One Texas family has moved across the country to protect their transgender child as Republicans in their home state try to pass anti-transgender laws, costing them everything.
Katie Laird and her family, including 16-year-old Noah, made the decision to leave Texas after realizing their son’s life was “literally in the hands of political desires” and the hospital where they had access to care stopped offering care health certificate confirming gender
Texas has passed more anti-trans laws than any other state, and its legislature has considered, but not passed, banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans people under 18.
Texas also introduced a directive to investigate parents of transgender children who may still be trying to provide such health care. The directive, signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, was in response to an inquiry from the Texas House of Representatives that asked whether certain “medical and chemical procedures on children” could fall into the category of child abuse.
As a result, LGBTQ+ youth saw a 150 percent increase in calls to Trevor Project, a community crisis support service, last year.
“I am furious about what is happening to these children. I was very loud, and noisy means a lot [letter] writing and a lot of media appearances on both the local and national stage…as many families have been forced to stay off the radar,” said Laird. Newsweek.
Gender-affirming healthcare, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a broad term for a range of social, psychological, behavioral, and medical interventions “designed to support and validate an individual’s gender identity” when it is gender-contradictory. were assigned at birth.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, medical interventions, such as puberty blockers or hormone therapy, are based on a child’s cognitive and physical development, as well as parental consent.
Surgical interventions, such as reducing the size of the Adam’s apple or changing the genitals to match their true s*x, are very rarely performed on people under 18 years of age.
Gender-affirming care is often considered ‘life-saving’ because of the positive mental health effects it has on trans youth, who are at higher risk of mental health problems, including suicidal thoughts, than their peers whose gender identity matches assigned at birth, according to research by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The American Medical Association slammed Texas bills and other similar bills across the country. He wrote to lawmakers to warn that “it is imperative that transgender people have the opportunity to explore their gender identity under the safe and supportive care of a medical professional.”
Texas lawmakers introduced 52 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2021 and 2022, including a ban on transgender children from participating in sports, which Abbott said was a priority for his government.
While many of these bills have not yet been passed, Republicans want to draft more legislation targeting the trans community in the January legislative session.
Whether they pass or fail, the damaging rhetoric can take a toll on the mental health of trans youth.
“Put yourself in the perspective of a young child who overhears snippets of conversations with adults or reads random headlines on the news, where even before he is able to feel comfortable coming out to us, he feels att*cked and harassed by adults in power,” Laird explained.
The family left their support network, including family and friends, just over three months ago to move to Colorado to start a new life where Noah could get the life-saving care he needed.
Given the urgency, they moved with very little planning or time to save money, which was “financially and socially devastating for us,” Laird explained.
“There has been a significant change in the way some of our closest friends and family have viewed us and treated our son. And in my opinion, it’s solely based on this hurricane of hateful headline rhetoric to incite fear and anger and activate the voter base,” she said.
“We felt the very personal effects that language and public discourse can have on how a person is perceived as a human being and treated as a member of the community.”
Several years have passed for a family not only navigating life with a transgender child in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, but also putting themselves at the forefront of campaigning for legal reform and raising awareness for transgender rights, including testifying on Capitol Hill.
This was not without its risks, as Laird reveals that those who speak out on behalf of transgender children face d*ath threats, public intimidation and even dox*ing – posting someone’s personal information online, such as an address or phone number with bad intentions.
“It’s really, really scary and we made the decision to show up there. I do not regret. But it’s hard,” admitted Laird.
That didn’t stop her determination to defend her son, so they decided to document Noah’s transition to the NBC documentary OUT Dear Noah: Pages from a family diary.
The short film documents the family’s journey through an uncertain political landscape and how they grappled with the decision of whether to leave Texas when Noah ended his gender-affirming health care.
The teen was equally adamant about sharing his story to help other families in their situation.
“I mean, it was hard for all of us. But he saw value in being able to share his experience… and he wanted to show what it was like to have a family get involved and support them, Laird explained.
“It was very important to him.”
Laird was also terrified that authorities would take her son away and prosecute her just for “seeking the best medical support” for her son’s gender dysphoria.
“They want to turn us into criminals, send us to prison for 10 years and take all our children and put them in a broken foster care system,” she said.
“So, as you can imagine, it put us on edge, and then the question became proud Native Texans in love with our home state: ‘is it worth staying here?’
Laird revealed that the “final straw” came when Texas Children’s Hospital indefinitely withheld gender-confirmed care “out of fear of losing state funding” and “decided to bow to political pressure and take away our ability to seek medical care for our child.”
“Once again, we had politicians with no legal basis trying to push through this harsh reality to erase our children’s personalities,” she said.
Laird and her family have never questioned supporting their son’s gender affirmation journey.
“This change was so ridiculously simple, but it really looked our son in the eye and saw a person who was deep inside,” she said.
“When we embraced our son as our son, when we confirmed his gender, everything changed for him. We were able to overcome his bouts of depression, bouts of self-harm more easily because he was empowered to be who he was, which is a basic but necessary thing that I think many of us take for granted.”
Mom also had a message for those who might disagree with her or those who support transgender rights.
“It begins and ends with our shared humanity,” Laird said, adding, “I would suggest focusing on this humility to focus on the golden rule: ‘how would we like to be treated in our collective infinite diversity’?”
“This is already an endangered group that has already been through so much that should just be left alone.”
Despite the challenges of raising a transgender child in a hostile political and social climate, Laird has remained positive.
“As a mother, I feel that this is what I was born for – to raise and love my children no matter what. And that’s the way it is no matter what,” said Laird.
“We care for our children, we listen to them, we learn from them. It’s our story.”
Newsweek asked Texas Health and Human Services for comment.
Dear Noah: Pages from a Family Diary premieres at the Meet the Press Film Festival at DOC NYC on November 15. The short will later air on NBC News NOW on Friday, November 18 at 10:30 p.m. (ET) and will also be available to stream on Paw.
If you need LGBTQ+ mental health support, please call Trevor Project 24/7 free support line at 866-488-7386 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text 741741.
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