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State makes its case in lawsuit aimed at stopping Texas' ban on care for transgender minors

Brian Klosterboer, staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, talks to reporters outside the Travis County District Court on August 16, 2023 about the impact Senate Bill 14 would have on transgender minors in Texas.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Brian Klosterboer, staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, talks to reporters outside the Travis County District Court on Wednesday about the impact Senate Bill 14 would have on transgender minors in Texas.

Texas on Wednesday presented its case for why Senate Bill 14, a measure that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors in Texas, should be allowed to go into effect on Sept. 1.

The state’s list of witnesses ranged from a licensed family and marriage therapist to a plastic surgeon to a psychologist who specializes in sexology, the study of sex and relationships.

It followed a day of emotional testimony from parents of transgender youth asking a judge to block Texas’ ban on transition-related health care for minors.

Wednesday's hearing was the culmination of a two-day hearing where the plaintiffs in the case — parents of transgender youth and several LGBTQ-rights organizations — pleaded their case to Travis County District Court Judge Maia Cantú Hexsel.

Contrary to some of the witnesses presented by the plaintiffs on Tuesday, none of the state’s witnesses have done research on gender dysphoria.

However, some have treated patients with gender dysphoria, like Katrina Taylor, a licensed family and marriage therapist.

“When there’s gender confusion or gender dysphoria I see it as a symptom for the family,” Taylor told the court Wednesday.

She said that young people diagnosed with gender dysphoria come from dysfunctional families, but provided no evidence to back up that claim. Taylor testified she has only treated about 30 patients for gender dysphoria, or what she calls “gender confusion,” in a decade.

Taylor was part of a group of witnesses the state brought to make their case that Senate Bill 14 — a measure that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors in Texas effective next month — is needed to protect kids.

Gender-affirming care practices include puberty blockers and hormone therapies. These treatments are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, the Texas Pediatric Society, and the American Board of Pediatrics as best practices for care.

SB 14 also bans transition-related surgeries, although those are rarely performed on minors.

Dr. Clifford Hopewell, a Dallas-based clinical neuropsychologist, told the court many adolescents who agree to undergo gender-affirming care “don’t reflect on consequences” of that treatment.

Another witness the state sat on Wednesday was Soren Saldaco, a 21-year-old cisgender woman who previously identified as a transgender man.

She started on testosterone when she was 17 and told the court “I felt good after I took them.”

But Saldaco said things changed after she got a mastectomy two years later.

“Eventually, it felt gross,” Saldaco testified. “I was happy that I was being affirmed, but I think it was just that. But the actual mode of affirmation was very detrimental to my health overall.”

Saldaco said she wished she hadn’t undergone hormone therapy or surgery.

Saldaco's testimony stood in contrast to that of plaintiff Nathan Noe, a 16-year-old transgender boy who started taking testosterone two years ago.

Noe — who is using a pseudonym — said he experienced a positive shift right away.

“People were able to see me as the me I see myself as,” Noe told the court. “And having a body that aligned with that, it felt like a weight being lifted.”

Noe’s voice changed. He said he “felt better about myself.”

But come Sept. 1, Noe won’t be able to access gender-affirming care, and would have to wane off the testosterone.

He said he’s been trying to get his prescription refilled, but it has been impossible — his main medical provider shut down their clinic recently.

“I feel very helpless,” Noe said. “I want to continue to focus on my high school and eventually graduate and not have to deal with not being on this medicine which really saved my life.”

Awaiting the judge’s decision

With the hearing concluded, attention now turns to Judge Maria Cantú Hexsel who must first decide on a matter of jurisdiction before ruling on the case.

The state’s arguing the court doesn’t have the authority to make this type of determination.

Brian Klosterboer, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas, told reporters Wednesday the soon-to-be law violates the constitutional rights of parents and transgender young people.

“The plaintiffs in this case this week have come together and showed up in court to present a powerful case that this law is flagrantly unconstitutional and violates some of the most fundamental freedoms that many of us as Texans hold dear,” Klosterboer said Wednesday. “Texas politicians have been relentless in their assault on the rights of transgender youth … but transgender young people know who they are and they are fighting back.”

Regardless of how the judge decides, both parties will likely appeal the ruling.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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