HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- While the past year has brought a variety of challenges to so many, Bekah Bryant has had to take on fights she never expected on behalf of her 9-year-old daughter.
"One of the things I always say is that Sunny being (transgender) is the least interesting thing about her," Bryant said. "It is not the topic at our dinner table, it's not our main focus of our lives, but unfortunately, we've had to make it our main focus."
Thursday, Bryant joined Eyewitness News reporter Pooja Lodhia for an ABC13 town hall, highlighting the barriers our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth face in pursuit of health, safety and a normal childhood.
Panelists for Thursday's town hall included:
- Constable Alan Rosen, Harris Co. Precinct 1
- Andrea Segovia, TENT senior policy and field advisor
- Bekah Bryant, mother and LGBTQ+ rights advocate
- Diamond Stylz, Black Trans Women Inc. executive director
- Harrison Guy, community organizer
- Laura Kanter, The Montrose Center youth services manager
- Sunny Bryant, 9-year-old transgender girl and LGBTQ+ rights advocate
- Taryn Biggs, The Mahogany Project
Where many parents don't have to think twice about whether their kids will find support in school, youth athletics or at the doctor's office, Bryant said she and her daughter spent more than 100 hours in Austin last year fighting to ensure Sunny has the same rights as her classmates.
"It's been terrifying," Bryant said. "It's taken its toll on us."
All the while, new data from The Trevor Project reveals troubling disparities facing our LGBTQ+ youth, including an upward trend in suicidal thoughts and continued trouble related to accessing mental health care.
According to a 2022 study, 45% of LGBTQ+ youth reported they seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year, while 60% who wanted mental health care said they were not able to get it.
RELATED: Full list of Houston LGBTQ+ community resources
The teen mental health crisis exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic is still disproportionately impacting the youngest members of Houston's LGBTQ+ community, said Laura Kanter, youth services manager at The Montrose Center.
"I have 10-year-olds and 11-year-olds, and 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds reporting issues of being discriminated against in their school, where they aren't supported in being who they are," Kanter said. "They aren't addressed with the pronouns that they use, they aren't getting to use the names that belong to them."
According to The Trevor Project's report, data shows nurturing homes and schools for these children can cut the risk of suicide to nearly half.
Texas families have also faced a barrage of legislation from Austin seeking to strip away important rights for LGBTQ+ children.
According to Equality Texas, more than 30 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were filed in the state legislature last session, seeking to ban kids like Sunny from playing on sports teams aligned with their gender identity, and preventing transgender children from accessing affirming health care in Texas.
In February, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order for the state to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children, calling some procedures child abuse.
Gender-affirming care is endorsed by all major medical associations as proper treatment for gender dysphoria, defined as distress felt by someone when their assigned sex doesn't align with their gender identity.
The laundry list of legislation that could impact Sunny has her mother, a 7th generation Texan whose family helped build the Galveston seawall, feeling less at home.
"I've had every intention of raising my family here, and now that's in limbo because, as of now, when she gets to middle school, she can't play sports. That's done," Bryant said. "And will things progress that she doesn't have rights to medical care? Because if that's the case, we have to go."
You can check out the full list of resources for LGBTQ+ youth below.
The virtual town hall will stream exclusively on ABC13.com, ABC13's smartphone apps, and ABC13's connected TV apps on Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and Google TV. Just search "ABC13 Houston."
Houston LGBTQ+ Youth & Family Resources
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. You can also reach the LGBT Switchboard 24-Hour Helpline at 713-529-3211, Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada), and The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.
As Houston's oldest, currently active, social group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, Hatch Youth is dedicated to empowering adolescents ages 13-20 to become responsible citizens and positive contributors to society. The program provides a safe, affirming social environment, health education, programming and role model/peer support. Hatch Jr. serves youth ages 7-12.
For more details:
- Call 713-529-0037 x353
Every Monday and Thursday at 6:00 p.m, Montrose Grace Place opens its doors to homeless youth ages 13-24, of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Youth night is an evening of food, mentorship, and skills building. The youth and volunteers share a seated, family-style meal, followed by an interactive lesson, craft, or other activity. Additionally, youth are able to "shop" in our closet of donated supplies, which include clothing, shoes, toiletries, bus cards, and snacks.
For more details:
- Call (832) 239-0824
When your child or loved one comes to you and shares that they are LGBTQ, you may not know where to even begin to show them you love and support them. PFLAG is made up of moms, dads, family and friends who can help by sharing their stories and experiences.
For more details:
- Helpline: 713-46-PFLAG (713-467-3524)
The Mahogany Project seeks to reduce social isolation, stigma and acts of injustice in TQLGB+ communities of color. The organization raises awareness and advocates for the expansion of social, health and education services, and coordinates activities to improve, impact and engage with the community.
For more details, call 832-275-8871.
The Montrose Center empowers our community-primarily LGBTQ individuals and their families-to live healthier, more fulfilling lives. Because LGBTQ persons face numerous health disparities compared to the general population, the center has embraced an integrated care model with one-stop access to behavioral health and support services, adult primary care and psychiatry, and free wellness programs that empower individuals to proactively participate in their own care.
For more details:
- 24-Hour LGBT Switchboard: 713-529-3211