Florida’s Anti-trans Slate of Hate | Opinion

Photo by Karollyne Videira Hubert via Unsplash.

Years ago I was a Republican. I was just out of college, a newly named advisor to a governor in the Midwest.

One morning about six months in, our chirpy secretary, I’ll call her Tess, came to work downcast. Although our office was dark (mahogany paneling, green glass lampshades), I could see she’d been crying. 

Her face was puffy and her hands were shaking. I tried to comfort her without prying. She spent all day answering calls and typing, never leaving her desk, speaking softly and taking messages with her eyes down. 

One morning she came in with a bruised face; it looked like a broken blood vessel. Without taking off her coat, she asked if we could talk in confidence. As we walked under the glass Rotunda toward the lounge, the pressure of maintaining her composure at a job she sorely needed exploded. She let me hug her, wracked in sobs, and began to talk. 

The Silence Breaks

What vexed Tess was her 5-year-old son. More accurately, what tormented her was how her husband treated him. The problem was that young Robin wanted to wear girls’ clothes. He was excited to be a new Kindergartener, and wanted to wear dresses to school. 

As a toddler, Robin had preferred dolls to trucks. Her husband tried to teach him the joys of toy soldiers and cars, but it wouldn’t take. 

Tess knew her baby boy was different, but thought it might be a phase. Her husband saw things differently. 

Tess’s husband crafted his own form of aversion therapy. As Robin grew into a preschooler, his father slapped and punched him if he caught him holding one of Tess’s antique dolls, punctuating the blows with words of degradation and shame. Tess struggled to shield her son, to deflect her husband’s anger toward herself instead, but a secretary with three young children could not afford divorce. 

Young Robin began spending days in his room. 

One time, her husband gone to work, Tess decided to let 5-year-old Robin wear a dress at home, complete with hair barrettes. Dressed to suit himself, the boy didn’t parody or parade in front of the mirror. Instead, he climbed next to his mom on the sofa, and pressed into her side. She put her arm around him in quiet acceptance, pierced with a premonition of what Robin might face in life if this wasn’t just a phase. They embraced in peace, and fell asleep on the couch. 

Her husband woke them up. In a screaming, spittle rage, he lifted the boy off the sofa by the neck of his dress. He ripped it off, and beat Robin so severely he missed school the next day, the same day Tess came to work with bruises of her own. 

Florida’s GOP Bullies

I think of Robin and Tess whenever I read the slate of hate spreading through Florida’s GOP controlled legislature.

DeSantis conservatives can’t seem to get enough of bullying vulnerable kids like Robin, kids who may be confused about their gender, or who may in fact be transgender. 

DeSantis prohibited gender-affirming medical care for minors, not through legislative action, but by executive fiat. At DeSantis’ behest, Florida’s Board of Medicine, all of whom are DeSantis appointed- voted to ban gender-affirming care for minors, regardless of what parents know about their own child. Florida’s SB 254, now close to signature into law, will codify the Board’s rule into statute, and worse- make it a third-degree felony.

DeSantis also expanded the reach of his hateful “Don’t Say Gay” law the same way — through executive fiat — by urging Florida’s Board of Education to expand the speech-related ban through high school. 

Although transgender people comprise less than 1% of the population, Florida’s GOP lawmakers have filed over a dozen bills targeting them, regulating what bathrooms they can use, what medical decisions they can make, and what they can express in public. 

Florida’s puritans don’t protect young Robins of the world, they justify their beatings. 

Limited Government Hypocrites

It’s hard to decide what’s worse: the cruelty, the ignorance, or the hypocrisy. Conservatives trying to disappear gay and trans children promote ‘limited government.’ Expanding state powers to dictate private medical choice and regulate school speech is the opposite of limited government- think of the apparatus required to enforce it. 

What is it about trans children in particular that drives conservatives to frenzy? Trans people have always been with us, including the two-spirit people of North America, the Hijira from India, Kathoey from Thailand, and Fa’fa’fine from Samoa, to name a few. Instead of learning about the full, beautiful spectrum of humanity, GOP bullies remain defiantly Dark-age ignorant.

Two weeks after Florida expanded “Don’t Say Gay,” Montana’s GOP, refusing to be outdone, muzzled a transgender legislator for speaking out against their anti-trans efforts. The gentlewoman from Montana may be silenced today, but she will have the last word: GOP state legislators, picking on vulnerable children like Robin, will soon have blood on their hands.

Sabrina Haake is a 25-year litigator specializing in 1st and 14th Amendment defense. Her columns appear in OutSFL, Chicago Tribune, State Affairs, and Howey Politics. She and her wife split their time between South Florida and Chicago.


Phone: 954-514-7095
Hours: Monday - Friday 9AM - 2PM


Corrections: editorial@outsfl.com

2520 N. Dixie Highway,
Wilton Manors, FL 33305



Got a juicy lead or story idea? Let us know!



Out South Florida

Hello from OutSFL! We hope you'll consider donating to us. Starting a business can be a scary prospect, but with your support so far, we've had tremendous success. Thank you!

donate button