For trans youth in North Texas, finding affirming mental health care can be a challenge
KERA, July 21, 2022, by Elena Rivera: Texas leaders have targeted trans youth, their families and gender-affirming care practices for months. It’s exacerbated feelings of anxiety and fear in trans youth, who already experience higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide than their cis peers. Mental health practitioners can help navigate these feelings, but finding and accessing an affirming therapist in Texas can be a challenge.
Roswell Gray, 17, has seen a lot of different therapists’ offices. They’re always some variation of black and white and gray, the muted tones matching the monotony of having to explain everything over and over again to a new person, in the hopes they’ll be the right fit.
But Gray said walking into a new office, about an hour away from their home in Sherman, felt different.
“It was really simplistic, but there was a lot of beautiful art, a lot of different colors and stuff that made me smile,” Gray said. “She had a little mini fridge with snacks and drinks. And it was just like, super welcoming and inviting.”
But beyond the fully-stocked fridge and the décor, Gray’s therapist used their pronouns and asked about their gender identity. Their previous therapist “wasn’t great in many aspects,” and they had been looking for a provider who was trans-affirming and could talk about their Mormon faith.
“I was partially nervous because a lot of people of faith aren’t as accepting as I would like them to be,” said Gray. “It was really nice to hear her talk about how she’s dealt with other clients like me, who are also queer.”
Because of the drive to the office outside of Grayson County, gas prices and the pandemic, Gray hasn’t gone to therapy as often as they’d like. And it’s been hard to navigate the past few months, they said, as gender-affirming care has been caught up in a legal back-and-forth.
Lawmakers in Texas have increasingly tried to prevent access to gender-affirming mental health and medical care for trans youth since last year. Attorney General Ken Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott have both targeted families providing medical care to their children. In addition, a bill the Texas legislature passed last year bans trans athletes from sports in school.
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