Tallahassee’s first ever LGBTQ+ Advisory Council is planning to organize and host a casual public “listening session” in October.
Adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols, the event is expected to take place in a socially-distanced outdoor setting, most likely a park if weather permits, where participants may ask questions and voice concerns both in person and virtually.
Acknowledging that many LGBTQ+ community members were going unheard, council members proposed this forum as a way to pinpoint and document problems and concerns to better aid in advising the Mayor and generating action plans.
“A listening session focused on building our ability to reflect the LGBTQ’s community consensus,” according to Equality Florida’s Public Policy Director and council member Jon Harris Maurer.
The Human Rights Campaign composed a Municipal Equality Index (MEI) report which demonstrates the ways cities can—and do— support the LGBTQ+ people who live and work there, even when state and federal governments fail to do so, according to their website.
According to the 2019 MEI report, Tallahassee earned 99 out of 100 points, with perfect scores in non-discrimination laws and law enforcement.
The council agreed that they wish to do more than simply “add points.” One of their primary goals is to serve as a strong advocate for and facilitate a dialogue within the LGBTQ+ community.
“As a Black trans man, in this city, I don’t think there is enough opportunity to be heard or to be recognized”, said council member Caesar Matthews, who feels there is not enough knowledge of the different experiences transgender/non-conforming people experience “Even in a city that scores so highly on their MEI and is deemed so progressive,” Matthews added.
Members agreed they are not diverse enough in age, race or class to effectively make recommendations on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community to Mayor Dailey. They hope to bridge these gaps with open dialogue.
Following the fatal police shooting of Black transgender male Tony McDade, 38, on May 27, 2020, after allegedly stabbing Malik Jackson, 21, a mourning community continues to push for change.
“Frankly, in some cases my privilege can add to the solutions and really make sure that our city is representative of the type of place that we would all like to live—knowing that we can all be ourselves without living in fear,” said Tallahassee resident, member of the LGBTQ+ community and acting Council Chair Andy Janecek.
Chief of Staff Thomas Whitley spoke on behalf of the Mayor’s Office, stating they would be appreciative of that feedback and would like to attend.
“I think it would be a great thing for the board to do and probably not a ‘one and done’ thing either,” said Whitley.
The council’s next meeting will be held on Oct. 8.