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  • Kendall Wright

Fifth Grader Who Loves Using Word "Gay" as Insult Contributes to Death of Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislature


Iowa Senate Chamber

Tanner Dankworth, who was once a normal fifth grader at Horace Mann Middle School, is now credited for turning back the clock on anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Iowa. On February 24th, Dankworth heard about the highly controversial bill, House File 348, the successor to House File 8 and one of Iowa's "Don’t Say Gay" bills, from the news. Should it be enacted, House File 348 would restrict talk about sexual orientation and gender in K-6 schools. This infuriated Dankworth, as he is a frequent user of the word, as are his friends.

"I love calling my friends gay. I love calling my teachers gay behind their backs. I love calling my homework gay. Without the word gay, I would be so sad, like so sad actually. I knew I had to keep calling things gay no matter what. I love gay," said Dankworth.

So Dankworth made the trip to Des Moines with his closest friends at Horace Mann: Sal Gatto and Emmett Toole. They made sure to dress as professional as they could; they each wore Nike basketball shorts and tuxedo t-shirts. Toole's mom drove them to the front of the Capitol Building, where she told them to "Have a good time!" and drove off. The boys were let in by security with no problem.

Once Dankworth, Gatto, and Toole found Iowa's chamber for the House of Representatives, it was about time for them to make their argument against House File 348. The boys approached the front where Speaker of the House, Chuck Grassley, and the majority and minority leaders were sitting. Now was the time.

"Your honors… We are here to talk about the “Do Not Say Gay” bill. We love saying the word gay, and we think that it would be bad for us and the rest of middle schoolers across Iowa if they couldn't say gay," said Toole.

Dankworth picked up where he left off. "Yeah, I mean what else are you going to call your friends? Poop? Turds? Straight? It just doesn't have the same ring to it."


Gatto nodded in agreement.

Grassley and the other House leaders looked at the boys in confused admiration. Before they could say anything in response, Gatto, Toole, and Dankworth looked at each other and Dankworth nodded. The three of them started griddying in the chamber. Silence overtook the room for the first time in decades as each congressperson stared at the boys. One person started crying, then another, then the whole room. Everyone was so moved by the boys' insanely clean griddy.

"You know what, boys? You're right. We didn't think about how this legislation would impact people like you for whom gay is an integral part of their vocabulary while they're at school. Keep calling your friends gay, boys. Keep calling your teachers gay. And keep calling your school work gay. Hell, you can even call me gay," said Grassley. The chamber gasped.

"I am gay. I've been hiding it for so long, but these three boys have made me feel comfortable coming out. Gay should be a household word. I love gay," Grassley got up from his seat and met the boys where they were standing. The four of them formed a single file line, and griddied out of the chamber.

House File 348 died in the house. Additionally, in the time since Grassley's interaction with Dankworth, Toole, and Gotto he has proposed an abundance of pro-LGTBQ+ bills. Iowa is healing.

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