Gov. Greg Abbott suggests he wants to bar transgender teachers from dressing in line with their gender identity

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during the opening keynote lunch at the Texas Public Policy Foundation Texas Policy Summit 2024 in Austin on March 20, 2024. (Maria Crane/The Texas Tribune, Maria Crane/The Texas Tribune)

Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

Recommended Videos

Gov. Greg Abbott suggested Texas public school teachers should be barred from wearing clothes that don’t conform to traditional gender norms, raising the prospect that the GOP-controlled Legislature could pursue restrictions on transgender teachers and how they dress.

Abbott, addressing the Young Conservatives of Texas convention in Dallas, made the remarks as he recounted the story of a male teacher in North Texas who wore a pink dress for his school’s spirit day earlier this year.

“This person, a man, dressing as a woman in a public high school in the state of Texas, he’s trying to normalize the concept that this type of behavior is okay,” Abbott said Friday, according to an audio recording captured by the Texas Observer. “This type of behavior is not okay, and this is the type of behavior that we want to make sure we end in the state of Texas.”

Rachmad Tjachyadi, who taught chemistry at Hebron High School in Carrollton, resigned last month after a conservative social media account posted a video of him wearing the pink dress. Though Lewisville ISD officials found that he did not run afoul of any district policies, Tjachyadi said he decided to step down because the video sparked a wave of “hateful comments” that threatened to “remove the focus from the great things our students and staff are doing.”

A student told Dallas’ KXAS-TV that Tjachyadi “never brought his sexuality or any of his political ideas into his teaching” and was “always teaching chemistry.”

Abbott did not say how he wanted teachers’ attire to be regulated, but his comments received immediate support from current and incoming lawmakers. The positive reception came in response to the Observer reporter’s post that described Abbott as suggesting “he wants to ban trans and gender nonconforming people from being public school teachers.”

State Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, responded by writing, “Perverts should not be teachers.” And Republican Brent Money, who won the GOP primary in a heavily conservative North Texas House district last month, said Abbott was “absolutely correct.” Texas Republican Party Chair Matt Rinaldi also voiced support.

Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The governor was among those who circulated the video of Tjachyadi when it was posted in February. He cited it as an example of why he is pushing for a school voucher program that would give parents taxpayer dollars to help pay for private school tuition.

“No parent should be forced by the state to send their child to this school,” Abbott wrote on social media. “I'm fighting for the right of parents to send their children elsewhere.”

If lawmakers were to pass a law banning transgender teachers or restricting their attire, it would almost certainly be challenged in court — the same fate faced by the array of recent state measures targeting transgender Texans. The Legislature last year approved new laws restricting sexually explicit drag shows and barring minors from accessing puberty blockers and hormone therapy, both of which are the subject of ongoing lawsuits.

An LGBTQ+ advocacy group has also gone to court to prevent Attorney General Ken Paxton from forcing them to hand over records about transgender minors accessing transition-related care. And a pair of students at West Texas A&M University have alleged that the school president violated their First Amendment rights when he canceled last year’s on-campus drag show.

Disclosure: Texas A&M University and West Texas A&M University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Tickets are on sale now for the 2024 Texas Tribune Festival, happening in downtown Austin Sept. 5-7. Get your TribFest tickets before May 1 and save big!

Recommended Videos