Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's staff this summer tried to gather information on transgender people in the state based on who had changed their gender on their driver's licenses.
Someone from Paxton's office asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to provide a list of these residents, The Washington Post reports. Because of this request, the head of the department's driver's license division emailed coworkers, saying, "Need total number of changes from male to female and female to male for the last 24 months, broken down by month. We won't need DL/ID numbers at first but may need to have them later if we are required to manually look up documents." The Post obtained a copy of the email.
However, the department didn't provide the AG's office with the information due to logistical problems. Public Safety staffers found 16,000 instances of gender changes but said they would need to go through all these manually to see why each change was made.
"A verbal request was received," Public Safety spokesman Travis Considine told the Post. "Ultimately, our team advised the AG's office the data requested neither exists nor could be accurately produced. Thus, no data of any kind was provided." He wouldn't identify the Paxton staffer or staffers who asked for the information.
Paxton, a Republican, has a history of anti-LGBTQ+ and especially anti-trans actions, and civil rights activists are calling the request an outrageous attempt to invade the privacy of transgender Texans. Paxton is infamous for, among other things, writing a report that classified gender-affirming care for youth as child abuse -- a report that has been called out for using bad science. Based on that, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott directed the state's child welfare authorities to investigate parents who allow their children to receive this care. Most of the investigations are blocked by court action while lawsuits proceed, but the request indicates that Paxton is now going after trans adults, activists said.
"This is another brick building toward targeting these individuals," Ian Pittman, an attorney for parents who've been investigated, told the Post. "They've already targeted children and parents. The next step would be targeting adults. And what better way than seeing what adults had had their sex changed on their driver's licenses?"
Alexis Salkeld Garcia, a trans woman living in Austin, said she found the request horrifying. "The one person I don't want knowing about my gender status is Ken Paxton," she told the Post.
The Human Rights Campaign released a statement condemning the AG's action. "For the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, but for transgender Americans in particular, [Wednesday's] story out of Texas is chilling," HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said. "Weaponizing state agencies and their public records to pinpoint and single out transgender Texans is terrifying, albeit not shocking. Throughout 2022, Attorney General Paxton, along with Governor Abbott, have stopped at nothing to attack the very existence of transgender youth and adults. This development shows how far they're willing to go in discriminating against transgender people. HRC stands with all members of the trans community in Texas who are living in an even higher state of emergency today, as we will continue to hold extremist officials accountable."
The Post sought comment from Paxton's office but did not receive a response.