Texas officials withdrew two online pages that provided aid for LGBTQ youth, including a link to a suicide prevention hotline, in late August after a protest from one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Republican primary contenders.
On Aug. 31, the candidate, Don Huffines, who owns a real estate development company in the Dallas area, stated on Twitter, “It’s sad to watch @GregAbbott TX utilize our tax funds to campaign for transgender ideology.” This must come to a close.”
On the website of the Department of Family and Protective Services, he noted a “gender identity and sexual orientation” homepage.
In a video, Huffines claimed, “They’re talking about empowering and promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, allied, nonheterosexual activity, and so on.” The speaker asks, “I mean, really?” Texas is the name of the state. These aren’t the values of the state of Texas. These are not the Republican Party’s values. They are, nevertheless, unmistakably Greg Abbott’s ideals.”
In a separate tweet that same day, Huffines linked to a webpage for Texas Youth Connection, a program run by the DFPS (Department of Family and Protective Services) that included a link to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization, as well as other LGBTQ rights organizations.
“This is the webpage where Greg Abbott TX’s political appointees advocate transgender-ism,” Huffines commented.
After a few hours, both pages were taken down.
“The website of Texas Youth Connection has been temporarily disabled for a complete examination of its content,” reads a note on the page. “This is being done to guarantee that the website’s content, resources, and referrals are current.”
Links to Texas Youth Helpline and the department’s Adult Living Preparation program are included. On the page about sexual orientation and gender identity, an error message has shown.
In an email Tuesday, Patrick Crimmins, the director of communications for the Department of Family and Protective Services, said the investigation into the websites “is still ongoing” and that he couldn’t disclose why they were taken down.
Abbott’s office has yet to respond to a request for comment.
According to emails received through a public documents request obtained by the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday, agency officials considered removing the gender identity and sexual orientation pages in response to Huffines’ tweet.
According to the Chronicle, Marissa Gonzales, the department’s public relations director, emailed Crimmins a link to Huffines’ video with the subject line “Don Huffines video accuses Gov/DFPS of pushing liberal transgender agenda.” “FYI,” she said in the body of the email. On Twitter, this is gaining a lot of traction.”
Crimmins sent an email to Darrell Azar, the department’s director of web and creative services. “Darrell – please know we may need to take that page down, or edit material,” he wrote to the Chronicle, according to the Chronicle.
According to Azar, the department’s Preparation for Adult Living program, which aids older teens who are placed in foster care by the state, built the webpage. According to the Chronicle, he replied that the information Huffines condemned is “just a few years old,” but that the program for an adult living has been posting “content relevant to LGBTQ for as long as I can recall.”
Huffines claimed credit for the pages’ removal in a tweet on Tuesday.
“Greg Abbott was using government funds to promote transgenderism and the Human Rights Campaign,” he wrote. “As a result of our campaign, he came to a standstill.”
Many people, including elected officials, spoke out against the removal of the pages in August, but even more people, including advocates, opposed the move in response to the Chronicle’s piece.
Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro served in the Obama administration as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He called the decision to remove the web pages “disgusting.”
“To appease his hardline supporters, Greg Abbott is undermining an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention hotline,” he wrote Tuesday.
LGBTQ children are overrepresented in foster care, according to Ricardo Martinez, CEO of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas, who said in an emailed statement that they “experience genuinely astonishing discrimination and abuse.”
“The state is accountable for these children’s lives, yet it purposefully withheld a resource from them when they are in need,” he said. “To make matters worse, this occurred just at the start of Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.” LGBTQ young adults in foster care are three times more likely to have attempted suicide in the previous year (according to a Trevor Project research brief). This year, we’ve simply asked that the lives of these children not be politicized.”
According to Equality Texas, Texas has considered more than 50 measures this year that target LGBTQ youths, particularly transgender youths.
Despite the fact that campaigners have defeated all of the proposals so far, the Legislature just convened its third special legislative session — the fourth this year — and is contemplating a variety of anti-transgender laws once more.
The bills’ tone, according to advocates, has a harmful impact on the mental health of LGBTQ children across the state.
According to data released recently by the Trevor Project, crisis calls from LGBTQ young people in Texas spiked by 150 percent from January to August compared to the same period the previous year.
You may call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) or text HOME to 741741 to reach a qualified counselor at the Distress Text Line if you or someone you know is in crisis. You can also find an index of other support networks at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.