Transgender athlete sets new milestone for LGBT youth in Iowa

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.

In recent years, several transgender teens have sought not just acceptance but understanding of issues they face in high school, including at my alma mater.

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...

Republican platform proposal demeans non-biological families, belies "family values"

Commentaries on either party’s platform are welcome here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

As an adult, I accept that not everyone is going to share my views on all things. Part of living in a democracy means that we come together to discuss our individual perspectives and try to find means of compromise that allow us to move forward together.

But I have my limits.

Behold, an amendment to the Republican national platform, addressing—of all things—no-fault divorce:

“We believe children have a natural right to be raised in an intact biological family. While brokenness can befall children in a myriad ways [sic], we acknowledge that children are made to be loved by both natural parents united in marriage.”

As an adoptee, I find this language viscerally offensive, bordering on the obscene.

Continue Reading...

In the aftermath of a massacre: Grief, pride and hope for a new day

Tom Witosky retired from the Des Moines Register in 2012 after 33 years of award-winning reporting on politics, sports and business. He is the co-author of Equal Before the Law: How Iowa Led Americans to Marriage Equality published by University of Iowa Press. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Jacob McNatt wept Sunday morning.

“I don’t understand for the life of me why someone would go to a place where people are getting together to have a good time and be happy and enjoy life would bring terror with them,” the bartender said as made a gin and tonic at the Blazing Saddle booth early Sunday afternoon at Capitol City Pride. “I don’t understand. It is just contrary to what I believe about humanity. It’s just awful.”

McNatt was just one of thousands at the annual gay pride event in Des Moines’ East Village who grieved while trying desperately to make sense of the murder of 49 men and women and 50 wounded at a gay bar in Orlando by a lone gunman killed by police in a gun fight.

Sunday’s steaming weather appeared to keep attendance down for the eight-block parade that has become a staple event for the Des Moines gay pride weekend, but one couldn’t help but think that events in Orlando made trying to celebrate pride too difficult for many of them.

As politicians pointed fingers at each other over whether the issue of the Orlando massacre was about religiously motivated terrorism or the refusal of this country to control the sale of assault weapons, those who still live with discrimination daily wondered out loud why no one was talking about them.

Continue Reading...

Iowa House district 41: Jo Oldson's and Eddie Mauro's pitches to voters

UPDATE: Oldson won this race by a 67 percent to 33 percent margin.

One of the most closely-watched state legislative results tonight will be the contest between seven-term State Representative Jo Oldson and Democratic challenger Eddie Mauro in Iowa House district 41. The district covering parts of the west and south sides of Des Moines contains more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans, so the winner of today’s primary will almost certainly be elected in November, even if the GOP nominates a candidate late here. (No one filed in time to run in the GOP primary.)

Both campaigns have been working the phones and knocking on doors for months. Iowa’s two largest labor unions, AFSCME and the Iowa Federation of Labor, as well as the National Abortion Rights Action League have been doing GOTV for Oldson, as have a number of her fellow Iowa House Democrats. As of May 24, the early voting numbers in House district 41 were higher than for any other state House race.

Bleeding Heartland posted background on Oldson and Mauro here. I’ve encouraged my friends in the district to stick with Oldson. She has been a reliable progressive vote on major legislation, and she was among only thirteen House Democrats to vote against the costly and ineffective 2013 commercial property tax cut. I have no problem with an entrenched incumbent facing a primary challenge. No one is entitled to hold a legislative seat for life. But even if women were not already underrepresented in the Iowa House—which they are and will continue to be—I would need a better reason to replace a capable incumbent than the reasons Mauro has offered in his literature and in an interview with me last month. Excerpts from that interview are below, along with examples of campaign literature Democrats in House district 41 have been receiving in the mailbox and at the doorstep.

Continue Reading...

The ACLU of Iowa is seeking a policy director

I don’t post job listings here often, but since many Bleeding Heartland readers have substantial public policy experience and are interested in the issues at the core of the American Civil Liberties Union’s work, I wanted to spread the word that the ACLU of Iowa is hiring a policy director. The full job listing is after the jump. The non-profit organization will accept applications through June 26, with the goal of filling the position by August.

The eventual hire will be "responsible for advancing the ACLU’s broad civil liberties agenda before the state legislature, executive branch, and local governmental bodies," leading policy projects related to "areas including but not limited to voting rights, racial justice, criminal justice reform, immigrant’s rights, free speech, reproductive freedom, women’s rights, LGBT rights and privacy rights."

Continue Reading...
View More...