Secretary Cardona, Rep. Soto Join Roundtable with LGBTQI+ Students and Families from Florida on Transgender Day of Visibility

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Secretary Cardona, Rep. Soto Join Roundtable with LGBTQI+ Students and Families from Florida on Transgender Day of Visibility

March 31, 2022

Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Florida Congressman Darren Soto met with Floridian LGBTQI+ students and families on Transgender Day of Visibility and participated in a closed press, roundtable discussion to hear about the impact that recent anti-LGBTQI+ legislation has on them, and their communities and school experiences.

Throughout the roundtable, Secretary Cardona and Rep. Soto affirmed the Biden-Harris Administration's support for the LGBTQI+ community, shared mental health and other resources available from the federal government, and heard from students and families about stress and fear recent anti-LGBTQI+ legislation has caused for them.

"On Transgender Day of Visibility and every day, the Biden-Harris administration is proud of our nation's transgender students and educators," said Secretary Cardona. "It's essential for schools to be welcoming environments for teaching and learning. And it's vital for teachers and school staff to know, see, and support their transgender students, along with all students. Transgender students should have every opportunity to thrive in school. We know while many transgender students experience valuable support at school, many others face significant challenges because of hostility directed at them by others. This includes a growing number of state laws that bully and intimidate LGBTQI+ students and their families. To transgender students everywhere, I want you to know that we see you, we hear you, we recognize what is happening, and we're here to support you."

"On this Transgender Day of Visibility, it was an honor to host Secretary Cardona at The Center in Orlando and listen to families affected by the 'Don't Say Gay' bill and other anti-LGBTQI+ legislation," said Rep. Soto. "Though we are extremely disappointed in our governor for signing off on these harmful laws, I am hopeful that our community will prevail in the face of hatred and come back stronger than ever.  I hope all LGBTQI+ students in Central Florida and across the nation know that they have allies in the highest levels of government who will stand up for them."

"I don't understand why people, especially adults, are trying to erase my identity. It feels like I'm not even here. I just want to play on the sports team. I want to be who I am, and I want to be on a team with my friends. It's just not okay," said 10-year-old Dempsey Jara, a transgender girl who participated in the roundtable conversation.

"I'm here as a parent, and as a mother to a beautiful child and also as a public school teacher. This bill is not about indoctrinating children to become transgender. This is about pretending that LGBTQI+ students do not exist. They do exist, they're here. And for many of my students, the only safe space they have is my classroom. And this bill takes that away. I won't stand for it as a parent and I won't stand for it as a teacher," said Jaime Jara, who participated in the roundtable conversation.

One by one, the students and families shared some of the concerns and fears they are facing as the threat of these bills becomes more apparent. Following Gov. DeSantis signing the Parental Rights in Education bill, Secretary Cardona shared this statement expressing the Biden Administration's support for LGBTQI+ students.