Students in Iowa today staged statewide walkouts to protest the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation introduced by conservative lawmakers and promoted by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).
Students at 26 public schools and two universities had scheduled walkouts from classes throughout the day, NBC News reported.
The “We Say Gay” protest was organized by the Iowa Queer Student Alliance (IQSA), a student advocacy group dedicated to opposing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
A wave of anti-LGBTQ+ proposals is sweeping through the Iowa legislature with Gov. Reynolds’ support. This year alone, 29 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced, according to the local activist organization One Iowa Action.
The proposals include a bill that would require teachers and school administrators to notify parents of a change in students’ gender status or pronouns; another that would prohibit discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation through 6th grade; and bills that would strip libraries of LGBTQ+-themed material and ban gender-affirming care for minors, among others.
Reynolds has made “parental control” a centerpiece of her public messaging, claiming a far-left “woke” agenda is threatening the health and well-being of the state’s children.
Students walking out of class today had a different idea, with chants of “We say gay!” echoing across school campuses. The protests occurred at some of. the state’s largest schools, Des Moines Public Schools, Iowa City Community School District, within the Ankeny Community School District, as well as at Grinnell College and Iowa State University, NBC reported.
“Black! White! Gay! Straight! Love does not discriminate!” shouted students at one gathering in Urbandale, on the outskirts of Des Moines.
At that same protest, a 9th grader named Cyrus, who identifies as transgender, explained to Iowa Starting Line that their mother is married to a woman.
“I came out here today, obviously to represent myself, but also because there is a bill being passed that eliminates just talking about the LGBTQ community in K-8,” the student said. “My sister is seven years old. She’s in 2nd grade. So she will not be to have her family recognized in the school, which I think is really wrong.”
Another high schooler rallied students while counter-protesters shouted from the sidelines. A second student urged protesters “Don’t give them attention. Don’t give them what they want.”
“It doesn’t matter what other people say about us!” shouted the speaker. “It does not matter! All that matters is that we are unapologetically ourselves, no matter what happens!” The crowd erupted in cheers.
Joseph Sibley, an Urbandale senior, held protesters rapt with reference to a high school text fraught with banned history for its socio-political themes and sexual content, 1984, George Orwell’s dystopian novel about fascist authoritarianism.
“Listen closely. People will die as a direct result of these bills. People will suffer. Ultimately, life-saving medical care will be withheld. Marriage equality will be rolled back. College diversity, equity, and inclusion would be dead on arrival,” Sibley said.
“Critically honest conversation and self-identity will be banned. Hypocritically, open acknowledgment of objective truth and free speech will be barred because these conservatives believe the patently Orwellian idea that the truth can be changed by suppression, and censored out of existence,” he continued.
“Now, we know it cannot. Not when we see it. Not when we meet and speak and roar about it today,” he added. “We will not be silent. We will not lay down and accept murder, oppression, or the harrowing precedents this will establish.”