Opinion | The war on the transgender community

Republican anti-trans legislature is motivated by anti-democratic impulses.


Rohan Abernathy-Wee

Protestors cross at the intersection of North Dubuque Street and East Jefferson Street on Saturday, April 1, 2023.

Shahab Khan, Opinions Columnist

The marginalization of transgender children in Iowa is evident based on recent Iowa legislation.

Senate File 496, also known as the parental rights bill, is well on its way to becoming law in Iowa. It will force schools to out transgender children to their parents and impose transphobic dogma on school curriculum.

SF 496 and the wider right-wing backlash against transgender acceptance is a microcosm of the threat the Republican party poses to democracy in the U.S. In other words, many Republicans believe they have the right to marginalize certain groups from participating in society.

In “The End of History and the Last Man,” political scientist Francis Fukuyama writes that the U.S. victory in the Cold War meant that liberal democracy would be the final — and best — form of government developed by humanity.

Fukuyama explains that this is because liberal democracy prioritizes the value of thymos — a Greek term that refers to the idea that people have a desire to be recognized by their peers and government.

Liberal democracy encapsulates thymos because it enshrines the notion that all people have a right to participate in the political system. In addition, the citizens of a liberal democracy can express their identities without interference from the state.

However, Fukuyama warns that liberal democracy is not guaranteed to last forever. Fukuyama argues that once a society successfully achieves thymos, the society will begin to produce the last men.

The last men are a Netichizan conception of individuals that have nothing left to struggle for. These individuals will become passive beings and not work to advance humanity beyond a certain position.  Fukuyama rejects Netichize’s autocratic prescription for the problem of the last man: That the strong should enslave the weak.

SF 496 represents the urges of the Republican party because of their desire to police and control the actions of transgender children.

Republicans have argued that the parental rights bill reduces the role of government in public education and allows parents to have more control of the curriculum. But when examining SF 496, it becomes clear that the bill would allow conservative parents to skew the curriculum and indoctrinate students in right wing mythology.

Furthermore, the bill does not take the government out of school. Rather, it encroaches upon the public education system, as SF 496 attempts to erase any notion of the existence of transgender people. This is done by restricting access to books that deal with issues of gender identity.

More importantly, the bill mandates that schools teach elementary schoolers outdated notions of gender and sexuality, such as the idea that sex and gender are fixed.

The actions of the Republican party will have dark implications for transgender youth. Transgender youth and adults are disproportionately at risk of death by suicide, and the literature finds that suppressing transgender identity will only increase deaths by suicide.

Republicans want to make it so that the political system does not view the transgender community as individuals. This bill will strip them of their political rights and exclude them from society.

Fortunately, there is a pathway to defeating the anti-trans bigotry of the Republican party.

Iowa Democrats have voraciously defended the rights of transgender people to exist. Meanwhile, the Biden administration recently issued a rule that would bring litigation against states that have implemented discriminatory policies against trans student athletes.

While these policies and rhetoric are only tiny first steps, they show that if we support politicians that aim to protect trans rights, we will be able to uphold the democratic principles that the U.S. holds dear.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.