Cartoon: An exodus from Iowa

William R. Staplin shares another cartoon and explains his artistic choices.

The Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual, Intersex, Queer/Questioning, Asexual (LGTBQIA+) community has lived on the margins of cis-gendered societal acceptance throughout recorded history. Mainstream societies have repressed the community in myriad ways: from self-righteous and pious condemnations and public humiliation to the destruction of careers (whether through hiring and firing discrimination or ”Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”), to brutal assaults in farmyards, playgrounds, and towns squares, all the way to targeted murders and lynching.

When the U.S. Supreme Court cleared a path for marriage equality across the country in June 2015, this brutalized community achieved a small portion of equity. Same-sex couples were able to legally wed and include their life partners for medical insurance, hospital visitation, and estate planning, providing some peace of mind for bereaved loved ones at difficult times.

But equality was in some way a mirage for members of the transgender community.

Iowa’s trans community has become a recurring target of a reactionary governor. The Republican-controlled Iowa House and Senate approved the denial of Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming surgeries back in 2019, and this year targeted the weakest and most vulnerable: transgender kids who (with the approval of their parents) seek health care that allows them to physically align with their gender identity.

Other GOP-controlled states such as Arkansas or Florida have approved similar bills. Whether or not Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and her counterparts elsewhere have higher career aspirations (the presidency or vice presidency), they are targeting kids who just want to be kids. Transgender children simply want to align their bodies with their identities while taking advantage of evidence-based health care.

It takes creative cruelty to draft legislation that limits health care for nonbinary and transgender children, and even tries to control where they can use the bathroom.

Despite the overwhelming consensus of mainstream medical and public health organizations, Republican lawmakers have written into Iowa Code the denial of gender-affirming medical care, denying the needs and civil liberties of transgender minors and their parents. The governor is expected to sign the bill soon.

As a person with a disability, I need medication to function, just as many legislators rely on chronic heart, lymph, digestive, skin, respiratory, nerve medications. How well would it work out for me or them if they didn’t take their medications in a timely manner? Imagine a chronically ill kid being denied nerve pain medication, or being told that they have 180 days to wean off their meds, ostensibly “for the protection of our children” (children of like-minded Iowans, that is).

Republicans have proved Adam Serwer’s thesis yet again: The cruelty is the point.

This inspired me to draw my latest collage.

In the upper left-hand corner are the bills the Iowa House and Senate have approved that target the LGBTQ+ community.

I drew profiles of various families: gainfully employed LGTBQ+ tradespeople and college educated professionals and their dependents. Taxpaying families leaving Iowa for good, because they will not be able to receive gender-affirming care for themselves or their loved ones.

Their footprints lead away from Iowa’s beautiful state capitol in Des Moines, for more progressive, friendly states in the colors of the “Progress LGTBQ+ Flag”, designed by Daniel Quasar in 2018. The flag incorporates the original 1978 LGTBQ rainbow striped flag designed by Gilbert Baker, but it also includes the transgender flag elements: pink (Trans), light blue (Gender Non-Binary), white (Intersex and across gender spectrum) as well as Brown and Black (marginalized LGTBQ+ people of color and those in the LGTBQ+ Community who are living with or have died of the medical complications of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.) Quasar’s flag fuses colors of the LGTBQIA+ modified Philadelphia and Seattle LGTBQ+ flags, designed in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

The Iowa House is expected to debate the latest “bathroom bill” on March 16. Stay informed on the religious right’s attack on LGBTQ+ Iowans and related legislative action through groups including One Iowa Action, Iowa Safe Schools, and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund.

Bleeding Heartland has also been following the many bills targeting LGBTQ Iowans, including those that would restrict gender-affirming care for minors, or limit school curriculum on gender identity, sexual orientation, or HIV prevention and HPV vaccination.

William R. Staplin is a former scientist specializing in utilizing molecular biology techniques to investigate RNA plant and animal viruses, research and development of vaccines to protect against infectious viruses; husband to Ruth A. Staplin, a longtime SPPG employee and political wonk; father to two independently minded teenagers, one attending college and the other enrolled at Des Moines Public Independent School District; cancer and spinal cord disability survivor; and a supporter of women’s reproductive rights, LGTBQ+, and Black and Brown Lives Matter. He is also a full-time greyhound owner and greyhound cafeteria worker.

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William R. Staplin

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