Massachusetts panel says child abuse laws should protect transgender kids from parents

Parents with child Credit Todd Ruth on Unsplash CNA Todd Ruth on Unsplash.

A Massachusetts government agency is asking lawmakers to review the state’s child abuse laws to ensure they apply to parents who won’t let their children transition from one gender to another.

The Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth cited a purported rise in transphobia as a reason to amend the state’s child abuse laws. The commission is an official state agency that provides recommendations to lawmakers. 

“With the significant rise in public transphobia across the state, the commission has serious concerns about the well-being of trans and gender expansive youth in the home, and advises that the state examine current laws around child abuse and welfare to ensure that the unique situations faced by LGBTQ youth are being addressed,” the commission wrote in an annual report and recommendations for the 2024 fiscal year. 

“In particular, the commission recommends that the state examine the possibility of codifying gender-affirming child welfare protections in state law to better support youth and families,” the report continued. 

The commission did not respond to a request for comment about what such a law would look like, but the transgender care children can legally receive in Massachusetts includes therapy, puberty-blocking drugs, hormone treatments, and even surgical operations to alter genitalia, breasts, and testicles.

It’s unclear whether a change to state law would require parents to let their children be subject to all or just some of these procedures.

“We should be concerned when state officials force their hand on parents in how they raise their own children,” Alliance Defending Freedom Director of the Center for Parental Rights Kate Anderson told CNA.

“Parents have a right and responsibility to direct the upbringing, care, and education of their children — a right that includes being informed of their children’s struggles with sensitive topics like sex and gender and to help their children according to their own convictions,” Anderson added. 

“This trend happening across the country, especially within schools, should draw alarm to all parents because parents, not government officials, should be the ones walking with their kids through these challenges. Parents know their children better than any school official ever could, and they want what is best for their children,” she said.

The commission’s recommendations are part of a growing effort to remove parents from the conversation about whether their children should be socially or medically transitioned into another gender. 

Earlier this month, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, signed legislation that would take authority away from parents with regard to gender transition procedures. The new law allows shelters to withhold information from parents if a child runs away to access such procedures. 

Shelters will be allowed to notify the state’s child services department instead of notifying parents. 

In some states, the public school system also keeps information away from parents concerning a child’s purported transgender identity.

The California Department of Education’s guidelines for school districts states that “disclosing that a student is transgender [to parents, other students, or members of the public] without the student’s permission may violate California’s anti-discrimination law by increasing the student’s vulnerability to harassment and may violate the student’s right to privacy.” 

This led some districts, such as the Escondido Union School District, to adopt policies that prevent teachers from telling parents about their child’s purported transgender identity. Two middle school teachers sued the district over the policy. 

There have also been unsuccessful efforts in some states to remove parental authority in these matters. 

In 2020, Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Dale City, introduced legislation that would have expanded the commonwealth’s child abuse laws to include a parent who inflicts “mental injury on the basis of the child’s gender identity or sexual orientation.”

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Although the Virginia bill did not clearly define what would constitute a “mental injury,” many opponents cautioned that the broad language could potentially punish parents who refuse to use a preferred pronoun or recognize a preferred gender identity. Although Guzman said that was not her intention, the bill failed to make it out of committee and she chose not to reintroduce it. 

Alternatively, nearly 20 states have passed legislation that prohibits doctors from performing sex change procedures on children. 

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