LGBTQ+ Iowans feel threatened by Republican candidates' stances

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As Iowans got ready to vote in the Republican presidential caucus LGBTQ+ residents expressed concern about the homophobic and transphobic views of the candidates.

“I fought for their rights and now they want to take away mine,” trans military veteran Eligh Cade recently told The Washington Post. The Post interviewed Cade and others at Iowa’s oldest LGBTQ+ bar, the Blazing Saddle in Des Moines. Cade is a security guard at the bar.

The Republican presidential aspirants have proudly touted their opposition to gender-affirming health care, especially for youth; to trans women’s participation in women’s sports; and sometimes to trans identity itself. “Transgenderism, especially in kids, is a mental health disorder,” businessman Vivek Ramaswamy said in the second GOP presidential debate, held in September.

Several have called for a national ban on gender-affirming care, at least for young people, including the front-runner, Donald Trump (who was declared winner of the caucuses barely after they started Monday night). Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is rising in the polls, has made the outrageous claim that trans girls’ inclusion in girls’ school sports causes suicidal ideation in cisgender teen girls. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed many anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law, such as the infamous “don’t say gay” bill, banning instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in his state’s public schools. In debates and ads, the candidates have appeared to compete for who can be most anti-trans.

As distressing as their rhetoric is, it hasn’t won over any LGBTQ+ Iowans. “They know they won’t get our vote,” Isaac Lovan, who directs and performs in drag shows at the Saddle, told the Post.

Past Democratic candidates have courted the LGBTQ+ vote in Iowa. In 2019, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, campaigning for the Dem nomination, did her makeup with Lovan and posted on Twitter about it, then served drinks at the bar.

Jill Biden, now first lady, gave a speech at the bar on her husband’s behalf in 2020. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, also seeking the nomination that year, appeared there during Pride.

No Republican candidate has ever visited the Saddle.

Pictured, from left: Nikki Haley, Donald Trump, and Ron DeSantis