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'I have no more words for him': Mother of transgender youth responds to Ken Paxton labeling gender-affirming care as child abuse

Amber Briggle invited Ken Paxton into her home to discuss trans rights in 2016. She calls his directive to investigate parents of transgender kids a "betrayal."

DALLAS — Being a parent already comes with fears and anxieties. But for Adam and Amber Briggle of North Texas, it is multiplied. 

They are parents of a child who is transgender. The Briggles are constantly working in the trenches fighting for the rights of their son.

"I'm tired of having to do this year after year after year," said Amber.

In 2016, the Briggles invited Attorney General Ken Paxton over for dinner to discuss trans rights. Fast forward six years and the family sees that moment as a futile attempt at understanding.

"For him to call us the child abusers is such a betrayal," said Amber.

Earlier this week Gov. Greg Abbott and the attorney general wrote to state departments calling gender-affirming or transitioning procedures "child abuse." Abbott and Paxton have appealed to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), asking them to investigate.

"Because the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is responsible for protecting children from abuse, I hereby direct your agency to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas," reads the letter. "To protect Texas children from abuse, DFPS and all other state agencies must follow the law as explained in OAG Opinion No. KP-0401."

"It's not really a question of health care. It's a question of what authority parents have," said Joanna Grossman who is a law professor at SMU. She teaches family and gender law.

Grossman says that parental authority is federally protected. And while she feels the governor's directive lacks any legal teeth, "the only teeth is fear," as it happens to be during an election cycle.

"Go after abortion, go after trans kids, and pick your unpopular group and target them. It's really cowardly," said Grossman.

It drew sharp rebuke from LGBTQ advocates everywhere. The Human Rights Campaign held a Zoom conference Thursday, echoing the sentiments that the directives have no legal standing.

"The kind of inversions of reality: that a loving family becomes the abusers and a cold heartless indifferent system would not be the actual abuse," said Adam Briggle.

Five district attorneys, including Dallas County's, say they will not follow the directive. Dallas DA John Creuzot wrote in a statement that families "are safe to continue seeking the care their children need."

"He literally broke bread at our table and engaged with my children for hours. And now he says that families like mine shouldn't exist. I have no more words for him and I will never forgive him," said Amber.

The Briggles will continue to advocate through education and media interviews. They say they are fighting not just for their children but for trans children in the future.

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