A continuing spiral: trans lives and Iowa’s new legislation


On Thursday, March 23rd, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed two bills into law that target transgender students. These are SF335—a bathroom ban that forces students across the state to use only the bathrooms of their sex as assigned at birth—and HF623, which outright bans access to gender-affirming care for minors, effectively making any sort of medical—or even social—transition illegal for those under the age of 18 in the state.

While on their own dangerous, these bills represent just two of the over 25 pieces of legislation that have been proposed targeting the LGBTQ+ community in the state since the start of the year. Such bills range from the likes of HF290, which removes an individual’s ability to change the gender marker on any legal documents, making legal transition unattainable, all the way to ones like HF325, which dictates that in any dispute between a trans person and a cis person, the latter will trump the former, effectively stripping trans individuals of any and all legal protections.

Across the nation, these bills are not at all unique. As reported by the ACLU, since the beginning of January, over 400 bills have been introduced across the nation with the goal of restricting the rights of transgender individuals. This is multiple times more than any previous year in the last three months alone. All of these bills seem to be aimed at a single ultimate goal: forcing trans people—both children and adults—back into the closet and forcibly revoking any and all support for them. This staggering figure is in large part because of the concerted effort of political pundits to target and attack the trans community in the United States.

Globally, 2023, even more so than 2022, has been an incredibly difficult year for the transgender community. The hateful rhetoric and continued disdain that trans people have increasingly faced in the U.S. is something that has only continued to grow abroad as well. The United Kingdom, in particular, has become a stark example of this. A nationalized health care system in combination with institutionalized discrimination has meant that transgender individuals in the UK have en masse turned towards the gray market in order to source what is often life-saving medication. In early February, a young trans girl was brutally murdered by two teenagers in a park in the UK. Because of its horrifying nature, this incident sparked mass protests across the nation. This all happened to also coincide with the release of a best-selling video game, Hogwarts Legacy, the sales of which further enriched young adult author and incredibly vocal anti-trans activist J.K. Rowling. Furthermore, even with mass protests focused on all of this, the condition of transgender individuals in the UK is unlikely to change as political parties in the nation on both the left and right have come to oppose the cause of transgender rights. Again, an incredibly bleak picture is painted here.

Over the last few years, there has been a precipitous increase in focus from either side of the political spectrum on the trans community. At its best, this has meant the introduction of increased legal protections for trans individuals in many states, but at its worst, this has meant the continued worsening of those issues outlined above. Along with the increase in focus, there has been a prevailing hope from many that things will somehow inevitably get better. Many individuals have even gone so far as to claim that each passing year represents a positive shift for the acceptance of trans people. With each new year comes the dwindling, albeit still present, faith that this will be the one where things stop getting worse and finally get better for the trans community.

In 2014, Time magazine even perpetuated the positive feeling, infamously heading one of their issues with the declaration that 2014 would be “The Transgender Tipping Point.” Their article on the subject was largely focused on covering the state of trans rights and reporting on a number of milestones that had been reached. In this, their actual coverage of the issue was, even at the time, far more nuanced than the simple sentiment that had been put forward in the headline. Despite that, the warm sentiment still stuck with many.

Even with any past milestones, it is hard to escape the feeling that things are now instead reaching another, far more gruesome, tipping point.

Regardless of any hope people had expressed in the past, it seems incredibly likely that things will only continue to get worse for this already marginalized community before they have any chance to get better; The bigotry and vitriolic discourse which they face is only likely to continue to grow and worsen into the near future. I just hope to God that the comparison I had made in the last article I wrote on this subject is not more apt than I had initially believed.