A website run by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services reportedly removed a trans suicide hotline and links to other affirming resources following criticism from a Republican gubernatorial candidate.
The controversy began in August, when Texas business owner Don Huffines accused the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) of “promoting transgender sexual policies to Texas youth” in a widely-circulated video. Huffines is challenging current Texas governor Greg Abbott in the Republican primaries for the upcoming 2022 midterm elections and has made the criticism a central component of his campaign.
“These are not Texas values, these are not Republican Party values, but these are obviously Greg Abbott’s values,” he said in a 76-second clip posted on Twitter.
Huffines’ comments were directed at support resources intended for youth in foster care, which were included under the “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” section of the Texas Youth Connection (TYC) website. These resources included a suicide hotline number and information about LGBTQ+ advocacy groups like Lambda Legal, PFLAG, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), according to the Houston Chronicle.
The page was gone within hours of the video’s posting and the entire Texas Youth Connection website was disabled soon after, as the news publication Insider reports. Texas Youth Connection is a division of the DFPS and provides resources for young people preparing for life after foster care, including LGBTQ+ youth.
But despite the fact that the website states that it is down for a “comprehensive review,” internal communications within the DFPS show discussions between employees about removing the page specifically because of the video.
The emails, obtained by the Chronicle through a public records request, show that DFPS Media Relations Director Marissa Gonzales emailed the video to the agency’s communications director 30 minutes after it was posted, noting that it was blowing up on Twitter. The communications director then contacted the department’s web and creative services director, reportedly writing: “Darrell, please note we may need to take that page down, or somehow revise content.”
Advocates for LGBTQ+ youth in Texas criticized the page’s removal, pointing to studies that show elevated suicide rates among LGBTQ+ youth in foster care. These youth are three times more likely to report past year suicide attempts than youth not in foster care, according to The Trevor Project.
Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez said that removing such important resources is “unconscionable” in a year that has seen a record number of politically motivated attacks on LGBTQ+ youth in Texas. State lawmakers have put forward more than 70 bills aimed at restricting LGBTQ+ rights, including legislation that would criminalize gender affirming health care for kids and potentially remove them from their homes if their parents let them transition.