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Florida Activists Protest Anti-Transgender Policy, Organize Die-Ins Outside DMVs

“This protest may appear bleak, but it’s rooted in REALITY,” the Youth Action Fund said

Protesters lie on the ground holding cardboard signs shaped like tombstones in front of the Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport as the Florida Board of Medicine meets inside, on August 2, 2023.

Hundreds of transgender activists and allies orchestrated die-ins at DMVs throughout Florida in protest of the recently announced policy change by the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that disallows transgender people from changing the gender marker on their state driver’s license to reflect their gender identity.

In a January letter detailing the policy shift, Robert Kynoch, deputy executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, states that transgender people “misrepresenting” their gender marker on their driver’s license by listing their gender identity could be guilty of fraud and face civil and criminal penalties.

“This HORRIFIC anti-LGBTQ+ policy change was directed by Robert Kynoch, Deputy Director of the FL DMV, in a department-wide memo,” the Youth Action Fund, which organized the DMV die-in protests, said on social media. “He ORDERED a BAN on accurate gender marker changes, contributing to TRANS ERASURE, while opening the door for potential suspension or “fraud” charges.”

According to the Youth Action Fund, demonstrators participating in die-ins remained motionless outside of DMVs for 37 minutes, symbolizing the 37 percent of transgender people in Florida who have experienced harassment as a result of an inaccurate gender marker.

“This protest may appear bleak, but it’s rooted in REALITY. Further marginalization of the transgender community can be DEADLY,” the Youth Action Fund said.

A report by the Williams Institute states that having IDs that list a gender marker that does not align with a transgender person’s gender identity can open them up to discrimination and harassment. In fact, without accurate IDs, transgender individuals may face obstacles when traveling, seeking employment, securing rentals, and interacting with law enforcement.

“Presenting inaccurate identification all too often becomes a trigger for various forms of abuse and discrimination,” a 2012 report by the Center for American Progress said. “Transgender people who may otherwise move through the world undetected by those who would discriminate against them are often ‘outed’ by an old gender marker, an old name, or an old photograph.”

Florida is the only state currently categorized as “do not travel” on transgender activist and journalist Erin Reed’s “anti-trans risk map.” According to Reed, Florida has eliminated 80 percent of transgender adult care, enforces a law that permits the arrest of transgender individuals for using bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity, and is one of five states that have made it a felony to provide gender-affirming care to transgender youth. Additionally, LGBTQ rights organizations like Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign have issued travel advisories for the state.

“Today, Equality Florida took the extraordinary step of issuing a travel advisory, warning of the risks posed to the health, safety, and freedom of those considering short or long term travel, or relocation to the state,” the organization said in a statement last April. “The move comes in response to a wave of safety inquiries Equality Florida has received following the passage of laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ community, restrict access to reproductive health care, repeal gun safety laws, foment racial prejudice, and attack public education by banning books and censoring curriculum.”

In the face of Florida lawmakers’ relentless attacks on LGBTQ+ people, the die-ins orchestrated by queer Floridians who have chosen not to flee the state demonstrate the community’s steadfast refusal to be silenced.

“This UNPRECEDENTED show of RESISTANCE in Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and Gainesville makes one message EXTREMELY CLEAR: When trans rights are under attack in Florida, what do we do? STAND UP, FIGHT BACK,” the Youth Action Fund said.

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