Texas investigated mother of trans teen for ‘child abuse’. A year later, she’s still traumatised

Amber Briggle and her son.

It’s been a year since Texas officials launched what they called child abuse investigations into families with trans children. And for one mum, the “traumatising” memories of that persecution are still all too fresh.

On 21 February, 2022, Texas attorney general and hard-line conservative Ken Paxton claimed that gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth was child abuse. The opinion emboldened Republican governor Greg Abbott to order officials at the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate families and doctors who were providing gender-affirming care for trans youth

Just a few days after Abbott’s order, the DFPS confirmed it had opened nine child abuse investigations into families of trans kids in Texas. 

Amber Briggle’s family were among them. She learned of the investigation on 28 February when she found a sticky note on her desk saying she missed an urgent, private call. 

“I thought it was another parent who was under investigation. I was so naive,” Amber, whose teenage son is trans, tells PinkNews.

“I didn’t think it could be me because I’ve been doing this for so long, and there’s never been a call to investigate me or, if there was a call, no one investigated. No one took it seriously. 

You may like to watch

“I was walking around with a motherf**king target on my back, but I just never thought it could happen to me.”

Amber hugging her son
Amber and her son. (Briggle family)

When Amber called the number, a child-protective services investigator answered. She said she was on her way to the Briggles’ home.

The shock of the call was almost too much. But the family found a lawyer to represent their children, meaning they wouldn’t have to be alone with the investigator, and managed to rearrange the visit for another day. 

Amber remembers asking her husband to answer the door when the caseworker arrived so she could “say one more prayer in the bathroom” and dry the tears from her eyes. 

The family sat on the couch before being interviewed one by one. 

“I remember she handed me a stack of papers,” Amber says. “She’s like: ‘Here’s a flyer on what to do with your stress. Here’s a flyer on good nutrition for your kids. Here’s a flyer on signs to look for in self-harm in your child. Here’s a flyer if you have a drug or alcohol addiction because you’re stressed out.’

“I’m just like, f**k you. You come into my house, wasting my tax dollars – she had to drive an hour-and-a-half [each] way to come talk to us. I was f**king pissed. She’s wasting my time. She’s traumatising my family, traumatising my kids.”

Amber's son holding a guitar
Amber’s son is thriving. (Briggle family)

The caseworker inspected the home, saw the food in the cabinets, the children’s artwork on the walls, the beds filled with stuffed animals, and the trampoline in the backyard. 

Before she left, the investigator noted that the Briggles were “clearly doing something right”, according to a statement released by the family at the time

In June 2022, the Briggles were among several families who filed lawsuits against the investigations.

They lived in fear for months that the state could potentially remove the children from their homes. 

The investigation into the Briggles family remained open for over 100 days, and Amber says it was only closed on the same morning that the family’s lawsuit was brought in court against the state.

In September of that year, a Texas state court issued a temporary injunction blocking investigations into the families involved in the lawsuits. That was later expanded to cover any family belonging to PFLAG, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group with more than 600 members in Texas. 

The orders blocking investigations are still in effect as the cases continue to work their way through the Texas legal system, with a trial scheduled for this autumn, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

Amber. her husband and their two children
The Briggle family. (Briggle family)

A year after their ordeal began, Amber still feels offended, angry and traumatised. She condemns Paxton and Abbott for making their family a “political football, just f**king kicking us around”. 

“I still cry about this s**t,” she says. “I’m a good mum. I’m not perfect, but to waste valuable resources to come in and terrorise my family because someone wants to win an election instead of doing their job caring for all Texans… rather than caring about the people they were elected to protect and serve, they’d rather s**t on me and my family. It hurts and I’m mad about it.”

She’s watched as discrimination and stigmatisation against the trans community has increased during the past 12 months, with hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans bills being filed in state legislatures across the country.

Republican lawmakers in IowaSouth DakotaOklahoma, Arizona, Utah and Kentucky enacted trans sports bans in 2022. Other states – including Alabama and Arizona – have brought in laws that attack gender-affirming care for trans youth. In the first weeks of 2023 alone, Utah and Mississippi banned gender-affirming healthcare for trans minors. 

So for the Briggles, and other families of trans youth, the fight to protect the rights of their children and the community is far from over. Amber says she’s tired, but is far from letting that take her away from the battle. 

“I get up and I fight another day,” she says. “When you’re wrestling an 800lb gorilla, you don’t give up when you get tired – you give up when the gorilla gets tired.

“That’s what I’m doing. I don’t have time to quit. I have no choice in this. There’s no checking out.”

Please login or register to comment on this story.