Dolphin Democrats are celebrating 40 years of political activism on behalf of LGBT Floridians.

It has rarely been easy and doesn’t look to get any easier in the foreseeable future. But being a political force in the rough and tumble the state of Florida for this long is worth celebrating. When the climate in Tallahassee is “tolerant” on a good day and openly hostile most days, their persistence is worth noting.

Over the past two Legislative sessions, the Republican-dominated Legislature and virulently anti-LGBT Gov. Ron DeSantis have relentlessly targeted LGBT youth with a ban on trans kids in youth sports and the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

As part of their 40th celebration, the group honored the up-and-coming leaders of tomorrow, including PRISM founder Maxx Fenning.

“I received the Generation Now Award, an inaugural recognition of the power and impact of youth activism in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights,” Fenning told SFGN. “More specifically, I was recognized for my role in pushing back against anti-LGBT legislation such as the ‘Don't Say Gay’ [law].”

He spent much of the session up in Tallahassee testifying before committees and meeting with representatives and said it was draining.

“To be frank, it was extremely hard emotionally. As someone at the forefront of this fight, I have been called the most horrendous things on my personal social media.”

Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Steven Glassman spoke during the ceremony, and invoked the past to emphasize the danger of the present.

“Hate crimes and murder against LGBTQ+ Americans, Black Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, and Native Americans. And dare I add American women who will most certainly die because of the stripping away of reproductive rights.

“Our State Department of Education decrees that ‘critical race theory, social justice, culturally responsive teaching, social and emotional learning, and any other unsolicited theories that may lead to student indoctrination are prohibited.’ Identity and identity identification concepts, managing emotion, developing relationships and social awareness? No good. Really?! We don’t want young people to manage emotions and develop relationships?”

Scott Galvin, executive director of Safe Schools South Florida, knows as well as anyone how bad things are for students. Between being banned from sports, prevented from talking about their identity, and knowing nothing will be done to prevent school shootings, the past couple years have been hard for Floridian students.  

“We must steel ourselves that this will be a long battle. It will go on for years. The goal will need to be a long-term success, not something we might see within the next two-to-five years. We need to better communicate our messages. It seems trite, but catchy slogans like ‘Stop Woke’ are effective. And we need to stop being so genteel. We're slow and soft when responding to attacks.”

While the present is tough, Fenning said his generation is up to the challenge today and going forward.

“Gen Z is able — and willing — to organize like never before. This fight is far from over, and that means we'll show up at protests, on phone calls, online, and at the polls.”