Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
MT. PLEASANT — Around a dozen and a half community members gathered on Iowa Wesleyan University’s campus Sunday afternoon to hold a vigil for transgender Americans who died in the last year. Members of the local PFLAG Chapter said a few words before reading the list of those 70 Americans’ names.
It was the group’s first time holding such an event. PFLAG Secretary Bob Mueller said the past year, and especially the election cycle, had drawn their attention to trans rights.
“In 2021 we saw 15 bills in the Iowa Legislature targeting transgender people, with 13 of them targeting children,” he said during his speech. “Two more bills were added in 2022 … During the midterm elections, millions of dollars were spent on ads with innuendo and direct attacks on the transgender community. Is this a legitimate purpose of government?”
Happening the day after a shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Mueller said the timing was especially pertinent.
“We need to do this, it just adds, unfortunately, to the dramatic character of it,” he said. “The saddest thing is, (the shooter) is a young kid. He was 22. That came out of not having schools open, talking about being inclusive. It comes from religions that say it’s a sin, and (things) that told them this was OK to do.”
Mueller said the goal was to start a dialogue.
“It’s basically to make as many people as possible aware of the transgender issue, and especially the hateful messages we’re seeing from politics,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize their words go well beyond harming people they don’t know … and especially kids. Some kids are at a point where they’re questioning their sexuality, and this kind of rhetoric forces them into the closet, which is really harmful.”
The majority of Americans do not personally know anyone who is transgender. Mueller said that made public events like the remembrance vigil important.
“Transgender people have been around forever … I think it’s the idea that we need to make transgender people more visible,” he said. “PFLAG is generally kind of a quiet group, just meeting with families or whatever, but we just can’t be quiet anymore.”
For Mueller, he said he hoped to see government take a step back from regulating trans lives.
“What is the purpose of a legislature passing laws that deal with peoples’ sexuality?” he said. “That’s not your realm of responsibility … You want to get to the roots of, ‘Why do you care?’”
While less than 20 people attended the event, Mueller said he hoped the idea would spread.
“It opens the ideas and thoughts for people who are fence-sitters or whatever,” he said. “They may not want to be out in public, but they can stand up if they hear somebody doing some slurs or whatever, they may just decide, ‘I’m going to stand up and say something.’”