Alexandra Gray compared what is happening in Iowa to a dystopian novel during yet another hearing centered on creating new laws that specifically target trans people and pose harm to Iowans in the LGBTQ community.
“What dystopian novel are we in this time because I’m finding us slipping and going backward,” she said. “At one point in time, people of color—Black people—were declared 3/5ths of a person. I’d like to know what percentage of a person queer people are going to get so that I can base my life around it.”
Gray, a Black trans woman from Des Moines, shared these remarks during Monday’s Iowa House Education Committee public hearing on House File 2389, Gov. Kim Reynolds’ latest anti-trans legislation. The bill is eligible for debate on the Iowa House floor, but the hearing was a final opportunity for the public to share their thoughts with lawmakers before that step.
HF 2389 would require trans Iowans to have a special signifier on their birth certificates and driver’s licenses to out them as trans, although lawmakers agreed they might remove the latter portion. The bill would also bring back the unlawful “separate but equal” doctrine and require public facilities to have separate bathrooms and locker rooms for trans people and codify heteronormative terms for family units and people.
Hundreds of people filled the Iowa State Capitol Rotunda merely steps away from where Monday’s hearing took place and many of them wore pink triangles, which Nazis used to identify gay people being held in concentration camps.
“I live at the intersection of Black and queer and I need to ask you, where are you sending me: To a concentration camp or back to a plantation? Again, I need to figure out where I’m going in my life,” said Gray, who was wearing a pink triangle and shared the historical tidbit.
“I oppose this bill because it will destroy people. It will place people in the line of fire, it will destruct people. This bill is literally playing with lives and understand that you all aren’t making laws for yourselves—you are making laws for the generations to come.”
Approximately 107 people signed up to speak at the one-hour hearing. Rep. Skyler Wheeler (R-Hull), chairman of the House Education Committee, had speakers alternate between for and against and would pause the hearing if the chanting outside became too loud. In all, only 24 people were able to speak.
Many of the people who spoke against the bill were either LGBTQ Iowans themselves or allies. Many of them shared stories about how this legislation would personally affect them or someone they know.
Kayla Bell-Consolver of Des Moines said the language in this bill tries to delegitimize family units like hers where there are two moms in the household.
“These changes being implemented, are they actually to help your constituents combat the very pervasive experiences of inequality such as housing discrimination, job security, or violence to self or others to make the world more equitable, fair, and therefore just,” she said.
“Or are these changes recommended because you devalue the lives of trans and queer people and parents. I’d hope that I wouldn’t have to look you in the eye and also my daughter to tell her that the state that was once ahead of the game in creating equality and justice has leaders to use their power to devalue and delegitimize.”
Speakers who spoke in favor of the bill cited several reasons they support legislation, including the devil, the #MeToo movement, and the movie “Kindergarten Cop.”
Courtney Collier, a Waukee parent and Moms for Liberty member, cited her religious faith as one of the reasons she supported the bill
“Biological females are being erased and replaced by this nonsensical engineering trend, which is orchestrated by the devil himself,” she said.
Josh Briggs also of Waukee, a father of four daughters who helped push a local public school book ban as a member of the “Concerned Waukee Parents” group, said trans people and their supporters are why Iowa needs this legislation.
Trans people make up 0.29% of Iowa’s population of more than 3 million and hold zero state offices.
“Like the schoolyard bully that forces someone to participate or stay quiet, the activists outside of this room have forced the need for this legislation through totalitarian tactics much as they have done through academia and research, especially in the field of social sciences,” he said.
Becky Tayler of Iowa Safe Schools, an advocacy group that works with LGBTQ youth and allies, was the final speaker. She noted that gender identity has been part of Iowa’s Civil Rights Act since 2007 and there have been no issues with trans and cis Iowans sharing spaces.
“Not once there been an accusation of criminal conduct due to this accommodation,” Tayler said. “Not in a restroom, not in a locker room, not in a school. If this is still a concern, I am happy to inform the folks in this hearing as well as those watching online that it is, in fact, already illegal for anyone to enter a facility with the intent to harass, harm, or invade the personal privacy of another Iowan.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said there were 102 people registered to speak. We regret the error.
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