‘Unlawful’ Texas policy requires state employees to dress in their ‘biological gender’

The Texas Department of Agriculture has introduced what critics say is a “clearly unlawful” dress code requiring employees to dress “in a manner consistent with their biological gender.”

The policy, published on 13 April and reported earlier this week by Texas Observer, is full of boilerplate requirements like asking employees to wear formal attire when attending the state legislature, but singles out LGBT+ people inappropriately, Brian Klosterboer of the ACLU of Texas told The Washington Post.

“This dress code policy is … the commissioner trying to move us backwards in time decades to a time when the government and private employers could try to dictate and police how people express their gender,” he said.

“You can ask people to dress professionally without discriminating based on gender or race or any other protected characteristic,” he added. “But this policy here is clearly unlawful.”

The civil rights attorney warned that the “vague” policy could be weaponised in an arbitrary manner against employees.

Those who violate the new dress code can be fired.

Texas agriculture commissioner Sid Miller has defended the policy, telling Spectrum News he’s a “low-regulation guy” who nonetheless felt employees need a reminder of dress code rules after years working from home.

“We don’t want a man come dressed in drag, or vice versa,” he said. “It’s very disruptive. It’s not professional.”

Texas officials have proposed and implemented a wave of policies targeting LGBT+, and especially transgender, people, including a directive from governor Greg Abbott for state child protective authorities to investigate gender-affirming care as child abuse, a bill banning trans girls from participating in female sports, and questionably using state data to seek out trans people.

Texas lawmakers proposed 52 anti-LGBT+ bills this year, 49 of which focus on trans people, the highest number in the country, according to the Post.

Conservative states across the country have made targeting LGBT+ people a central part of their agenda in recent years, including banning books that mention queer relationships and identities, outlawing gender-affirming medical care, and seeking to forcibly out transgender and nonbinary students to their parents.