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Trans Teen Receiving Award From Iowa Gov. Shouts “Trans Rights Are Human Rights”

Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed two anti-transgender bills into law this year, negatively impacting trans students in Iowa.

Transgender high school senior Clementine Springsteen stands onstage between Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg (R) and Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) during the Iowa Governor's Scholar awards on April 30, 2023.

On Sunday, a transgender student in Iowa used an award ceremony as an opportunity to protest Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who earlier this year signed two bills into law that attack trans kids across the state.

Davenport West High School senior Clementine Springsteen, a transgender woman, was one of hundreds of students who received an Iowa Governor’s Scholar Program honor this year. The certificate is given to students with high academic achievements, and is jointly presented by the governor’s office, the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa High School Athletic Association. Three seniors each year are given a plaque and certificate marking their achievement, and offered an opportunity to pose for a picture with the governor and the lieutenant governor during the ceremony.

According to The Des Moines Register, Springsteen had initially planned to receive her certificate without much fanfare. After thinking it over, she decided to use the moment as an opportunity to demonstrate against the Republican governor’s anti-trans agenda.

“I need to make it clear to her that we’re not gonna be silent,” Springsteen said on Sunday. “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. I want to inconvenience her, to make her realize that this is an issue.”

Springsteen wore a pink, white and blue tie, symbolizing the colors of transgender pride, and a pin that read “Trans Rights are Human Rights.” She also wore a “She Her” button on her vest while shaking the governor’s hand.

After posing with Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg (R), Springsteen shouted, “Trans rights are human rights,” eliciting cheers from the audience, video of her interaction shows.

After Springsteen’s short protest, Reynolds appeared to give a contemptuous look toward the young scholar.

The two other students also protested Reynolds for different causes during the ceremony on Sunday. The two seniors from Newton High School — Miran Pettigrew and Leo Friedman — wore shirts that stated “public money for public schools” and “I read banned books.”

According to the two students, Reynolds kept her distance from them while posing for their pictures.

Iowa has passed a number of anti-LGBTQ laws during Reynolds’s tenure, many of them targeting transgender Iowans. According to an incomplete analysis from The Washington Post, lawmakers in the state have introduced at least 24 anti-trans bills since the start of the year, with at least two of them becoming law.

One of the laws requires transgender students to use restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates, not their gender identity. The other law bans gender-affirming care for trans youth in the state, despite that numerous medical experts and a number of major health organizations regard gender-affirming treatments as helpful, lifesaving and an enormous benefit to those who receive such care.

Both bills were signed into law by Reynolds.

More laws attacking transgender people across the country are likely to be considered, believes Allison Chapman, an independent legislative researcher and transgender activist.

“I definitely expect these anti-trans bills and policies to continue to increase and move more and more into the national stage, especially with the 2024 elections just around the corner,” Chapman said in an email to Truthout last month.

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