During a committee hearing held yesterday in the Texas House of Representatives, Gearbox exec David Najjab testified against Texas House Bill 4042, which would force transgender athletes in public schools to compete in sports according to the gender they were assigned at birth.
“I’m a Texan,” said Najjab, who has worked as Borderlands developer Gearbox’s director of institutional partnerships since 2015. “I was born here. I know it’s a welcoming, friendly place. I want us to push that, not be making up laws we don’t need.”
Many of the day’s testimonies came from individuals who would be personally affected by TX HB4042, but Najjab focused on the ramifications the bill’s passing would have on business, both for Gearbox and the state at large. The discriminatory legislature, Najjab said, would make it harder for Gearbox to keep and recruit “the best and the brightest” to work in Texas.
“Our game company’s in competition worldwide,” Najjab added. “We sell more to Asia than we do in the United States. We bring a lot of money into this state. We’re headquartered here. Don’t drive us to where we have to start expanding outside of Texas and outside of the country. We want to keep doing business here.”
Gearbox, which is based in Frisco but also opened a studio in Quebec, Canada in 2015, is one of several businesses to sign a letter calling for Texas to update its non-discrimination laws to include the LGBTQ+ community. Other signatories include Apple, IBM Corporation, and Microsoft.
This isn’t Gearbox’s first rodeo when it comes to Texas politics. Back in 2017, CEO and magician-in-residency Randy Pitchford publicly opposed legislation that would limit people to using bathrooms in public schools and government buildings based on the gender on their birth certificates. That bill eventually failed.
“The kinds of people that are the best in the world at creating technology, at creating entertainment, these are people that do not want to live in places that are seen as discriminatory,” Pitchford said at the time, a sentiment Najjab echoed in yesterday’s testimony.
While Gearbox’s opposition to this latest anti-trans bill is certainly well-meaning (if maybe a little too fixated on the impact to its own bottom line), arguments have been made in similar situations that these kinds of boycotts only further hurt marginalized folks who are unable to just up and leave discriminatory states. It’s clear trans people in Texas have it hard enough as it is, and the disappearance of job opportunities at companies like Gearbox could only exacerbate those issues.
Trans folks are experiencing an unprecedented onslaught from right-wing politicians seeking ways to legally discriminate against their existence. Sadly, the work doesn’t stop with this one bill or even in Texas. For more information, visit the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Update (5:34 p.m. ET, 04/22/2021): This story’s headline has been adjusted to better convey David Najjab’s testimony.