LBGTQ advocates slam ‘Individual Freedom’ bill that removes ‘gender’ from Florida schools
A Black trans person was killed in a police encounter in Florida, the ‘epicenter of anti-transgender violence.’ Image via AP.

Following bills keeping trans girls and women from school sports, advocates call it an all-out attack.

Emily Gray doesn’t need to wait for a bill like HB 7 to pass because she already knows the kind of damage it can do.

“Going to do stuff like sex ed and the physical classes they put in there, it unnecessarily separates trans kids and makes them uncomfortable,” Gray said during a Monday Zoom call. “If you’re a trans girl and then go to a class of cisgender boys and sit there, the amount of ridicule and the amount of just sheer embarrassment that would be put on a child is unimaginable.”

“I know, because I was that child myself before,” Gray said

Gray, a transgender woman from Bay County, who also has a 14-year-old trans child in Florida schools, said with HB 7, situations like that can be more common.

“We’re calling it the Destruction of Florida Education Act,” Lakey Love of the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation. “The bill is entitled ‘Individual Freedoms’ under the false notion that somehow discriminating and oppressing people and not allowing students to learn about systemic racism and transphobia would elevate individual freedoms. Of course, only for those that are privileged, white, cisgender and straight people.”

HB 7, sponsored by Miami-Dade Republican Rep. Bryan Avila, is one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ priority bills. It comes on the heels of last Session’s bills keeping trans girls and women from participating in sports. The bill removes the word “gender” from statutory language and replaces it with the word “sex” in most cases. And it would allow for classes to be separated by sex, not gender, for certain sports and lesson tracts like sexual education.

It also heavily broadens what constitutes discrimination to include things like making someone feel uncomfortable for a discriminatory act committed by a forebearer, no matter how recent or distant. And it replaces the word “ethnicity” with “color.”

That sets up a number of problems, according to the speakers on the call.

One, it’s not scientifically sound. According to a study from the Yale School of Medicine, sex should be used to classify biological characteristics like hormones, chromosomes, and reproductive organs. Whereas gender represents a person’s self representation based on a combination of identity and socially constructed norms. 

It’s an even more important distinction, writes Yale Doctor Carolyn Mazure, when you take into account that “while most people are born biologically female or male, rare biological syndromes can result in genital ambiguity. Or a resistance to a sex hormone can result in traits typical of the opposite biological sex.”

LGBTQ advocates said bills like HB 7 rob children of what is often the only safe place they have. Estimates from a 2020 Trevor Project study show about 40% of LGBTQ youth had seriously considered suicide; a third had been physically threatened or harmed; nearly a third were kicked out of a home and almost half sought counseling from a mental health professional but couldn’t get access.

Gray warned that further “otherization” of trans and LGBTQ youth will lead to demonization and more violence against them.

Ranika Ashcroft, a Black lesbian who served in the military, said bills like this attack her on multiple fronts and have caused her to reflect on what it meant for her to serve a country that doesn’t seem to care for her. 

She said learning about Black history in a meaningful way is necessary for the education of Black youth and the understanding of history for all races.

“They put their life on the line for this country because they believe in the opportunity that everyone will be created equal and have a fair and equitable world,” Ashcroft said. “But this bill is anything but that. It’s promoting hate. It’s promoting division. It’s promoting segregation in a different form.”

Democratic Rep. Kelly Skidmore said a bill to protect feelings is surprising coming from the same group that said participation trophies were making the country weak.

“These bills are really going at everything we have held dear. That education is the great equalizer of everyone in the country,” she said. “And now it’s not. Now if you might get your feelings hurt because your ancestor was a slave over, we’re not gonna talk about things like that.”

Representatives will take up HB 7 Tuesday morning during a meeting of the Judiciary Committee.

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].


