, the doctors and nurses who provided medical care, and possibly the therapist could all be charged with felonies. Her child could be placed in a foster home and the parents sent to prison.
The medical interventions she mentioned do not involve surgery but puberty blockers that have long been used for children who begin puberty abnormally early. At this point, Krajcer said she is regularly taking her daughter to a therapist who assists with emotional issues and to an endocrinologist who will determine early signs of puberty and help decide whether to take blockers.
Blockers, she pointed out in testimony, are reversible, but the effects of puberty – a deeper voice, an Adam’s apple – are not. Their development can cause severe psychological stress and in some cases suicide.
The next step for her daughter would be a decision to start treatments with the female hormone estrogen, usually not until age 16 or later.
Medical treatments aren’t called for yet, but after consulting with the therapist and pediatrician, Krajcer and her child have transitioned in school. She arranged a meeting for herself, her husband, and her child with the principal, counselor, and her child’s two second grade teachers at their neighborhood public school.
Krajcer, a former teacher, is the sort who has read journal articles and books to educate herself on gender dysphoria. She is also a stutterer, though you won’t know it from watching her testimony. As a severe stutterer in school, she knows very well what it like to be bullied.
Krajcer alerted the school team ahead of time what the meeting was to be about. “I didn’t want to surprise them,” she said.
After friendly greetings, her child announced in an early moment of self-advocacy, “I’m a girl and I want you to say ‘she’ and ‘her.’”
The response? “Everybody went, ‘Hurray!’” Krajcer said. With the active support of the teachers, the girl they had known as a boy was accepted by the students, Krajcer said. She expects that to continue in elementary school but has concerns about middle school.
I don’t have space here to go into the broad details of issues involved, but several major medical societies have testified against bills such as the ones being considered by the Texas Legislature, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Physicians. For more information, the Mayo Clinic has posted a medical explainer here, and the Washington Post recently did a more comprehensive piece on related controversies.
I’m sending you to these links because, rather than summarize the information in them, I want to step back and ask a question. We’ve had transgender children in our midst for a long time, and the treatment for them is not new. Though medical specialists say more studies need to be done, their medical associations have been able to develop detailed recommended protocols.
So why all of a sudden do Republicans in about 30 legislatures around the country want to make these scientifically developed protocols into felonies?
The Republican Party has not been a champion of science in recent times. It has only recently accepted, to an extent, climate change. President Trump downplayed the coronavirus without rebuke from the party. And now Republicans are trying to criminalize science-based treatment for transgender children.
The only reason I can think of is that their political fortunes have for at least half a century depended on fostering fear and hatred. President Richard Nixon initiated the “southern strategy” to play on the prejudices of white southerners in the wake of the civil rights legislation of the Lyndon B. Johnson administration. George H.W. Bush won election with the help of fear-mongering Willie Horton ads. Ronald Reagan kicked off his campaign in the South with coded language citing “states’ rights” and later lectured about “welfare queens.”
It didn’t help when Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and other Democrats supported a crime bill that led to mass incarceration of Black people. And then, of course, came the Defense of Marriage Act and the continued vilification of gay people.
In recent years some Republicans have attacked Black Lives Matter and related organizations, but most politicians feel the need to hide blatant racist sentiments. And Americans have come to know and like LGBTQ people as they watched them on television and learned that they included some of their friends and relatives, so much that a Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage has caused little backlash.
So with the shrinking of available targets, the bills’ supporters are reduced to bullying the small percentage of children whose gender identities don’t match the sex assigned to them at birth. The adults use God and political power to beat this drum.
Do the ones who cite the Bible believe that Jesus would have treated these children as lepers? He didn’t treat people with leprosy as lepers.
The nationwide promulgation of these bills by Republicans is more than bullying. It is child abuse.