Last Saturday, Democrats held conventions in all four of Iowa’s congressional districts and chose their national delegates and electors. (Delegates choose the party's nominee, electors represent Iowa's votes in the electoral college.) One of those electors is Jack Schuler, a English teacher at Lincoln High School in Des Moines who may be making history. While the Democratic party has had transgender delegates previously, it’s possible that Jack, who was born as Elyse Schuler, is the first transgender elector in Iowa, and in the nation.
"I really didn't realize in the moment how much attention I would be getting. I'm still kind of overwhelmed," Schuler says. "As surreal as some of it feels, I think it's a great opportunity for me to represent, and also a huge responsibility. I feel like now I can be someone who can be a representative for the transgender community."
With laws like those in North Carolina, which the Justice Department has declared violates civil rights, Schuler argues that now is the time for representation and visibility. He has a very simple response to those who support anti-trans measures.
"To those people, I would ask them to take the time to meet me, or meet another transperson, get to know us, see who we are, and see that we're human beings, just like you. There's really nothing deep down in our core that separates us from each other."
And though there's vocal opposition to inclusive measures like Target's bathroom policy, Schuler is optimistic.
"I think that once the people who are on the opposite side of the issue from me start to get to know transgender people, they'll start to revise their opinions."
In this News Buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Schuler about his experiences. Also in the program, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz discusses energy policy, IPR reporter Sarah Boden shares the details of the Ron Paul staffer trial, the director of the University of Iowa's Counseling Services talks about a new initiative to put counselors in residence halls, and Jeff Charis Carlson of the Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press Citizen discusses an assault on campus that's being investigated as a hate crime.