The billboards, driven around Texas for Transgender Awareness Week, were a pointed message about the state government's disturbing transphobic stance.
Trucks bearing large billboards reading "Trans lives are precious" and "Protect trans youth" were driven around Austin, Texas, for Transgender Awareness Week in a pointed message about the state government's disturbing transphobic stance. According to Pink News, one of the billboards — paid for and erected by Folx Health, the first-ever digital healthcare service provider specifically designed to provide customized medical plans for the LGBTQIA+ community — is displayed on the back of a truck parked on a Pride rainbow crossing in downtown Austin. While another is on a truck parked in one of the city's parks, a third one also parked in Austin features the words "Folx Health" written on it.
The uplifting show of solidarity with trans and non-binary people reportedly comes weeks after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill banning transgender athletes from playing on public school sports teams that align with their gender identities. Rep. Valoree Swanson, a lead sponsor in the state House, claimed that the bill is "all about girls and protecting them" in the state's University Interscholastic League. "We need a statewide level playing field," Swanson said on the House floor. "It's very important that we, who got elected to be here, protect our girls."
According to The Texas Tribune, the passing of House Bill 25 — which is set to go into effect on January 18 — made Texas the tenth state this year to pass legislation restricting transgender youth participation in sports. Similar legislation has been passed in Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and West Virginia. Advocates for transgender Texans have severely criticized the legislation by pointing out that it could have negative effects on transgender children's mental health. Rebekah Bryant, whose 8-year-old daughter Sunny is transgender and testified against HB 25, said she felt "defeated" when the bill initially passed in the House.
"I'm feeling very defeated and very deflated right now, and I was sad to tell Sunny because we've always filtered her from the badness of all this as much as possible," Bryant said. Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, opposed the bill and said the organization's current focus is providing healing to trans children and advocates who have returned session after session to speak out against anti-transgender legislation. "Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and [LGBTQ] people is wrong," Martinez said.
Rebecca Marques, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Texas state director, said the new legislation marks a "dark and frightening day for thousands of families in Texas who fear for the safety and future of their transgender children. Transgender animus is on the rise in Texas and across the country as evidenced by discriminatory legislation, and this only serves to give fire to the hate we're seeing. Transgender kids, just like any kid, simply want to play sports with their friends. They are being denied that chance by legislators whose arguments are not backed up by evidence, educators, medical consensus, or science."
Sharing images of the billboards on Instagram, Folx Health wrote: "This weekend, we took to the streets of downtown Austin and circled the Texas Capitol to make our message clear: Trans lives are precious. We need to go beyond awareness. Most people are 'aware' that trans people exist. We must take action and continue to fight for our trans family. We must protect trans youth. This year, right-wing legislature has introduced over 100 anti-trans bills in the US. Texas most recently banned trans youth from playing sports with their peers, continuing the assault on trans liberation. This Trans Awareness Week and every week of the year, we proclaim our ongoing love, adoration, support, solidarity, and celebration of our trans community amid ongoing attacks from lawmakers."