‘I sure as hell won’t be erased’: South East Junior High students march for transgender rights on Election Day

  • 180

Eighth-graders Lucas (left) and Sam lead fellow South East Junior High School students in a rally on the UI Pentacrest to support transgender rights. Nov. 6, 2018. — Jason Smith/Little Village

As people crowded into polling places on the University of Iowa’s campus on Tuesday afternoon, a group of students from Iowa City’s South East Junior High School marched to the campus to show support for transgender rights.

Two eighth-graders, Sam and Lucas, mounted the steps of Schaeffer Hall to rally their fellow students, who had walked out of school to make their voices heard.

“I’m sure you all know what we’re all protesting for,” Sam told the approximately 60 students, as well as a few interested adults. “Even though we’re here mainly to support trans rights and to be against the repeal of them, we’re also here because we’re a bunch of teenagers who don’t have the right to vote yet, but cannot let any more harm be done.”

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has taken steps that would undermine civil rights protection for transgender Americans, and is considering creating a new legal definition of gender “as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.” Such a definition would have the effect of erasing transgender people from all federal regulations.

“You want to know what?” Lucas asked the crowd. “I may be a beautiful painting, but I sure as hell will not be erased.”

There was a “Support Trans Rights — Don’t Erase” rally on the Pentacrest three weeks ago, but the South East students wanted to stage their protest on Election Day, because even though they are half a decade or more from voting age, they already understand the impact political decisions have on their lives.

“I’ve heard a lot that we kids, that we’re not allowed to talk about politics,” Sam said. “It directly affects us. Even if you’re not gay or trans, or a person of color, you’re still going to be affected by [politics]. But everybody tells us to stay out of politics.”

“If you have a sibling who is 18, go tell them to vote,” Lucas added. “Because we need their votes.”

About a dozen students went up on the steps to share their stories of coming out, finding acceptance, experiencing rejections. A few even mentioned thoughts of suicide they’d had.

Lucas, who has an outgoing personality and a mildly crass style of speaking, went first.

“I came out to my friends in the fourth grade. I came out to my family last year — it took me that long — and the second I did, I was ridiculed by my brothers,” Lucas said. “They said they wouldn’t call me ‘he,’ until I got a penis. You know what I said? ‘I’ll get a bigger one than you.’”

The march and rally was originally planned by City High School students, Sam told Little Village as the rally was winding down after almost an hour.

Curious what's happening this weekend? Sign up here to stay in the know.

South East Junior High School student holds up a sign for transgender rights at a rally on steps of UI’s Schaeffer Hall. Nov. 6, 2018 — Jason Smith/Little Village

“I first learned about it on Instagram about two weeks ago,” Sam said. “But something happened. I think the person doing the planning got the flu, and the whole plan fell apart. But we didn’t want to just let this end. So, me and my friend Lucas took it into our hands.”

Sam and Lucas are both members of GLOW, a club for LGBTQ students and their allies at South East. “The name stands for ‘gay, lesbian or whatever,’” Sam explained.

The two friends quickly organized the two-and-a-half mile march and rally on Tuesday morning.

“We went to the principal’s office and told them that we were still going to do this,” Sam said. “And we did.”

“We’re missing the last three periods of the day, and I know not all the teachers were supporting this,” Sam continued, “but we need to get our message out.”

  • 180


  1. Hello, I’m Lucas and I’m one of the boys who spoke out and I would like to say something more. Yes I made the mistake of saying my family was harsh but that was only in the first few moments only because of shock because the person they had known for years had just come out of the blue and dropped a huge thing on them. They in all reality are some of the best allies that I have ever met, everyone in my family is from my grandfather who is 96 to my brother who is bearly even two years older than me. They have stood up for me so much and it pains me to see that I have pained them in this light. I myself am not crass as well, they things that pushed us to this point are the things we should be calling crass not a crowd of oppressed children speaking to have their voices heard. Please edit this article there is so much that you have left out that shows how amazing our allies are and we need them to know that they are, especially my family whom I owe so much to. Please and thank you.

  2. You are a strong and brave person Lucas and I think you are amazing. Thanks for stepping up and sharing the truth. You are not crass, you’re just being honest. I appreciate how much you love your family and you are very wise to know there is a learning curve that goes along with coming out…no matter which initial you are on the LGBTQ label.
    My daughter became my son a few years ago and I am so proud of him. He is not speaking to me now because of things that happened in her teenage years when her mother and I were separating.
    Anyway the best to you; always hold you head high and know that you are NEVER alone!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


A collaboration between The Englert Theatre and FilmScene


Help us build the greatest small city for the arts in America—right here in Iowa City. Learn more »

Donate Today

Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.


Enjoy a tasting and drinks from the best chefs the area has to offer!

Presented by

Join us Saturday, February 15, 6 p.m.
@ Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center

For 18 years...

Little Village has been telling the truth and changing our little corner of the world.

If you can, help us head into the next 18 years even stronger with a one-time or monthly contribution of $18, or any amount you choose.



America’s intimate festival experience featuring cutting-edge music, the Midwest’s premier indie book fair, and readings and community happenings across downtown Iowa City.