Like many gay men, I was unaware of the incredible injustice inflicted on transgender individuals and wasn't always an ally of the transgender community. In 2005, I first engaged in HIV/AIDS activism and befriended several transgender individuals who helped educate me on the complexity of their hardship and struggle, and the intersectionality of our struggles.
Over the last 10 years, I was proud to be part of advocacy efforts to advance non-discrimination protections for transgender people in the cities of Oakland Park, Pembroke Pines and Wilton Manors, in the Broward County’s Human Rights Act and at the Broward County School Board. These protections have helped transgender people thrive in our local community by giving them the legal remedy should they be a victim of discrimination. We have also been able to expand access to critical healthcare for transgender people for their unique medical needs.
During the 2015 session of the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee, we were successful to fight back against legislation that wrongly targeted our transgender brothers and sisters and attempted to criminalize them for using a public restroom consistent with their gender identity. It’s something that many of us take for granted.
Most recently, the 45th President of the United States reversed critical guidance that President Obama had issued to public schools on restrooms for transgender youth. Transgender youth already face extraordinarily high rates of suicidal ideation, bullying and violence. This week, the Supreme Court of the United States remanded Gavin Grimm’s case against the Glouster County School Board to be reconsidered by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
In Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach Counties, we’re lucky to have a public school district that continues to affirm our transgender youth and their right to safely access the restroom. But this isn’t the case nationwide.
This year, the Florida Legislature is considering legislation that would completely wipe out the advances we have made at the local level to enact LGBT non-discrimination protections.
Additionally, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran just appointed John Stemberger to the Constitutional Revision Commission that will place constitutional amendments on the Florida ballot. It’s feared that Stemberger will attempt to embed a statewide constitutional ban that would prevent transgender people from accessing a public restroom and advance a misguided sense of religious liberty that would override LGBT non-discrimination protections in employment, housing and public accommodation. As a refresher, Stemberger is the man who led the effort to pass Florida’s Marriage Protection Act which banned marriage equality.
It wasn’t long ago when a national gay rights group attempted to advance workplace protections that intentionally left the transgender community behind. In 2017, while we’ve made some collective advancement for the LGBT community, in many other places, we are still fighting to make sure our transgender brothers and sisters are included, similar to the struggle of our LGBT brothers and sisters of color.
I hope the Wilton Manors City Commission can understand why I feel it’s time to also raise the Transgender Flag which I presented them with at last week’s city commission meeting during public comment. While the Rainbow Flag is inclusive of the transgender community, we owe it to them to shine more light on their struggle.