Iowa State alum creates petition opposing Iowa’s transgender athlete bill


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Former Iowa State student Jo Allen created a petition to oppose House File 2416, the recent Iowa legislation that bans transgender girls from playing in female sports. 

Molly Blanco

Former Iowa State student Jo Allen created a petition opposing the recent Iowa law that banned transgender girls from playing in female sports. 

The legislation, House File 2416, was signed into law on March 3 by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. Supporters of the bill argue that transgender girls have an unfair athletic advantage over biological females. 

Allen is an LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC-focused photographer in Des Moines. They graduated from Iowa State in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication.

Allen, who identifies as transmasculine non-binary, said they started the petition to create more conversation about the legislation and provide a sense of solidarity for the trans community. 

“After that bill had passed, that was a rough week for me,” Allen said. “I’m not even the person being targeted, so I can only imagine how other folks in the community are handling their rights being taken away.”

The bill affects female sports at Iowa schools, colleges and universities. Iowa State communications specialist Angie Hunt said the university does not have a statement on the legislation. 

Reynolds contends that the law stands up for women’s rights in Iowa.

“This is a victory for girls’ sports in Iowa. No amount of talent, training or effort can make up for the natural physical advantages males have over females,” Reynolds said in a press release. “Forcing females to compete against males is the opposite of inclusivity, and it’s absolutely unfair.” 

Allen said the legislation does not support women’s rights because it excludes transgender women.

“If you look at Kim’s language that she uses, she doesn’t say trans woman ever,” Allen said. “She says we need to protect girl’s sports; it’s about fairness. No, fairness includes the inclusion of our trans sisters.”

Avery Staker is a senior in journalism and mass communications at Iowa State. They identify as non-binary and gender non-conforming.

“I was reading more into [the bill], and it just hit me right in the chest that this is something my home state is doing,” Staker said. “I see myself in those little girls, and it just breaks my heart to know that this is something that our state legislature and our state leadership is doing to them.” 

Reynolds signed the bill surrounded by young female athletes. She declined to speak with transgender youth and their families before signing the legislation.

“As a state legislator, no matter what your political party is…your job is to serve your constituents,” Staker said. “The fact that she was completely unwilling to speak to any trans youth…she is not doing her job. Trans people exist here, whether she likes it or not.”

Allen said Reynold’s refusal to meet with transgender youth indicates a lack of care and respect for the trans community. 

“It is very clear, based on her communication and her signing that bill, that she does not care about the trans community,” Allen said. “She told these kids, these students, that from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., go ahead. You can identify as a girl. But the minute you get into that locker room, you’re a man.”

Allen believes the social and emotional well-being of transgender girls will be affected immediately. 

“The ban on trans athletes in Iowa will only increase the risk of bullying, depression and suicide,” Allen said. “It is vital that we protect the trans community and re-affirm their gender identity through activities like sports.” 

According to the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, more than half of transgender and non-binary youth seriously considered suicide in the last year. 

“It is statistically proven that transgender individuals have higher rates of suicide and mental health issues, and it is directly tied to lack of support,” Staker said. “For the young girls that [the bill] affects, some of them are going to die.”

The bill took effect immediately, barring transgender girls from competing in female sports at Iowa schools or colleges.

“They could have been a senior in high school, and now they can’t finish their senior year of doing the sport that they love,” Allen said. “They have no last goodbye. It’s just, ‘You’re out. You can go compete with the men.’”

Staker said they believe the bill was a way for Gov. Reynolds to gain support for her re-election campaign. They said the legislation addresses a non-existent issue. 

“Young trans girls have been able to play in the Iowa Girls’ Sports Association, and there has not been any domination of trans women in those sports,” Staker said. “It’s a solution that is searching for a problem.”

Allen said signing the petition and sharing it with others is one way to show support for trans people affected by the legislation.

“If you care about these lives, then show it. Show that you stand with them in solidarity,” Allen said. 

The following are LGBTQIA+ organizations in Iowa that provide resources and support for transgender individuals:

Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund – provides financial assistance to trans and nonbinary individuals in Iowa with gender-affirming care.

One Iowa – helps advance, empower and improve the lives of LGBTQ Iowans statewide.

Iowa Safe Schools – provides comprehensive support, victim services, resources and events for LGBTQ and Allied youth.