The Dallas Morning News

Seeking a place of acceptance

Mom uses Gofundme in bid to move family after Abbott directive

- By MARIN WOLF Staff Writer marin.wolf@dallasnews.com

The first time Violet Augustine referred to Isa as a girl, right before her fifth birthday, the mother said she could see the tension melt from her daughter’s body.

“She’s much happier, more outgoing, more expressive, just like a normal kid,” Augustine said. “And it kind of breaks my heart … because I didn’t even realize that those first four years of her life she was living with this anxiety for not being affirmed.”

Augustine, 37, a Dallas schoolteac­her, said she’ll do anything to keep that happy, bubbly and confident version of her daughter around. Even if that means uprooting their lives and moving their family of two to another state.

On Feb. 23, she set up a Gofundme campaign to help her and Isa make a new home in California, following a new directive from Gov. Greg Abbott designatin­g gender-affirming medical care for adolescent­s as child abuse. She doesn’t know exactly what her plan is, but she said she has to leave now so that her daughter lives in a state with better trans health care options.

Augustine said she’s scared that a ban on gender-affirming medical care for adolescent­s could be detrimenta­l to Isa’s well-being. Isa has made troubling comments to her mom about wanting to mutilate and hurt herself because some of

her physical characteri­stics don’t align with her gender identity.

At least three other Texas families are also using the fundraisin­g platform to pay for a move out of state for fear of their children’s safety, Gofundme officials confirmed.

Within days of Abbott’s directive, some families were contacted by Child Protective Services about their transgende­r child’s medical care, Lambda Legal lawyer Paul Castillo told The Texas Tribune.

“When I first read [the directive], I just cried,” Augustine said. “I couldn’t believe that any lawmaker would try to go as far to label a parent as a child abuser. Because, if those people were to come into my home and spend a week with me and my child, or any parent of a trans kid, they would see that we’re doing everything in our power to make sure our children are happy and healthy.”

Last week, a Texas judge temporaril­y blocked the directive in the case of a 16-year-old teenager. But that temporary restrainin­g order, which only applies to the plaintiffs in the case, is on hold as the state appeals to a higher court.

Relating to Patrick Star

Isa is too young to even consider gender-affirming medical treatments like puberty suppressan­ts or hormone therapy, which can’t be started until a person has begun puberty.

Because her mother is an artist, the kindergart­ner has grown up in a house covered in paintings and prints. Isa decided to add her own drawing with a blue marker on the wall above her bed.

Isa said she relates most to Patrick Star, the pink starfish from Spongebob Squarepant­s, because both she and Patrick like to make people laugh. She’s developing her unique personalit­y and sense of humor, a process that Augustine said she’s loved watching.

Even though Isa is young, conversati­ons about medical treatment are rapidly approachin­g, Augustine said. She wants to safely access such care when her daughter does start puberty.

Gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress that can occur in people who identify as a gender that is different from the gender or sex assigned at birth, according to the Mayo Clinic. The discomfort or distress can be physical and emotional, and can cause significan­t disruption­s in daily life for those experienci­ng it.

A trans adolescent should only begin medical gender-affirming interventi­ons after the beginning of puberty, said Dr. Stephen Rosenthal, medical director of the Child & Adolescent Gender Center at the University of California, San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospitals. That way, they can assess how they feel once their body starts to change.

Puberty suppressan­ts temporaril­y block sex hormones and offer adolescent­s with gender dysphoria the opportunit­y to explore their gender identity without the sometimes distressin­g effects of going through a puberty that doesn’t match how they identify, Rosenthal said.

Augustine’s Gofundme campaign, called “Help us move Isa to safety,” has raised more than $18,000, thousands of dollars beyond its original goal of $11,111. It’s garnered donations from across the U.S. and as far as the United Kingdom.

“Sending love and support to your family,” one donor said. “If you can make it to California, please do — you will be supported and welcomed here.”

The original goal came from Isa’s birthday, Nov. 11, and the $11,000 Augustine already had saved. It would be enough to tide them over for the time being.

Going to California

Augustine plans to move at the end of the school year even though she currently doesn’t have another job lined up in California. “The Gofundme definitely takes some of the edge off, be“that cause at least now I’m confident that I have enough to get by for a couple months until I find a job,” she said.

While Abbott’s directive sped up the timeline in which Augustine and Isa plan to move, Augustine made the decision to relocate back in January because of the closure of an acclaimed Dallas clinic for trans kids.

Genecis — which stands for Gender Education and Care, Interdisci­plinary Support — was created by the University of Texas Southweste­rn and Children’s Health to provide transgende­r and gender-diverse youth with health care, including mental health counseling and hormone therapy. It was the only program of its kind in Texas.

In November, the clinic stopped seeing new patients. The hospitals have not explained why.

was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, because where is [Isa] even going to get care?” Augustine said.

Isa doesn’t yet know that she’s moving out of state. As a 6-year-old, she’s more concerned with her stacks of books — some in Spanish, some in English — and whether her Frozen wand can actually start a snowstorm in the warmth of Texas’ early spring.

Telling Isa why they’re moving will be a tough conversati­on to have when the time comes, but Augustine is sure the move is worth it.

“Right now, it’s most important [for us] to get somewhere where we will be able to be provided a range of support, both psychologi­cal and physical,” Augustine said.

 ?? Ben Torres/special Contributo­r ?? Isa applies lip gloss in her bedroom. Her mother’s Gofundme campaign, “Help us move Isa to safety,” has raised more than $18,000, with donors as far away as the U.K.
Ben Torres/special Contributo­r Isa applies lip gloss in her bedroom. Her mother’s Gofundme campaign, “Help us move Isa to safety,” has raised more than $18,000, with donors as far away as the U.K.
 ?? Ben Torres/special Contributo­r ?? Violet Augustine and her trans daughter, Isa, speak to each other in their home in Dallas. Following an opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton calling gender-affirming health care for trans kids child abuse, Violet started a Gofundme to raise enough money to move Isa to California.
Ben Torres/special Contributo­r Violet Augustine and her trans daughter, Isa, speak to each other in their home in Dallas. Following an opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton calling gender-affirming health care for trans kids child abuse, Violet started a Gofundme to raise enough money to move Isa to California.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States