Of all the cultural changes in Iowa since I grew up here during the 1970s and 1980s, few are more striking or more inspiring than the growing acceptance for LGBT people. When I was a teenager at Valley High School in West Des Moines, no kids were "out" in our student body or at any other Iowa high school, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain by talking to peers my age. A few of my Valley classmates came out soon after starting college, but I could never have imagined Iowa high school students openly identifying as LGBT. Now gay-straight alliances are active in at least 80 Iowa high schools. Students from much smaller communities than West Des Moines have not only come out, but become leaders in their communities, forming support groups and raising awareness of anti-LGBT discrimination that remains. Even some Iowans attending Catholic high schools have fought to create safe spaces for LGBT students.
Ben Christiason of Cedar Falls set another milestone by becoming Iowa’s first openly transgender high school athlete. I heard of him for the first time in June, when he was among more than a dozen graduating seniors honored at the Eychaner Foundation’s Matthew Shepard Scholarship dinner. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa awarded its annual Robert Mannheimer Youth Advocacy Award to Christiason because of "his pioneering role in transgender equality." I enclose that announcement below, along with excerpts from Courtney Crowder’s excellent profile of Christiason, which the Des Moines Register published earlier this month. Crowder’s piece on other transgender children in Iowa is a must-read as well.
The non-profit Iowa Safe Schools is hosting Iowa’s First Annual Trans Educational Conference this November, hoping to enlighten "school administrators, school board members, educators, healthcare providers, youth-serving professionals, and parents" about "the specific needs of trans and gender non-conforming students" in communities of all sizes.
UPDATE: A new national poll of millennials provides the latest evidence that LGBT equality is becoming a consensus issue for the younger generation of Americans. Added the toplines below.Continue Reading...