For the past few years Watermark has been kind enough to honor my request to write one of my columns in March. A request I have made because the 31st of the month is Transgender Day of Visibility, and if I am anything, I am a very visible trans person who is not afraid to speak her mind.
It is a responsibility I take very seriously as one of the few trans people in Orlando lucky enough to have a modicum of a platform while also holding a position of leadership in a well-known local LGBTQIA nonprofit.
In the past, I have used this column during this month as a call to action to wake up and turn back the rising tide of anti-trans sentiment taking root in the extremist right wing of the country before it is too late. However, for once I won’t do that. Not because the threat has passed, but because it is already too late to stop it. There is no turning back from what is to come for trans people in many states and especially here in Florida.
Earlier this month I traveled to Tallahassee to take part in Equality Florida’s Lobby Days. It was not my first time as I had years ago participated in an effort to speak to legislators about an anti-trans bathroom bill. Back then, myself, and the many trans people who showed up, were able to speak to Republicans directly about the injustices and unintended consequences if such a bill if it were to become law. Ultimately, common sense prevailed and the bill was defeated, but that was before Trump spawned a new age of cruel authoritarianism in the Republican party. Suffice it to say, the political landscape in Tallahassee had changed significantly since my last time there, so I was afraid of what I might find. Turns out, I was right to be afraid.
Things began promisingly enough. Many people showed up with a very significant showing from the trans and nonbinary community. So many that we had to meet in an IMAX theater for our initial briefing. We were given instructions on how to speak to legislators, packets of information were handed out, we were divided into groups and then walked over to the Florida capitol building, chanting our protest slogans all the way. We then gathered on the steps across from the entrance to the capitol for a class picture of sorts, over 200 strong and holding our protest signs. It was an inspiring experience that filled me full of pride and even a little hope that we might be able to make a difference. That hope died an excruciating death by the end of the first day in the committee hearing for Senate Bill 254.
For those of you that don’t know, SB 254 — once it becomes law — would allow the courts to modify custody agreements and take trans children away from parents if they are receiving trans affirming care, ban trans care for minors and also restrict trans care for adults. To our credit, Lobby Days participants filled the room and we rose to speak at the podium one heartbreaking story after another as to why SB 254 would be unjust. I sat there in the room listening and watching the Republican senators look at their phones in cowardice instead of reacting to the speakers.
It is so easy from afar to regard the Republican opposition as evil caricatures, but what is more disconcerting is to realize they are just ordinary people like our neighbors. The senators were no different. A reminder that history teaches us that unspeakable horrors are not carried out by obvious monsters, but by average citizens “just following orders” due to fear and threats from the powerful. Not surprisingly, the bill passed along party lines. The next day was more of the same when House Bill 1223, an expansion of the Don’t Say LGBTQIA law, was heard in committee.
At this point it looks like every terrible Republican power grab bill will become the law in Florida. By July, as an adult trans woman I will lose most access to my medical affirming care just as trans kids have already lost all of theirs. I will be legally barred from using telehealth to access medical resources and outlawed from using the ladies room, dressing rooms and locker facilities. Should I be arrested, and I think that is likely in the coming years, it will be a legal requirement that I be housed with male prisoners. However, as Martin Luther King once said, “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” I, for one, intend to do just that.
It is clear the fight is not going to be easy from this point forward. Ron DeSantis himself, in his unhinged pursuit of presidential power, has said that Florida is the place where “woke goes to die,” and certainly the time of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is long gone, but we have the examples of past movements to guide our way. The civil disobedience of the civil rights movement and the Mattachine Society along with the less than civil Stonewall riots come to mind. Whatever your motivation, whether to save the lives of women, the freedoms of immigrants or free speech or to make sure your favorite drag queen can perform, there is a place for you in the fight. We will need accomplices and not just allies. We will need you.
Melody Maia Monet has her own trans lesbian themed YouTube channel at YouTube.com/MelodyMaia and is the vice president of the board for Come Out With Pride Orlando. To find more information on Pride, visit ComeOutWithPride.org.