Residents of Jefferson spoke out during a Tuesday night city council meeting after the town’s recent proclamation that individuals can use facilities based on their gender identity rather than their biological sex.
One woman, Cindy Wise, said she was speaking out for her granddaughter and many other children of Greene County.
“In the midst of endless adult debate, the needs of children as our top priority begins to decrease and is eventually replaced by the rights of adults,” she said. “Our responsibility as parents, grandparents and adult citizens is to keep things simple, safe and sensitive for the children in our community. Our children need things to be clear and predictable without contradiction and confusion as much as possible in this world full of turmoil.”
If citizens disagree with the city’s “permissive” policy allowing an “adult man to enter the locker room at the swimming pool where young girls use the bathroom, shower and dress, then we need to do something about it,” she added.
“If we fear our city’s children and grandchildren are in danger of being affected and traumatized by the lack of protective boundaries, then we need to stand up against it,” she said. “We need to make our presence and position known for the sake of our children. We can’t just let it go.”
A town is supposed to be driven by its people.
“There are more residents in Jefferson who do not want this permissiveness to compromise our swimming pool locker rooms and the locker rooms and bathrooms at the Green County Community Center than those who do approve,” Wise said. “We need to stand up for our kids and not be afraid of the consequences — believing that the outcome will ultimately favor our children. I say stand up, and grandmas to the front.”
Wise spoke about the reputation the Jefferson pool has and her own experiences from when she was on the swim team. She said she spent nearly every day at the pool when she was younger.
“We’ve never had, I don’t know of one time in history where there was an assault in the bathroom or anything that would compromise a child’s interpretation of life or make them dread to go in a locker room,” Wise said. “I mean, nothing like that has ever gone on in the locker rooms at our pool. It’s a legacy. It’s a legacy that Jefferson has that not every town has.”
Wise said her concerns are not about one person, but are about letting boundaries come down in the town.
“It’s about opening the door, especially in this hour that we live in with social media where a perpetrator from clear across the country if he so wanted to make the trip would say, ‘Oh, here is an open community. They are open in Jefferson, Iowa. That’s where I’m going next.’ That’s the point that I’m making today.”
Wise called on the council to form a committee and continue having conversations. She is hopeful, she added, the city could come up with a solution that would not jeopardize the feelings or the innocence of the town’s children.
As she closed, she asked the council what they would say to their own child or grandchild to prepare them for encountering someone of the opposite sex in their locker room while dressing.
David Morain, the city’s attorney, said he didn’t know if the meeting was the best place for a back and forth with the council members. He suggested that being something that is addressed personally instead.
Rich Osborne, one of the organizers of the Aug. 13 gender inclusive pool party, defended the council’s policy. He said the event is not about trying to get adult males into locker rooms, but rather trans people who have gone through years of hormone therapy and surgeries to become the other gender.
“They are no longer what they were born as,” he said. “And I’m sick and tired of people assuming the absolute worst in everybody else.”
He said there is nothing more ignorant than thinking it’d be a guy dressed as a woman.
“These are people who, you know, feel who they are and made large adjustments to their life trying to get comfortable being in public,” he said. “And finding that safe spot.”
Wise reminded Osborne she said she was concerned about the openness of the policy that gives a door to others who have ulterior motives.
“I’m talking about perpetrators. I’m talking about molesters,” she said. “It opens the door. The transgender policy opens the door to perpetrators.”
Donna Sutton told the council they are not living in a big city with lots of options. She wanted the rec center board to come up with a policy to manage the situation of a biological male using the female facilities.
“We don’t want to deny people their rights of what they want to do, but we also don’t want to deny the rights of our young girls and our women,” she said. “You have to think about your whole population.”
Beth Rasmussen asked if it would be possible to have a female lifeguard go into the women’s restroom to clear it and then have the transgender individual utilize the facility.
Osborne, who is not a city council member, said he researched such a solution and the city could not have different rules for different people.
Someone said they know of 30-40 people who are going to take their kids off the swim team and other people from other counties who will not have their kids go to the Jefferson pool.
Councilman Matt Wetrich said the policy will be the same “everywhere.” Wetrich, who is seemingly a staunch liberal serving on the council based on his Facebook profile, said on Facebook after the meeting a “group of men” on the council did not make the city’s policy regarding “equal rights” in reference to transgender people.
“The city did, however, follow state and federal anti-discrimination laws as it should have,” he said. “Because, well, everyone matters and thankfully we are alive in a time when the law says they do.”