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Student yells “Trans rights are human rights” in front of Iowa’s anti-trans governor

Clementine Springsteen (L) and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) Photo: Twitter screenshot

A viral video show transgender high school senior Clementine Springsteen yelling, “Trans rights are human rights,” in front of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) while receiving the governor’s scholar award last Sunday.

Reynolds — who recently signed bills restricting trans youth access to school bathrooms and gender-affirming care — shook Springsteen’s hand, as did Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg (R) at a ceremony honoring 422 high-achieving students. Springsteen, Reynolds, and Gregg posed for a picture before Springsteen then yelled her statement and walked offstage.

In a statement issued later, the governor said Springsteen had the right to voice her opinion.

Springsteen was one of several teens who demonstrated against Reynolds’s policies at the award ceremony. Another student wore a dress in the colors of the trans Pride flag, and yet another shirt that read, “Trans Rights Are Human Rights,” Springsteen told The New Republic. One unidentified student wore enamel pins that said “she/her” and another wore pins that showed the colors of the Pride flag.

Fellow senior Miran Pettigrew wore a shirt reading “Public Money for Public Schools,” and senior Leo Friedman wore a shirt that said, “I Read Banned Books.” Both students’ protests later appeared in viral social media videos.

In late March, Reynolds signed a law forbidding minors’ use of puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy. The law forces trans teens currently receiving gender-affirming care to de-transition. It also threatens the professional licenses of any medical practitioners who provide such care. Studies show that gender-affirming care is safe, reversible, and essential to trans people’s overall well-being.

Springsteen told The Des Moines Register that she and her allies wanted to make it clear to Reynolds that they’re “not gonna be silent.”

“We’re not going to be protesting in a way that is comfortable for her that she can act like it doesn’t exist or that it’s some minor inconvenience,” Springsteen said. “I want to inconvenience her, to make her realize that this is an issue.”

In early March, students across Iowa walked out of classes in protest of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Nearly one in four U.S. teenagers now identify as non-heterosexual, according to a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Springsteen, who has not started medically transitioning, said she has seen how transphobic legislation has affected her community.

“We have a transgender group at my school that meets every month. And we all just share in the feeling of fear,” Springsteen told The New Republic. “We’re scared for our futures. We’re scared of being able to live as our true selves. And I’m tired of this. I’m tired of my community being broke down again and again, when we’re just trying to live and be happy.”

In a media statement, Reynolds said Springsteen had a right to speak out.

“Education is about preparing our students for their future careers and to be successful in the world around us, and part of that foundation is civic engagement,” Reynolds said. “While we may disagree about what is best for our schools, no student should be afraid to express his or her opinion, even when it comes to their governor.”

Springsteen told the aforementioned publication, “It doesn’t matter what laws you pass or you know, what hatred you send our way. We’re still going to be here, we’re still going to exist…. You’re not going to be able to just extinguish an entire group of people. Because even if you do, more are going to be born. We’re going to persist as a community no matter what you throw our way.”

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