Over the past few weeks, lawmakers in the Iowa Legislature have introduced 14 bills that would put restrictions on transgender youth and are viewed as discriminatory by LGBTQ+ advocates.
One of the bills includes House File 193 which would ban transgender children from receiving medical treatment, including hormone treatments. The bill would punish doctors who perform gender-affirming treatments to those who are under 18 and transgender. If caught, doctors could lose their medical license and be fined $1,000.
Another bill, House File 184, would ban transgender youth from participating in school sports which has become a controversial issue about fairness. Lastly, Senate File 80 would require school districts to notify a student’s parents or guardians, without their permission, about their pronoun usage.
“The right has been picking on LGBTQ people for a long time I think we have seen the rise of anti-transgender bills as a reflection of that,” said State Representative Liz Bennett, D-Cedar Rapids. “I think they have endeavored this in a way that doesn’t necessarily seem hateful, but it’s confusing to people who may not be as educated on these issues as a way to scare the public. They’re picking on people, particularly transgender kids who they don’t think can fight back for a number of reasons.”
Sponsor of HF 193, Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, said in the bill that children who feel a disconnect between their assigned sex at birth and their gender identity “will outgrow” these feelings “once they go through puberty”.
“Just let kids express themselves, it’s also not statistically proven that kids ‘outgrow’ these feelings,” said first-year Rachel Jalloway.
Salmon outlined concerns in the bill. For kids that were “prepubertal”, or before puberty, doctors administer “long-acting gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists or puberty blockers”. The bill goes on to say that these “interventions” are “unproven” and “poorly studied”. The bill ends with saying that “hormonal and surgical interventions” should not be presented to transgender children and parents “who are incapable of comprehending the negative implications and life-course difficulties resulting from these interventions”.
“Well, first off Sandy Salmon is not a doctor or psychologist and she has a long documented record of filing bills that are anti-gay, anti-LGBTQ, etc. Her motivations given her prior stances are not hard to guess at,” Bennett said. “My advice to her would be to look at the research, look at statements from medical professionals.”
Bennett said that she thinks this is a “clever strategy” by Salmon to claim that she (Salmon) is concerned for the kids, but that in reality she and those who support her are “interested in preserving what I see to be an artificial gender binary and what they really want to do is they want to get these kids into conversion therapy.”
In Iowa, doctors do not treat transgender youth unless they have parental consent, and genital surgery will not be done on those who are under 18 years old, unless they are approved by an Ethics Committee.
Another bill that has caused some controversy is HF 187, which would ban transgender youth from using bathrooms at school that fit their gender identities.
Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, sponsor of HF 187, said in a subcommittee meeting, when lawmakers first considered the bill, “the intention or purpose” behind the bill was to not be hateful “towards anybody in the LGBT community”.
“It’s important to note that the concern is not so much with transgender individuals likely to be sexual predators, but that sexual predators could exploit such laws by posing as transgender in order to gain access to women and girls,” Carlin said.
Bennett said it was frustrating that Carlin defended the bill in this way.
“People in that party have resisted a number of different things that could hopefully reduce the instance of sexual assault, for example, teaching consent as part of human growth and developement,” Bennett said. “I think that is a cleverly disguised way to say ‘we’re not being hateful’, what they are doing though they’re making it so trans people, it’s difficult for them to exist in society.”
Keenan Crow, policy and advocacy director for One Iowa, disagreed with Carlin’s statement during the subcommittee meeting.
“Transgender Iowans have been able to use the restrooms that match their gender identity since 2007, and over that 14-year period we haven’t seen any uptick in restroom-related safety incidents,” Crow said, via the Des Moines Register.
Bennett said that you can look at the national outrage and response by businesses after North Carolina passed its own bathroom bill in 2016 as an example of the effect HF 187 will have on Iowa’s economy.
“These kinds of bills send the message that Iowa is not a welcoming place, it’s not a welcoming place for diverse workers and it might not be a welcoming place to raise kids,” Bennett said.
Bennett’s message to transgender kids who are worried about these bills passing is to know that are “plenty” of people who are “really working hard to stop those bills by educating people who just might not know much about the issue.”
“My work and the work of people who feel the same as me is to build a relationship, have conversations, hopefully dissuade leadership from running and passing these kinds of bills,” Bennett said. “We have your back, we’re working on it.”