Transgender activists have taken to the streets of Florida to protest against a recent policy change that bars alterations to gender markers on state-issued identification cards – and could criminalise trans Floridians.
The memo was written by Robert Kynoch, the deputy executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).
“A driver license is an identification document and, as such, serves a critical role in assisting public and private entities in correctly establishing the identity of a person presenting the licence,” he wrote on 26 January.
“Permitting an individual to alter his or her licence to reflect an internal sense of gender role or identity, which is neither immutable nor objectively verifiable, undermines the purpose of an identification record and can frustrate the state’s ability to enforce its laws.”
As a result of this, demonstrators took to the streets on 9 February to stage “die-ins” at driver’s license offices (DMVs) statewide, disrupting business and drawing attention to the state’s assault on transgender rights.
“This HORRIFIC anti-LGBTQ+ policy change was directed by Robert Kynoch, Deputy Director of the FL DMV, in a department-wide memo,” the Youth Action Fund, which helped to organise the DMV die-in protests, said on social media. “He ORDERED a BAN on accurate gender marker changes, contributing to TRANS ERASURE, while opening the door for potential suspension or “fraud” charges.”
According to Kynoch’s memo, individuals possessing state IDs or licenses listing a gender divergent from their assigned sex at birth could face severe consequences, including felony charges punishable by up to five years in prison or probation, along with a hefty fine of $5,000.
From Alachua to Miami-Dade, and Orange counties to Hillsborough, crowds gathered in lobbies after 10 a.m., collapsing onto the ground in a symbolic gesture of resistance. Some activists held gravestones bearing poignant messages such as “Killed By the DMV” or “Killed by Ron DeSantis,” in a direct jab at the governor.
The orchestrated protests were largely coordinated by PRISM, a prominent LGBTQ advocacy group spearheading the “Let Trans People Drive” campaign– in collaboration with allies like the Youth Action Fund, Equality Florida, Hope CommUnity Center, GLSEN Central Florida, and SPEKTRUM Health.
The Human Rights Campaign – the US’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organisation – shared several images from the protest and tweeted, “Shout out to the young queer activists that led this protest. You are the future of our movement and we are proud to fight with you!”
A press release from PRISM explained the reason for the protests, stating, “Participants will stage die-ins to underscore the devastating consequences of efforts to erase the transgender community’s legal recognition.”
PRISM has also upon President Joe Biden’s administration and the Justice Department to intervene, citing the federal Real ID Act of 2005. This act enables the establishment of federal criteria for government IDs, potentially overriding state-level policies like Florida’s. Over 750 letters were sent during the protest.