COCONUT CREEK, Fla. — When Daisy was 10, she stood in front of a microphone in a green dress, her long hair pulled back in a purple headband.
“Living in Broward County has given me the sense of safety,” she said to the Broward County School Board members, who were honoring LGBTQ History Month, “knowing that the school board has my back.”
Daisy, a transgender girl, seemed to be growing up in an era of unprecedented acceptance.
That was 2017, two years before Gov. Ron DeSantis would take office.
In a short time, she crossed a cultural chasm.
Schools in Florida — and even Broward, the most Democrat-leaning county in the state — have been remodeled under DeSantis and the Republican-led Legislature.
In the years Daisy aged into her teens, taking estrogen to affirm her identity as a girl, Florida’s schools became a cultural battleground, with legislative spears lobbed at the books students read, the classes they take, the history they learn, the topics they discuss in classrooms, the bathrooms students like Daisy use, the gender-affirming healthcare they receive and the team sports they compete in.
Though transgender people are a small fraction of the population — an estimated 0.8%, according to the U.S. census, and 2.3% of Broward’s student body — they’re an outsize target, much to the disappointment of LGBTQ advocates.
“These attacks have not come from real issues,” said Nic Zantop, deputy director of Transinclusive Group, a South Florida service and advocacy organization. “These are manufactured issues.”
Daisy’s presence the past two years on a girls’ volleyball team at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek now threatens the jobs of her mother, information management systems employee Jessica Norton; and four others at her school, including Principal James Cecil. They’re under investigation by the school district for potentially violating a state law prohibiting a person born with male anatomy from playing on female sports teams.
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