On Thursday afternoon, state troopers forced a group of LGBTQ+ high school students to leave the Iowa Capitol building after the teenagers attempted to use the bathrooms that aligned with their gender identities. The students were at the Capitol building with Iowa Safe Schools, an organization that works to provide LGBTQ+ students in the state with safe and nurturing learning environments, in order to lobby state legislators on issues surrounding LGBTQ+ youth. Earlier in the day, the students lobbying efforts had seen success, after an Iowa Senate subcommittee advanced legislation that would ban the “gay/trans panic defense.”
But once bathrooms got involved, the situation got ugly. While a trans male student was using the men’s restroom, he was approached by a man who questioned the makeup he had on his face and reportedly told him “You’re in the wrong bathroom.” Soon afterward, several other male students were told by state troopers that they couldn’t enter the men’s restroom.
“I witnessed a state trooper what I consider verbally assaulting one of my students,” said Andrew Krischel, a teacher and GSA adviser at Southeast Polk High School. “He was yelling at him, saying he wasn’t allowed to use the restroom because he’s a little girl, and if he went in the restroom he’d be sexually assaulted or something like that.”
What a deeply upsetting image. The teenagers were subjected to the exact type of transphobic and homophobic violence that they were attempting to help alleviate. This whole incident is another reminder of the reality that trans people are likely to experience harassment or violence in a bathroom: According to one study, nearly 70% of trans people said they had experienced verbal harassment in a situation involving gender-segregated bathrooms, and 10% reported experiencing physical assault.
The video above shows part of the incident where the state troopers confronted Iowa Safe Schools Executive Director Nate Monson. In the video, you can hear one of the troopers say “Leave, or you will be arrested.”
“They started rounding up any kid that was wearing rainbow, essentially,” Monson said of the state troopers. “They got in my face and told me I had to be quiet. It was quite intimidating.”
Speaking about the incident, Monson said to Iowa Starting Line: “The state of Iowa may have about 150 lawsuits on their hands.”