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Transgender teen shares concerns about recent Iowa legislation

House File 180 would require schools to notify families if a student identifies as trans.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa legislature has seen a record-setting volume of bills this session involving LGBTQ Iowans, many of them centered around schools specifically. But students and their family members say the impact isn't left in the classroom.

House File 180 would require schools to notify families if a student identifies as trans. That's hard for 16-year-old Elliot Sutton, a local trans high school student, to think about.

"If these laws pass, I might have to go back to my legal name. And then I have to go back to reminding every substitute, but this time they don't have to," Elliot said.

Elliot's been out to their parents for about two years. 

"It's just been an amazing blossoming of Elliot, in becoming who they truly are," said Andy Sutton, Elliot's mother.

But lately, amidst a nationwide legislative battle around trans issues, the Suttons have been growing more worried about their child.

"I already know that there have been other kids that have verbally harassed Elliot in the halls of the school. That angers me," said Spencer Sutton, Elliot's father.

And as the Suttons have been asking themselves that question, they've also started thinking about something no parent ever wants to.

"It's hard to find words to express the gravity and the weight that you feel at even the thought that you might have to send your child somewhere where they will be safe, because there's a place where you're rooted where they are not necessarily safe," Andy said.

The family hasn't yet made any concrete plans to leave Iowa, but it is on the table. 

And as statehouse debates continue, Elliot had a simple message they wanted to share with legislators.

"Trans kids are still children," they said. "And we still would also like to be protected and seen as people."

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