UPDATE 3/4/15 4:30 PM ET: A House subcommittee has okayed HB 853, “the bathroom bill,” submitted by Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami). The vote was 9-4, along party lines, with all Republicans voting yes and all Democrats voting no. This bill still has two other subcommittees to pass before it can be presented to the House for a full vote.
UPDATE 3/4/15 12:20 PM ET: In the time since we interviewed Gina Duncan, the House bill sponsored by Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami), HB 583 (“the bathroom bill”), was scheduled to be heard by a subcommittee. That hearing occurred at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4.
Equality Florida and TransAction remain vigilant and vow to stop any bill that demeans or dehumanizes LGBT people in its tracks. You can make sure your voice is heard by e-mailing your state representative and asking them to vote “no” on this bill should it come to a full House vote. To follow Equality Florida’s updates in real time, visit eqfl.org and facebook.com/equalityfl.
TransAction is Equality Florida’s newest initiative, created last summer to ensure that Florida’s transgender community can live in a society free from fear and full of normalcy and acceptance. Gina Duncan, a well-known activist in the Central Florida LGBT community and acclaimed diversity and inclusion trainer, was named Equality Florida’s Director of Transgender Inclusion and she also oversees the TransAction initiative. She recently returned from Tallahassee, where she visited with lawmakers, and is working to ensure that any transphobic bills will not be passed by the Florida Legislature this session.
For the first time, TransAction is hosting a Transgender Allies Summit, bringing together corporate partners and non-profit organizations from all across Central Florida, to discuss issues that are of utmost importance to the transgender community and how they can work together to provide a bright future for people regardless of their gender identity. This historic summit will be held at Orlando City Hall on Tuesday, March 10 starting at 12:30 p.m.
I spoke with Gina Duncan about the summit and the state of transgender rights in Florida in this exclusive Hotspots interview.
How many transgender-specific protections are there for people living in Florida, and how far do we still have to go?
Adding transgender protections has been a big mission of mine throughout my involvement with Equality Florida, and I can say that with the addition of Miami-Dade County and their inclusive human rights ordinance a few months ago, now over 50% of people who live in the Sunshine State are covered by totally inclusive protections in the areas of housing and public accommodations.
The next step for us is that we’re working on Jacksonville. Jacksonville is the last major municipality in the state that lacks a fully inclusive human rights ordinance that protects all LGBT people. While we’re still working together to connect the dots and put together a patchwork of LGBT-inclusive ordinances on county and city levels, the greater need is for a statewide bill that protects all LGBT citizens in the state of Florida. We have many people on the ground in Tallahassee who are working to get the Competitive Workforce Act passed. We’ve now partnered with 23 major employers who have passed fully inclusive policies and they are also urging lawmakers to pass the Competitive Workforce Act.
Surprisingly, a few weeks ago, Rep. Frank Artiles from Miami introduced a bill that many national news outlets and organizations have deemed one of the most discriminatory measures ever introduced in our country. It defines people by their biological birth sex, which dehumanizes and basically dismisses the entire transgender community. Then it would make it illegal and a misdemeanor for a transgender person to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity, instead forcing them to use the restroom of their sex at birth. If a complaint was to be filed against someone using “the wrong bathroom,” they could be charged with a misdemeanor and sentenced to up to a year in jail. We remain vigilant that we must protect the advances we’ve achieved so far, but luckily what I found in Tallahassee is both Democrats and Republicans were repulsed by what’s been termed “the bathroom bill,” and we’re fairly confident it won’t get out of committee. It definitely doesn’t have bipartisan support in any way.
Please tell us about the TransAction Transgender Allies Summit.
What I’m really excited about with the Transgender Allies Summit is that there are so many different organizations that are doing such great work across the state. We’re finding that we’re working in silos, so I’m glad that these organizations have a chance to come together and tell everyone what they’re doing to support transgender equality at all levels.
One of the discussions for the summit caught my eye. “Identifying Gaps in Supporting the Transgender Community.” How can allies do a better job of filling in those gaps?
With that panel discussion, of course we want to talk about what gaps there are in allies’ support of the community, because we all know they’re there. For example, there are differences in transgender protections between school districts in Central Florida. There are certain protocols that are outlined in Title IX that aren’t being followed by the school boards, so we have to work on that.
There’s also a big gap in terms of how supported transgender youth are, especially homeless youth. The Zebra Coalition and the Orlando Youth Alliance and PFLAG are doing so much, but I believe we need to build a town around the transgender community. How can we fill in these gaps so if someone’s in need of housing, we know where to refer them? If there’s violence at home because a child is transgender, where can they go to get support? With this summit, I’m hopeful we can bridge a lot of these gaps and support the people who need us.
If you are interested in attending the Transgender Allies Summit, please RSVP with Gina Duncan by e-mailing her at email@example.com. Space is limited so RSVP early. For more information on TransAction and Equality Florida, visit eqfl.org.