On Tuesday I drove to Austin again for more hearings on anti-lgbt legislation. First up was House bill HB900, which is ostensibly a ban on sexually explicit material in school libraries – as if that were actually a problem, which it is not – but is really an attempt to purge libraries of books by and about LGBT people. 100% of the example books that were given in testimony supporting the bill were LGBT oriented. This is not a coincidence. It’s because the people pushing this bill are homophobes and they are using the word “pornography” as a scare word to gin up support for their censorship.
I stayed overnight in Austin and went back to the Capitol Wednesday for a hearing on Senate bill SB8, which is mostly about creating a school voucher program to have the state pay all or part of the tuition for students to attend private schools, but which also has tucked away in it a ban on teachers and school staff from mentioning sexual orientation or gender identity. Of course, the supporters of this provision really only want to ban mentions of non-heterosexual orientation and transgender identities. Hetero and cis people will still be perfectly OK to discuss.
In my testimony about this I spoke about what it was like going to school in the 80’s when there was a de facto ban on any LGBT topics being discussed in schools because teachers would have been fired for mentioning them. I was confused and lonely and didn’t know what was going on in my own life. I contemplated suicide frequently. Even in college there was still nowhere to learn about these topics until I went to one of the libraries at UT in Austin and found a book from the 60’s written by one of the first doctors in the US to work with transgender people. I do not want children in Texas to be thrown back into that dark era when their lives and existence were considered a taboo subject.
I think the book ban is likely to pass, but the voucher / don’t say gay or trans bill may have a chance at failing. There were quite a number of conservative witnesses testifying against the bill. Home schoolers don’t like the bill because they see it as an attempt by the state to start controlling the curriculum they teach, and there were a number of people, including evangelical clergy, who didn’t want the government providing money for religious education. Some of them saw it as a fairness issue of not making anyone pay for instruction in religions they don’t support, and some just didn’t want any money to go to non-Christian schools.
On Monday I am going back to Austin to testify against HB 1686, which would ban any health care for trans children, while still allowing the exact same list of procedures and treatments to be forced on intersexed children against their will, or even without them knowing at all in the case of intersexed babies. Republicans seem perfectly OK with forcing children to conform to a gender picked by the parents or the state, but Heaven forbid the children actually have any say in the matter themselves! Disgusting.