Guest Post: I Grew Up in Cedar Falls. ‘Polite Bigotry’ Is the Norm

Clockwise from left: Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green; Mason, a transgender former Cedar Falls resident; and Laura Tull, a queer parent in Cedar Falls, May 1, 2023.

After Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green announced his Christian beliefs wouldn’t allow him to support a request from the local Human Rights Commission to designate June as LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, I started to write an op-ed on his polite bigotry.

Although I no longer live in Cedar Falls, I still write opinion pieces that demonstrate the racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of hatred that I saw so often growing up to prove how out of touch Iowa is on social issues and explain one reason for the state’s famous brain drain.

I could write an opinion essay about how, out of 4,000 religions in the world, Mayor Green arbitrarily picked one and chose it to justify his rejection of the LGBTQIA+ community.

I could cite multiple individual examples from my childhood of the mayor’s thinking that prove Cedar Falls is a polite but ultimately exclusionary place to live if you’re not perfectly white, submissive or conservative:

  • My fourth grade teacher publicly terrorized me on a daily basis because he thought the severe symptoms of my then-undiagnosed learning disability were intentional;
  • Cedar Falls High School intentionally allowed sexually and racial harassment continue unchecked despite the flagrant violations of federal protections;
  • and how the K-12 history curriculum gave a completely whitewashed version of state and national history, excluding the horrors of racism, sexism, and homophobia, and no teacher sought to change that.

I could describe how, starting in elementary school until my senior year of high school, school was a miserable place for me and a few silent others, all because we were a little bit different in ways we couldn’t change.

I could quote multiple studies about how the LGBTQIA+ community has never been a threat to anything and anyone, and I could include all the misinformation from the past that was designed to foster hate and violence and leads to events such as the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard.

I could argue that the Mayor’s attitude as a public servant will drive people away from a town that needs all the tax revenue it can get.

I could write this opinion essay and shop it around to Iowa’s largest newspapers and blogs in the hopes of changing anyone’s mind.

But this time I changed my mind. What’s the point in writing something I’ve said so many times before? Why does another human need to be reminded of the care of duty we have to each other, which is why humans have survived for as long as we have?

If Mayor Green and his supporters don’t know about the horrific torture and murder of Emmett Till, and why opposing June as LGBTQIA+ Pride Month is morally and ethically wrong, then my words and all the available facts and data will not change their minds. Information on the ugly history of LGBTQIA+ is widely available from hundreds of reputable sources. There are literally two major libraries in Cedar Falls that contain anecdotes, data, timelines, and other historical details that anyone can access.

If the Mayor is unaware of current social justice issues and major historic events, it is because he’s choosing to be, not because he genuinely doesn’t know.

In lieu of a general call to action, I prefer to ask a few questions that are specific to Mayor Green and anyone who agrees with him on his opposition to the Pride Month designation.

Before the public meeting on Monday, May 1, 2023, did you know why Pride Month is celebrated in June? Did you know how many years it has been celebrated? Did you know what Stonewall was? Do you know where Stonewall took place and why? Do you know why Pride Month remains relevant today?

If you’re truly open to learning, those are good places to start.

Maria Reppas lived in Cedar Falls from 1978-1999, and now lives with her family on the East Coast. Her writing has been in the Washington Post, USA Today, Newsweek, New York Daily News, Ms. Magazine, and the Des Moines Register. Visit her on Twitter and at

3 Comments on "Guest Post: I Grew Up in Cedar Falls. ‘Polite Bigotry’ Is the Norm"

  • There was a wonderful exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising but we also visited the Stonewall Inn in lower Manhattan, which is an active bar to this day even if a National Historic Site. The uprising began in June 28, 1969, after the umpteenth time the NYPD tried to shut it down for “indecency.” The people had just had enough.

  • I’m old enough to remember some of what went on in the Fifties and Sixties. I had a high school friend who felt pressured/determined to prove to everyone, including his family and church, but most of all himself, that he was NOT gay. So he married right out of high school and had two babies in quick succession. The ultimate impacts on him, his wife, his children, his extended family, etc. were very painful. There seems to be an attitude now among some people that society was somehow better off when everyone just stayed closeted. Utterly ridiculous.

  • I was born in Cedar Falls in 1948 and lived in Iowa for 24 years, most recently 1994-8. The article referencing “polite bigotry” rang very true to me. I might also add that this sort of “polite bigotry” is not limited to issues of gender, sex, race, nationality, and language. It also extends to pones political beliefs and actions. I was one of the group of students in Des Moines public schools who, in 1965, planned to wear black arm bands to protest the killing in Viet Nam. The attitudes we confronted from most (not quite all) of those around us was of a piece with the attitudes described in the article and the letter. Cedar Falls, Iowa, and the whole US has a long way to go before if can legitimately be called a “land of freedom”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *