116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
So the Republicans’ crusade against transgender kids, and school districts such as Linn-Mar that offer those kids support, is now out in paperback.
Its title is sort of dry, House File 9. But it’s a real page-turner.
Under the bill, Linn-Mar’s policy of creating a support plan for transgender students while leaving it up to those students as to whether their parents are informed would be prohibited. There could be no plan to shield them from bullying and harassment without parental permission.
No school employee could “willfully withhold information” from parents if they know a student is transgender or is transitioning. Lawmakers would turn trusted teachers into informants, cutting off a support system at school for marginalized kids who desperately need it.
This is all done in the name of “parents’ rights.” Never mind if a kid knows their home situation better than school officials or lawmakers under the Golden Dome of Wisdom, now the Midwest subsidiary of DeSantis, Inc. As U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson said often during the campaign, kids “belong to parents.” Belongings don’t have rights.
In an ideal world, kids should feel comfortable coming out to their parents. I wish they all could. But the world is often far less than ideal for transgender kids.
“There are some parents out there who are not going to do the right thing when they get that information,” said Keenan Crow, director of policy and advocacy for One Iowa, an LGBTQ advocacy group. “And we know that because just off the top of my head, about 10 percent of our youth population here in the U.S. is LGBTQ identified, but about 40 percent of our homeless youth population is LGBTQ identified. And that number goes even higher for trans folks, in terms of their disproportionate portion there.
“So it's, it's a very dangerous thing to out a kid. The information about someone's sexual orientation, or their gender identity should be controlled, the flow of that information should be controlled by that person, regardless of what their age is, what their sex is, what their race or socio economic status, none of those things actually change that principle,” Crow said.
Turning adults at school into snitches rather than a possible source of support is also harmful.
“The one thing we know that dramatically decreases risk of suicidality for LGBTQ folks is having one supportive adult in their lives, just one, that's all that it takes to knock off a huge percentage of suicide risk. And so in many cases, a teacher is that one person, and this would effectively take that away,” Crow said.
Crow cited a recent study from the Trevor Project, a group dedicated to preventing suicide among LGBTQ youth. Among those surveyed, 52 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth in Iowa seriously considered suicide during the past year, while 22 percent attempted suicide.
Eighty-seven percent of LGBTQ kids in Iowa said recent politics negatively affected their lives sometimes or a lot. And 73 percent of LGBTQ youth say they’ve experienced discrimination.
But that’s just how Statehouse Republicans want it. They’ve declared open season on these kids.
The bill, sponsored by 40 Republicans, fans those political flames. It bans school staff from “encouraging, pressuring or coercing” kids to undergo medical procedures and treatments to affirm a student’s gender identity.
“It's written in a way to be inflammatory and divisive and to make accusations that they couldn't possibly backup, because that's not happening,” Crow said.
House File 9 is not the only anti-LGBTQ bill on the GOP agenda. House File 8 prohibits any classroom materials or curriculum that discusses sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3. Senate File 83 bans lessons pertaining to gender identity through grade eight. They’re similar to Florida’s infamous “don’t say gay” law.
"It doesn’t prohibit the student from coming in and discussing those (issues) themselves, but we’re just trying to go back to saying we’re going to let the kids be innocent," said Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, according to the Des Moines Register.
Kids apparently can’t be innocent and also receive age-appropriate lessons about the world as it is and about people living in their communities, perhaps even friends and family. The message is being LGBTQ is wrong and shameful, something that should be hidden away. LGBTQ Iowans should keep quiet and retreat to the shadows because they make old, white conservatives uncomfortable. Their discomfort must be enshrined in state law.
“This is Iowa.” So says the marketing campaign trying to get people to move here. Good luck.
These bills are also designed to do far more than what their plain language indicates. Backers hope to spawn a chilling effect in public schools, making every educator think twice about discussing LGBTQ people and issues at any grade level. Otherwise they risk being dragged before the school board to face accusations from the chorus of perpetual outrage, egged on by our so-called “leaders.”
Are lawmakers prepared to own the harm their actions might cause? Of course not. They just know they’ll make damn fine applause lines on the campaign trail. Tragic consequences be damned.
Gov. Kim Reynolds’ famously declared that in Iowa, we know the difference between boys and girls. We also know how to attack kids and make their lives miserable for political gain. Our once proud history of protecting civil rights is a page-turner Republicans refuse to read. Now they’re wielding the eraser and a big barrel of whitewash.
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