Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Miller’s Transphobic Dress Code Shook Ag Department

In 2023, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller instituted a transphobic dress code policy for employees in his department. New emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that top officials in the department knew it was illegal.

Miller is among the most conservative politicians in Texas. He is rumored to be on the short list for USDA chief if former president and current convicted felon Donald Trump regains the White House this fall, and there are few culture wars he won’t weigh in on. So, it was little surprise when he did his part in his party’s assault on the rights of trans and non-binary people.

The policy states that employees must dress “in a manner consistent with their biological gender.” The non-profit American Oversight filed a FOIA request around the policy and shared it with The Texas Observer.

Gender identity is a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020 by Bostock v. Clayton County. That makes it clear that Miller is not legally able to police the gendered clothing of his subordinates. Emails sent by TDA Policy Analyst Carter Page to Miller and others lay out the lack of legal standing for Miller’s rule. He continued anyway.

“The records that we have received demonstrate that senior TDA officials were well aware of the potentially unlawful nature of their policy,” said Chioma Chukwu, interim executive director at American Oversight, to The Texas Observer. “[TDA officials] were taking precautions to try and defend something that is otherwise indefensible in light of Title VII.”

Employees in the department were disgusted by the rule, other emails show. One (whose name was redacted) asked in an official email chain, “how can we as a division mandate that our program participants comply with civil rights policy when our own leadership does not?”

Queer and trans employees of the department reported feeling targeted, unsafe, and marginalized by the rule. Others reported harassment such as calling people by previous names (deadnaming) and a lack of support in their work.

Miller has so far responded in his usual style. When The Texas Observer broke the story, he tweeted, “You have to be a special kind of stupid to think dressing  the way humans have for the whole sum of history is ‘oppression.’ Men are men. Women are women, and the @TexasObserver  is a clown show.”

Miller may not like trans people, but he was informed by his own policy advisers that his ruling is almost certainly unconstitutional in addition to being cruel, pointless, and potentially costly if employees were to sue him. That doesn’t seem to be of concern to him. His political ascension likely rides on appealing to the far-right elements of Trump’s base.

“The commissioner, who was one of the policy’s architects, was more concerned with appeasing the anti-trans and anti-nonbinary sentiments of certain officials than with creating a comfortable and inclusive work environment for all employees,” said Chukwu.  

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Award-App Footer

Download our award-winning app