In recent months, lawmakers in Texas and Alabama have passed legislation that stops hormone replacement therapy among trans youth and limits how their guardians can care for them. This month, in response to a wave of anti-trans legislation across the country, 21 lawmakers in 16 states announced plans to introduce what are known as “trans shelter laws” or “sanctuary” laws, which seek to protect children trans and their families by blocking subpoenas and enforcing court orders issued in states where gender-affirming care has been criminalized.
Of course, no state has received more notoriety for its anti-LGBTQ legislation than Florida, thanks to the passage of HB 1557: Parental Rights in Education (known to opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill). ), which prohibits instruction in sexuality and gender between kindergarten and third grade or “in a manner that is not appropriate for the age or development of students according to state standards.”
But that hasn’t stopped two LGBTQ Democrats in Florida, Sen. Shevrin Jones of Broward and Rep. Michele Rayner of St. Petersburg, from declaring their intention to introduce trans refugee laws, even if Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican majority in the The House and Senate make the gesture of introducing such legislation largely performative.
Jones is the first openly LGBTQ person to serve in the Florida Senate. Even after learning that most senators planned to vote for HB 1557, she delivered a tearful speech on the Senate floor as she described her LGBTQ experience and tried to introduce an amendment that would bar educators from trying to change a gender or sexuality. of the student (failed by 22 to 16 votes).
Jones, who did not return New Times‘ requests for an interview, appears determined.
“From our state legislatures to Congress, we oppose these laws that attempt to erase the history of the LGBTQ community,” he said in a statement earlier this month affirming his commitment to making Florida a safe place for people. trans. . “These so-called leaders must understand that when you come for one of us, you come for all of us, and we will not back down.”
That said, Scott Galvin, executive director of Safe Schools South Florida, a nonprofit organization that specializes in training and preparing teachers to properly interact with LGBTQ students, calls Florida “a lost cause,” and rightly so. .
On June 1, 2021, the first day of Pride Month, DeSantis signed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” a law that prohibits trans girls from participating in school sports, stating, “In Florida, girls They go to girls’ sports and the boys go to boys’ sports. In late March, he mistook her trans swimmer Lia Thomas, referring to her as a “guy.”
In the wake of “Don’t Say Gay,” Galvin has worked tirelessly to revamp his programming, but he still hopes local chapters of the Gay-Straight Alliance, the student-run after-school club that unites LGBTQ youth and their allies, be dissolved when HB 1557 takes effect in July.
“The trans refugee law is going to burn,” says Galvin. “Certainly it will be a welcome effort, but no one should hope that it will happen, not in Florida.”
Even if the GOP-led legislature passed a trans refugee law and DeSantis signed it, it’s unclear how welcoming the state would be to its trans residents, especially after HB 1557 goes into effect in July — by the end of April. , Florida The Department of Health issued new guidelines on the treatment of trans children that suggest that gender-affirming care should not be prescribed and that social transitions “should not be a treatment option.”
Although there are no legislative restrictions that can criminalize trans health care in Florida, there are also no protections for it, allowing providers to deny gender-affirming care. Of Florida’s 67 counties, only 12 have policies or ordinances that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, primarily in the workplace.
Sol Mateo Astacio, a trans educator who lives in Broward, is appreciative of Jones and Rayner’s efforts, but says that before introducing trans shelter laws, Florida needs to secure “united support.”
“I don’t think Florida is safe [for trans people],” Astacion tells New Times. “I know the law of refuge can make it seem like a safe place, but people who move and live here and experience it can face a different reality.”
Tatiana Williams is the co-founder of the Transinclusive Group, a Broward-based grassroots organization serving the local LGBTQ community. As a trans woman, she urges legislators to continue their efforts to make the state safer for trans people.
“Our leaders need to understand how we feel and the impact laws can have on our safety and ability to navigate the world as we do,” Williams writes in a statement emailed to New Times. “When lawmakers stop our young people from being themselves, they further marginalize them, pushing them into a corner that isolates them, affects their mental health and puts them at risk.”
After the harsh blows to the trans community, the deputy director of the Transinclusive Group, Nic Zantop, argues that Florida needs the support of legislators more than ever.
“It is more important than ever that our elected officials loudly proclaim that gender-affirming care is life-saving care,” says Zantop. New Times“and our trans youth, their families and their health care providers should never have to exist in a state of fear.”