The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

IoWhat is going on in politics? Trans identities, Iowa policies

When you are trans, you get reminded of it constantly. For me, it comes up a lot when I fill out forms. It sucks when I re-register to vote and have to misgender myself as male, because I know that is the only thing that will ensure my change of address is approved. This is a fact I have become used to ever since I came out as non-binary. I am not either of the societally prescribed binary genders, neither in my identity nor in my expression. 

This hit me hard when I was working in the basement of Mears one night, as a student manager for Phonathon. It came in the form of a considerate email from one of my graduate school recommenders. I was dealing with the stress of writing personal statements, taking the GRE and figuring out application fees all pretty well. In the midst, I forgot to tell my recommenders what pronouns to use in their letters about me. The one who sent me the email was just confirming with me which he should use, for which I am incredibly thankful. However, I then had to have awkward conversations with my two other professors, informing them about my pronouns. Thankfully, they both were respectful and kind and worked with me. But I was lucky — many other people are not this fortunate. 

My own experience might one day become the norm. This is what gives me hope, whether it comes from individuals like my professors or institutions like the University of Iowa, where I was able to specify my gender identity and pronouns on my application. My legislators and governor can do something positive if they have the courage. States like California and Oregon have started issuing legal documents with non-binary gender markings. They can also update the hate crime laws to include gender identity and expression, so that these crimes motivated by this kind of bigotry can be prosecuted to the fullest extent. 

The current state of trans politics in Iowa encourages trans Iowans to leave the state for a place that will respect their identities, at least for those that can afford it. This sort of brain drain has horrible consequences for rural towns across the state. But what is most morally reprehensible is that my representatives are contributing to a culture that delegitimizes the very existence of the trans people in this state. Their silence on these issues only emboldens people, such as those who murdered Kedarie Johnson in Burlington. The way the law is written prevents the perpetrators from being prosecuted for a heinous crime. They contribute to the culture that causes record homelessness among transgender youth and higher rates of suicide among transgender people. So I have a request for Governor Reynolds, Senator Kapucian and Representative Maxwell: will you stand with your constituents? 

Lastly, since it is 2018 and there is a midterm election coming soon, I ask the same of those seeking office at every level. Before they come to me asking for my vote, they need to think carefully about what they would do to support my vulnerable community. In particular, they should consider that we are not a monolith, and that the trans identity intersects with others that make it hard to access opportunities others already have. Empty words of support for the transgender community will not amount to much. Stand on the higher ground with words and actions in your campaign and you can make the change that trans people, like me, need.

— Austin Wadle ’18

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