Democratic lawmakers look to create gender neutral ID markers, repeal trans sports ban
Image courtesy of Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation.

Arrington LGBTQ
Sen. Gary Farmer and Rep. Kristen Arrington say their bills protect one of the state's most marginalized groups.

Democratic lawmakers last week introduced legislation to support the transgender community in the wake of what they called a “hateful” 2020 Legislative Session.

A bill (HB 249) introduced by House District 43 Rep. Kristen Arrington would create a gender neutral marker for driver’s licenses and other Florida IDs. Sen. Gary Farmer’s bill (SB 212), called the “Let Kids Play Act,” would repeal this year’s ban on trans girls and women from school sports.

LGBTQ activists joined Farmer and Arrington and other Democratic legislators during a news conference in the State Capitol Thursday.

Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel last year introduced the Senate version of the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” creating the transgender athlete ban. Farmer said lawmakers thought they had it killed when Stargel herself took it off the calendar. But it was added to a separate education bill on the last day of Session, using murky political tools to bypass legislative process norms.

Farmer said now that time has passed, he hopes his fellow legislators will act on “conscious.” And he had a message for Florida’s trans youth.

“You have just as much right to run onto a field or court as any other girl in this state,” he said. “And we want you to know that we are here to fight for you. And that we will continue to fight this bully mentality that led to this legislation being passed. We will always be on your team.”

The ban led to nationwide backlash, with many major companies threatening to withhold new business and high-dollar sporting events from Florida so long as anti-trans legislation is in place.

Stargel admitted in a committee meeting last year that the science and ideas behind her own bill were flawed.

“It’s kind of mixed data with regard to testosterone specifically. We do know that testosterone makes a person stronger. But there is some over lapping,” Stargel said last year. “Females can sometimes can have higher testosterone than some males. There’s been an argument about looking at lean body mass as another measure. But I think it is clear across many of them. We don’t have a concrete yes or no this is the right path. But I think that’s why you’re seeing such an enhanced discussion across the country. There’s not a right or wrong answer on how to handle the situation.”

Delilah Pierre is a Black trans woman from Tallahassee and member of the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation and the Tallahassee Community Action Committee. She spoke during Thursday’s conference. Pierre said bills like Stargel’s completely miss the mark on what it’s like to grow up trans.

A 2019 study from the Journal of the American Academy of pediatrics found transgender adolescents experience much higher rates of suicidal ideation, attempt and instances of self harm than their cisgender counterparts. Trans youth can experience suicidal thoughts or ideas up to four-times as much as cisgender youth. The study said psychosocial stress, including victimization and discrimination, are major factors in trans youth suicide.

“No one is magically turning someone transgender. Trust me. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to be trans. I didn’t want to accept my identity,” she said. “But there was no other choice in it. The only other choice is a path toward depression, suicide, even possibly death. Our Legislature knows that. They want to isolate us. They don’t want truth. They don’t want justice.”

Arrington said that’s part of why she is supporting legislation to add gender neutral markers on Florida IDs. Several states now offer gender neutral options on ID cards. Passports and federal IDs will soon have that option as well. A Massachusetts bill creating the option passed that state’s Senate chamber with unanimous, bipartisan support.

“Florida needs to update and modernize our driver’s license and state ID application to bring us to the 21st century,” Arrington said. “With so many other states allowing for gender neutral markers and with over 1,000 people moving to Florida every day, non-binary people are unable to get accurate IDs in our state. These folks are not going to want to move to Florida.”

She added her bill would have no fiscal impact on the state.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected].


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