Rep. Jeff Shipley made at least 10 references to transgender Iowans having a mental illness and he diagnosed them with gender dysmorphia at least 11 times during Monday’s Iowa House floor debate to ban transgender girls and women from playing women’s school sports.
Shipley has no well-known professional experience in the mental health field other than advocating for psychedelic drugs. His current listed occupation on his Iowa Legislature page is “artist.” His previously listed profession was Bubbling Brine Brothers Sauerkraut salesman, professional advocate, and stand-up comedian.
“There are a lot of Iowans who suffer from gender dysphoria and related illnesses, so I would like to start by calling the Holy Spirit to be upon us and guide us during this discussion for the benefit and uplifting of all Iowans,” was Shipley’s first time tying mental illness and being transgender together.
The Southeast Iowa Republican’s remarks occurred during last night’s discussion of HF 2416 and related amendments to the bill, which bars trans girls and women from competing in athletic events designated as being for females, girls, or women.
The original bill only applied to K-12 schools, but one of the successful amendments extended the prohibition to college sports as well. Other Iowa Republicans who spoke in favor of the bill stuck to the message about the legislation being about fairness and protecting the sanctity of sports for people designated female at birth.
When Shipley asked for an amendment to strip legal protections from schools that affirm a person’s chosen gender identity—it was voted down 91-3—he made another comparison where he equated being trans with mental illness.
“I don’t believe the state of Iowa should provide liability protection to an educational institution that affirms mental illness,” he said. “What other mental illness is treated with unquestioning affirmation? Are individuals suffering from schizophrenia treated with affirmation? Are substance abuse and chemical addiction, is that treated with affirmation?”
Shipley followed that up by comparing being trans with cancer.
“If a person had a malignant sarcoma would the proper treatment be affirmation? No, a sarcoma would be treated with aggressive therapies to remove or heal the cancerous growth and that same medical framework should be applied to the epidemic of identity disorders,” he said.
During the debate, some Democratic lawmakers called Shipley out for equating being trans and mental illness. In response, Shipley blamed it on a psychology book and took no personal responsibility for his comments.
“When I say gender dysphoria is a mental illness, that’s not me saying that. I’m referencing the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition,’” he said. “So I think it should be very, very clear what we’re talking about and for certain leaders to get up and say such and such and that gender dysphoria is not a mental illness, the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ say it does.”
The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition” doesn’t actually say all transgender people have gender dysphoria, but it does define and acknowledge that the condition exists.
Here’s how gender dysphoria is defined in the text:
“Gender dysphoria refers to the distress that may accompany the incongruence between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s assigned gender. Although not all individuals will experience distress as a result of such incongruence, many are distressed if the desired physical interventions by means of hormones and/or surgery are not available.”
For young children, the manual says gender dysphoria “is associated with clinically significant distress or impairment in social, school, or other important areas of functioning,” so something such as not being able to play team sports with their chosen gender could cause the condition Shipley expressed so much concern for.
After HF 2416 was passed, Shipley took to Twitter to celebrate.
“Iowa House votes 55-39 to save women’s sports!” he wrote. “Hoping the next step is a legal definition of the word ‘woman.'”
Iowa House votes 55-39 to save women’s sports!
Hoping the next step is a legal definition of the word ‘woman’
— Jeff Shipley 🦁 (@JeffShipley77) February 22, 2022
In a follow-up tweet, he defended his comparison of trans children to cancer.
“Health is health and illness is illness,” he wrote. “A disease does not define a person, but to neglect the existence of illness is negligent and harmful.”
Health is health and illness is illness.
A disease does not define a person, but to neglect the existence of illness is negligent and harmful. https://t.co/RONa62PbXd
— Jeff Shipley 🦁 (@JeffShipley77) February 22, 2022
After the vote, Rep. Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines), who has served in the Iowa House for 20 years, spoke about Shipley’s claims on how being transgender was a mental illness and comparing it with cancer.
“Some of the rhetoric that went on today was possibly some of the most dangerous homophobic political rhetoric I have ever heard on the House of Representatives floor,” Hunter said. “Representative Shipley, LGBTQ students and people do not have mental illnesses.
“LGBTQ students do not have something akin to cancer, but when you get up on the floor of the House of Representatives, it causes real damage.”
by Ty Rushing
Iowa Starting Line is part of an independent news network and focuses on how state and national decisions impact Iowans’ daily lives. We rely on your financial support to keep our stories free for all to read. You can contribute to us here. Also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.