Rep. Byron Cook Takes Killing Texas Trans Kids Personally

Byron Cook
Byron Cook
The image featured by State Rep. Byron Cook in his opinion published by the American-Statesman. Kai and thousands of other transgender children have been put into the highest of risk of self-harm and suicide thanks to Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Chairman Byron Cook doesn’t think we stand a chance of landing Amazon’s five-billion-dollar headquarters unless Gov. Abbott and Lt Gov. Dan Patrick publicly disavow their Bathroom Bill agenda and future efforts to strip LGBT protections from Texas cities.

Amazon, which fought against Washington state’s Proposition I-1515 and joined a coalition opposing Texas Bathroom legislation is taking bids for a second headquarters. While Texas is in running, our state’s business friendliness has been polluted by the open hostility the legislature exhibited last session towards the LGBT community.

My boss was surprisingly supportive allowing me the flexibility to testify twice against the Texas Bathroom Bills. So I was taken aback when he told me upon our victory, however temporary, was all about money.

While I knew that business support was a crucial component of the Texas Bathroom Bill defeat, I also knew he was wrong.

Byron Cook

1 of every 2 transgender child has attempted suicide

Had any of the four anti-LGBT bills introduced in 2017 been enacted it would have resulted in more LGBT deaths primarily those that they targeted, our children. But it’s impossible to say how much damage was already done. Words kill. 48% of transgender youth have attempted suicide by the age of 20 a factor directly attributed to societal stigma and lack of social support.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus recognized the harm the ‘bathroom bill’ debate had caused and told Lt Gov. Dan Patrick that he “didn’t want the blood of a single Texan on his hands”.

I testified both in the Senate where the cold-hearted bathroom bill authors made my blood boil and the House, where Chairman Byron Cook and committee made a conscious effort to conduct an impartial investigation.

Byron Cook
Frank and Rachel’s child Libby attended two transgender bathroom bill sessions. One can only wonder how much damage has been done to these children already.

But there was an unsettling emotional detachment by Texas House State Affairs Charman Byran Cook. As the half-dozen cisgender bathroom bill proponents testified Cook noted that while a representative Houston’s anti-LGBT clergy appeared none of their congregation did.

Byran Cook noted the same for the representative of the Texas Business who testified against it on behalf of hundreds of owners and corporations including Amazon. Cook said that it would have mattered greatly to him if either representative had ‘stakeholders’ present.

Chairman Cook’s sentiment disturbed me. The only real stakeholders were the transgender children of which many made the journey to testify.

But in a commentary published by the American Statesman “What is Texas lacking for Amazon HQ? Honor for LGBT rights” Cook makes it clear. While the Corsicana Republican values the dollar he places children’s lives above the bottom line.

“Amazon announced that it is seeking a second North American headquarters with up to $5 billion investment in facilities and 50,000 jobs at an average pay of $100,000 a year. This will be a major economic boon for both the state and city that lands the deal. Clearly, it would be among the largest corporate expansions in Texas history not related to energy. Not surprisingly, several Texas communities have enthusiastically jumped into this fierce nationwide bidding war.”

“The good news for Texas as we compete for Amazon’s site selection is our state’s premier reputation for great universities, commerce and quality of life. Just this past month, Texas again ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for best business climate, according to a new survey of corporate executives by International Economic Development.”

“Amazon already has a significant footprint in Texas with 20,000 fulfillment center jobs meeting the needs of Texas families and consumers, as well as software, cloud computing, IT development and corporate offices already existing across our great state. Amazon has also just acquired Texas-based Whole Foods.”

“But there is also news that could be facing our state in this fierce competition: Specifically, among the key requirements on Amazon’s detailed wish list for its second headquarters is to avoid states with discrimination policies. This includes Amazon’s opposition to open discrimination like the recently attempted Texas so-called “bathroom bill,” which fortunately did not pass in either this year’s regular or special sessions of the Texas Legislature.”

“Amazon is not alone in opposition and condemnation of the purposeful discrimination hidden behind the controversial Texas bathroom bill. Others who strongly opposed include our state’s top corporate leaders, the Texas Association of Business, college and professional sports organizations, Texas’ local tourism industry and even Gov. Greg Abbott’s former campaign treasurer.”

Since Texas already has some of the nation’s strongest laws and toughest criminal penalties against sexual predators inside and outside bathrooms, those in opposition duly noted that f such legislation fails to add to existing protections.

“In the eyes of Amazon and others, the proposed bathroom bill boils down to being at its core nothing more than a clever manipulation of fear to smokescreen an attempt at justifying discrimination.”

“Texas knows about the harsh economic backlash suffered in other states which have attempted similar legislation. Both Indiana and North Carolina had to back-peddle after suffering lost jobs and tourism dollars because they passed similar discriminatory legislation.”

“So, will Amazon seriously consider any of the Texas cities competing for Amazon’s second headquarters? Probably not, unless Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick take the bathroom bill off the table for future legislative sessions. Even in a state as large as Texas, we can’t continue to hide this controversial elephant in the room.

The clock is ticking — and you can bet your bottom dollar that other states are watching our Texas leaders and rooting for their silence.”

“In truth, we are neither a state that takes pride in discrimination, nor do we have a “bathroom problem.” In this regard, it could arguably be the largest missed economic development opportunity of the 21st century for Texas if we lose a chance on these 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment if Amazon refuses to consider the Lone Star State because of the uncertainty on where we stand politically on this issue.”

“But if Amazon does go outside of Texas with its location for a second headquarters — and if our state continues to suffer similar economic loses over the “bathroom bill”— how many more billions in economic development, lost jobs, lost sporting and entertainment events, and lost tourism dollars will Texas need to lose before the reality of common sense prevails?”

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender


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