Home News Around the Region: Iowa hosts LGBTQ elders summit, conference on LGBTQ aging

Around the Region: Iowa hosts LGBTQ elders summit, conference on LGBTQ aging

Around the Region: Iowa hosts LGBTQ elders summit, conference on LGBTQ aging


Iowa State University has mapped the school’s gender-inclusive restrooms on campus, the Ames Tribune reports:

Iowa State has created a map for students that shows the location of the 30 gender-inclusive restrooms on campus.

The bathrooms have been in existence for the last few years, but ISU thought its students should not have to struggle to find restrooms that accommodate their specific needs.

Brad Freihoefer, the coordinator for the LGBT student services center, said having the bathrooms mapped out will help students of the LGBT community plan out their days and routes for classes more effectively.

“The reason we created the gender-inclusive restroom map was to really make it easier for students of all genders to find restrooms to use on campus,” Freihoefer said.

Freihoefer made it clear that the restrooms were already on campus before the map was released, but the goal was to make students more aware of the options of restrooms that might make them feel more comfortable or safe.

“We just hope that, and what we’ve heard from students, is that it does provide an easier way to help located restrooms they would otherwise not know were there,” Freihoefer said.

The Des Moines Register continues its in-depth series on the lives of transgender Iowans. The most recent edition features transgender man Ben Christiason, and talks about gender inclusion in athletics. As part of the package, the Register looked at gender-inclusive school policies across the region.

A summit on LGBTQ aging was held over the weekend, KCCI reports:

Approximately 150 LGBT seniors, allies and service providers attended the summit to connect and learn about the challenges and opportunities LGBT people face as they age.
Organizers said older LGBT people deal with the same health, housing and social issues as other seniors, in addition to challenges of isolation and discrimination.
“This event is about acknowledging and thanking our elders, the folks who were at the very beginning of our fierce and precious movement for equality,” One Iowa Executive Director Donna Red Wing said. “It is also about offering information and resources to help them live out their lives with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

A summit on the concerns of the rural LGBTQ community is set for Drake University, according to a press release from the school:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will serve as keynote speaker at the Iowa LGBT Rural Summit, an event co-sponsored by Drake University Law School to incite conversation and share information with LGBT people, families, and the community.
The summit will be held Aug. 18, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., at Parents Hall, Olmsted Center on Drake University’s campus (2875 University Avenue). Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.
The event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided.
Many LGBT people choose to live, work, and raise their families in rural areas. To highlight the unique needs of this community, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has partnered with Drake Law School, One Iowa, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and True Colors Fund to organize the Iowa LGBT Rural Summit.
This event is the 15th summit in the nationwide LGBT Rural Summit Series and #RuralPride Campaign, which aims to elevate the voices of the rural LGBT community, highlight the important federal policy efforts to protect this community, and identify next steps to ensure all rural communities have access to the resources they need.

Iowa Safe Schools is expanding, the organization announced in a press release:

Iowa Safe Schools announced today a large expansion effort to better provide services for LGBTQ youth in Iowa schools and communities. These efforts include the development of the Iowa Gay-Straight Alliance Network, providing victim advocacy services for LGBTQ youth who are victims of bullying, and creation of a social media app to better deliver services to rural LGBTQ youth.
Joining the Iowa Safe Schools team will be Joshua Merritt who will serve as the LGBTQ Youth Advocate and Becky Smith who will serve as the Iowa GSA Network Coordinator. Both new hires will start in early-September.
Joshua Merritt is an Iowa-native and started the first gay-straight alliance at his high school in Johnston. He went on to work as an Outreach Coordinator with the Iowa Pride Network while attending the University of Iowa. Joshua received his Masters in Social Work from DePaul University and has since worked with homeless and formerly homeless youth and adults in both direct service and program administration roles.
Becky Smith received her Bachelors in Social Work from the University of Iowa. She has worked in the non-profit field including as the Iowa Pride Network Coordinator with One Iowa. Becky brings with her a wealth of experience working with LGBTQ* young people, and is excited to share her knowledge on GSA organizing, youth advocacy, and intersectionality to Iowa Safe Schools. She has developed strong relationships with many existing Iowa GSAs, and is committed to creating safe spaces for young people in Iowa schools through youth activism and community support.
“Becky & Joshua provide a wealth of experience on supporting LGBTQ youth,” said Nate Monson, Executive Director of Iowa Safe Schools. “This new team puts Iowa Safe Schools firmly in the leadership role of providing concrete resources and infrastructure that gay-straight alliances and LGBTQ youth need. This expansion of programming and staff will improve the lives of LGBTQ youth especially those being victimized by bullying and harassment in schools.”

Some schools in Wisconsin are working on becoming more gender-inclusive, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports:

Several Wisconsin school districts are adopting or revising gender discrimination policies in the run-up to the new school year, in light of a new federal directive that prohibits discrimination against transgender students.
In May, the civil rights offices of the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice notified districts that they must allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity or risk the loss of funds under Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits discrimination based on sex.
School districts in Milwaukee, Waukesha and Verona are among those that began reviewing their policies in the wake of the directive. Some districts say their policies already comply with the guidance. And still, others say they will wait for a ruling in a federal lawsuit filed by several states, including Wisconsin, aimed at blocking the directive.
“The federal government issued guidance. Wisconsin is suing the government and the school districts are caught in the middle about what to do,” Dan Rossmiller, director of government relations at the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said.

In his column this week, On Milwaukee’s Dave Begel urged school districts to adopt gender-inclusive policies:

This is the issue of transgender students and where they get to go to the bathroom in school. With school about to start, we seem to be hearing more about this than we really need to hear. This whole thing is yet another example of adults baring their own hangups while most kids probably don’t give a hoot.
There are school districts, like Shorewood High School, that have adopted the most sensible policy without a whole bunch of controversy: If you are a transgender student in Shorewood, you can go to whatever bathroom you want. Amazing how mature kids can be.

South Dakota
Minneapolis attorney Ellen Krug is touring South Dakota to raise awareness about transgender inclusion, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reports:

A transgender attorney is touring South Dakota to build understanding and acceptance.
Ellen Krug spoke at the Equality Center in Sioux Falls on Monday evening and at the Rapid City Public Library on Tuesday night on how to interact with diverse populations.

Ellen Krug says she is the first Iowa attorney to transition genders. Krug also says she is one of few attorneys in the country to try jury cases in separate genders.
Now, Krug lives in Minneapolis where she leads a non-profit. She’s making her way through South Dakota and Wyoming. She says these are both states where LGBTQ people can be refused service.
“In theory, at a hotel that I check into, if the owner of the hotel says we don’t want your type here they can refuse me service,” Krug says. “And in theory I have no legal recourse against them. That’s at the back of my mind. And I’m only here as a visitor. I can imagine, though, what it’s like if you live here and you know that your rights are lesser than the rights of other people.”

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Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.