Going Backwards

Even as the world is becoming more accepting of people of the LGBTQ+ community, in recent months, their rights have been a topic of constant debate across the nation. As these bills are being passed, schools are becoming less safe for LGBTQ+ students.

Two pride flags flying proudly in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Evelyn Kraber

Two pride flags flying proudly in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“It is our shared responsibility to ensure every member of our school community is valued and respected regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation. We encourage our students, staff, and members of the community to celebrate the inclusiveness and diversity that contribute to the growth, success, safety, and quality of life of everyone at the Iowa City Community School District.”

This is a quote from an email sent out to all ICCSD students, faculty and parents on March 24, after two bills were passed attacking the rights of transgender students in Iowa. Even though this negatively impacts many Iowans and a record number of people showed up to the state capital protesting, they were signed anyways. In response, school districts had to reassure their students that they are loved and supported, no matter how they identify. After these bills were passed students protested taking down bathroom signs at West and holding walkouts, but legislators still stand by these bills, not caring about the people they’re hurting.

Senate file 482 was passed on March 22. This bill restricts any person in a school setting from using a locker room or restroom other than the one that aligns with their biological sex. While schools are required to provide alternative facilities, students may only use certain facilities if they request to do so and have written consent from their parents or guardians. 

While some schools in Iowa, including West, have single-user gender neutral bathrooms, which are not banned by the bill — not all do. This bill also includes locker rooms, forcing transgender youth into locker rooms that don’t align with their gender identity. According to a survey done by the Trevor Project, fewer than one in three transgender and nonbinary youth find their home to be gender-affirming. In order to use their preferred bathroom or locker room, many transgender youth would have to come out to their parents putting their safety at risk in some cases. It is simply not realistic to expect these alternative facilities would be able to be requested by many genderqueer students.

Fewer than one in three transgender and nonbinary youth find their home to be gender-affirming

— The Trevor Project


Another bill that was passed was SF 538, which bans minors from receiving gender-affirming care. The goal is to prevent children from receiving procedures that would make irreversible changes, but this isn’t typically the case:

Gender-affirming care consists of a variety of social, psychological, behavioral and medical interventions made to support and affirm one’s gender identity when it contrasts with the gender they were assigned at birth. This rarely means surgery (which is not an option for kids under the age of 13) and cannot be done without parental consent. This bill mostly impacts minors taking puberty blockers or hormones. 

Taking puberty blockers becomes an option at the onset of puberty, usually at ages 10 or 11. These prevent the release of sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, which prevent some changes such as a deepening voice or development of body hair from occurring which would typically occur during puberty. Taking hormones has similar effects, as it causes an individual’s appearance to be more masculine or feminine. Due to these changes in appearance, some changes caused by taking hormones are permanent, but most of these changes will be reversed after time if hormones are no longer taken.  

According to Mayo Clinic, to begin using puberty blockers, an individual must “show a long-lasting and intense pattern of gender nonconformity or gender dysphoria, have gender dysphoria that began or worsened at the start of puberty, address any psychological, medical or social problems that could interfere with treatment, have entered the early stage of puberty, and provide informed consent.” 

They are not without knowledge of the effects, and changes made by taking puberty blockers are also completely reversible. They also have very positive psychological effects such as improved mental well-being, reduced depression and anxiety, improved social interactions and integration with other kids and reduced thoughts or actions related to self-harm. In a survey done by the University of Minnesota, 61% of transgender youth reported suicidal ideation, which is over 3 times more than cisgender youth. Mental health improvements that can come with gender-affirming care could be life saving and access to it should not be illegal.

In Iowa it is already common for transgender youth to feel unsafe at school. According to a GLSEN survey done in 2019, over half of LGBTQ+ students in Iowa reported that their school district was not supportive of them. It has been shown time and time again that when LGBTQ+ students are in a supportive environment, their suicide risk decreases and mental health improves. By passing these bills, schools are transitioning from a safe place where a student is free to express their identity, to just another place sorting people into boxes based on who the government thinks they should be.

By passing these bills, schools are transitioning from a safe place where a student is free to express their identity, to just another place sorting people into boxes based on who the government thinks they should be.

— Evelyn Kraber

Students should feel safe at school and free to be who they are no matter how they identify or who they love, and that should never be infringed upon by the government.