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Transgender youth and families from other states look at Colorado as safe haven

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Posted at 8:30 AM, Mar 11, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS — The nation's largest pediatric hospital is stopping gender hormone therapies for children.

Texas Children's Hospital in Houston says the move is aimed at safeguarding doctors and families from legal issues.

This all comes after Texas's Republican Attorney General released a non-binding legal opinion, that labeled certain gender-affirming treatments as child abuse

The treatments include reassignment surgeries, mastectomies and removals of otherwise healthy body parts, puberty blockers and hormone treatment.

Then, Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate reports of those procedures as child abuse.

A Texas judge blocked the state from investigating the parents of a transgender teen over gender confirmation treatments but stopped short of preventing the state from looking into other reports about children receiving similar care.

President Joe Biden has also condemned Abbott's directive and announced his administration is taking steps to protect transgender youth and their families in the state.

Meanwhile, Colorado is the first state in the nation to make gender services an insurance mandate starting January 1, 2023, meaning Colorado could soon become a safe haven for transgender youth and their families who decide to leave Texas.

News5 spoke with Inside Out Youth Services, a local organization in Colorado Springs, who wants to help people moving here.

They offer a wide range of resources, like providing a safe space for youth ages 13 to 24 to talk about their sexuality, and how to understand and talk to your transgender teen if you're a parent.

Liss Smith, the communications manager said, unlike other states, there are more robust laws on anti-discrimination protections in Colorado, and there have been since 2008.

She also said there is research that shows parents who affirm their child's identity can reduce the risk of suicide by 50%.

Colorado also banned conversion therapy for minors. This alone is making Colorado a more appealing place to live for transgender youth and their families.

"We have a lot of resources here. There's a lot of support here for the LGBTQIA+ community. There's a reason that people are looking at Colorado specifically as a place to move in these other states where some laws are being passed to harm them," said Smith.

While orders and legislation are still being discussed in Texas, Smith also says the organization has been getting phone calls from Texas families who are making plans to move to Colorado.

"We have heard from a couple of families in Texas. One is definitely planning on relocating here and we're going to be welcoming them with wide-open arms. Others are still kind of considering, weighing their options and seeing how everything plays out. We've also heard from people in other states, who even if this legislation isn't necessarily passing, their climate alone is enough for them to really reconsider."

Texas is not alone in its stance. Some lawmakers in Utah oppose banning conversion therapy. Church leaders there are also speaking out saying the ban is ambiguous in some areas and overreaching in others.

The LDS Church in Utah says, "it fails to protect individual religious beliefs, and does not account for important realities of gender identity in the development of children."

Meanwhile, Smith says "while we can't comment on any particular bills or elected officials, what we can say is, we know when parents are affirming of their young people, it's far from being harmful. It's actually one of the greatest preventative factors for suicide, substance use, sexual violence, any number of things. Because one trusted adult on a young person's life can change and save their life."