Reflecting on Student Day at the Capitol

Photo Credit: Brittany Deal

On January 12, I was given the honor of being a speaker at Iowa Pride Network’s Annual Student Day at the Capital. This event ties together two things that I am very passionate about: politics and LGBTQ advocacy. As a student leader and queer person, I felt that it was important for me to do my part in advocating for the LGBTQ community, my community. I have studied the impacts that being engaged in politics can have, and so I knew from the start that this would not be a wasted effort. However, I know that politics can be complicated and intimidating to engage with, especially as a student.

This was my first time participating in this event in this capacity, as a speaker. Previously I had attended as a high school student. I had come with my high school’s GSA. I remember us all planning our trip and how excited and nervous we all were. Excited because this event was giving us a chance to use our voices to stand up for things that truly mattered to us, and nervous because we were all new to doing advocacy work. We arrived and were greeted by the amazing staff of One Iowa and Iowa Pride Network. They were there to answer our questions and also to teach us the process of how to speak with our representatives and senators. Our excitement increased while our nervousness decreased. We felt prepared and we were ready.

Photo Credit: Brittany Deal

I can still remember the great feeling I had when I was told that I was truly making a difference for our community. I felt even better after I actually had an opportunity to speak to my legislators. I still have that feeling now thanks to all of the experience that I have gained through this event. As a speaker, I took the opportunity to speak to my legislatures about important bills that were introduced that would affect the LGBTQ community. Two senate files were introduced by Senator Matt McCoy to try and ban conversion therapy against LGBTQ minors and to add gender orientation and gender expression under the protection of hate crime laws in Iowa. Two house bills were introduced last week with the same goals.

I also have a great feeling of satisfaction knowing that high school students continue to attend these events. I love knowing that there will be future generations who will continue to fight for our collective rights. I specifically want LGBTQ teenagers to know that they have a voice and that their voices matter. They need to be able to live their lives openly and to their fullest extent. They should not have to live in fear of being targeted by oppressive legislation that aims to make their lives as LGBTQ people even more difficult then it may already be. They deserve to live their lives surrounded by people who love and support them and to be represented by individuals who truly have their best interest in mind.

—Cecilia Martinez, Simpson PRIDE President