116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
There’s a lyric from David Bowie’s song “Changes” that’s been repeatedly popping into my head as I see Republican politicians depicting transgender kids as a clear and present danger in public schools.
“And these children that you spit on
“As they try to change their worlds
“Are immune from your consultations
“They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.”
Bowie, of course was a gender-bending performer who, according to a New York Times article after his death in 2016, was “not just a popstar but a lifeline” to LGBTQ fans. He “helped bring queer culture into the mainstream in the 1960s and 1970s.” He was a hero to millions of kids trying to fit in.
Transgender kids in Iowa clearly need a hero right now. Because what they’re seeing instead are too many villains telling them repeatedly that their desire to live an authentic life is a dire threat. Republicans continue to target my kid’s school district, Linn-Mar, for its policies supporting transgender kids.
Oh thank goodness, one of my fellow parents has arrived to be the voice of reason.
“I have two boys in Linn-Mar schools,” U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson told Republicans gathered for the party’s recent Lincoln Dinner. “I don’t know how many of you are following this … but toward the end of the last school year Linn-Mar instituted a totally radical policy that lets kids change their gender identity without telling parents.”
OK, so maybe not.
“So let’s be clear. This means that the boy can tell the school that he’s a girl, then use the girls’ bathroom or the girls’ locker room or even spend the night in a girls’ hotel room on an overnight trip. And his parents would never know. Isn’t that ridiculous?” Hinson asked.
Let’s be even clearer. Many things are ridiculous. It’s ridiculous to call a series of existing practices consolidated into an overall policy, in adherence to state and federal laws, “radical.” It’s ridiculous to portray transgender kids as a threat in bathrooms and locker rooms when it’s those same kids who face more danger when they’re not allowed to use facilities coinciding with their gender identity.
It’s ridiculous parents are somehow completely unaware of what their kids are going through. It’s ridiculous there are households where kids are afraid to let their parents know what they’re going though.
It’s ridiculous to pretend being transgender isn’t real, which is the spiteful falsehood at the core of this assault.
It’s also ridiculous that this local school issue is being thrust into a congressional campaign for maximum political effect. Politicians frighten us, Republicans cheer and transgender kids are pawns in the whole sad, sordid saga. Throw in a few “liberal elites,” a couple of “wokes” and the battle cry of “parents’ rights,” and you’ve got the makings of a good old fashioned rabble-rouser.
“Clearly, they have decided that the school board knows better what is best for kids’ mental health and physical well-being over the parents. But we know kids don’t belong to school boards. Kids don’t belong to government. Kids belong to parents. And parents matter,” Hinson said at her recent barbecue fundraiser.
Good line. The government is taking your children. Although I can’t say I’ve ever thought of my kids as belongings. They’re people whom we have tried hard to teach that we’ll love and support them, no matter what life throws at them. Radical.
What about what trans kids think is best? Well, they’re just bit players in this production of “Red State Zealotry!”
As with Bowie’s song, this is about yet another generational conflict. Young people are quite aware of what they’re going through and the realities of the world they live in. Most of them are not interested in living with the rigid, cookie-cutter social constructs of gender, sexuality and race that came from our discriminatory past.
That makes older people uncomfortable. The cookie cutters made sense. Discrimination wasn’t so bad, right? And instead of seeking greater understanding, too many are simply outraged and want government to turn back time.
Republicans such as Hinson are taking full advantage by telling them exactly what they want to hear. That’s what passes for leadership now. When outrage is sparked, our so-called leaders pour on the cultural gasoline and bask in the warm glow of scorched-earth politics.
I asked Hinson’s Democratic opponent, state Sen. Liz Mathis, for a comment. I got no response. That’s disappointing. But we do know Mathis worked for many years at Four Oaks, a residential treatment center for kids, and voted against legislation banning transgender girls from playing girls’ sports. I doubt she sees eye-to-eye with Hinson on this.
But again, why is this an issue in a congressional campaign? The elected school board made its decision. A group of parents have filed a federal lawsuit arguing Linn-Mar’s policies have taken away their right to know about their kids’ gender identity and their kids’ First Amendment right to refuse to use transgender students’ preferred pronouns. As much as I disagree with their arguments, the courts are where constitutional disputes are settled.
But making this into a nationalized political circus is only going to do more damage, to the community and transgender kids.
I wonder whether these politicians attacking the district’s effort to support kids at school are willing to own what may happen next. If they succeed in forcing schools to become gender informants, will they step up to help the kids who get abused, kicked out of the house or worse?
Of course they won’t. They whip up the storm, but someone else always pays the price. The circus will move on, looking for someone new to spit on.
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