During the week of February 21st Texas Governor Greg Abbott relayed an opinion from the Texas Attorney General’s office regarding interpreting transition care for trans minors as child abuse. The Governor then called on “licensed professionals” and “members of the general public” to report parents of transgender minors if they are receiving gender affirming treatment.
A question was quickly raised as to whether clergy, as mandatory reporters in Texas, would be required to report such families due to this statement by the Governor. The answer to that is clearly NO. The Governor’s statements and the AG’s opinion are not legally binding and have no force of law. Additionally, gender-affirming care has been ruled by the courts to be medically necessary which would make them, by legal definition, not child abuse.
So it is clear what clergy and lay members of our communities do not have to do. But what do we need to do. The first is recognize that these statements come conspicuously close to the state primary elections that are concluding March 1st. As informed citizens we should be aware of the potential motivations of leaders in their words and do our research on what those words do and do not require of us.
Secondly, we need to acknowledge these words cause pain and harm to already marginalized communities. To reach out to those in our midst, in this case transgender minors and their parents, who are being targeted by these words and express our solidarity with them. And if we do not know anyone in this particular community to engage our neighbors in better understanding the existence and pain of our siblings.
Finally, we need to continue to educate ourselves on issues of gender and sexuality. To re-read the ELCA social statement on sexuality which was crafted and voted on by lay and rostered leaders of our church. To learn ways we can better support and be educated about, in this particular case, the transgender community. Bishop Mike Rinehart in this blog has shared a number of ways to do so.
We may not have to do anything as a result of these statements. But the gospel calls us always to do something, to love our neighbors, and to work for peace and justice. Please join me in praying for those who are further targeted and alienated by these words. We live in a deeply divided time and we have strongly held differences. However, the love of neighbor and seeing all people, and in this case particularly Transgender people, as God’s creation and expecting our leaders to do so also is our calling.