A Texas Republican candidate and former teacher said transgender children make her uncomfortable and questioned why other kids should be punished for making fun of them.
When asked Saturday how she would enact conservative priorities in a divided state Legislature, Shelley Luther — a candidate for the Texas House of Representatives — smeared trans children and tied her discomfort around them with her support for “school choice.”
“I am not comfortable with the transgenders,” Luther said, speaking at a candidate forum in northeast Texas. “The kids that they brought in my classroom, when they said that this kid is transgendering into a different sex, that I couldn’t have kids laugh at them ... like other kids got in trouble for having transgender kids in my class. That’s why I vote for school choice.”
Her comments drew rebuke from the state's leading LGBTQ advocates.
"Lamenting not being able to allow students to laugh at, bully and harass transgender kids isn’t leadership, it’s cruelty plain and simple," Ricardo Martinez, CEO of LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas, said in a statement. "All children in Texas are guaranteed a public education under the constitution, deserve privacy and the ability to learn in a safe environment."
Luther told NBC News in an email that as a former teacher, she "respected and supported all students" but that it became "difficult to teach" when the issue of gender identity was brought up in her classroom.
"When the center of focus becomes a student and not the actual lesson being taught, it is unfair to the other students. As a teacher, my goal was to make sure the students, all of them, are learning in a safe environment," she said. "Bullying is never acceptable, and did not occur."
Luther stated on her campaign website that if elected to represent House District 62, one of her priorities would be to "abolish gender mutilation in children." The term "gender mutilation" is commonly used by opponents of transgender rights to describe gender-affirming surgery.
Her comments on trans children did not mark first time the GOP candidate has been criticized for her remarks on the campaign trail. Last month, Luther was rebuked by Texas Democrats and Republicans for calling on the state's universities to deny admittance to Chinese students.
“Chinese students should be BANNED from attending all Texas universities,” Luther said in the since-deleted tweet. “No more Communists!”
Luther also nudged her way into the national spotlight in May 2020 for operating her Dallas salon, Salon À la Mode, while state and local emergency orders closed nonessential businesses due to the pandemic. Dallas County Judge Eric Moyé held Luther in criminal and civil contempt, sentencing her to seven days behind bars.
However, the Texas Supreme Court ruled last year that Moyé’s temporary restraining order was void, clearing Luther from more jail time.