Early last month I scrolled through my Twitter feed, a bad idea on the best of days and even worse since it became X, when I came across a graphic by the Florida Democrats of the “Bad Bills” that went into effect on July 1.
Foolishly assuming that my interests as a trans person aligned with the Florida Dems, and thus the tweet would likely be trans-safe unlike so many others on that hellish platform, I scanned the list. Imagine my dismay after I looked at both pages of the graphic to find that the anti-trans bathroom bill was not listed. Not to diminish the bills that were included because the six-week abortion ban and the anti-immigrant bills are indeed true disasters for the economy of the state and well-being of Floridians, but this wasn’t an either/or situation. Surely, space could have been made for a particularly heinous and blatantly discriminatory anti-trans bill. Unfortunately it appeared as if, for the sake of a pithy Letterman-style Top 10 list, somebody had made the decision to leave it off.
I could have let it go like I have with so many of the attacks from the right-wing haters who live in the comments of my YouTube channel, but this was a supposed ally, so instead I decided to try to hold the only hope trans people have in our state legislature accountable. If they weren’t willing to be visible allies, we wouldn’t stand a chance of one day living in a Florida that was safe and inclusive. So I took some screenshots and reposted them on my social media, tagged the Florida Dems account and its chairwoman Nikki Fried, and basically asked “what gives?”
To my great disappointment, despite posting on multiple days across several platforms, there was no response. It’s probably reasonable to assume that they had written me off as some sort of crackpot, but I wasn’t willing to drop it without doing everything I could. My next step was to reach out to my bestie, journalist extraordinaire and trans woman Dawn Ennis, explain the situation and see if she could get a reply through official channels where I couldn’t. Despite multiple attempts at contacting the FL Dems via their press contacts and on her social media, she was also stonewalled for days until finally receiving a less-than-encouraging reply a week later from a spokesperson that essentially amounted to “We didn’t have enough space to include it as well as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in the top ten list and besides, there is pending litigation against the bathroom bill.”
What was most shocking was the blithe nature of the reply. For the sake of not angering the gods of symmetry and late-night hosts, they decided to sacrifice highlighting what amounted to trans Jim Crow. Even worse, the response wasn’t accurate as there is in fact no pending litigation against the bathroom bill. They didn’t even bother to double-check to make sure they weren’t passing on misinformation before making a statement to the press. I would have expected that of Republicans in their misguided twisting of facts for the sake of the “culture war,” but not Democrats who should be doing everything they can to correct the record.
When it was pointed out to the FL Dems that they were in fact wrong, they retracted their statement in favor of an utterly bland “We will continue to be a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ communities and the repeal of Florida’s anti-trans bathroom bill…,” blah, blah, blah. They somehow missed the irony in the fact that NOT being a vocal advocate for the trans community was why Dawn and I had asked them about their omission in the first place.
The utter laziness and complacency of it all is frustrating beyond belief. What we need right now from everyone, and especially from those with the most direct ability to effect change at the legislative level, is to push back and push back hard. Not posing for pics with Joe Biden and the same old politics as usual. Trans people right now feel like we are potentially risking our safety and maybe our lives when we use bathrooms away from our homes. ANY bathroom, not just the publicly owned ones made off-limits to us by the law. As often visible members of the queer community, we experience violence at much higher levels than any other group and I doubt explaining the nuances of the law and how it doesn’t apply to private businesses would do us much good with someone angry at our presence. A recent case of a trans woman who was told she could no longer use the ladies room at a local RaceTrac only highlights the confusion purposefully created by the law. The Florida government declared war on trans people on July 1 and more people need to be alarmed by that instead of distracted by political posturing.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have expected more. This is a party that lost sight of the importance of local politics until they were overwhelmed at state legislatures across the country. A party that allowed incremental changes to abortion laws and is now helpless to do anything in the face of the increasingly homophobic and transphobic laws we are seeing today. A party that once told a trans friend of mine volunteering for them that trans concerns were “not a winning issue.”
Hopefully they are able to see the light and turn it around before somebody gets the idea that it would be easier not to have us around at all.
Melody Maia Monet has her own trans lesbian-themed YouTube channel at YouTube.com/MelodyMaia.