Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

FAU transgender student feels unsafe, accelerates graduation date to flee state

FAU senior mechanical engineering major Ani Briggs feels unsafe in Florida because of a new Florida law and plans to move as fast as possible.
Stall+doors+of+a+men%E2%80%99s+bathroom+in+General+Classrooms+South+that+display+homophobic+and+transphobic+slurs.
Cameron Priester
Stall doors of a men’s bathroom in General Classrooms South that display homophobic and transphobic slurs.

Florida Atlantic University Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering Department Chair Pierre-Philippe Beaujean circumvented graduation requirements for transgender mechanical engineering senior Ani Briggs. By doing this, Beaujean put Briggs on track to graduate faster because she feels unsafe in the state of Florida and plans to move as soon as she graduates.

Beaujean waived corequisite and prerequisite classes for Briggs, allowing her to take courses in any order due to a delayed graduation date. The classes she needs aren’t always available every semester, so now she can take them as soon as they’re available. 

She said this “absolutely, without question” expedited her degree time to graduating in May 2024. If Beaujean didn’t approve this, she wouldn’t be graduating until December 2024.

“I would rather die tomorrow from people hating me and attacking me than live the rest of my life safely being miserable,” Briggs said.

Headshot of Ani Briggs (Courtesy of Ani Briggs)

The state of Florida enacted a law on July 1 that requires people to use restrooms and changing facilities that align with their sex assigned at birth in all government-owned buildings and schools – this includes K-12 public and private schools, colleges, universities, airports, state and local government buildings, prisons and jails.

This law was passed in May by the Florida House of Representatives and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Florida Democratic Reps. Anna Eskamani and Robin Bartleman feel that this attacked the LGBT community, particularly trans and gender non-conforming people.

In late September, a group of trans and non-binary people filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Florida, claiming the law is discriminatory and violates free-speech rights. 

“This view of sex and gender causes irreparable harm for transgender, gender nonconforming and certain intersex people (TGNCI people) because this community’s identities may differ from their sex assigned at birth. When TGNCI people walk, talk, dress or use an affirming restroom they communicate their gender identity in a way that society can understand,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote.

“The Republican extreme states all seem to pass the same group of laws,” Bartleman said. “I think it’s just a national platform quite honestly. Where they are all passing the same hateful, discriminatory laws because it sells to their base. Is it really the best thing for all Floridians? I don’t think so, but clearly, they do.”

Briggs considered going to an out-of-state school and applied to the University of Michigan in an effort to “escape Florida.” She plans on moving to another state immediately upon graduation because she feels unsafe.

“To be fair, if I’m being 100% honest, it’s to target anyone who doesn’t fit in with the status quo,” Briggs said. “It’s not just queer people. It’s not just trans people… It’s anyone who doesn’t fit the ideal of what these alleged genders are supposed to be. It’s disgusting.”

Briggs pointed to an app circulating FAU called YikYak that allows users to post anonymous messages visible to anyone, where trans students are targeted.

“They’re even saying stuff like ‘we need to get these trannies out of our bathrooms.’ There’s apparently a big issue in General Classrooms South on campus, in the men’s bathroom with transphobic and homophobic slurs being written in the stalls,” Briggs said.

Students talk about it on Lavender Alliance’s Discord, Briggs said. Lavender Alliance was formed at FAU in response to anti-LGBT rhetoric as a safe place for LGBT students to turn.

FAU spokesperson Joshua Glanzer did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.

Eskamani said that she “finds [the law] unnecessary, egregious, politically motivated and of course, really dangerous to people who identify as trans or gender non-conforming, and the legislature did not assign any explicit penalties.” 

Eskamani told the UP that institutions haven’t developed their policy yet which leads to a lot of unknown aspects of the law.

“The Department of Education has created rulemaking, going after the public and private school systems alongside the state colleges,” Eskamani said.

“Some of the rules the Florida Department of Education (DOE) has created specify that faculty members may lose their jobs if they use the restroom of their gender identity more than once,” Eskamani said.

The Florida DOE did not respond to requests for comment.

Florida has one of the worst teacher shortages in history, which Eskamani says will only be exacerbated by this law because teachers and students might feel unsafe coming to Florida.

Eskamani doesn’t know how this law will affect trans people who’ve had gender-affirming surgery. 

“That’s what’s so scary about it. I honestly would think that this policy puts trans people in dangerous situations, because, for a trans person who has transitioned and has male features, facial hair, and you’re asking them to go to a bathroom defined for women. Like you’re putting them in more danger than anyone else. It’s not a good policy,” Eskamani said. “I mean, the fact that there are no clear answers to these questions, dictates how bad this policy really is.”

Eskamani said that laws like these erode trust between citizens and elected officials. 

“I think for lawmakers who support these policies, it really erodes trust, demonstrates that you don’t actually care about the freedom for all constituents, just freedom for some and I also hope that it empowers more impacted people to want to get involved,” Eskamani said. 

Eskamani said that members of the LGBT community have testified in front of Congress, telling their stories. She said that she’s seen more solidarity in the community in light of these new laws.

Because of the confusion about the punishments for violating this law, Bartleman wonders what right-wing legislators are coming after next.

“You have a group of elected officials who are appeasing their base’s fears and so they’re going to be that group but to me, it’s inhumane, some of these laws and what they’re doing. They definitely are targeting the LGBTQ community, the immigrant community. I mean, who’s next? What group of people are they going to eliminate or extinguish next, take their rights away?” Bartleman said.

FAU’s General Counsel’s Office, Lambda United, Broward Sheriff’s Office, Rep. Randy Fine and Palm Beach County School District did not respond to requests for comment. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office sent UP reporters to the Palm Beach County School District Police Department.

Jessica Abramsky is the Editor-in-Chief of the University Press. For more information on this article or others, you can reach Jessica at [email protected] or DM her on Instagram @jessabramsky.

1
View Comments (1)
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Jessica Abramsky, Editor-in-Chief
Jessica Abramsky is the Editor-in-Chief of the University Press. She previously served as News Editor during the Spring 2023 semester and is a junior majoring in multimedia journalism. She hopes to be a respected editor at a major news organization. You can reach Jessica at [email protected] or DM her on Instagram @jessabramsky.
Cameron Priester, Editor-at-Large
Cameron Priester is an Editor-at-Large for the University Press. Having served as Sports Editor for the 2022-23 academic year, he is a multimedia journalism major and intends on pursuing a career in sports journalism. He can be found on Twitter @PriesterCameron and you can email him at [email protected].

Comments (1)

Do you have something to say? Submit your comments below
All UNIVERSITY PRESS Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • H

    Had EnoughOct 25, 2023 at 11:56 pm

    Trans men are women, trans women are men. Sex is binary and immutable. Live not by lies. The truth will win in the end.

    Reply