The acknowledgment of transgender Iowans appears to have deeply upset a pair of Republican lawmakers in Iowa.
State Rep. Skyler Wheeler called the flying of a transgender flag over the Iowa Capitol for a few minutes “one of the most egregious acts of political aggression I’ve ever seen.” In an interview with The Iowa Standard, he called the action part of a larger “rainbow jihad.”
Iowa Safe Schools petitioned the Iowa Department of Administrative Services in a routine request to fly a flag over the Capitol building. The LGBTQ-rights organization chose to put up a transgender flag, which flew for three to five minutes on Wednesday of this week, which was Transgender Day of Remembrance.
It made Iowa the first state in the country to fly a transgender flag, which has light blue, pink and white stripes, over their statehouse building (California did so as well on the same day, just a few hours behind Iowa).
LGBTQ activists felt it an important symbol to show transgender Iowans that they belong. They also pointed to the murder of a gender fluid teenager in Burlington, Iowa, in 2016 as a reason for more understanding on the issue.
Republican Reps. Wheeler and Dean Fisher felt quite differently.
“I thought it was ridiculous,” Fisher, who represents a mostly-rural district in Central Iowa, told The Iowa Standard. “My question is, why are we doing that? Why is it anything but the United States flag or the Iowa flag? We’ll head down the path and see where we can get. I guess the question is, can I fly the Christian flag over it? Do I think that’s right? Well, not necessarily. Yeah, I’m solidly a Christian, but should I be flying my flag over somebody else’s instead of the Iowa flag or the United States flag?”
Fisher said he would prepare legislation for the 2020 session to limit the flags flown on official state flagpoles to only the American and Iowa flag. He did note that such an idea might take some work and input (one imagines that veterans groups would have an issue with some of their various flags not being allowed).
Wheeler, the House member who represents the state’s most-conservative district, anchored in Orange City and Sioux Center, took the rhetoric a little further. He compared the representation of transgender Iowans to an extreme and violent religious movement that sometimes targets LGBTQ individuals for death.
“It’s another way that the Rainbow Jihad continues to give those of us who don’t agree with them a finger in the eye and push their beliefs on us,” Wheeler said.
He also brought up the notion of flying a “Christian flag” over the Capitol, seeming to think that Christianity and the LGBTQ community are somehow separate and opposite entities.
Iowa Safe Schools’ Executive Director Nate Monson was unimpressed with their reaction.
“It is disappointing to hear that Representatives Fisher and Wheeler would attempt to bully the LGBTQ community with name-calling,” Monson said in a statement to Starting Line. “Trans Day of Remembrance is an international day meant to honor those who have been lost in the trans community due to hate and bigotry. Representatives Fisher and Wheeler might be surprised to learn that 22 Americans have been murdered this year alone because they were transgender. In 2016, Kedarie Johnson, an Iowa teenager, was murdered in Burlington because of their gender identity. This is not a political argument. This is about common decency.”
“If the belief that all Iowans should be treated with respect and deserve a safe place to live and work is so alarming, Representatives Fisher and Wheeler should look into other forms of employment,” Monson added.
by Pat Rynard