On Apr. 11, Equality Florida (EQFL) decided to officially issue a travel advisory for the state, offering information and guidance as to why LGBTQ+ people should not travel or relocate to Florida—and if they have to, what they should expect. EQFL is “the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community,” according to their mission statement.
Several weeks before the travel advisory was released, the EQFL board and organizational partners began to discuss the possibility of releasing a travel advisory for the state. Between this legislative session and the last, LGBTQ+ people have seen threats from taking custody of children who have gotten gender-affirming care, eliminating gender-affirming care for minors, the infamous “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” criminalizing using the correct bathroom and so much more. Conversations about whether the state is a safe place for those in the community have been popping up for some time now.
The travel advisory begins by explaining why the decision to create such a document was made. One part states that “the worsening attacks, especially those targeting transgender youth, have also led to the proposal of policies around the country to provide refuge for those fleeing states like Florida.”
Executive Director of EQFL Nadine Smith released a statement of her own alongside the travel advisory.
“As an organization that has spent decades working to improve Florida’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place to live, work and visit, it is with great sadness that we must respond to those asking if it is safe to travel to Florida or remain in the state as the laws strip away basic rights and freedoms.”
The rest of the advisory details in separate sections Florida’s attacks on medical freedom, academic freedom, censorship of the LGBTQ+ community, assault on the arts and businesses, attacks on racial justice, repealing of gun safety laws and attacks on immigrant communities. While the advisory is primarily to advise those in the LGBTQ+ community, the organization is concerned about a broad range of attacks on minority communities and how they impact queer people who exist in the intersection.
The Catalyst spoke with EQFL Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, who explained exactly how the advisory came together.
“The volume of legislation that was being pushed through and the volume of inquiries we were getting, the combination of those things led us to make this decision,” Wolf said. “Very frequently, we are reached out to by conference organizers who have questions about how policies, or, you know, just the rhetorical climate in Florida may impact their attendees, may impact their staff.
“We also get a lot of questions from people who may be looking to visit or relocate to the state of Florida who are either transgender themselves or have transgender family members, and again have real questions and serious concerns about how policies may impact them and their families,” Wolf explained.
“It’s worth saying that our travel advisory is not an official recommendation from the organization,” Wolf continued. “It’s very intentionally intended to be information. Everyone’s personal situation is different. Everybody’s family situation is different, and it’s not our place to make a decision for other people. It’s simply our job to provide the best information possible.”
As the legislation keeps rolling out, many families are weighing their options and deciding whether Florida can remain their home. This is the case for Robby Price and Jordan Letschert, who live with their son in Sarasota. Letschert explained to the Herald Tribune that, “it’s getting harder and harder to stay. The discrimination and the hate have gotten so in-your-face.”
Among those to leave the state also includes former Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade, whose daughter Zaya came out as transgender in 2020.
“I have to make decisions for my family, not just personal, individual decisions,” Wade told People Magazine. “I mean, obviously, the tax [situation] is great. Having Wade County is great. But my family would not be accepted or feel comfortable there. And so that’s one of the reasons why I don’t live there.”
Wolf explained that the main goal of the advisory is to serve as a call to action to everyone, not just those in Florida, to stand up for the LGBTQ+ community.
“This moment is not going to be solved by one organization or one person coming in with a silver bullet, but it is going to take a whole [lot] of community effort to retake our state, and it’s going to take us some time,” Wolf said. “So, if you’re not plugged in already, volunteer with an organization. I’m putting a pride flag in my living room window for the first time ever, because I want to make sure my neighbors know that while they know me and they know the work that I do, that they know I’m not afraid, that they know I’m going to live more visibly than ever. So, get deeply engaged in the fight, raise your flag higher than ever, celebrate pride and put the protest back into it.”