Keeping It Real: Visibility, hope and action

The 2022 legislative session in Florida was ____. Go ahead, insert a word. I dare you.

Try to pick just one. I suppose the word might depend on what issues caught your attention or on what side of the issue you may fall.

As the legislative session started earlier this year and last-minute bills were filed up to the deadline on Jan. 11, our local, state, and national advocacy organizations were at the ready. They quickly reviewed the long list of filed bills and set their legislative agendas – and as the proponents showed their hands through their talking points and tweets, the reality of this legislative session became quickly evident.

Whether you only caught the headlines as you scrolled past social media posts, caught some highlights on the evening news, received emails from some of the many organizations leading the legislative fights, or even jumped on a legislative debrief call for the deeper analysis and sordid details – you couldn’t miss Florida politics under the spotlight this year. It was international news.

Our phenomenal advocacy organizations, leaders and everyday citizens joined forces, rallied resources and pulled off an amazing feat to focus all eyes on the fight happening in Florida. After all, it was a fight that would soon be seen many other states.

As the public rallying crescendo peaked, I realized I witnessed one of the most responsive calls to action I have ever experienced. Session came on fast and furious, and so our collective response would need to be the same.

I suppose you could reflect on the 2022 Florida legislative session with a few choice words, some strong opinions or some political armchair quarterbacking about the battles we lost. Some may even be experiencing a gnawing knot in their gut. Perhaps a deep abiding fear of what may happen next in our state? I’m certain I’ve moved through all these phases and predict I may experience some more.

But I also reflect on something more from this legislative session – all the good news! Yes, there was good news. While some days the rhetoric and political theater used to fill campaign coffers and push an unwanted agenda of censorship and surveillance seemed to be the only news out of Tallahassee, I found on other days – on many other days – something else leading the news headlines.

I’m talking about the people. While social media was all a-twitter, the response from the people on the ground in Florida was beautiful. Hundreds and thousands gathered in protest and in community in cities and towns across Florida.

The State Capitol was a revolving door of citizen engagement as coalitions of organizations, parents, youth and pastors drove to Tallahassee week after week and let their voices be heard. The cheers, rallying and dancing that greeted our equality champions at the Florida House and Senate were amazing. Students across Florida led their own movements with protests and walkouts. Local community organizers, veterans, and more held protests large and small.

As session ended March 11, I realized I was in for a couple of awkward weeks. I found my experiences had left me energized and in a bit of a political shell shock. As I realized that Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31 was fast approaching, the shock subsided, and the energy left me curious. What was it?

I realized I walked away from this legislative session with something else. Something undefinable. Something positive. Something good. I could take the easy way out and call it hope, but it’s more than that.

I was in awe of the students. I was inspired by those who organized locally, held events and even traveled hundreds of miles to the State Capitol. I admired their attempts to engage with bill sponsors or their staff on the very bills that meant to silence them. Their enthusiasm and smiles about being in the revered and hallowed ground that is the People’s house of Florida – our house – was uplifting.

The students’ beautiful, brightly colored hair and chill fashion sense filled the usually dark-suited hallways and was a stark contrast to the ugly reality of why they were there. For many of the students it was their first time in Tallahassee – and while their youthful grins and many selfies marked a memory of a cool field trip, they came with a purpose. These students were visible. These students were unflappable. These students were fierce.

This year, I reflect on how significant, powerful and dangerous visibility is and can be. The danger I reference isn’t the concerns of safety we must continue to respect. The danger is in the undeniable truth that our fight for equality continues and there are clearly many more young warriors stepping into the battle.

Yes, this legislative session brought me hope through the visibility of the people, especially the students. And while hope isn’t much without action, I believe hope can and did galvanize us into action. Let’s carry that action forward now. Together.

Nathan Bruemmer is an LGBTQ+ advocate and social justice warrior uplifting our youth and transgender community.

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