For the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Iowa Safe Schools made history and flew the transgender pride flag at the Iowa State Capitol Building.
Nate Monson, the executive director of Iowa Safe Schools, said it sent an important message to Iowans.
“Doing something like having a flag flying over the Capitol is a message and a beacon to youth that we serve across the state that they are accepted, they are loved,” Monson said. “While today we’re honoring folks, we’re also moving forward on acceptance and equality.”
About a month ago, Iowa Safe Schools petitioned the Iowa Department of Administrative Services and showed up at the Capitol with the flag when they were told to.
The flag went up and flew for 3-5 minutes, which is standard, Monson said. And then the group got a certificate of authenticity.
The gesture was a significant milestone for transgender Iowans and for Iowa itself. The Iowa State Capitol is the first in the country to fly the transgender flag.
The California State Capitol also flew a flag today, but Monson pointed out Iowa was the first.
“We beat California and we’re damn proud that Iowa’s first on another civil rights triumph,” he said.
Other states have flown Pride flags, the rainbow flag, from their capitols, but not the transgender flag on its own.
The gesture was specifically tailored for today.
Every November 20, Transgender Day of Remembrance honors and memorializes the lives and memories of the people who have been killed for being transgender.
According to a study released Monday by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, at least 22 Americans have been killed this year for being transgender or gender non-conforming.
Monson said the gesture today was meant to recognize all of those people, especially since Iowa has contributed to the statistic of murdered transgender people.
In 2016, Kedarie Johnson, a genderfluid 16-year-old was murdered in Burlington, a murder that was also investigated by the federal government.
Both of the murderers have been convicted.
But that’s even more reason to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
“It’s one that’s important for us to recognize here in Iowa because we have had individuals murdered in our state for their gender identity,” Monson said. “And Iowa lacks gender identity protections in our hate crime laws so we have a ways to go still.”
“They Are Iowans Too”
Every legislative session, Monson said Iowa Safe Schools tries to add gender identity to Iowa’s hate crime law. While a bill has never made it to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk, it did pass the Iowa Senate in 2016.
There have been some other setbacks to transgender rights in Iowa.
This year, Reynolds signed a bill exempting sex reassignment surgery from the state’s Medicaid program. When the ACLU sued on the grounds that the law violates Iowa’s Constitution, a judge dismissed the lawsuit.
“There was very ugly rhetoric that was stated by legislators,” Monson said. “And its very disturbing to see that coming from elected officials to target Iowans. What’s really important is to say, ‘No, they are Iowans too, and they’re part of the fabric of what makes this state so great.’”
He said raising the transgender pride flag today accomplished that.
“You know part of it is frankly that you wouldn’t expect that. A flag flying over the state capitol. But after we did that we got a lot of messages from our students and other members of the trans community who said they had tears in their eyes to see that image. Because it means that they’re Iowans too and they’re part of our great state,” he said.
by Nikoel Hytrek