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Sunday, May 26, 2024

The battle for LGBTQ representation and allyship in Student Government is implemented through legislation or activism. Many SG elected officials are prioritizing the fight for these issues. 

Student Body President Olivia Green believes pride should be celebrated all year round, but she said June is a special month recognizing the individuals who fought for the queer community, honor their experiences and continue to advocate for their rights.

Green wrote an executive order she will present at the June 13 Senate meeting, she said.

“[The executive order] will highlight this dedication and celebrate the community on behalf of Student Government,” Green said. “This is just a small, small token of my appreciation and I encourage all students at the University of Florida to continue to educate and contribute, as I will be doing myself.” 

Senate President Oscar Santiago Perez (Change-District D) is SG’s first openly gay, Hispanic and nonbinary Senate president, they said. 

Santiago Perez shared their struggles balancing their LGBTQ identity and being Hispanic. 

“There are these expectations of what men should do — be tough, you have to be emotionally strong, don’t cry,” Santiago Perez said. “That weighed on me, especially nowadays as a nonbinary individual who’s come to terms with that.” 

Santiago Perez is proud of being the first gay, nonbinary and Hispanic Senate president and never thought they’d be in that position but hope not to be the last, they said. 

Santiago Perez authored Student Senate Bill 2023-1001 when they were the LGBTQ Caucus chair. The bill worked to ensure governing documents were updated with gender-neutral language, such as deleting “his/her duties” and inserting “their duties.”

Senate approved the bill, but it failed to be ratified by the student body during the Spring 2023 election cycle. 

Santiago Perez said Sen. Wavid Bowman (Change-District C) proposed an LGBTQ garden on campus, in an email sent to The Alligator.

Other pieces of legislation include SSB 2022-1011 — the Resolution celebrating Pride Month 2022 and LGBTQ+ Students, Faculty and Staff. The bill was sponsored by numerous officials, including Green, Santiago Perez, Judiciary Committee Chairperson Jonathan C. Stephens (Change-District D) and Minority Party Caucus Leader Bronson Allemand (Gator-District A). 

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Stephens identifies as nonbinary and said gender is a construct they like to bend. 

When they came to college, they realized they weren’t necessarily male or a masculine person and found they could put a label that fit best with their identity — nonbinary, they said. 

“I kind of toe the line,” Stephens said. “I can wear pants and a t-shirt [or] wear a skirt [and] a crop top.”

Stephens is the Pride Student Union president along with being SG’s Judiciary Chairperson. 

They want to see queer individuals do well and not be knocked down by the state of Florida, they said. 

Stephens uses their SG position as a way to advocate for LGBTQ students when they aren’t working on legislation, they said.

“[I want] students to know that I'm in [student government] to fight for queer folks,” Stephens said. “Queer students: just know that I'm your loud fighter — come to me for anything.”

Pride Month is an extremely important time for all who identify within the LGBTQ community and for the allies of the community, Allemand wrote. 

Coming together in June to celebrate the successes and advancements of the LGBTQ community while facing negative policies from the federal, state and local levels is essential, he wrote. 

Allemand wrote SG held events to advance discussions on topics relating to the LGBTQ community through events such as the Trans Day of Visibility, Coalescence Summit and a month full of programming for Pride last year.

“From a Student Government standpoint, I believe that we should be celebrating these identities year-round, and I believe that in the past year, Student Government has been able to make major advancements towards the goal of inclusivity for students of all identities,” Allemand wrote.

Allemand noted the Legislative Branch over the past year has passed bills allowing for gender-neutral wording within our governing documents, advocated for expanded resources for gender-affirming care within our state and recognized LGBTQIA History Month. 

“From a more personal standpoint, being an individual who identifies within this community, it is extremely empowering to have a Student Government who advocates for its students of ALL identities and actively fights for students to have access to essential resources to aid them in all their endeavors regardless of party lines,” Allemand wrote. 

Contact Vivienne at Follow her on Twitter @vivienneserret.

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Vivienne Serret

Vivienne Serret is a UF journalism and criminology senior, reporting for The Alligator's university desk as the student government reporter and managing editor for The Florida Political Review. She loves debating, lifting at the gym and singing.

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