State Leadership Proves Transphobia Is Bigger in Texas

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick at left; Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at right
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick at left; Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at right

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and apparently that includes the transphobia. 

Two of the state’s top elected officials — the lieutenant governor and the attorney general — both went on transphobic, fear-mongering tirades as North Carolina ramped up its defense of a controversial anti-trans law.

Moments after North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory announced Monday that he was suing the federal government over its determination that his state’s sweeping anti-LGBT law violates federal civil rights law, Texas’s top lawman rushed to his fellow Republican’s defense. 

Local LGBT publication Dallas Voice posted the full statement from Attorney General Paxton, who is currently facing a federal securities fraud lawsuit, on top of similar charges filed against him  last year in state court. Paxton previously earned the ire of marriage equality supporters (and a formal ethics complaint) last year when he falsely informed Texas county clerks that they did not have to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling bringing the freedom to marry to all 50 states. 

But regarding North Carolina’s anti-LGBT House Bill 2, Paxton demonstrated fundamental misunderstanding of gender identity and the fact that sex as assigned at birth is not, in fact, immutable. Paxton said: 

“The people of the United States, through their representatives in Congress, enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure, in part, that men and women are treated equally. Congress has not changed this law to mean that individuals may choose whether they want to be male or female for the purpose of public accommodations. One’s sex is a biological fact, not a state of mind, and this threat to North Carolina is the latest in a long series of efforts by an unaccountable federal executive branch. My office stands with Governor McCrory and the people of North Carolina regarding this unconstitutional form of federal overreach.”

Notably, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that Paxton references is precisely the portion of federal law that the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch pointed to when announcing its own civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina, along with an unprecedented, full-throated support for the innate equality of transgender people. 

The same day, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — himself no stranger to transphobic fear mongering — took aim at a school superintendent who had approved a modestly trans-inclusive policy regarding bathroom and locker room access for students in the district. 

Patrick suggested Monday that Kent Scribner, Fort Worth school district superintendent, should be removed from his position following the April 19 adoption of a district-wide policy that allows trans students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, according to the Austin American-Statesman

That policy, which was reportedly adopted without an opportunity for public comment, requires schools throughout the district to provide trans students with access to a private, single-stall restroom, or a multi-stall restroom when no other students are present. Regardless, the policy affirms that trans students should be able to use the facilities that match their gender identity, regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth. 

“After less than a year as superintendent, Dr. Scribner has lost his focus and thereby his ability to lead the Fort Worth ISD,” Patrick said in a statement Monday afternoon, according to the Statesman. “He has placed his own personal political agenda ahead of the more than 86,000 students attending 146 schools in the district by unilaterally adopting ‘Transgender Student Guidelines.’ Without any discussion with parents, board members, principals, and other community leaders, Dr. Scribner’s unilateral action, underscores this lack of fitness to hold his position as superintendent.”

Patrick alludes to the thoroughly debunked claim that allowing trans people to use facilities that match their gender identity somehow endangers cisgender (nontrans) people. In fact, at least 23 school districts nationwide have trans-inclusive policies similar to Fort Worth’s new guidelines. These schools serve more than 1.6 million students, but have reported zero incidents of students using such policies for nefarious purposes. 

This isn’t the first time the lieutenant governor has trafficked in transphobic misinformation in local politics. Patrick was an outspoken opponent of the ill-fated Houston Equal Rights Ordinance last year, filming an anti-HERO ad that claimed the broad-spectrum nondiscrimination ordinance was “not about equality,” but rather “about letting men in women’s locker rooms and bathrooms.” Patrick’s transphobic messaging was so severe that The New York Times said the lieutenant governor had blood on his hands, and should be held responsible for the next trans person who attempted — and maybe completed — suicide in Texas, unable to stand the unabashedly hostile environment created by state leaders.

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