Joe Biden says Texas governor ‘on notice’ over ‘dangerous’ attacks on trans kids

Joe Biden, the president of the United States, stands at a podium with an American flag in the background

President Joe Biden has slammed Texas lawmakers for their “cynical and dangerous campaign” targeting trans kids and their families.

Biden spoke out against elected leaders in Texas – including governor Greg Abbott and attorney general Ken Paxton – who compared gender-affirming care for trans children to child abuse in a searing statement released Wednesday (2 March).

In February, Abbott directed state officials to “conduct prompt and thorough” child abuse investigations into families who sought puberty blockers and gender-affirming surgeries (which aren’t routinely, if at all, made available to under-18s) for their trans children. Paxton dubbed such care – which researchers and campaigners have said is ‘life-saving’ – “monstrous” and issued a legal opinion listing them as child abuse.

Biden labelled the anti-trans campaign “government overreach at its worst”, adding that Abbott’s actions have ‘terrified’ families across the state.

“Like so many anti-transgender attacks proliferating in states across the country, the governor’s actions callously threaten to harm children and their families just to score political points,” Biden said. “These actions are terrifying many families in Texas and beyond. And they must stop.”

Biden said the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had announced several actions to keep trans youth and families in Texas safe. He said this would put the “state of Texas on notice that their discriminatory actions put children’s lives at risk”.

“These announcements make clear that rather than weaponising child protective services against loving families, child welfare agencies should instead expand access to gender-affirming care for transgender children,” Biden said.

He continued: “Respected medical organisations have said that access to gender-affirming care for transgender children can benefit mental health, lower suicide rates and improve other health outcomes.

“Children, their parents and their doctors should have the freedom to make the medical decisions that are best for each young person – without politicians getting the way.”

HHS secretary Xavier Becerra has urged families and individuals to contact the department’s civil rights office if they’re being “targeted by a child welfare because of this discriminatory gubernatorial order”.

“The Texas government’s attacks against transgender youth and those who love and care for them are discriminatory and unconscionable,” Becerra said. “These actions are clearly dangerous to the health of transgender youth in Texas.”

The HHS issued guidance that warned any denial of healthcare based on an individual’s gender identity is illegal, and it is also illegal to restrict medical professionals from providing care because of a person’s gender identity.

Becerra also called on HHS to explore any and all options to protect kids, parents and families. The department will also be increasing awareness about the resources available for families and healthcare providers in Texas if they face discrimination as a result of “this discriminatory gubernatorial order”.

Joe Biden said that affirming a trans child’s identity is “one of the best things a parent, teacher or doctor can do to keep children from harm”. He added that parents who “love and affirm their children” should be “applauded and supported” – not “threatened, investigated or stigmatised”.

“Jill and I are standing with the incredibly brave transgender children, their parents, and families throughout Texas and around the country, and we will continue to fight for a future where all children can thrive,” Biden added.

Judge Amy Clark Meachum granted a temporary order on Wednesday (2 March) halting the investigation by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) into the parents of a trans teen. She stopped short, however, of blocking such investigations into other families.

Biden’s statement came shortly after actor and trans activist Angelica Ross implored him to turn his statements on trans rights into action, reminding him: “Talk is cheap.”