Florida sends mixed signals to transgender people. Tourism campaigns like Hello Sunny, inclusive of transgender and LGB people, showcase the best of Florida, encouraging folks to fly or cruise here, to unwind on our beaches, dine in our restaurants, shop in our megamalls, stay in our boutique hotels, or heck why not buy a condo?

Related: SFGN's Transgender Special Issue

We host events like the recent TransCon at Barry University, and the upcoming Southern Comfort Conference which was just announced for Sept. 14-16 at the Riverside Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. And our University of Miami Hospital has a transgender healthcare clinic, now expanded into a comprehensive LGBTQ Wellness Center, offering physical, mental, and sexual health services.

Related: University of Miami Hospital Opens LGBTQ Wellness Center

But when we talk about transgender visibility and LGBT equality, we’re looking at what’s behind our image as an LGBT cultural tourist destination. In Florida, civil rights and protections for LGB and especially transgender people are still largely overlooked on the state level, leaving employees, students, and residents vulnerable to discrimination in our schools, hospitals, places of work, or when looking for a secure and stable home.

Related: South Florida Trans News

Fortunately, we have allies for Trans equality in all levels of office, allies like Wilton Manors City Commissioners Justin Flippen and Julie Carson who fought to have gender confirmation benefit options added to the city’s employee healthcare plan. And allies like U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami), mother of transactivist Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen.

Related: Where Black Lives and Trans Lives Intersect

Yet we may be most fortunate to share our community with transgender activists and advocates like Arianna Lint of [email protected] and Arianna’s Center, Aryah Lester, founder and director of TransMiami, Tatiana Williams, Testing Expansion Coordinator at the Pride Center and many others, only some of which we get to feature each year in our Out50. 

The people working to change policy, to broaden inclusivity, and to create new opportunities for men and women of color, LGB, transgender and gender nonconforming people, are the people who make South Florida more than a place for LGBT folks to visit, but one where they can thrive.

-- Registration for the Southern Comfort Transgender Conference is set to open April 15. Follow @SouthernComfortConference on Facebook for updates.

-- For more information on Miami’s LGBT Wellness Center visit http://surgery.med.miami.edu/plastic-and-reconstructive/gender-affirmation

-- For listings of local resources and social events for people who are transgender or gender nonconforming, see page ## or visit www.TransSocial.org