City Responds to Transphobic Legislation

Isaac Bullwinkle and Lauren Koch

Earlier this year on March 22, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a pair of bills into law restricting both restroom and locker room access for transgender students whose gender identity differs from their biological gender as well as criminalizing gender-affirming care such as the prescription of puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones for transgender adolescents.

The United States has been recently experiencing an unprecedented wave of anti-transgender legislation. Recent bills passed in the Iowa House like HF 2309, which essentially states that publicly-funded schools cannot allow transgender girls to participate in female sports, have become increasingly popular in US politics over the last year. These laws are also increasing in severity; a bill like HF 2309 might only affect a tiny percentage of athletes, much less students; in comparison, the recent bills passed by Reynolds are already restricting thousands of Iowan transgender and gender nonconforming students’ bodily and medical autonomy. 

Noah Seebeck ‘23 was one of several trans students at City who spoke out immediately against the passing of these bills, whose subjects are particularly trending across other states’ legislatures; numerous similar or identical laws restricting transgender healthcare and/or bodily autonomy have recently been passed in states primarily with republican-controlled congresses. 

“Kim Reynolds is pushing this legislative genocide and it’s accomplishing nothing. There are so many other things that are actually affecting kids and she’s hiding behind the facade of ‘oh, I’m doing it for the kids,’ but she’s just pushing her religiously affiliated, conservative political bias onto 3000 students in Iowa, and that’s ridiculous,” said Seebeck.  

In response to the restroom-restriction bill, City High Principal John Bacon released a statement via email in support of trans and non-binary students affected, while also immediately making four all-gender individual use restrooms accessible to students in order to facilitate a safe and comfortable restroom environment for those restricted by the law. 

Laine Forbes ‘24, a non-binary student at City, supports this direct action taken by administrators but raised concerns about potential misuse of these restrooms, a sentiment also shared by Seebeck. 

“Unlocking the bathrooms was a great idea and although they’ll get abused, I think that’s a solvable problem. I think that if they end up locking the bathrooms, it’s just not helpful; they locked the other gender neutral bathrooms already before because of students misusing them, but that’s not our fault — that’s not trans and non-binary kids’ faults — so I think that if they can figure out a way to have the bathrooms be unabused, they’ll have done a great job” said Forbes. 

While the former bill relating to restroom access has taken effect immediately, doctors and their patients affected by the the latter bill, which would effectively force transgender people under the age of 18 to ‘detransition,’ have been given a six-month period in which gender-affirming care is still legal under Iowa law before it is criminalized later this year. Following this sixth-month period, medical transgender childcare will essentially be illegal; Seebeck believes this may force those restricted by the bill to resort to greatly suboptimal measures. 

“A friend told me that he wants to seek out of state care in Illinois, hopefully along the border, so it’s only like an hour and a half away. And potentially then looking at options of getting his testosterone mailed in,” he said. 

As an additional response to the passing of this legislation, students have since organized two walkouts protesting rampant transphobia in Iowa and US politics. 

“We as students have a voice and a power to skip school and show the government that our grades are affected because of them. And when we do that as an entire school, it’s so important because that’s when things get done,” said Forbes. 

Forbes did, however, express the importance of continued and prolonged activism — the walkouts are important, but their sentiments must be continually sustained if a reversal of policy is the goal. 

“With the new legislation, there’s two walkouts already but I think that you can’t just have it be twice and then the activism be over because that doesn’t do anything. A few years ago with the climate strikes they had them every week, and we don’t do that with the LGBTQ walkouts, which just may not be productive.”

In addition to positive policy efforts from administrators and direct political activism, Seebeck and Forbes believe all students at City can play a pivotal role in making school a safe and comfortable environment for trans and non-binary students. 

“I think students can help by educating each other and by trying to cut back on any transphobic sentiments or anything that happens with each other because peer review is important and works — just education on what being transgender actually is and the struggles that go along with it as well as how to support people with things like name and pronouns,” said Seebeck. 

Forbes believes education especially regarding the experiences of transgender and non-binary people are of tantamount importance.

“Listening to trans and non-binary people is so important. If we want to talk to you and you want to learn, let us teach you because ultimately knowledge is power and power is what changes the world,” they said.