John and Terri Hale own The Hale Group, an Ankeny-based advocacy firm working for better lives for all Iowans. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“In Nature, a flock will attack any bird that is more colorful than the others because being different is seen as a threat…”
That’s a phrase from a now-trending music video titled The Village from an artist known as Wrabel. It tells the story of a transgender teen and the intense emotional challenges faced as they struggle with their own thoughts and feelings, unsupportive parents, community, church and school.
It’s a powerful video that everyone should watch—regardless of your views on LGBTQ issues, political leanings, faith, etc.
Wrabel’s message to the LGBTQ community—especially trans kids—is “There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s something wrong with the Village.”
The Village is that part of society that endorses efforts to discriminate against, if not erase, the LGBTQ community—in particular those who are transgender.
In Iowa, Republican legislators introduced a record 29 anti-LGBTQ bills during the recent session. Twenty-nine bills that called for blocking access to basic human rights for our LGBTQ friends, children and families, co-workers and neighbors.
These measures called for everything from taking away the right to same-sex marriage, to censuring teachers from using words—and librarians from having books—that acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ Iowans, to denying parents and their doctors the right to make life-saving decisions for transgender kids.
Each bill, whether it became law or not, sent destructive messages to the LGBTQ community: “You are not wanted here. You don’t deserve the same rights guaranteed to others, including the right to love who you love. You don’t have the freedom to flourish in Iowa.”
Why the attacks on the LGBTQ community? Simply put, they are easy pickings. The LGBTQ population is outnumbered. They do not have immense political power, though it is growing. Misinformation, distortions, and confusion lead people to fear what they do not understand. Like the colorful birds in the quote above, being different is seen as a threat to life as many have known it. Many Republicans are capitalizing on that fear, riling up their base of voters and promising that, if elected, constituents can count on them to deal with what they insinuate is a clear and present danger.
This is Iowa in 2023: a horribly divided state, and as anti-LGBTQ legislation shows, a religious state that too often doesn’t practice what is preached—to treat others the way they want to be treated, to show some charity and be kind, to love and accept others for who they are.
We’re blessed with wonderful friends in the LGBTQ community who are making tremendous contributions to their workplaces, neighborhoods, communities, states,and nation.
They’ve told us how the bills—and accompanying rhetoric—make them feel. Some plan to leave Iowa. Others plan never to move here.
As allies, we’re disgusted by the attacks on our LGBTQ friends and colleagues. We’re tired of the holier-than-thou attitudes of many elected Republicans and candidates. Enough is enough.
We can all take action to stop it.
Allies of the LGBTQ community: invite your Republican legislator(s) to meet with you. Try to get to know them as people, not just lawmakers. Ask what they believe and why. In a direct and non-confrontational way, tell your story and why you support the LGBTQ community. If their contact with the LGBTQ community has been minimal, offer to arrange additional opportunities to build relationships.
Leaders in business and industry: step up and speak out on behalf of your valued LGBTQ employees and customers. You have a powerful voice. Legislators may listen to you when they may not listen to others.
Republican legislators: before proposing or voting on additional anti-LGBTQ legislation, seek to understand and really get to know those in the LGBTQ community whose lives you may be dramatically altering.
Legislators are in their districts until the start of the next session in January. They, and we, should take advantage of this time to meet, talk, listen and hopefully learn.
If reasonable and influential voices are silent, things will not get any better. Sadly, they could get even worse.
Top photo taken outside the state capitol during a March 5, 2023 rally to support LGBTQ Iowans is by Michael F. Hiatt and available via Shutterstock.