Gainesville was ranked Monday as the one of the most LGBTQ-inclusive cities in Florida.
In the Human Rights Campaign’s 2016 Municipal Equality Index, Gainesville was ranked sixth most inclusive to members of the LGBTQ+ community, based on how anti-discrimination policy is handled by local government and law enforcement, according to a media release.
The top cities were Miami Beach, Orlando, St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach and Wilton Manors, all with perfect scores of 100 points. Gainesville earned 98 points.
Terry Fleming, the co-president of the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida, said Gainesville’s ranking was well-deserved.
Just this year, he said, both Gainesville Police and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office hired three LGBTQ+ liaisons to allow members of the community to directly contact law enforcement when faced with discrimination, he said.
In 2008, Flemings said, Gainesville became the first city in the U.S. to uphold anti-discrimination policies specifically aimed toward transgender people.
“That speaks volumes for what Gainesville is like when you hear about the battles being fought in North Carolina or Indiana and other places struggling to pass protections,” he said. “Gainesville was the first place to get that done.”
Although she’s glad that the city received such a high ranking, Carolyna Guillen, the president of UF’s Pride Student Union, said she doesn’t feel Gainesville is as inclusive as UF.
Of the several services and programs offered to LGBTQ+ students, she said the Trans Resource Network may be the most important to students beginning their gender transitions.
“We see a lot of youth who are transitioning during college, and to have a resource available to them that can help with name changes, hormone therapy and counseling is so wonderful,” she said. “Too wonderful for me to express.”
Services like the Trans Resource Network, a new permanent Pulse shooting memorial to be installed at the Reitz Union and gender-neutral bathrooms are all small steps toward making UF as inclusive as it can be, she said.
“These are all efforts that help make UF more inclusive and welcoming of our community; however, there’s always more to be done,” she said. “UF has made long strides, but the walk isn’t over.”