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Different voices around the state sound off on Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' law

a rainbow flag with the sun shining through it
Flickr/Creative Commons

We dedicated this program to sharing stories from the LGBTQ+ community in South Florida and across the state. Plus, we highlight a project that focuses on trans joy.

On this Wednesday, April 20, edition of Sundial:

Ambiguity, lawsuits and the case that may have sparked it all

These stories highlight the joys and difficulties of claiming an identity — especially in a time where a state culture war threatens the community.

WLRN is committed to providing South Florida with trusted news and information. As the pandemic continues, our mission is as vital as ever. Your support makes it possible. Please donate today. Thank you.

They come in the aftermath of Florida's Parental Rights in Education Act — which critics call the "Don’t Say Gay" law. The law bans classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate.

Ambiguity in the law’s language, the way it's written, has transgender youth and therapists worried.

Daylina Miller reported the first story of the hour, from WUSF in Tampa. You can read and listen to it, here.

The "Don’t Say Gay" law was signed by the governor last month. It doesn’t go into effect until this summer, but LGBTQ+ students, parents and teachers say they’re already feeling a chilling effect.

Civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit against the implementation of this legislation.

Sarah Mueller reported this story for WFSU in Tallahassee, and you can read and listen to it here.

How exactly did this law come to be? A local fight between the school district and a parent may have been the spark that led to this policy. It’s a testament to the fact that what happens in local government doesn’t always stay there. Lynn Hatter from WFSU reported this audio feature. You can listen below, or read the report by Sarah Mueller online here.

Ambiguity, lawsuits and the case that may have sparked it all

LGBTQ+ parents and educators

Elliot Long is an LGBTQ+ parent and the father of a first grader who attends the school where DeSantis signed the bill into law — Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill, near Tampa. Long expressed extreme disappointment with the law.

You can listen to his story here.

Long's story was reported and produced by Josuan Rodriguez, a reporter for WUSF in Tampa.


Next, we heard from educators in South Florida.

They will tell you that it's their duty to make kids feel safe in their schools. But Florida teachers who are gay or trans are especially worried they won’t be able to do that anymore, because of this new law. WLRN’s Education Reporter Kate Payne brought us this story: the measure is making some teachers question whether to stay in the classroom.

You can read and listen to it here.

Also, if you or someone you know may be considering suicide, please don't hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifelineat 1-800-273-8255.

LGBTQ+ parents and educators

Trans Joy

Finding and claiming your identity can be scary and difficult. But that also comes with a lot of joy — in discovering who you are and how you want the world to see you.

Today’s Sundial program is a collection of stories from the LGBTQ+ community here in South Florida and across the state.

WUSF in Tampa started an occasional series about these stories called Trans Joy. The idea was not to look for stories that focus on policy or political debates, but rather find stories that talk about the joys that can come from living one's authentic life.

“Trans joy is being able to reclaim those things, to participate in those things that I've always wanted to do, learning how to do my makeup and learning how to accessorize. You know, I think those are things that you kind of figure out in girlhood. And if, you know, you're a woman, cis or trans, I think you can understand that and I don't expect a cisgender person or any person, even another trans person, to know what my journey is,” said Marcie English, a trans woman from Ybor City in Tampa.

Find her story here.

Trans joy

WLRN’s Luis Hernandez spoke with reporter Daylina Miller about this series.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

WLRN: What inspired the Trans Joy series? 

MILLER: Late last year, I got really frustrated by everything that I was seeing in the headlines with the Don't Say Gay bill and gender affirming care for trans youth in Texas, you know, being considered child abuse.

There are so many good things that are happening in the community that I want to highlight those things. I wanted to focus on things that were beyond the politics and beyond the culture wars and really bring to light all the good that comes from being yourself, from living authentically.

We don't ever talk about trans joy because it's hard to commodify. That's accurate. As journalists, we tend to focus on things that are not going well as opposed to things that are going well. And we tend to focus on attention and conflict, and we don't always focus on all the things that are that are fantastic about various communities. And my fear is that trans youth listening are thinking, "Oh my goodness, this is it's so terrible to be trans. I can't possibly be who I am. I can't possibly come out." And for cis people listening to these stories I don't want them to also think that there isn't some worthiness in living your life authentically, because there are a lot of scary things happening right now that are preventing people from being themselves.

How do your personal experiences as a non-binary reporter influence how you cover this community?

The biggest thing is that people are willing to open up to me in the first place. So when I was reporting on that trans youth feature that we heard earlier, I was able to get a lot more responses than maybe a cis reporter would have been able to get because they automatically see me as somebody who's sort of on the inside, who knows what's going on in the community already.

I found that when I was producing this Trans Joy series and looking for the trans youth that the people were asking for my personal information so that they could vet me because they didn't even believe right off the bat that I was a trans and non-binary journalist. I had to be able to prove with my social media accounts and my previous coverage and the things that I say publicly that I was worthy of talking to.

Do you have your own story of trans joy? If you were going to tell a story as part of your postcard series, what would it be? 

I've always been non-binary, if that makes sense. I did not have the language for it until college, when I took a gender studies class and then I learned about different gender identities and that it was a possibility. So when I finally got the language to describe how I had felt my whole life, finding the term non-binary, it really fit my idea of — I knew that I wasn't a man, but I really didn't feel like a woman, either. It was such a joyous thing. I'm very fortunate that I resonate with my birth name, so I did not have to go through a name change. I mean, the first group of people that I came out to was my newsroom, because my newsroom at WUSF is so supportive. The first time that I heard somebody refer to me using they/them pronouns I nearly cried.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.