Amid the relentless stream of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation hitting the Florida legislature, our Chief Community and Engagement Officer — and former Floridian — Rebecca Willman calls our community to action.
As I was flying back to Florida a few months ago and the state’s signature palm trees and ocean sun sprang into view, I was struck by the unmistakable nostalgia that comes with going home. I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and attended both undergraduate and graduate school at the University of South Florida in Tampa. My mom and her wife of 30 years, Paula, live in Jacksonville Beach, and my best friends are scattered throughout the state.
As a teenager, Jacksonville Beach was the number one place I went when everything became too much, or when I needed to be reminded of the world’s expansiveness and possibilities. Today, when we go “home” to visit, my trans/nonbinary spouse, Al, and I take our magical twin toddlers to those same beaches. And while the sand and waves still welcome us, the state’s policymakers clearly do not. These days, the nostalgia, laughter and sweetness that comes with visiting “grammy and gramma” also feels a lot like heartbreak. My family exudes more love than I can put into words…so why are we being met with so much hate?
Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Florida
Now living in North Carolina, a part of me always wondered if we’d return to Florida for good, so my kids can be closer to their grandparents and our family. So that they could have a chance to grow up on those same beaches that I did. But right now, we can’t go back. Because Florida policymakers have declared that we’re not welcome.
Last year, Florida passed the country’s first now infamous “Don’t Say Gay and Trans” bill, which bans the mere mention of families like mine in our children’s classrooms and has since spurred copycat legislation across the country. Since then, we’ve watched in horror as lawmakers adopted a slate of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation attacking the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. These bills are broad and far-ranging. Some would jeopardize my partner’s access to gender-affirming care. Others threaten my children’s ability to learn about their multi-generational queer family in school. And still, others would prohibit our community’s ability to celebrate who we are and who we love. Just this week, the Florida State Board of Education voted to EXPAND restrictions on discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in K-12 grades.
These actions are so severe that our friends at Equality Florida have issued a travel advisory for the LGBTQ+ community, and many LGBTQ+ families have or are seriously considering relocating.
Imagine that: Being told in no uncertain terms that it’s not safe for you to visit your home-state. It’s not safe for your children to visit their grammy and gramma. It’s not safe for you to see your closest friends.
But, I won’t let their derision and hatred take my community and family from me. To all those living in Florida—my neighbors, friends, and family—I want you to know that you have an entire movement fighting for you. And we will not be silenced.
In fact, we’re about to yell louder than y’all have ever heard.
Holding lawmakers accountable
It’s time we held Florida lawmakers accountable for their actions and told them, without a doubt, that Floridians will not accept this slate of hate in their state. It’s time we showed these legislators what Floridians are really about: Love. Joy. Inclusion. And the unconditional belonging of family.
It’s time we fought to make this place home again.
P.S. Want to get more involved? Our partners at Equality Florida are mobilizing weekly, in-person and virtually, to fight back against the overwhelming anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being introduced in their state. Join them via their Pride at the Capitol Campaign today, and be sure to sign up for their newsletters and follow them on social media to keep up to date with the latest ways you can take action.
Floridians, take action!
Take action today to show lawmakers that Floridians WILL NOT ACCEPT this slate of hate in their state. Then, set a reminder to take action again tomorrow, and the day after that—and encourage your friends to do the same.
Chief Community Engagement and Programs Officer
Rebecca Willman (she/her) has spent most of her adult life ensuring bodily and emotional autonomy for individuals and families. Prior to Family Equality, she worked at Abortion Care Network supporting the sustainability of community-based abortion clinics and creating a strong and thriving national network of local abortion providers and allies. Before that, she spent many years working in clinics providing direct care to abortion seekers.
Rebecca is also trained as a doula and direct-entry midwife and spent several years supporting people through pregnancy, labor, and early postpartum. A former academic, she has published, taught, and researched in the fields of reproductive health and freedom, gender, and sexuality. She spent 15 years as a yoga and meditation teacher as well.
Grounded in empathy, intersectionality, generosity, and a bias toward action, Rebecca’s goal at Family Equality is to create transparent, focused, and equitable programming that moves us closer to racial justice and freedom for LGBTQ families. She believes that equity and justice are realizable. In the words of Arundhati Roy, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Rebecca is raising her adorably magical twins in the mountains of Western North Carolina with the love of her life, Al. She’s a part of a large and loving queer community that helped her become a parent – it’s a story too long to share here, but you should ask her about it sometime!