Republicans Want Restroom Referees for Iowa Students

Iowa Republicans moved ahead with the first of many bills banning trans and nonbinary Iowans from the restroom that matches their gender identity in an education subcommittee yesterday. 

Senate File 224 prohibits people from entering “single and multiple occupancy toilet facilities in elementary and secondary schools that do not correspond with the person’s biological gender,” policing which restroom certain Iowa students and citizens are permitted to use in schools.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Jim Carlin, a Republican representing District 3. He and Sen. Jeff Taylor, a Republican from District 2, signed to move the bill out of subcommittee. Sen. Claire Celsi, a Democrat for District 21, did not.

Opponents outnumbered supporters during the meeting with many pointing out that this bill is discriminatory and unnecessary, and that it will cause more harm than it will prevent.

 “Forcing a transgender student who lives every day as a girl to use the boy’s restroom puts her at risk for harassment and assault.” -Keenan Crow, director of policy and advocacy, One Iowa

“Forcing a transgender student who lives every day as a girl to use the boy’s restroom puts her at risk for harassment and assault,” said Keenan Crow, the director of policy and advocacy for One Iowa. “And forcing a transgender student to use a separate restroom from everyone else adds to the bullying and mistreatment they already face.”

Iowa has included gender identity as a protected class since 2007, and the bill’s opponents said it has never posed a problem.

“In these 14 years, we’ve had zero instances of inappropriate actions happening in our school restrooms because of these accommodations. Ever. Zero,” said Damian Thompson the Director of Public Policy & Communications at Iowa Safe Schools.

Instead, a study published by the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, shows that trans and nonbinary teens face a higher risk of sexual assault with restricted bathroom access.

Laws already exist to address and prevent harassment in bathrooms. Schools also have policies in place to prevent harassment, and responsibilities to address the issue if it occurs. They also have a legal obligation to do so.

Melissa Peterson of the Iowa State Education Association and Emily Piper from the Iowa Association of School Boards both pointed out that the bill would require schools to violate the civil rights act and Title IX, both of which prevent discrimination based on sex and gender identity.

The two Republican senators said they don’t intend to be discriminatory by pursuing this bill. Despite the evidence saying it isn’t a problem, the two said they want to protect the privacy and safety of women and girls. 

They did so with blatantly transphobic language.

Carlin said his interest is the right of women and girls to privacy, and he said it’s unfair for girls to share locker rooms or bathrooms with someone who was assigned male at birth.

“That is something I don’t think little girls should have to experience,” he said. “I think it would cause them great anxiety.”  

Both senators have repeatedly voted for anti-abortion legislation.

Taylor called the debate “a fundamental difference of perspective.” He said he sees “sex” and “gender” as synonyms, and that they are biologically determined.

“Somebody’s perception of what they are when they’re very young does not change the reality,” Taylor said.

He dismissed the way the conversation on the topic has evolved and didn’t mention the science that shows how complicated sex is on chromosomal, cellular and physical levels.

“I do understand that it’s going to cause distress to people who identify a certain way, correctly or incorrectly, in terms of their gender,” Taylor said. He then signed the bill.

Sen. Celsi apologized that this debate was happening at all. She called the bill reprehensible, and repeated the point that it singles people out for discrimination.

“I hate that you all have to be here and defend yourselves like this. I hate that adults and parents from around the state have to endure another assault, frankly, on their child’s existence, their students’ existence,” she said.

Early in the meeting, Liz Lundberg spoke on behalf of her trans daughter.

She said her five-year-old is already stressed in preschool from being around people who knew her before she came out as a girl, and that she and her daughter are both excited to start at a new school where people will only know her for who she is.

Lundberg described how this bill would harm her daughter and asked how it would even be enforced.

“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?” she asked.

Watch the subcommittee meeting here.

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