On February 22, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order for child protective services to investigate the families of transgender children who receive gender-affirming healthcare for child abuse. A day later, he called on everyday Texans, in addition to professionals, to report parents for “child abuse” under threat of criminal negligence.
Today, 65 companies, including several gaming giants like Electronic Arts, Gearbox Software, and Microsoft, signed a letter organised by the LGBTQ organisation the Human Rights Campaign that “call[s] on [the] governor to abandon anti-LGBTQ+ efforts.” The full-page advertisement ran in the Friday edition of the Dallas Morning News today..
Rebecca Marques, the Texas director of HRC, posted the ad copy today.
“Our companies do business, create jobs, and serve customers in Texas.” The letter reads. “We call on our public leaders — in Texas and across the country — to abandon efforts to write discrimination into law and policy. It’s not just wrong, it has an impact on our employees, our customers, their families, and our work..”
Many of the tech and gaming signatories, including EA, Microsoft, and Gearbox, are members of Texas Competes, a pro-LGBTQ business network. Texas Competes Managing Director Jessica Shortall told Kotaku that many Texas businesses are partially motivated by talent retention. The labour market is tight for hiring technical employees, and employers have had job offers turned down when they ask candidates to relocate to Texas. This is especially significant when 32 per cent of game developers identify as something other than straight and almost 10 per cent identify as a different gender than the one assigned at birth.
The letter isn’t the time Gearbox Software has taken a stance on transgender rights, either. Last year, an executive testified against a bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing in sports. Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford also opposed Texas’s anti-trans bathroom bill in 2017, legislation that would have limited people to using restrooms in public buildings based on their birth certificates.
Shortall told Kotaku that she believes the movement against the law was relatively quiet in the first week because it wasn’t clear whether the order would hold up in court. On March 2, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas managed to block child protective services from investigating the parents of a transgender child receiving medical treatment. The court is currently debating whether or not the ACLU’s restraining order in that case applies to the governor’s orders more broadly.
While Texas politicians have always had more bluster than legal sense, these attacks against transgender rights have created a hostile environment for trans people and their families.