The 2021 Iowa Legislative session included a number of anti-LGBTQA+ bills, the majority of which targeted the transgender community in Iowa. These bills were introduced under the guise of “safety” and “fairness” but seemed to overlook that these bills would leave transgender Iowans at increased risk of harm and violence. For this post I wanted to focus on Senate File 224, a “bathroom bill” not unlike many other bills we have seen introduced—and subsequently rejected—by other state legislatures across the country.
WHAT IS SF 224?
SF 224 “Single and multiple occupancy toilet facilities in schools—use by persons of the same biological sex” was introduced by Senator Jim Carlin. This bill sought to amend the current Iowa Civil Rights Act to ensure that it would not be a discriminatory practice to prevent certain people from using the restroom that does not align with that individual’s biological sex. This bill would have regulated bathrooms usage on the basis of sex rather than gender identity in all elementary, secondary public, and nonpublic school restrooms, including single-stall and multiple use restrooms. Transgender and non-binary students and faculty would have been barred entry from restrooms that did not correlate with their biological sex. The rationale behind this bill was that it was a simple “safety” measure, meant to protect citizens from predators who supposedly take advantage of the lack of clear-cut bathroom policies to prey upon others in the restroom. There is no evidence that such occurrences are common, if they happen at all. It is worth noting that bills almost identical to SF 224 have been proposed in a number of states. North Carolina is the only state that has successfully passed a “bathroom bill”, and it received an outpouring of backlash and severe economic consequences. These bills are incredibly unpopular, yet legislators continue to propose them in an attempt to appeal to their bases, by using anti-trans hysteria to motivate misinformed voters to support them.
The irony of SF 224 being proposed as a safety measure is striking. The transgender community is among the group most targeted for harm and violence, especially trans youth. According to GLSEN, 60% of trans students report being barred entry from bathrooms and locker rooms and 76% of trans students report feeling unsafe at school because of their identity. If SF 224— or any anti-trans bills like it— had passed, these rates would likely skyrocket along with rates of violence and discrimination against the Iowa trans community.
WHAT SIMILAR BILLS WERE INTROUDUCED?
Along with SF 224, 12 other bills targeting transgender Iowans were introduced, many of which were aimed at trans youth. Along with SF 224, two other “bathroom bills” were introduced. Additionally, bills seeking to ban trans students from participation in sports activities and bills aimed at preventing trans youth from transition-related care were introduced. These bills send a loud and clear message to transgender Iowans: “you are not welcome or safe here”. The rhetoric of these bills will almost certainly impact the lives of transgender Iowans and put them at more risk of harassment and violence, even thought these bills did not pass this session.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Although SF 224 was extremely unpopular it, and other bills like it, were able to gain traction with the help of legislators as Representatives Carlin, Shipley, and Salmon, along with the support of Governor Kim Reynolds. These bills are often based in misinformation and would be incredibly difficult to enforce if passed. For example, if SF 224 had passed it would have been nearly impossible to ensure that students were adhering to the bathroom restrictions that the bill would have put in place. As parent Liz Lundberg stated “Would all of our kids be subject to visual inspections? Pat-downs? Would they have to carry their birth certificates? Who would be monitoring their bathroom use and making judgment calls about who can use which rooms? This law opens the door for all kinds of abuse and would make all of our children less safe” (Via the Des Moines Register). Imagine how traumatic these practices would be for the students subjected to such treatment. It is apparent that these bills serve to fear-monger rather than promote actual student safety and it is likely that we will see more anti-trans bills in upcoming sessions.
WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
While it’s fortunate that none of these pieces of anti-trans legislation passed this legislative session, we must urge legislators to stop introducing and pushing for anti-trans bills under the guise of “safety” or “fairness”. We need to remind legislators that these bills are unnecessary and only further endanger transgender Iowans who are already vulnerable.
Community members can contact the following Representatives who have been most active in introducing and promoting these bills, and let them know you disapprove of these anti-trans bills and do not wish to see them in upcoming sessions:
· Representative Jim Carlin- firstname.lastname@example.org
· Representative Jeff Shipley- Jeff.Shipley@legis.iowa.gov
· Representative Sandy Salmon- email@example.com
Community members can also utilize the Iowa Legislature website to look up their representatives’ positions on these bills and contact them to express their disapproval for supporting these bills or express their thanks for standing with transgender Iowans.
In addition, OneIowa is an excellent resource for keeping up with anti-LGBTQA+ legislation and ways to take action. I urge you to visit their site, oneiowaaction.org, and become involved in stopping these discriminatory bills from ever becoming law.
Gruber-Miller, S. (2021, February 10). Iowa Senate 'Bathroom Bill' Would Ban Transgender People From Using School Restrooms Matching Gender Identity. Retrieved from The Des Moines Register: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2021/02/10/iowa-senate-bathroom-bill-targeting-transgender-people-advances-legislature/4460035001/
Peters, A. (2017). 4 Big Problems With Anti-Trans Bathroom Bills-- And How You Can Stop Them. Retrieved from GLSEN: https://www.glsen.org/blog/4-big-problems-anti-trans-bathroom-bills-and-how-you-can-help
Graphic: ACLU of Iowa; https://www.instagram.com/p/CHqQJQpjqPZ/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link