The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI students protest self-identified detransitioner Chloe Cole at IMU lecture

Protesters blocked entrances to the IMU and caused a traffic disturbance at an intersection on Monday night, resulting in police interference.

Nearly 150 University of Iowa students protested Chloe Cole, who identifies as a detransitioner, during her speech at the Iowa Memorial Union on Monday night. 

The UI chapter of Young Americans for Freedom invited Cole to speak on campus. Cole’s visit comes after the student organization brought conservative commentator Matt Walsh in the spring. 

Protesters held homemade signs that read “Let trans people exist,” “You can’t legislate away trans people,” and “Protect trans kids.” They also held signs that read, “Trans people belong in Iowa” provided by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa. 

Inside the Black Box Theater, Cole spoke about her experience as a person who has detransitioned to about 150 people on Monday night. Cole shared the pressure she faced from her doctors to transition and her efforts to pass legislation banning gender-affirming care for minors in state legislatures across the country. Cole rallied with Matt Walsh at Walsh’s “rally to end child mutilation” in Tenessee in 2022. Cole has advocated for legislation in Ohio, Florida, Utah, Kansas, Wyoming, and Tennessee — all of which have passed law banning gender-affirming care. Currently, 22 states have banned the practice. 

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Protesters rally against Cole

Protesters gathered in the IMU around 6:30 p.m., discussing their goals and practicing chants before separating to surround the IMU and block its entrances.

They held signs, waved various LGBTQ+ flags, and chanted as they linked arms in front of the doors to the building in an attempt to prevent people from attending Cole’s speech.

Around 7:50 p.m., the protesters walked in circles at the intersection of Jefferson Street and Madison Street outside of the IMU.

Chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, transphobia has got to go,” the protesters blocked off the intersection, resulting in approximately 20 cars piling up outside of the IMU. Iowa City and UI police started to redirect traffic, sending cars back. 

About 20 minutes later, the cars broke through and protestors linked arms at the entrances of the IMU parking lot and Madison Street. 

The protest ended with a march to UI President Barbara Wilson’s house around 8:30 p.m.

As a protestor on Thursday, UI first-year and executive team member of Iowa WTF, Nicko Dacre said the protest was not coordinated by a specific person, but rather, the message spread quickly among UI students on social media. 

University of Iowa student interviews protestor during a Young Americans for Freedom hosted event in the Iowa Memorial Union’s Blackbox Theater in Iowa City featuring Chloe Cole, a person who detransitioned, on Monday, Oct. 16, 2023. Pro-Transgender activists protested outside the IMU and later blocked the N Madison St. and W Jefferson St. intersection. The protest concluded with protests in front of University of Iowa president Barbara Wilson’s residence on Church St. (Theodore Retsinas/The Daily Iowan)

Dave Cacho, a UI second-year student, said he felt morally obligated to support the trans community. 

Cacho said Cole is using a story that does not represent the lives of trans people to demonize the entire trans community and spread misleading rhetoric that causes further harm. Cacho also said it was “highly irresponsible” of the UI to bring in a speaker associated with fascist groups.

“Since open discourse is an indispensable element of teaching and learning, those who come to the university must be prepared to have their beliefs and expectations challenged, sometimes in ways they find offensive,” according to the UI’s statement on free expression. “Yet permitting the expression of such ideas is the predictable price of the freedoms we cherish.”  

UI graduate student Andrew Boge said Cole was deployed as a way to make sure trans people can’t get health care.

Boge said the UI should not have allowed Cole to speak on campus because it creates a hostile environment that counters creating an inclusive, diverse place. 

UI first-year Parker Lambert held a transgender flag on the steps of the southeast entrance to the IMU. 

Lambert said Cole’s choice to transition affected Cole negatively, but Lambert’s choice saved his life. 

UI alum Tara McGovern was one of the protestors on Monday night and said Cole was not on campus to share her story.

“I’m just really encouraged to see all these smart, young people who are so much younger than me that are doing this important work that we’ve been doing for a long time,” McGovern said. 

Cole talks detranstion journey to crowd

Cole talked to a crowd of nearly 150 in the IMU’s Black Box Theater on Monday. She talked about her journey through the medical transition process and the lack of guidance she got from medical professionals when she chose to detransition. 

She said that after having feelings of gender dysphoria, a condition characterized by psychological distress around one’s gender presentation, she asked her parents at 12 years old about seeing a therapist. Once Cole started seeing that therapist, the therapist recommended they see a gender specialist. 

Chloe Cole addresses the attendees during a Young Americans for Freedom hosted event in the Iowa Memorial Union’s Blackbox Theater in Iowa City featuring Chloe Cole, a person who detransitioned, on Monday, Oct. 16, 2023. Pro-Transgender activists protested outside the IMU and later blocked the Madison and Jefferson Street intersection. The protest concluded with protests in front of University of Iowa president Barbara Wilson’s residence on Church Street. (Theodore Retsinas)

Cole, who is 19, started her gender transition journey when she was 12 years old, and got a double mastectomy by 15 years old. 

Cole told the crowd that after starting puberty blockers and testosterone, she didn’t feel like the treatments were solving her dysphoria. Cole also said she didn’t feel like her therapist had resolved any of her underlying mental health issues. 

After feeling unhappy with her transition, Cole sought guidance for stopping puberty blockers and testosterone. 

“I didn’t know how to live with myself after having gone down this path,” Cole said. “But eventually I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

Cole has since filed a lawsuit alleging that they had committed malpractice by failing to recognize the underlying mental health conditions and by pushing Cole and her parents into gender-affirming care. 

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About the Contributors
Liam Halawith, Politics Editor
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Liam Halawith is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Public Policy. Before his role as Politics Editor Liam was a politics reporter for the DI. Outside of the DI Liam has interned at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Southeast Iowa Union. This is his second year working for the DI.
Roxy Ekberg, News Reporter
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Roxy Ekberg is a first year at the University of Iowa. In the Honors Program, she is double majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in Spanish. Prior to her role as a politics reporter, she worked news reporter at the Daily Iowan and worked at her local newspaper The Wakefield Republican.