Clementine Springsteen had a loud and clear message for Iowa’s Republican governor while onstage with her and for the world at a recent awards ceremony. She said,” Trans rights are human rights,” after receiving Gov. Kim Reynolds’s congratulations for academic achievement as an Iowa Governor’s Scholar award recipient.
When her name was called to receive the award Sunday, the transgender woman walked across the stage in a pink, white, and light blue tie and pins with messages like “Trans Rights Are Human Rights” and “She Her” as she extended her hand to shake both the governor’s hand and the hand of Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg.
A video of the Davenport West High School senior’s message and the quiet protest of Newton High School seniors Miran Pettigrew and Leo Friedman made its rounds on Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok by Monday night.
In Iowa, activists are protesting the passage of legislation prohibiting gender-affirming care for transgender minors, along with other discriminatory measures that target LGBTQ+ individuals.
Moreover, lawmakers passed a bill allowing public schools to ban books and restrict instruction on LGBTQ-related issues.
A joint project with the Iowa High School Athletic Association, the Iowa Farm Bureau, and the governor’s office makes the Iowa Governor’s Scholar program possible. The program recognizes students from every high school in Iowa for their outstanding achievements.
This year, 422 students received the award, TheDes Moines Registerreports.
Reynolds and Gregg shook students’ hands, posed for photographs, and gave them certificates as part of the program.
After Clementine Springsteen made her remarks and walked off stage, Reynolds glared at the transgender high school senior.
Neither Pettigrew nor Friedman planned to attend the scholars program. It wasn’t until Friedman’s parents suggested they use the event as a protest venue that the friends decided to attend.
Raygun, a Des Moines-based company, created T-shirts to convey the students’ messages.
Friedman wore a shirt reading “I Read Banned Books,” and Pettigrew wore “Public Money for Public Schools.”
Springsteen discussed the purpose of her statement to the governor in an interview withThe New Republic.
“I’ve seen how specifically Miss Reynolds’s bills that she’s signed into law, that she’s put into place, have affected other people in my community,” she said. “[The number of anti-trans bills nationwide is] disheartening, and we have a transgender group at my school that meets every month. We’re scared for our futures. We’re scared of being able to live as our true selves. And I’m tired of this. I’m tired of my community being broke down again and again, when we’re just trying to live and be happy.”
In response to the student-led protest, Reynolds, who did not appear pleased during the ceremony, acknowledged their right to express themselves in a statement to the media on Monday.
“Education is about preparing our students for their future careers and to be successful in the world around us, and part of that foundation is civic engagement,” she said. “While we may disagree about what is best for our schools, no student should be afraid to express his or her opinion, even when it comes to their governor.”