  • NotWhatYouThink

    January 31, 2022 at 9:56 pm

    As a happily married gay man, and military veteran who has been serving the country for my entire adult life, I can assure all readers here that the “LGBTQ” activists do not speak for the majority of LGBTQ people. Not by a long shot. These groups might as well be called the DNC Club. It has little to do with LGBTQ issues/rights and everything to do with obstruction of all things conservative. Even though I’m gay, people like me and my conservative leanings are not welcome in these so-called LGBTQ groups.

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    February 1, 2022 at 8:16 am

    Yale creates a definition of gender using newspeak. Orwell is laughing

    • Al Reg

      February 1, 2022 at 10:02 pm

      Orwell would not be laughing at a Yale physician for helping folks to understand the difference between sex and gender. They are as distinct as race and ethnicity. What Orwell would be laughing, or crying, about is HB7–the true manifestation of thought policing.

      Your attempt to conflate Orwell’s concerns over fascism with the protection of oppressed and disenfranchised individuals is itself concerning.

  • Ron Ogden

    February 1, 2022 at 8:48 am

    This is all just formula. The goal is social disruption. The defense is to just ignore all the grief. Let ’em hoot and dance, and when the news people start chasing you around with their cameras and microphones, just smile and say “no comment”. No controversy means no drama means no ratings means they go somewhere else and cause grief to other people.

  • Elizabeth

    February 1, 2022 at 9:38 am

    As the mother of a trans pre-teen who attempted suicide at age 11, I can assure everyone that ANY bill that seeks to put my kid back in the closet and refuse medical treatment for him is a killer. Trans kids already have a hugely higher rate of attempted suicide. I want to know who is protecting my rights as a parent, and the rights of my kid to live a happy, healthy, productive life.

  • Nobody Special

    February 1, 2022 at 3:35 pm

    Stop claiming that ALL caucasian folkx have ancestors who owned slaves! This couldn’t be more false! Most people’s families NEVER owned slaves. Slaves were owned by a select rich few, ONLY! These are the same select few who are the 1% group that runs our country even today.

    • Al Reg

      February 1, 2022 at 9:53 pm

      @Nobody Special, your assertion that 1% of whites owned slaves is simply not true and misleading. Scores of research have shown this number to be closer to 30 to 40% of white families owned slaves, and oftentimes these families were small-time landowners who themselves were living a hardscrabble life. The notion that only the 1% of the wealthy whites owning slaves is a Hollywood narrative a la “Gone With the Wind” and “Django Unchained.” Any historian worth his or her salt would take great issue with the 1% mythology.

  • Drake

    February 13, 2022 at 5:09 pm

    I question the validity of these statements. One of the big red flags was the linking to a bill which they purported to be “banning transgender women from sports” because they replace the word “gender” with “sex.” I went to the bill and it did nothing of the sort. In fact, the bill regarded parental rights to be informed and have some control over information regarding their child. Sports and gender were not even mentioned.

    Secondly, classification based on sex is not new nor is it a direct attack on trans people with the intent to “other” them – it’s a practical and helpful way to classify people. In sports, for instance, it is a general way to sort those with certain biological advantages (like increased strength for males) from those without (or with different advantages, like flexibility, for females).

    Personally I think a bit more of an education overlap wouldn’t hurt in sex education. For instance, boys don’t know much about periods but understanding what a girl is dealing with when she is on her period may be helpful for the boys if/when they get a girlfriend. However, the divide is based on sound reasoning. Boys get taught about their own bodies, girls get taught about theirs. Boys don’t really need to know that much about how to manage period cramps, and girls won’t ever need to know what an erection feels like. If a trans girl (being a male) was classed with girls for sex ed, he would learn about girls’ bodies but not his own – that is unhelpful.

    Classifying girls with girls and boys with boys is not “othering,” it is an attempt to give children relevant information about their own bodies. If a trans girl gets a kick out of learning about girl’s bodies, he can look up information online or at the library. But it is more important that he is familiar with his own body and how to deal with it. Isn’t that what sex education is for in the first place?

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