Courtney Reyes

An Unprecedented Year for LGBTQ Iowans

Courtney Reyes (she/her) is the executive director of One Iowa. 

As an unprecedented year for LGBTQ Iowans ends, here are three things I can’t stop thinking about.

The sheer power of the LGBTQ community and their allies in Iowa.
This year is one we won’t forget for a long time. The number of anti-LGBTQ bills ticked up to record highs, but so did the people reaching out. Y’all wanted to testify at the Capitol, talk to your legislators, and rally in big ways to hold space for each other. You hosted fundraisers to keep powering our work. You attended our events and trainings to learn how to make Iowa a better place for LGBTQ folks. You also showed up to celebrate with us. This year’s gala was one of my favorites – I love sharing space with all of you. It reminds me that we are not alone in this battle for our rights.

The silence of corporations in Iowa in 2023 during the Iowa Legislative session.
This one keeps me up at night. Literally. What am I doing wrong? How can we engage them? How do I get them to give a damn about our state? I can give every statistic, make the economic case, and make the human case, but it is not enough when we live in a state full of fear of retaliation. It feels like a risky business decision, but what if your employees and their families felt seen? What if you had higher employee retention rates because you showed up when times were hard? What if our existence was political? In 2024, we will continue to build relationships with corporations to change internal systems to improve the lives of LGBTQ Iowans, AND we will push for them to take a stand for our basic human rights.

How proud I am of the One Iowa team.
If you have heard me speak this year, you have heard me talk about One Iowa’s co-founder, Sharon Malheiro. She died earlier this year, and I have felt like I have needed her wisdom more than ever. She always knew who to call or rough up to get what we needed done. But more than anything, she was incredibly proud of our work at One Iowa. I have carried her memory with me this year, and I keep returning to how proud I am to be a part of this One Iowa team. I believe we are the right people for this moment. Leading with our hearts, showing up as humans doing this work, and messing up along the way. Every person on the One Iowa team is committed to pushing to make positive changes for LGBTQ Iowans and our communities. We do it with humor, and we fight through the sadness that this year has left for us.

I can’t wait to show up with this team in 2024. We will see you out there.