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Meet the transgender reverend fighting ‘cruel and barbaric’ lawmakers for trans kids across Texas

Maggie Baska March 14, 2022
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Side my side images of Remington Johnson, a trans advocate, reverend, healthcare consultant and master's nursing student

Remington Johnson. (Provided)

An Austin-based trans reverend has denounced “barbaric” efforts by Texas officials to “destroy” the families of trans youth.

Investigations of parents of children who have been receiving gender-affirming care were underway by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). The DFPS had opened nine “child abuse” cases after governor Greg Abbott ordered officials to investigate instances of parents helping children access gender-affirming care. 

On Friday (11 March), a judge temporarily blocked the state from investigating parents of trans kids across Texas, giving a huge victory to the LGBT+ community.

Republican attorney general Ken Paxton said he will be appealing the ruling on Twitter and once again equated supportive families as well as gender-affirming care to “abuse”.

Abbott’s order has tightened the noose around affirming services in the state, leaving families and providers left wondering if they are the next targets. 

Texas Children’s Hospital has halted hormone therapies for trans children to “safeguard our healthcare professionals” and families from “potential criminal legal ramifications”.

Advocates worldwide have condemned Abbott’s anti-trans campaign and the marginalisation of the trans community in the state. 

Reverend Remington Johnson is among the most vocal advocates in the state, speaking out on behalf of the LGBT+ community and trans youth. 

Johnson is not only a Presbyterian minister, she is also the director of a health communication think tank and is going to school for her master’s degree in nursing. It means she has been tackling the debate on trans lives from all sides. 

After constantly fighting on behalf of the trans community and other work, she is feeling “pretty fried”. 

Remington Johnson describes to PinkNews how she’s in the “hospital multiple times a week” as both a nursing student and consultant, and she has seen staff become “demoralised” and “burned out” over the past couple of years.

She recalls a moment in 2021 when she was attending to a patient and looked out the hospital window to see people protesting on behalf of trans kids outside the Capitol building. 

“I can see [the Capitol] from many of my patients’ rooms,” Remington says. “I was attending to a patient who had severe complications from a COVID infection all morning, and I remember massaging their head until they fell asleep. 

“I could see the Capitol where I had a rally in the next hour. So I let the patient sleep, left the hospital, got changed, went to the Capitol and did a rally.”

Reverend Remington Johnson speaks at a rally in support of trans youth
Reverend Remington Johnson speaks at a rally in support of trans youth. (Brad Pritchett)

Remington Johnson has a “hard time articulating” the “cruel”, “barbaric” and “brutal” efforts from Texas’ top lawmakers to “destroy the families of trans children”.

“It’s just a complete dereliction of duty from our leaders around all things healthcare, but what is crueller than that is the sabotage,” Johnson tells PinkNews.

She says Abbott’s directive labelling gender-affirming healthcare as child abuse is “ambiguous enough to terrorise” but is also “specific enough that child protective services” are knocking on people’s doors.

Johnson adds that the opinions “put children at very real harm” because there is “no grandfather clause” for youth that are already receiving such care. She explains that trans youth are being forced to stop “medications that are not designed to work that way”. 

“No physician would ever say you could just stop these things just cold turkey, particularly with these children whose bodies will then begin their natal puberty,” Johnson says.

She describes it a “nightmare scenario” and says there has been “no recognition” from legislators that attempts to criminalise trans healthcare is “causing harm”.

Johnson adds that many trans adults view the state trying to “extinguish” families’ ability to affirm a young person’s gender identity as an “unconscionable” attack on “compassionate, beautiful, caring parental love”.

“The wider tragedy around that just grips at your stomach, tears and rips is the idea that there was the very real fact that many trans folks, our families of origin are no longer in contact with us,” she describes. 

“We see these trans children and their families supporting them, bringing them to doctors, spending money and celebrating them for something so beautiful – it’s healing for those of us that didn’t get that.”

Remington Johnson says the root cause of much of the fear-mongering around the trans community is from a union of “right-wing Christian nationalism” and “hollow leaders that just want to retain power”. 

She tells PinkNews that she has witnessed the “hurt” that “rigid ideology” and fundamentalism causes its followers.

“I’ve been a chaplain at the bedside of the sick and dying for 10 years,” Johnson says. “I’ve seen the fallout of what this rigidity does to people, what this flattening of their experience with the divine does.”

Reverend Remington Johnson speaks at a rally in support of the trans community in Texas
Reverend Remington Johnson. (Letitia Smith)

She says it doesn’t “cultivate beauty” or “resilience”. Instead, she believes it is inherently fragile, and she wished to only help those hurt by such ideology. 

“As a clergywoman, I want to just wrap these folks up in just this big old hug, and I want them to know that they’re beloved and that they don’t have to feel afraid,” she tells PinkNews.

“God is big and bright enough and the splendour of the earth and all that we get to exist is here, and we can experience it. We don’t have to be afraid.”

Remington Johnson says there is already too much “gnashing of teeth” and pain in the human experience. So she says there’s no need to “make new categories of people that scare us or make us feel icky”. 

But she wants to tell such people to “stay away from our community” if they’re not able to find a “place for us to exist within their worldview”. 

“We’re not trying to extinguish them or say they’re bad or wrong,” Johnson says. “We just want a space to exist and have the very same rights they do.”

 

More: greg abbott, Texas, trans healthcare

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