Texas Removes LGBTQ Youth Suicide Hotline After Primary Challenger Goads Abbott
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has taken down a webpage that offered resources to LGBTQ youth after criticism was leveled at Gov. Greg Abbott by a primary challenger for its inclusion.
Former Texas state Sen. Don Huffines, who announced his candidacy for governor in May, issued a rebuke of the resource page on Aug. 31 while admonishing Abbott. As of this week, the resource page was replaced with one that reads “The Texas Youth Connection website has been temporarily disabled for a comprehensive review of its content. This is being done to ensure that its information, resources, and referrals are current.”
“Gov. Abbott’s political appointees who are running the Department of Family and Protective Services have put out and have on their website some very disturbing information,” Huffines said in a video statement. “They are promoting transgender sexual policies… to Texas youth.”
Huffines continued, “This is Texas. These are not Texas values. These are not Republican Party values. But these are obviously Greg Abbott’s values. That’s why we need a change. That’s what my campaign is about.”
Abbott’s duties as governor authorize him to appoint the DFPS commissioner and council to establish the agency’s policies. Internal emails from DFPS officials obtained by The Houston Chronicle show the agency was aware of Huffines’ statement.
The Trevor Project, the nonprofit organization that operates the LGBTQ youth suicide hotline, reported a 150% increase in calls from transgender youth in Texas since the state legislature took up agenda items targeting transgender youth this year, according to LGBTQ Nation.
In a May survey of LGBTQ youth with a history of foster care, The Trevor Project reported 45% of respondents who attended a school that was not LGBTQ-affirming attempted suicide in the past year, compared to 26% of respondents who had attended an LGBTQ-affirming school. Further, LGBTQ youth who had reported being in foster care had three times greater odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year in comparison to those who had not.
The Texas legislature failed earlier this year to pass legislation that would have instituted extensive bans on transition-related medical care for transgender youth including gender-affirming care. However, on Thursday the Texas House successfully passed legislation that would prohibit transgender students from participating in school sports teams aligned with their gender identity.
“Extremists in our Legislature have continuously leveraged cruel rhetoric and rampant misinformation to coordinate this attack on the transgender community — young children in particular — and have sent a clear message that Texas is not a safe place for them to live,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, said in a written statement on the bill’s passage.
Martinez continued, “Throughout four traumatizing legislative sessions, we’ve seen increased requests for help from families facing anti-LGBTQ+ threats as a result of this hostile climate. The ‘debate’ over this anti-transgender bill is already exacerbating intolerance, fueling discrimination, and solidifying Texas’ reputation as the leading state for violence against trans people.”