This past summer, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton requested employees at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to do a sweeping search of its database to provide him with names of individuals who, over the past two years, changed their gender on their driver’s licenses and other records.
To some, the search appears to be a clear request to find out who in the state is a transgender person. Paxton, a staunch conservative, has taken several actions in recent years targeting trans Texas residents.
The revelation of Paxton’s actions became known following a report from The Washington Post, which made a request for communications at DPS regarding state government moves against trans people.
“Need total number of changes from male to female and female to male for the last 24 months, broken down by month,” an email from the head of DPS’s driver license division said to employees. “We won’t need DL/ID numbers at first but may need to have them later if we are required to manually look up documents.”
More than 16,000 results were found in the initial search, but it was determined that a manual search would be necessary in order to ascertain why a person’s gender status was changed. The matter doesn’t appear to have gone beyond that step, the Post’s findings suggest.
“Ultimately, our team advised the AG’s office the data requested neither exists nor could be accurately produced,” DPS spokesman Travis Considine told the publication. “Thus, no data of any kind was provided.”
Considine, who said the command for the search came from a “verbal request” by Paxton to the division, also didn’t know why the state attorney general made the request in the first place.
The action by Paxton, along with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), is the latest in a series the two have taken specifically targeting transgender Texans. Abbott, for example, signed a bill into law earlier this year banning trans youth from participating in public school sports that match their gender identity. Abbott also ordered state agencies to investigate parents of children who receive gender-affirming care, doing so based on a scientifically flawed, non-binding legal opinion from Paxton that wrongly asserted such care amounted to child abuse.
Paxton has also taken his anti-trans crusade to the federal government, suing the Biden administration several times in order to block policies that protect LGBTQ people and expand their rights.
Trans residents and activists, as well as their allies, blasted the action by Paxton, noting that his request was a disturbing and alarming intrusion of people’s privacy using state resources.
“It’s very specifically targeted, and the one person I don’t want knowing about my gender status is Ken Paxton,” said Alexis Salkeld Garcia, a transgender woman in Texas who changed her gender listing on her license a year and a half ago, speaking to The Post about the matter.
“Texas AG Paxton is creating a list of transgender Texans. Nothing good ever comes out of the government creating a list of people from a marginalized community,” opined Alejandra Caraballo on Twitter, a trans activist and instructor at Harvard Law School.
“What could [Paxton] possibly need this info for — beyond harassment and persecution?” asked Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett.
Shelly Skeen, a Dallas-based senior attorney with the LGBTQ legal organization Lambda Legal, disparaged Paxton’s actions, describing them to LGBTQ Nation as being politically motivated. Paxton’s request to DPS is “a gross violation of privacy [meant to] target one group of people to fire up [his] base while transgender people are just trying to live their lives,” Skeen said.