Opponents of SF83, which has been nicknamed Iowa’s “Don’t Say Trans” bill, spoke passionately about the proposed legislation during an Iowa Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, but the measure still moved forward in a 2-1 vote.
The bill would bar the teaching of gender identity from K-8 school curriculum and would allow parents/guardians to take legal action against a school district found violating the restriction.
Supporters of the bill said gender identity isn’t something that should be taught at schools. Some arguments included that it is inappropriate for young kids to learn about it, it goes against traditional Christian and family values, it is part of an agenda by the elites and the establishment, and one speaker even blamed it for suicides and sexual assault.
Most opponents noted it’s simply an acknowledgment that LGBTQ people exist and that the policy allows educators to have conversations with students about that existence.
Amber Williams, a parent from Urbandale and treasurer for the Polk County chapter of Moms for Liberty—a Florida-based right-wing nonprofit “dedicated to fighting for the survival of America”—said kids are too impressionable to learn about gender identity.
“Growing up, I was a Tomboy; I liked sports, liked to play in the mud, climbing trees, I preferred He-Man over Barbie and completely avoided the color pink,” Williams said. “By all definitions, I identified more as a boy than I did a girl, but had I been subjected to gender identity by my trusted teacher back then I would have completely thought I was born the wrong gender.”
Erin Cavazos, a counselor for Des Moines Public Schools, said in her work, she’s had to meet with families to talk about sensitive topics such as bullying, harassment, pregnancy, sexual assault, domestic abuse, dating violence, suicidal ideation, drug and alcohol use and more.
“Education around these topics is vital to our students’ health and well-being, just as vital as the instruction that is inclusive of all students and our families,” Cavazos said. “LGBTQ youth are more likely to engage in self-harm behaviors, drug and alcohol abuse, and attempt suicide because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized.”
Cavazos cited a study from the Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to preventing LGBTQ youth suicides, that said 45% of LGBTQ have contemplated taking their own life in the past year some of whom are as young as age 5.
“Senate File 83 is calling for us to strip away support to our children and youth in the LGBTQ community by censoring what can and cannot be taught as we help students learn to become safe, successful members of our society,” Cavazos said.
Berry Stevens, a 12-year-old LGBTQ child from West Des Moines, asked lawmakers to consider protecting them and their friends. They said they were angry when informed about this bill and what it entails.
“As a member of the LGBTQI community and student in Iowa schools, I deserve to be valued and protected, but this bill does the opposite of that,” Stevens said.
Stevens said they changed their name and pronouns around sixth grade to fit them better. They found acceptance within their family and church but found a different reception from some of their classmates.
“Some of the kids at school were very mean,” they said. “Me and some of my friends got made fun of and were called homophobic slurs. I feared waking up on a school day and sometimes even begged my parents to let me stay home that day because of these kids.”
Stevens found solace with their teacher and principal, who they described as supportive listeners.
“They took action against these kids,” Stevens said. “That would be impossible if this bill was passed and no kid deserves to go through that. I need you to protect me and others like me.”
Two members of a Fort Dodge family—Sarah Small-Carter and her 9-year-old trans daughter, Odin—spoke out against the bill. Small-Carter said many of its supporters likely don’t know anyone who is trans and have no idea what their lives are like.
“It is shockingly normal: We are parents and we love our child and we will do everything we can to make the best decision possible for every day just like you will. Just like people do with their straight parents and straight kids who are average Americans because we are average Americans,” Small-Carter said.
Odin said it’s not fair that kids like her get bullied, which is why she wanted to speak out.
“Maybe we should stand up for kids like me,” Odin said. “I always get bullied at school now because they say I’m a boy and I’m like, ‘No, I’m a girl.’ I’m trying my best to make them understand but there’s nothing I can do … and that’s why I’m trying to help our country and our state to help trans kids like me.”
Former Republican Congressional Candidate Nicole Hasso, who has been prolific in her criticism of public schools over the last few years, said gender identity is all about an agenda being pushed by a small minority.
Hasso said as a taxpayer, she has the right to decide what schools should teach and they need to stick to reading, math, science, and history. There is no evidence that any Iowa public school has stopped teaching students reading, math, science, or history.
“I have been praying for our children for decades and I will not sit on the sideline and watch you destroy their hopes and their dreams because of your actions,” said Hasso, who went on to blame a number of tragedies on an unspecified group of people.
“Because of your actions, their blood is on your hands. Every suicide, every school shooting, every act of bullying, every sexual assault is a result of the chaos and woke agenda that they have presented to us.”
SF83 passed through subcommittee 2-1 with Sen. Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames) being opposed and Sens. Jeff Tayor (R-Sioux Center) and Cherielynn Westrich (R-Ottumwa) in support of the measure.
Taylor, who led the hearing, said he thinks the majority of Iowans want to see this legislation move forward. He also doesn’t think gender identity is about protecting children but is instead about ideology grounded in falsehood and that is being spread by the establishment and “every elite sector of our society.”
“But none of what I just said in support of this bill and the rationale behind it means that any child—regardless whether they are terms trans or cis or whatever they are, binary, non-binary—no child in the state of Iowa in any kind of school deserves to be bullied or treated with anything other than respect.
“That does not mean, however, that adults have to confirm everything that a child believes or everything a child does. We should have enough intellect to make a distinction between those two things.”
by Ty Rushing
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