Iowa’s nasty streak: Anti-LGBTQ laws

Conor Kelly (TheLorian)

Transgender rights are human rights. The phrase has been uttered many times before by many a trans advocate. It’s a powerful statement, to be sure, as it draws upon the dignity inherent to all human beings and applies that dignity to an entire group of people who would otherwise be disregarded by society. It’s a phrase I support. But, on its own, it’s just a phrase. It rings hollow in the face of a state that is consistently trying to restrict and marginalize transgender rights within its jurisdiction, as the state of Iowa is trying to do right now.

To say being trans is difficult is an understatement. In a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2018, it was reported that over half of transgender male teens attempted suicide, with the number of female transgender youth attempting to do so residing at 29.9 percent. Suicides among transgender people are considerably higher than that of the general population but decline significantly in frequency the less a given society rejects them. When transgender youth receive strong familial support, their risk for attempted suicide declines by an estimated 82 percent, when transgender youth are rejected by their families, their risk of suicide can increase by 13 percent. The more a society accepts transgender people, the healthier and safer they are.

Unfortunately, some of Iowa’s legislators have not gotten the message. At this moment, there is a wide array of anti-trans and anti-LGBT legislation running through the state House and Senate. One such bill, known as Senate File 80, requires that the school district notify the parents about their students’ self-espoused gender identity without the student’s consent. A similar bill titled House File 2201 has been introduced with 13 Republican legislators’ support in the House. Both of these proposed laws are intrusions into the personal and emotional life of a student. 

If a student goes to a psychologist, they are entitled to patient confidentiality to ensure they feel safe and comfortable discussing their health issues. Yet, when it comes to gender identity, an already emotional issue, the schools would be required to out a child to their parents before they are emotionally ready. It is one thing to respect a parent’s authority, but to suggest that a child has no right to privacy when it comes to their health is beyond unacceptable. It’s abusive. Students should be able to go to their school feeling safe to express themselves without fear of having their intimate feelings revealed to potentially unaccepting parents. 

Similarly, there was a proposition to remove gender identity from the state’s Civil Rights act, and even now, the state is trying to penalize doctors for providing puberty blockers to trans youth who may need them. If a doctor were to provide a puberty blocker to a minor via a prescription, they could receive a $1000 fine and lose their license under the current legislation. 

Such legislation was defended by Iowa Rep. Sandy Salmon, the author of the puberty-blocking bill when she argued that trans youth would “outgrow it.” Rep. Salmon’s statements do not tell the people of Iowa what puberty blockers do for trans youth, as those who receive it do so in part because they want to avoid further gender dysphoria caused by advancing puberty. Despite what some may argue, trans youth do not immediately receive puberty blockers out of the gate. Therapists and doctors prescribe them after repeated expression of gender dysphoria that is expressed freely by the patient. It is a medical decision that the state has no right to take from the people.

Moreover, the casual attitude towards trans people’s medical considerations is evident in the bill’s unwillingness to make exceptions or otherwise recognize the reasons for the use of puberty blockers. It also flies in the face of the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ statement on the subject, as they recognized the importance of puberty blockers for trans youth since 2018. 

When I began this essay, I started that the phrase “trans rights are human rights” was a bold statement that I support. And I stand by that, but that only rings true if the people of a given state are willing to make it true. If these laws pass, it will show that Iowa, as a state, does not hold itself to that statement.

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Conor J. Kelly was the Opinion Editor for the Lorian and a prolific staff writer. He graduated from Loras College in April of 2021 and is now pursuing his master's in political science at the University of Illinois, Springfield. You can find his new work on The Progressive American newsletter.

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