Ana Cedeno | Contributing Writer
Gov. Desantis has signed bill HB 1521 into effect, which prohibits people from using bathrooms that do not align with their assigned gender in public and private colleges; people who break this law could be fired.
This marks yet another law from Desantis that disproportionately affects and is targeted towards transgender people.
Critics of the new bill call it a way to prevent trans people from simply having access to the bathroom like everyone else.
HB 1521 states that if their gender is different from the one they were assigned at birth, or if they haven’t changed the gender on their documents, they could be kept from going to the bathroom or even disciplined for it.
The bill also affects the lives of the 111,000 transgender people who live in South Florida, with seven percent of people in South Florida identifying as transgender; some of whom work and study at FIU.
“It’s definitely going to cause students to feel scared just to pee. They’re going to constantly think about what they’re being perceived as gender wise and if it’s appropriate to use the restroom they are using because of how they’re perceived,” said Amelia De Leon, FIU alumni and former SGA sustainability chair.
“And this doesn’t only apply to trans students. It applies to cis ones too who don’t look like the gender they were assigned at birth. And intersex students who don’t even have a binary sex. It impacts everyone and basically enforces the gender binary to anyone on campus,” said De Leon.
The reaction from the queer population of FIU has been one of fear for their safety, and there are students who considered leaving their college education altogether. Transgender students are afraid and no longer feel welcome in the school.
“I was completely scared, Unfortunately, I cannot say I was shocked considering our governor has done many awful things to the trans community here in Florida,” said Tyia Hareland, a senior at FIU.
“I enjoy being a student here at FIU; however I am not going to lie, this bill has made me more nervous and cautious about everywhere I go”.
Students said the law makes it harder to feel safe on campus.
“I think especially as a transwoman, I have a target on my back due to the media and some news outlets portraying us as predators…this bill has also made me feel uncomfortable using the bathroom anywhere on campus other than my dorm because I never know what will potentially happen.”
Nathan Nayor, another FIU senior who is majoring in Education and a former resident assistant for the gender-inclusive floor in Tamiami Hall, says he considered leaving his degree altogether.
“As someone completing an internship as a student teacher in a school, it is awful to have the looming threat of being arrested while working my dream career,” said Nayor.
“I temporarily contemplated leaving my major in Education, but it is more important now than ever for me to continue to pursue my career as a teacher. I will not lower my head for a transphobic administration, and I will not let my pride be taken away from me by my enemy.”
This new bill is also expected to affect attendance at the school as well and has already led to people being fired in Florida, according to Nayor.
“I expect less people to attend Florida schools, not just FIU, and there will be more people quitting their positions as staff at Florida schools; with the censorship and poor treatment of teachers and other academic staff in Florida, I expect a mass migration out of Florida and other states who implement similar policies,” said Nayor.
Hareland supported this statement. “I firmly believe that a lot of minority students in general are going to try and get out of Florida as soon as they possibly can,” she said.
De Leon, despite being an FIU graduate, expressed a similar sentiment.
“I’m applying to medical school currently and I need a school that can support me as a trans, queer, [and] intersex person. I don’t want to go to a school that’s going to discriminate against me based on things I can’t even change. If they don’t shape up, I might be attending school elsewhere.”
Despite how bleak things seem, there are still things that FIU can do to help the trans population feel less hopeless.
“It is important for FIU to establish that it is a safe space for queer students, and faculty must establish their ally positions and support queer students. Create and inform of resources for queer students that may be seeking them,” said Nayor.
De Leon added that actions such as safe zone training and passing out informative flyers about gender neutral bathrooms go a long way to help students feel safe.
“Whether or not students will attend FIU depends on FIU’s response to the continued threats against transgender people,” said Nayor. “I would hope most people would not want to attend a school that endorses the oppression of a minority group.”