UM students protest in solidarity

Supporters pose outside of Whitten University Center preceding the demonstration on Feb. 23. Photo credit: Patrick Mccaslin

Transcendence, an affinity group of students who advocate for transgender-positive initiatives, and supporters protested Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration’s memo requesting that public schools share information on “gender dysphoria” services provided to students.

“We are going to make our voices heard,” said Ryan Hires, a junior studying gender and sexuality studies and psychology.

The protest occurred on Thursday, Feb. 23 outside of the University of Miami’s Whitten University Center, near the center of campus. Students displayed signs and gave speeches condemning the request. They chose to protest in solidarity with the Feb. 23 statewide walkout staged at Florida public colleges.

In the memo, Chris Spencer, the director of the Office of Policy and Budget in DeSantis’ administration, requests that Florida public colleges disclose the number of students treated for sex-reassignment services and, in some cases, their ages.

The request remains HIPAA compliant by not asking the name of the specific patient, but students may still have their information involuntarily shared. At some schools, some responses recorded only one student.

According to an Insider article, at least the University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Central Florida, Florida A&M University, Florida International University, and the University of North Florida complied with the request out of the 12 schools who received the memo.

“It’s not just about me. It’s about supporting our trans siblings across the state,” Hires said.

As a private institution, UM will not need to comply with the memo. Yet, UM students are residents of Miami-Dade County, Florida, and may need to comply with future off-campus measures.

Hires receives hormone replacement therapy from Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive and sexual healthcare. He fears that it may find itself targeted, given the memo and other recent legislation seeking to dissuade gender-affirming healthcare.

While such healthcare remains available at the time of writing, the prospect of future restrictions is emotionally taxing.

Upon learning about the memo, Taylor Jagolinzer, a junior studying marine science and biology, felt outraged.

“I channeled that because what can I do?” they said. “I’m a person and it sucks to be stepped on.”

As they ran out of energy, their anger turned to despair and they collapsed to the bathroom floor, unsure of what the future holds for them.

“This is the sort of thing that kills transgender people,” Jagolinzer said.

According to data from a 2020 study from the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 82% of youth identifying as transgender have considered committing suicide. 40% have attempted suicide.

The study identifies school belonging, emotional neglect by family, and internalized self-stigma as significantly contributing to suicidality in the previous six months. Interpersonal microaggressions contribute significantly to lifetime suicidality.

While the protest attracted the attention and support of onlookers, Jagolinzer believes the future remains bleak.

“I don’t think it’s going to change the outcome of any legislation. I don’t think it’s going to change the trajectory of where we’re going. I think it’s important to show, however, that we are not going to sit down and allow ourselves to be stepped on,” they said.

UHealth, the university’s health system, offers healthcare for emotional and physical transitioning needs.

Students can also seek resources via UM’s LGBTQ Student resources page.

Jenny Jacoby contributed reporting.