State Rep. Shawn Thierry (District 146) has received a mountainous response to her vote for SB 14, moving to raise the age to 18 for children to be able to receive “puberty blockers,” cross-sex hormones and undergo “gender-switching” surgeries.

That response to Thierry’s letter explaining her vote and a video of her address on the floor of the Texas House on the subject garnered 2.3 million views on social media. And though many were supportive of Thierry’s position, many were not, including racist responses and even threats.

The Defender spoke with Thierry exclusively to find out more about SB 14 and her position on the controversial topic, and what she thinks about the responses she’s received.

DEFENDER: Would you mind providing an overview of what SB 14 is?

THIERRY: Sure. So, this was a piece of legislation that was setting the age to the age of 18, raising the age for children who experience what’s called gender dysphoria. These are children who believe they’re born in the wrong body and want to change their gender, their biological sex. What we’ve found is in the past few years, there have been doctors who are actually prescribing these children a drug called Lupron; it is to stop them from entering puberty and it stunts their growth. The drug Lupron, believe it or not, this sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but it is a chemical castration drug that is prescribed for sex offenders and child rapists. It is also a drug that is prescribed for men who have prostate cancer. It’s a chemotherapy drug.

Well, they are giving these drugs to children as young as eight and nine years old, that do not have cancer, that are otherwise biologically healthy, to prevent them from entering into puberty. So, the bill was to stop that practice and then to stop them from getting what’s called cross-sex hormones, which are high levels of estrogen and testosterone, which has been known to cause pulmonary embolism as well as early osteoporosis and other side effects. Now, none of these drugs, just so you know, they’re not FDA-approved for this purpose. And then lastly, there were children under the age of 18 as well who were getting surgeries, irreversible, life-changing surgeries; meaning girls as young as 14 were getting double mastectomies, cutting off perfectly healthy breast tissue, as well as boys getting surgery on their genitalia and girls doing the same.

What the bill was to do was to just to set the age to 18, not to say they could not do this later. And the practice has been in Texas, that that’s pretty much the age of consent for most things. I’m not sure if you know that in the state of Texas [at] 18 you can’t get a tattoo even with parental consent because it’s permanent. And so, we want to make sure that kids are really aware of what they’re doing. As well, in Texas, you cannot even go to a tanning salon under the age of 18 because of the increased risk of cancer and getting burned. We also, as you know, raised the age to 21 to purchase tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and the age is 21 for alcohol. So, I voted to set the age of 18, which, you know, most folks would find reasonable. But there were folks, transgender activists, that really are upset about that. And they, despite the harms, they want these kids to be able to get life-altering surgeries and take drugs as young as the age of eight.

DEFENDER: What’s been the response to your vote?

THIERRY: 2.3 million on Twitter. And I did a speech on the house floor. It was a very emotional speech because I’m a child advocate and I’m a parent. I have a 10-year-old daughter myself, and I’ve always had a heart for children. And I want these precious kids to be healthy and to live and have the opportunity to be the best version of themselves. My constituents; I represent majority Black and Brown communities. And with all of the health disparities that we face, this would be one more health obstacle for kids to where now, in addition to all of the other things our communities face, our kids, would have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, increased risk of stroke, increased risk of PCOS, diabetes.

So, I put the letter on Twitter the night of the vote, and who knew it was gonna get 2.3 million views. By and large [they’ve] been very, very supportive. But there are those who are equally as upset. Prior to the vote, I will say I was very surprised that there were folks that, unfortunately, started texting. They gave up my phone number, they were threatening me, calling me all kinds of names, trying to make me change my vote. And unfortunately, that hasn’t really stopped; making racist comments toward me, even on Mother’s Day.

DEFENDER: Lord have mercy.

THIERRY: It’s really bad. I’m the daughter of a schoolteacher. My mom was the first Black teacher to integrate Sharpstown Junior High. And I put a picture of me and my mother (82 years old) on social media and folks said “Is this the Black bigot that raised you?” I mean, it’s really incredulous that people who would say they’re for tolerance and unity would be responding this way.

DEFENDER: Has this negativity been the thing that surprised you most regarding a response to your vote?

THIERRY: You’re right. And, let me tell you, what’s interesting, very, very little is coming from my own community, my constituents, the people that I represent in House District 146. I met with my constituents, I met with stakeholders and they overwhelmingly said, “Yes, Ms. Thierry, raise the aged to 18, set the age to 18. We want to protect our kids. We do not want to stop their growth. We don’t want them at increased health risk.” And so, it should have been a no-brainer. But then there were those of my Democratic colleagues who were afraid, unfortunately, to take a stance with me. Privately, they told me they agreed. But just like what’s happening to me right now, they were afraid of that happening to them. And that is why they told me they did not vote along with me. And since then, many have come along and said, “You see, Ms. Thierry, you see Rep, this is why I didn’t vote that way.” Because they knew they were gonna be threatened.

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...