‘We will not go back’ protestors chant outside anti-LGBTQ bill hearing

Iowans rally against anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ legislation on Monday, Feb. 12. Photo by Ty Rushing/Starting Line

By Nikoel Hytrek

February 12, 2024

About every two minutes, the crowd would roar, stomp their feet, raise their voices, ring bells, and chant at the top of their lungs:

“Separate but equal, that’s really fucking evil.”

“We will not go back.”

“Trans rights are human rights.”

“No LGB with the T.”

Hundreds of Iowans gathered in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday evening to protest HF 2389, also known as the Trans Erasure Bill. This bill, introduced by Gov. Kim Reynolds, would do a number of things including explicitly defining: “woman,” “girl,” “mother,” “father,” “boy,” and “man” in Iowa Code. It would also require trans people who have transitioned to include that information on their birth certificates.

It would also bring back the unlawful “separate but equal” doctrine for trans people and public accommodations.

Monday was the final opportunity for Iowans to speak out against the bill before it is debated on the Iowa House floor.

Keenan Crow, director of policy and advocacy for One Iowa, explained that the bill would have a massive effect on an unknown amount of preexisting law because it redefines terms that show up in an untold number of statutes.

“That has the possibility of rewriting hundreds or even thousands of statues overnight, by redefining words in the existing code,” Crow said. “The word ‘mother’ is already in code 325 times and so we run a huge risk of messing up one, two, 10, 20-some statues.”

Requiring some birth certificates to have both a male and female marker could also interfere with a person’s ability to apply for a passport, Crow said, because the federal passport office wouldn’t know how to handle it.

Because of those wide-reaching effects, Iowans showed up in droves to protest and assert their rights to exist. While the hearing went on, protesters resumed their chanting whenever someones spoke in favor of defining LGBTQ+ people out of existence.

Several people Starting Line spoke to said they felt targeted by the legislation.

“I don’t want to be outed everywhere I go,” said Kaiden Hunt, who said it was his first time protesting at the Capitol.

He said he just wants his freedom and to be part of his community without having to worry about people finding out he’s trans.

“It does more harm than it does good,” said Oli, an Iowan who plans to change their driver’s license. “And it doesn’t do any good.”

“I feel like the reason they’re doing it is purely to target us and to find ways to literally identify us right away rather than asking,” they continued.

Aime Wichtendahl, a Hiawatha City Council member and candidate for an Iowa House seat, said she knows the harms being outed can cause. She was kicked out of her apartment when she transitioned at work.

“This is, at the end of the day, a privacy violation,” she said. “It’s the state forcing us to out ourselves in all situations, in cases where they’re not safe.”

Transgender Americans are disproportionate targets of violence and sexual assault.

“For a lot of people, it’ll make it harder to find jobs, harder to find housing,” she said. “They’re trying to either shove us back into the closet or ruin our lives.”

Ivory Kronberg, a trans Iowan who’s studying to be a teacher, said she was worried about her future and the future of young Iowans.

“I think the biggest danger is the fact that they’re having us put special designations for trans people on our birth certificates and our driver’s licenses,” Kronberg said. “We’ve seen this before with the Holocaust and pink triangles.”

“This bill literally says separate but equal and that has been shown to be a detrimental phrase to everyone, so we need to make sure that this bill does not pass for trans people and for the women of Iowa,” she continued.

  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].



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