Democratically Yours: Let Freedom Ring

Freedom for the LGBTQ+ community is under attack in Florida. As a result, I have been encouraging my LGBTQ+ friends and allies to head into this Pride Month with less “Love is Love” and more stand-up and fight back posturing.
I am encouraging all of us to channel the origin story of LGBTQ+ Pride and protest the assault on freedom and liberty in our state and around the country.

Gov. Ron DeSantis claims that Florida is the freest state in the union, but given our current circumstances and the horrors that came out of this past legislative session, I do not feel all that free. We are less free today than we were just one month ago.

The fight for LGBTQ+ freedom, equality, liberty and equity has been tumultuous, marked by bravery, resiliency, determination and collective action— we have come too far as a community to turn back now. We must protect the progress we have achieved and the rights we have secured.

I am also calling on all of us to honor sacrifice of all the LGBTQ+ pioneers who have come before us, fighting for legal recognition in the courts and social recognition in the streets. Most importantly, we must reclaim our freedom in dignity for all people and continue our journey of radical authenticity and self-acceptance.

I wrote about the war on our culture in my last column earlier this year, encouraging all of us to start paying attention to what our political leaders are doing in the daylight. I shared that “DeSantis has launched a culture war to stage a run for president to distinguish himself as an alternative to former President Donald Trump, and Floridians are taking the brunt of his draconian actions.”

After these awful legislative sessions and the chorus of laws that were passed and are now being implemented, we need to shine huge spotlights on the harm occurring in our community. The slate of anti-LGBTQ+ laws that are on the books in Florida are causing direct and immediate harm to LGBTQ+ people with detrimental effect.

Access to gender-affirming care for transgender people has been grossly curtailed. Educational instruction for sexual orientation and gender identity has been stripped from schools.

Transgender people cannot, by law use the restrooms in public accommodations without fear of persecution. Healthcare providers can legally discriminate or deny healthcare services and care based on religious, moral or ethical beliefs.
Protections such as non-discrimination ordinances are under threat of legal challenge by the DeSantis Administration. I do not feel all that free in Florida.

I have been reading and thinking about some of the great LGBTQ+ pioneers like James Baldwin, Harvey Milk, Audre Lorde and Marsha P. Johnson in recent weeks and I believe that they can offer us some guiding principles as navigate our quest to regain freedom and liberty. Harvey Milk reminds us that “It takes no compromise to give people their rights… it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”

The overreach of Gov. DeSantis and the Republican legislature will have repercussions. The LGBTQ+ community needs to mobilize and organize in the next election. During this Pride month we must channel the words of Marsha P. Johnson, in that there is “no Pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.” Transgender people around the country are under assault. We all need to show up for them now.

The extremists in the Republican Party in the quest for culture war are using the tactic of divide and conquer, but we should recall the words of Audre Lorde, because “In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.” We have seen this playbook before. LGBTQ+ history is American history and we have a lot of valuable lessons to pull from in our storied history.

LGBTQ+ people in Florida are not free. We do not experience liberty as prescribed in our state constitution or the U.S. Constitution. But James Baldwin reminds me that “freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be.”

The GOP does not have a monopoly on freedom. I am calling upon the LGBTQ+ community to stand together and take the freedom and liberty we all deserve, because we are as free as we want to be.

Johnny Boykins is a Democratic strategist and organizer in Pinellas County, a husband, bow tie aficionado, amateur chef, and U.S. Coast Guard veteran. He also serves as a board member of the Pinellas Democratic Party. Learn more at

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