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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa lawmakers are taking on gender identity in the classroom and it’s already making local organizations voice strong opinions. One organization says a new bill in the Iowa Senate could cause harm to LGBTQ youth.

At face value, pronouns like him, her, they and them seem harmless. “Asking about somebody’s pronouns is really just figuring out how to respectfully address them,” said Keenan Crow, the director of Policy and Advocacy at One Iowa.

One Iowa is an organization that advances and empowers the LGBTQ community. Crow uses they and them pronouns. They say a new bill under review in the education committee of the Iowa Senate could cause irreversible damage to LGBTQ youth. “We need to allow the coming out process to be in the hands of the person who is coming out,” said Crow.

Senate File 80 states that if a school employee or a school curriculum asks a student to identify which preferred pronoun they would like to be called, “The school district shall provide written notification of such action to the parent or guardian of the student at least one week before such action occurs.” Replies from students will also be relayed to the parents. “We know the main reason people don’t come out is simply because of safety. We need to allow them to control their own safety and exposure to those risks,” said Crow.

40,000 LGBTQ youth took part in a 2020 mental health survey by the Trevor Project. Researchers found that nearly a third (29%) of LGBTQ youth experienced homelessness, have been kicked out or ran away because of their gender identity. Just one in five transgender and non-binary youths reported having their pronouns respected by all or most people in their lives. Crow said, “It would be wonderful if every parent was supportive no matter how their child identified, but we know that is simply not the case.”

The bill already has strong support from groups like the FAMiLY Leader, a faith-based conservative group, which responded to their favor with a statement saying, “The FAMiLY Leader recognizes parents need greater – not less – influence, choice, and opportunity in their children’s education. This bill boils down to whether a child’s parents or the state should be guiding his or her sexual development. Schools should not be ‘transitioning’ children without informing their parents.”

Crow responded, “What it really does is it makes the people that would solicit such information stop soliciting that information, and that’s why opposition groups would support something like that.”

Crow says the bill may have been well intended, but they hope legislators see that the consequences could have long-lasting implications. “We are against any policy that forced students to put themselves against their will. Somebody’s sexual orientation and gender identity is their business and who they disclose it to is their business,” said Crow.