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November 12, 2021
In 2021, the Iowa legislature proposed 15 bills discriminating against the trans community, seven of which directly targeted students. These bills ranged from limiting trans students from participating in athletics to outing students for their pronouns to allowing discrimination for religious reasons. None of these bills became law.
“The intentional exclusion of transgender people is alienating and dehumanizing,” Ham said. “It’s an awful thing to do.”
Dillon believes politicians have no reason to propose transphobic bills.
“It’s so wrong … it doesn’t affect [politicians] at all,” Dillon said. “There’s no point for that, except to be transphobic.”
In the face of this adversity, Head thinks schools must be a safe space for students.
“With [prohibiting] transgender restrooms at school, sports participation and all the ways certain laws are trying to exclude trans students, it’s even more important that schools are a place where kids can come and just be respected and valued as their true, authentic selves,” Head said.
Furthermore, she believes trans and non-binary students should not be responsible for teaching others about their identities.
“Just like it’s not the responsibility of people of color to educate others about [their] experience, it’s not the responsibility of LGBTQ+ individuals to educate everybody else,” Head said.
At the administrative level, Gray prioritizes a student-centered approach to change.
“It’s our professional responsibility to be as culturally responsive as we can with students,” Gray said. “Students are our priority. We don’t want anyone to feel left out. [We need to] get more voice from our transgender students to figure out what they need, where the gaps are [and] what they think is necessary to feel more welcome.”
Although the ICCSD LGBTQ+ policy is the first established and most progressive in the state, there is still potential for improvement. For Schluckebier, receiving student feedback is essential to creating meaningful change.
“[We] grow and respond to student needs, so it’s a constant work in progress—listening to students, getting their feedback, getting the resources and changing some materials, not just continuing to do what we’ve always done,” Schluckebier said.
At West High, Gross sees change as a perpetual process.
“[These changes] are not boxes we’re checking off—they’re ongoing, they’re enduring,” Gross said. “I want West to be a place where students can thrive being their true and authentic selves—that’s very important. If you can’t act [as] who you are, you’re never going to be the best version of yourself.”
When it comes to changing school culture, Henderson believes students and teachers must work together. He also sees discomfort and struggle as a natural part of the process.
“When we try to shift a culture, it gets harder before it gets better in the same way that sometimes we get sicker before we get better,” Henderson said. “What’s going on is all these things might make us notice the problem more, make it seem worse or even make it feel worse for a while—it’s not always going to feel good.”
Many students look toward the future for progress and support.
“Ultimately, I hope that our community, if not our overall society, abandons the concepts of gender roles and societally imposed genders,” Polyak said. “I believe that this is important because a genderless society would become more welcoming to all experiences and may even help eliminate gendered conflicts, such as sexism.”
Dillon encourages trans and non-binary students who are struggling with their identity to focus on themselves.
“Don’t mind what other people think. Just take your time to figure out who you are and be happy with yourself. Dress and present however you want because other people’s opinions don’t matter,” Dillon said.
Don’t mind what other people think. Just take your time to figure out who you are and be happy with yourself. Dress and present however you want because other people’s opinions don’t matter.”
— Hayden Dillon
McNamar echoes this sentiment.
”You don’t owe anyone anything. You don’t have to give an explanation of why you feel a certain way or who you [are] as a person,” McNamar said. “There’s always another person that’s going to share certain ideas [and] experiences but not going to understand everything.”
McNamar is optimistic for the future of trans and non-binary students at West High.
“I have pretty strong hopes that we’re going to have more of the student body talk about it,” McNamar said. “Hopefully before I graduate, it’s a lot easier for a younger trans person to find others than it was for me.”