Transgender and gender nonconforming staff of the Texas Division of Agriculture (TDA) acquired an unwelcome shock final Monday: a brand new gown code that continues Governor Greg Abbott’s marketing campaign of anti-LGBTQ+ oppression. The Observer obtained a replica of the coverage on Friday.
The opening sentences of the memorandum, titled “Texas Division of Agriculture Costume Code and Grooming Coverage,” embrace the next language: “Staff are anticipated to adjust to this gown code in a way in keeping with their organic gender.” Operating afoul of the brand new rule might carry severe penalties. The memo additionally reads, “Violation of this company coverage consists of treatments as much as and together with termination.” Whereas offered with out context, it’s clear that the brand new coverage is meant to single out queer and trans staff for censure.
The doc, dated April 13, bears the identify and seal of TDA Commissioner Sid Miller. The Division of Ag didn’t reply to requests for remark despatched this morning, together with questions on the way it intends to implement its coverage.
The brand new restrictions substitute the earlier gown code dictated by the worker handbook. The unique gown code didn’t reference “organic gender.”
The freedom to dress according to one’s gender identity is significant to the psychological well being and happiness of trans and nonbinary individuals. Clothes is a vital a part of the “social transition” course of, which — together with different modifications like utilizing new pronouns — permits a trans particular person to be themselves in public.
The coverage, which is primarily geared toward workplace staff, would pressure trans staff again into the closet by forbidding them from expressing their identification. However even cisgender individuals who put on gender impartial clothes — corresponding to ladies who favor males’s formalwear — might conceivably be caught up within the new restrictions.
It’s unclear whether or not the choice to vary the gown code originated inside Miller’s workplace or got here from larger up within the state authorities. We additionally have no idea whether or not there are another authorities workplaces or companies with new gown codes. The governor’s workplace didn’t reply to a request for remark.
One TDA worker who requested to stay nameless for concern of dropping their job stated they had been stunned by the brand new restrictions.
“My eye was drawn to the strains about Western put on being inspired,” the supply stated, noting that TDA staff incessantly put on boots and cowboy hats. Miller infamously outfitted his workplace with $55,000 price of lavish Western-themed furnishings, together with many taxidermied animals.
“Then, one other worker alerted me and stated, ‘Hey did you see the road within the first paragraph?’” the supply stated. “It was a shock.”
Abbott has voiced his opposition to diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and initiatives within the state government. His February 22 directive ordering Youngster Protecting Companies to investigate parents of trans kids below suspicions of kid abuse sent the agency into a crisis. Nationwide, more than 400 anti-trans bills have been introduced by principally Republican-controlled legislatures — together with 49 payments in Texas — within the first 4 months of 2023. The Republican Social gathering has made assaults on the rights of trans and nonbinary individuals a key a part of its agenda.
The TDA worker expressed considerations that the gown code could be selectively enforced in opposition to people who find themselves most visibly trans or gender nonconforming or in opposition to those that in any other case stand out throughout the group. The supply advised us that a number of coworkers expressed considerations concerning the memo however are afraid to talk up due to potential repercussions.
The Texas Division of Agriculture’s use of the phrase “organic gender” displays a harmful conflation of intercourse and gender.
Intercourse and gender are distinct. Sex denotes one’s association of chromosomes, reproductive anatomy, and different organs. Whereas sex is not binary — as evinced by the existence of intersex individuals and variation within the organic expression of human intercourse characterisitcs — it’s much less fluid than gender, a social assemble expressed and strengthened by norms, behaviors, and roles assigned to individuals based mostly on their perceived intercourse. Transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming individuals have a gender identification that differs from the one assigned at beginning.
In different phrases, intercourse is organic, however gender isn’t.
Republicans’ strategy to this topic relies on fear slightly than the rising scientific consensus about transgender identity and mental health. The GOP prefers to stoke concern and misunderstanding round this vulnerable portion of the population so as to acquire energy and entice voters — whereas trans people are the scapegoat.
The TDA worker expressed concern for queer coworkers, or anybody who speaks out in opposition to the brand new coverage. They confirmed that they’ve met LGBTQ+ staff all through the division. The worker advised us they had been drawn to their explicit division due to its range. “We’ve got ladies, individuals of coloration in management, and the employees is nearly as various as it may be.”
“We must always not enable this to be normalized,” they stated, expressing concern that the brand new directive would additionally rekindle the controversy over public bathrooms. “It undoubtedly feels prefer it threatens the security of anybody who doesn’t conform to the binary gown code.”
Replace April 24, 2:30pm: For extra context on the brand new Texas Division of Agriculture gown code, right here is one other part of the identical leaked doc, outlining clothes requirements for women and men, and the implications of violating the coverage.
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