The Battle of Largo

Council when one of its members stated publicly how surprisingly well the presentations went.
Speaking on behalf of FORGE were many including Janice Carney and Dr. Kathleen Farrell with the latter brining a round of applause from the pro-inclusion side.
On the day of the city council meeting each speaker came up to the podium and presented their case
either for or against GLTB inclusion. One by one, of what seemed like an endless train of people, each
stepped up and supported their positions. This process continued until shortly before 11PM at which
time the presentations ended and the voting began. Though the arguments strongly
favoured the pro-inclusion side, the vote was to not be in favor of inclusion.
In a surprise decision one key council person changed her mind and decided to vote against the HRO. Commissioner Charlie Harper started the push for a citywide human rights ordinance – and,
in the end, he voted against it. In the weeks following the vote, editorials, articles and other commentaries from both the media and general public criticized Largo for its By; Bobbie Vazquez No Largo is not a distant country or perhaps some dark place in middle earth near Mordor. Rather Largo is a mid-size city in Pinellas county . None the less, Largo was also a place in which a battle took place for basic human rights. With battle lines drawn between the religious right, local businesses, FORGE and its allies rallied around the call for human rights. The primary objective was defined to secure the basic human rights for the GLTB community. The preparation for this effort began several days before the actual battle. A preparatory meeting was held where members of FORGE and pro-inclusion Largo citizens met at Christ the Cornerstone Church. While at Christ the Cornerstone Church the attendees participated in discussions of strategies and practiced presentations. Von New from Florida Equality had provided a class with mock presentations. Each presenter was critiqued on their presentation and given input from the audience as to how improvements might be made. Later this effort would be recognized by the City direction concerning the human rights ordnance. Some writers even cited the similarities of the human rights struggles in the early sixties and how it parallels the current struggles.
Though the battle of Largo was lost, the pro-inclusion forces did win a victory in Largo . On Sept 30 2003 the St. Petersburg TIMES reported that a police officer was placed on paid leave for making a racial slur. The investigation came on the heels of several other examples of racial incidents in Largo. Earlier, in November 2002, a Fire Department Lieutenant was terminated for making a similar racial slur. With a weak employee policy being a potential legal and financial liability to the City began to revise it’s policy to include providing a safe work environment for transgender individuals. On
Oct 7 the revised internal employee policy was passed 7 to 0 for affording protections to transgender employees. Perhaps this was the first step towards a complete HRO.

FORGE is now a Non-Profit Organization

Last August, I had the privilege of coming to Florida to see an old friend and present a talk to the
convention entitled “Culturally Induced Stress—It only hurts because we’re different.” It is a truism that our culture, wherever we are, complicates the important true sex identity expression of transgendered people. People just don’t get it. When we seek protection from discrimination, the way far right shows up to demonize us as any number of undesirable creatures. The churches demand our banishment from protection, yet they pay no taxes, and they simply don’t understand the importance of the separation of church and state. We do need to continue the struggle, however, as little by little, one by one, people are getting our message. We discussed the terms and definitions, as always, and moved to focus on the stages we appear to go through to become our true selves. Research, which has not been given much consideration by our community was reviewed, because it removes the need to argue philosophies and look at the hard data as presented by scientists here and throughout the world. The findings are exciting
and seem to be getting us closer to knowing the physical truth about our selves. People in our culture need to know these findings in order to stand up to the philosophers and spiritual bigots who have no facts nor research to bring to the table. J Michael Bailey’s work is a good example of junk science that was touted as ground breaking by those who would deride us. It has failed miserably due to our standing up proudly to dismiss it. The man who would be queen may in the end be J. Michael Bailey himself. Perhaps the “J” means Judy! Although much of what I covered  was not rocket science or incredibly new, it got us all looking at our journeys in a different way. We must never give up on ourselves or on the culture that is in desperate need of education and direction on how they can help us.
As I write this, I am in my apartment that is covered in snow and ice. It is 10 degrees above zero. God I wish I were with you all in Florida!!

As of Dec 16, 2003 a major milestone was achieved as FORGE became incorporated as a nonprofit. This accomplishment was no small task and was a massive undertaking by Janice Carney.
Being recognized as a non-profit organization will pave the way for FORGE to secure additional funding
for future projects and support it’s a state-wide activism effort for transgender human rights. These fund raising efforts will include events, donations, and grants based on a posting on the FORGE Network from Janice Carney. Jennifer Edwards, a FORGE board member, is currently researching potential grant
opportunities. In the meantime membership fees and donations are FORGE’s primary source of
revenue. If you are interested in making a contribution, please send your donations to: Transgender Forge Inc, 3708 W. Swann Ave Tampa Fl 33609-4522.

Forge: Florida Gender Equality Project

FORGE works to create a safe and productive environment for people of all genders within Florida. FORGE believes in supporting Transgender educational programs, Human Rights Initiatives and advocacy movements that is inclusive for all people.
FORGE will fight discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, race, economic status, age, ability, ethnicity, shape, size, style, religion, or any other characteristic. We urge those people who have felt traditionally unheard to join us and allow you voice a way to be heard. This is a movement for all, and we refuse to leave no one behind.
FORGE believes in a true grassroots strategy that help creates solutions for the problems of those in most critical need. FORGE is dedicated in bringing transgender and other gender activists, advocates, allies and community members together from across the state to:

• Create a formal statewide network of leaders and advocates committed to gender equality;
• Share local victories and information with others to create a State of the State Report;
• Identify and prioritize the most pressing issues regarding gender equality in Florida; and, Build consensus around a statewide gender education and advocacy strategy.
FORGE believes in a transgender education 
and advocacy movement that includes ALL people.
FORGE will not discriminate based on gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, race, economic status, age, ability, ethnicity, shape, size, style, religion, or any other characteristic. In fact, we urge those people who have felt traditionally under-represented or unheard to join us. This is a movement for all, and we refuse to leave anyone behind.
FORGE believes in a true grassroots strategy that creates solutions for the problems of those in most critical need.

Guiding Vision
The vision of the Florida Gender Equality Project (FORGE) is to initiate profound and progressive non-violent social change which will result in an end to oppression and violence based on gender identity and expression.
Guiding Mission
The mission of the Florida Gender Equality Project (FORGE) is to build, protect and advance a safe and productive environment for people of all gender identities and expressions by using education and advocacy to create positive change.
FORGE will pursue broad-based transgender initiatives to educate and influence the government, the private sector, other organizations and the general public.
Through our actions, FORGE will uphold human dignity and equal rights for all people regardless of gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, race, color, creed, sex, age, ethnicity, religion, 
national origin, economic status, nature of employment, disability, marital status, familial status, or any other minority status.