Patrick's transgender fearmongering is about politics — not safety

Photo by Laura Buckman

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's comments over Fort Worth ISD's Transgender Student Guidelines aren't about safety — they're about stirring up fear to score political points.

Patrick's fearmongering comes at a high cost. For transgender students who are bullied every day, his mean-spirited statements attack real people. For the state, it puts at risk over $6 billion in federal school funding. Patrick should get out of people’s bathrooms, he should get out of school board meetings where he doesn’t belong, and he should pay some attention to the state’s real problems.

Patrick is stoking fear and inciting violence in the hopes that the public won’t hold him accountable for all the ways the Legislature has failed children. Under Patrick's leadership, we've seen $5 billion cut from the education budget, our school finance system ruled unconstitutional and our foster care system under a federal court order because children are literally dying. In Texas schools, kids are being abused, districts are embroiled in cheating scandals and test scores are unacceptably low.

The lieutenant governor doesn’t show up to school board meetings to discuss the above issues, but he won’t miss a chance to bully transgender kids who don’t want to cause any problems — they simply want to use the bathroom when the need arises.

With its transgender guidelines, Fort Worth school district is following federal education rules that define the rights of every public school student, including transgender students. We commend the Fort Worth School District and its superintendent for issuing guidelines consistent with federal law and with the district’s two-year-old student welfare policy.

Ignoring federal law, as Patrick urges the Fort Worth school district to do, would put at risk significant federal educational funds our state depends on and ultimately cause our state significant economic chaos — similar to that now faced by North Carolina.

The demands of the lieutenant governor and Attorney General Ken Paxton to ignore federal law are not just dangerous and economically risky — they also demonize transgender students, many of whom are forced to drop out of school because of the constant bullying aggression and physical violence they face. Equality Texas calls upon our state leaders to build upon our state’s resources to improve public schools, rather than putting funding at risk in a cruel and futile attempt to scapegoat children to distract from the goverment's failure.

As equality advances, we believe opponents in Texas will become more extreme and more desperate in their effort to enshrine discrimination in our laws. Equality Texas educates the public about what exactly nondiscrimination protections do and don’t mean, and we have stories to share.

By fueling hysteria and creating panic where none need exist, Patrick echoes the worst chapters of our history, where discrimination runs rampant and understanding and compassion are absent.

This is about the dignity and respect we accord citizens and the laws that we enacted to protect them — to protect all of us. It’s about fairness, inclusion and equality for all Texans.

Chuck Smith

Executive director, Equality Texas