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  • Writer's pictureJessica Jaymes Purdy

Governor Abbott's Call to Ban Transgender Teachers in Texas is Prejudiced and Likely Illegal

CW: References anti-trans prejudice and misgendering.


Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently expressed his intention to "end" transgender and gender non-conforming teachers' ability to teach in the state of Texas. In comments to the Young Conservatives of Texas, Abbott repeatedly misgendered a transgender woman teacher, referring to her as "a man dressed as a woman." He went on to argue that her mere presence as a teacher "normalizes the concept" of being transgender, asserting "This kind of behavior is something we need to end in the state of Texas."


Governor Abbott's comments represent blatant prejudice and discrimination against transgender individuals. By misgendering the teacher in question and insisting that being transgender is "not okay" and must be prohibited, Abbott is denying the very identity and humanity of transgender people, like me. His belief that transgender women are really men and therefore should not be allowed to express their gender identity is deeply offensive and harmful to the transgender community.


Importantly, any legislation banning transgender teachers would almost certainly be illegal under federal law. The Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that Title VII workplace non-discrimination protections apply to transgender individuals. Firing or refusing to hire teachers solely for being transgender would constitute unlawful employment discrimination.


Courts have already struck down other state laws targeting transgender teachers, such as a Florida law requiring them to be addressed by pronouns matching their sex assigned at birth. Judges found such laws likely violate the First Amendment and noted evidence that transgender teachers perform just as well as their cisgender peers.

Governor Abbott's comments continue a troubling pattern of Texas officials using state powers to harass and discriminate against transgender residents. But any attempts to ban transgender teachers will face strong legal challenges. All workers, regardless of gender identity, deserve to be treated with basic dignity and respect. Prejudice has no place in Texas schools or anywhere else.


As a transgender woman myself, Governor Abbott's comments and the increasing legislative attacks on the transgender community across the country take a heavy emotional toll, even though I live in Pennsylvania. Hearing elected officials repeatedly insist that people like me are not who we know ourselves to be, and that our mere existence in public spaces is a problem to be eliminated, is profoundly painful and demoralizing. It sends the message that we are not welcome, that we do not belong, and that our rights and well-being are not valued.


These attacks contribute to an atmosphere of hostility and fear for transgender individuals. We face higher rates of harassment, violence, and discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare, and other areas of life. Inflammatory political rhetoric vilifying us only makes these problems worse and further compromises our safety and mental health. It is also deeply concerning to see such overt prejudice from government leaders, which can tacitly encourage anti-transgender attitudes and abuses by others.


Sadly, efforts to legislate transgender people out of existence are not limited to Texas. The ACLU is currently tracking 487 anti-LGBTQ+ bill in states across the country the majority of which specifically target transgender rights, from sports bans, to bathroom restrictions, to limits on gender-affirming medical care. This coordinated nationwide assault, backed by well-funded interest groups, represents an aggressive attempt to erase transgender people from public life and deny us equal rights and basic dignity. We are being used as political pawns and punching bags in a cynical effort to score points with certain constituencies.


But transgender people are not a threat or a "distraction." We are human beings who deserve to live freely and authentically, without fear of discrimination from our own government. Our gender identity is a core part of who we are. All we ask for is the same rights and respect afforded to everyone else - to be judged by our character and abilities, not attacked for simply being who we are.


Governor Abbott's call to ban transgender teachers is part of a much larger effort to dehumanize and exclude transgender individuals from society. It is a cruel and prejudiced attack on a vulnerable minority that flies in the face of core American principles of equality, liberty, and justice for all. We must stand united against hate and discrimination in all its forms, and affirm the rights of transgender people to exist and thrive as our true selves.

 

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