A Republican former member of the Texas House of Representatives has told PinkNews how meeting a transgender youngster showed her how simple the trans “debate” truly is.
Sarah Davis is used to butting heads with her fellow Republicans. During the 10 years she served in the Texas House, from 2011 to 2021, she regularly spoke out in support of the LGBTQ+ community, a rare sight in one of the states leading the charge on attacking queer rights.
In 2017, she crossed party lines and voted against legislation aimed at preventing trans students from using toilets that align with their authentic self. In 2020, she joined forces with another Republican, as well as a group of Democrats, to push legislation that would further protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination.
All the while, she advocated for vaccinations when some in her party opposed jabs, and spoke out in favour of abortion rights when fellow Republicans wanted to restrict women’s access to terminations.
She became such an outspoken force within her party that Texas governor Greg Abbott – known nationally for his anti-trans, anti-abortion and anti-immigration platform – actively campaigned for her Republican challenger during election campaigning in 2018.
While other Republicans attacked trans rights, Davis immersed herself in learning about gender-affirming healthcare from medical professionals, and hearing from parents about how anti-trans legislation affects their children.
“First of all, I was lucky because I was always surrounded by the medical community, who would help me understand, from a medical perspective, what gender-affirming care means,” she says.
“But then, it was very simple. I had a constituent who called the office and said: ‘Can I meet Sarah and bring my transgender child?’”
Sarah Davis believes more Republicans would “think a little bit longer” if they met trans people. (Houston Chronicle via Getty)
The woman had twins, and explained that at around age three, one of her children began saying that she wanted to wear dresses and grow her hair.
“She was like: ‘I went to every paediatrician, child psychologist’. She was able to find doctors who helped her and her daughter make the right decisions for her,” Davis adds.
“[When we met] I’m looking at a five-year-old girl who’s bouncing around my office just like any five year old would.
“I have to look at this little girl, and she’s afraid to go to school because she’s afraid to go to the bathroom.
“At that point, I don’t see a little girl or a transgender child. I just see a child who is afraid, and I don’t want to be part of making this child’s life difficult or scary. The government shouldn’t either.”
Davis says that when she was first elected in 2011, she couldn’t have imagined that Texas Republicans would try to tell parents how to care for their children.
Texas has become a hotbed state in the relentless legislative attacks against the trans community. (Getty)
“There is a disconnect because I think average Texans, we are very independent-minded and really anti-government,” she says.
According to Davis, the Republican Party – also known by the nickname the GOP (Grand Old Party) – believes in three basic principles: personal freedom, individual responsibility and limited government. But she’s seen it morph into a party that “wants to dictate everything to you”.
She goes on to say: “God forbid the government tell you, you have to get your children vaccinated. We say no, parents [should] have the choice. But if you want to give your child gender-affirming care – well, now you’re violating law.
“That just doesn’t make sense. That’s just not consistent whatsoever.
“It’s odd to see Republicans being so invested and making sure that the government is dictating every aspect of people’s personal lives. I think the average Texan disagrees with that, but they’re not turning out in the primaries like they need to, unfortunately.”
Texas is one of a number of Republican-led states where the political mood is decidedly anti-trans
Across the US, there’s been an extraordinary legislative attack on trans rights, primarily targeting children and young adults. This campaign has established anti-trans policies and rhetoric as a priority for the GOP.
Several candidates in the 2024 Republican presidential race, including Florida governor Ron DeSantis and frontrunner Donald Trump, are leaning into this hate, having already been responsible for legislative attacks on the community.
In Texas, more than 65 anti-trans bills have been proposed this year alone, according to the Trans Legislation Tracker. It’s the most out of any state in the country.
Donald Trump is one of several Republican politicians who have used anti-trans rhetoric and policies to bolster their political base. (Getty)
Last year, the the Lone Star State made headlines after governor Abbott took the unprecedented step of issuing a letter to state agencies likening gender-affirming care to child abuse. Because of this, families of trans youth endured “traumatising” investigations by authorities and filed legal action.
In May, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton announced an investigation into a hospital’s gender-affirming care programme for trans youth. Just a few weeks later, the state passed a gender-affirming healthcare ban for trans youth.
The results of anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation are catastrophic for vulnerable young people and adults. Aside from their primary effects, such policies intensify discrimination and exclusion of trans people, who already face high levels of deadly violence in the US.
Davis believes that if more Republican politicians took the time to meet those “affected by the decisions [they] make, maybe [they] would at least think a little bit longer or a little bit beyond [the] talking points [they] may hear”.