Heather Marie Dunn is a transgender Iowan and “recovering right-winger” in Polk County. -promoted by Laura Belin
“She lied to me,” were my first thoughts when I heard Governor Kim Reynolds had signed the health and human services budget that included a mean-spirited exclusion of transgender and intersex health care from Iowa’s Medicaid system.
When I came out in 2017, I was steeped in Iowa’s conservative circles. I had interned with The FAMiLY Leader in 2016. I was active in the Story County GOP and the Republican Party of Iowa.
On the surface, I was a white cis straight male who wanted to save “Western civilization” from the “cultural Marxists destroying this once great Christian nation.”
Internally, I was suffering. Around age 3, despite being assigned male at birth, I knew I was a girl. However, growing up in a strict Evangelical environment, I couldn’t be who I was. For more than 33 years, I tortured myself and developed severe anxiety and depression. The more dysphoric I was, the more I needed to suppress it by living a false sense of self and getting enmeshed in the political right.
However, it wouldn’t last. In 2017, my marriage was failing due to my gender identity and anxiety. During marriage counseling, I finally came out to my ex wife. Our marriage ended. While sad, I knew it was for the better. I decided to come out fully and start transitioning.
I naively thought I could be a bridge between the conservative world and the LGBTQ community. My experience would painfully prove otherwise. I was tolerated, but no longer had a voice in my former circles. While trying to reach out to the LGBTQ community, I was met with caution.
Over time I became more loyal to the trans community, and my views began to change. From marriage equality to choice, I started to reassess where I stood. By the time I realized that I was becoming more socially progressive, I started to feel disillusioned with the right.
There was a false glimmer of hope on the horizon. After moving to Des Moines from Ames in January, I became the first transgender person to be elected to an Iowa Republican county central committee. Finally, at least a county party gets it, was my thought. That lasted until the Republican majority in the Iowa legislature passed and the governor signed an amendment to the health and human services budget that legalized discrimination in health care for transgender and intersex Iowans.
No longer was my transition between me and my doctor. Instead, a group of mostly white cis men dictated my right to my body.
I immediately informed the Polk County GOP of my resignation and updated my voter registration to become a Democrat last Friday.
To the LGBTQ community and others I may have harmed through my former hateful and inflammatory rhetoric, I am truly sorry for hurting you! I hope this new chapter in my life will bring healing and transformation.
My next several posts will feature some whistleblowing, based on what I saw from the inside the Iowa GOP and The FAMiLY Leader.