Augustana should speak against regressive Iowan legislation

Carly Davis

On Wednesday, March 8, the Iowa legislature passed a bill banning gender-affirming care for transgender and gender non-conforming children in the state. 

If the governor signs the bill into law, the bill would prevent doctors from prescribing puberty blockers or hormone replacement therapy for minors. 

As a Wisconsinite, the fear this legislation causes is familiar, although previously-red, recently-blue Wisconsin luckily has a Democratic governor in Tony Evers. Governor Kim Reynolds, the notorious antagonist of conversations with my Iowan friends, is nearly certain to sign the bill into law.

As a longstanding institution of the Quad Cities, Augustana College should take a hard stance against the ideology this bill encourages. 

In stride with the college’s recent announcement of a $10,000 grant to fund gender-affirming speech therapy at a lower cost, Augustana would do well to provide social programming and philanthropic projects to empower and provide for transgender community members on and off campus. 

Higher education institutions have an obligation to educate students academically, set them up for vocational success and enrich them ethically and culturally. 

These obligations inform and bolster each other, so encouraging all students to have a functional understanding of transgender issues reiterates the school’s interest in producing well-informed and empathetic graduates. 

On April 22, 2022, the office of student inclusion and diversity (OSID) hosted Night of Noise, an event including a drag show among other activities for “the Augustana Community and their guests.” 

The school previously held Night of Noise: Viva las Divas in 2017, though that event was sponsored by the college’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA). 

In the wake of Tennessee’s drag ban and right-wing outcry at something as innocent as a drag storytime event, Augustana’s sponsorship of a similar event would solidify the college’s stance not only in support of LGBT+ students and community members but also against the voices and rhetoric that oppose drag. 

While it’s unlikely that Augustana would financially sponsor trans teenagers and children seeking gender-affirming care on the Illinois side of the river, more intermediate, actionable measures are possible. 

To remain silent and stagnant during the increase in anti-trans sentiment isn’t a good look for the college, regardless of the school’s history of supporting the queer community. 

Promoting Clock Inc., instituting all-gender bathrooms and supporting peer-led support groups for LGBT+ students is a fantastic start. 

But the school has a reach that extends beyond its campus. 

Funding a designated community library of “banned books” and queer literature would secure access to that information for people who need it. 

Faculty members should examine their curriculum (whether that entails reading lists, project opportunities or other areas of focus) and consider the space they give to transgender perspectives. 

From reading Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” in the modern age to highlighting contemporary trans voices to focusing on trans healthcare, Augustana’s faculty have the vital and important opportunity to develop the agenda that the Iowa legislature fears. 

At his March 13 “America First” event in Davenport, Iowa at the Adler Theatre, Donald Trump railed against the “woke ideology” taught in public schools, arguing that American children need to be protected from the manipulative intentions of the academic left. 

I think it’s about time schools actually became as pro-trans as the hysterical right thinks they are. 

At the very least, the college and its new president must make a confident statement in clear support of the Quad Cities’ transgender population: the trans students at Augustana, the transgender community in nearby neighborhoods and the scared trans kids across the river.