Talking about LGBTQ+ legislation in Iowa


Meghan Agnew

Jackie Kluesner, an English education major, holds their sign in the LGBTQIA+ walkout on Iowa State’s campus March 1, 2023.

Iowa has seen a record number of bills impacting the LGBTQ+ community in the current legislative session, two of which were passed in March.

The two bills, SF 538 and SF 482, target transgender individuals. SF 538 prohibits gender-affirming care for minors, while SF 482 bans individuals from entering multi-occupancy restrooms or changing rooms that do not correspond with their biological sex, according to the Iowa Legislature.

Many students, like Marielle MacDonald, a sophomore studying English, feel disgusted by the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ bills.

“I remember thinking that the bills being passed seemed dystopian in a way,” MacDonald said. “I couldn’t believe this was something that was actually happening in my community.”

Twenty-nine bills have been presented to Iowa legislatures, and more than 450 bills have been introduced to legislatures across the country, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“Bills and legislation like this can create feelings of isolation and wrongness,” said Taylor Velgersdyk, a sophomore studying environmental science. “I worry for my friends and community members who will suffer from these decisions.”

Students feel their emotions continue to build while debates over similar bills ensue.

“I initially had a lot of reactions,” Presley Anstine, a freshman studying English, said. “First it was dread, and then it moved to despair, and then there is this rage that is continuously building.”

These bills have a lasting impact on the LGBTQ+ community, according to MacDonald.

“These bills tell those within the community what they can and cannot do with their own bodies,” MacDonald said. “Forcing someone to go back into the closet or change their identity again to fit the gender binary has severe mental effects.”

LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual or cisgender peers, according to the Trevor Project.

“Forcing younger people to de-transition after they’ve worked so hard to express their identity and their true selves is just cruel,” MacDonald said. “I would not be surprised if the adolescent suicide rate in Iowa rose because of these bills.”

Students like MacDonald feel these bills target transgender individuals, however, other students like Georgie Hilby, refute this statement.

“It’s not targeting transgender individuals, rather protecting them from making a decision they may come to regret,” Hilby, a senior studying agricultural and rural policy studies, said. “It’s important that Iowa stands strong against popular trends that have negative effects on underage children.”

These bills seek to protect Iowans, especially people from younger demographics, according to Hilby.

“I think these bills help keep Iowa standing firm against radical agendas that threaten human nature,” Hilby said. “It also helps protect children faced with social and identity issues from making an unchangeable decision.”

As more bills continue to be introduced, students feel a sense of hopelessness, according to Anstine.

“There is an overwhelming amount of hate being thrown at the LGBTQ+ community,” Anstine said. “I feel scared and unsafe, knowing people out there are filled with so much hate for human beings they don’t know.”

Students can make a difference by writing to senators and representatives, going to protests, holding discussions on campus, and just building community, according to Velgersdyk.

“Be loud,” Velgersdyk said. “Do anything that makes our voices heard and our presence strong.”