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USF students rally against a state request for transgender health records

People surrounded by palm trees in a courtyard with signs and wearing flags.
Meghan Bowman
WUSF Public Media
Ben Braver leads a small rally at University of South Florida Tampa Campus outside the Marshall Student Center Tuesday.

A small group of students gathered outside the Marshall Student Center on Tuesday to celebrate trans joy and protect civil rights.

Trans joy and the protection of students’ civil rights were the focus of a small rally on the University of South Florida Tampa campus Tuesday.

A number of student organizations gathered near the Marshall Student Center to rally against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request to the state’s 12 public universities for information on students seeking gender-affirming and trans health care.

Ben Braver is a third-year USF student and Outreach Officer for the College Democrats. He said he found out about DeSantis’ order while in bed, scrolling through Instagram.

READ MORE: WUSF's Daylina Miller shares stories about "Trans Joy"

“I thought, well, somebody has to do something about this,” he said.

Then Braver jumped into action. Working with other campus organizations like the Trans-Student Union, the Students for Democratic Society, and Planned Parenthood Generation Action, Braver started a petition.

“Amazingly, through just one day of work with the team that just came together, all of a sudden, we're able to put out this petition that got 500 signatures in the first few hours,” Braver said. “One thousand not even a day after that.”

Two people standing with a flag and sign with "Trans Joy" written in chalk on the ground.
Meghan Bowman
WUSF Public Media
Students Levi Butts (left) and Alex Krest (right) hold signs and flags during a small rally on the University of South Florida Tampa campus.

Jonathan Chavez is a senior at USF and President of the College Democrats. He said the rally and petition are grassroot efforts led by students.

“We actually are trying to support the school here by suggesting that this is the course of action we'd like them to take,” Chavez said. “We appreciate all the effort they've done so far in standing up for students' rights, and we'd like them to continue that path.”

Braver has since delivered an 86-page binder full of signatures to the USF Provost's office, and arranged a meeting with President Rhea Law Tuesday night.

“I truly believe the USF administration is on the student side,” he said. “Because if the college is not on the side of the students, whose side are they on?”

With Tuesday’s rally, Braver said he wanted the trans community on campus to feel loved and supported. He said the discussion around trans issues and health tends to focus on the political talking points instead of the actual joy that comes from being who someone is.

“I think as we want to love our college, we just need our college to actively support us,” Braver said. “That's why [it’s] a rally showing trans joy, not a protest. We don't want to bully [the] administration into supporting us. We want [the] administration to support us because it's the right thing to do.”

Braver said that “besides any partisan issues, this is simply a civil rights issue,” adding, “this is students taking a stand for civil liberties. Our data should not be given to the state for literally no reason.”

To see the petition, which Chavez said had nearly 2,000 signatures Tuesday afternoon, click here.

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.