Miami-Dade “community ID” program to benefit transgender individuals

A new Miami-Dade County “community identification” bill aims to build trust between law enforcement, residents and legal services. It could even save the lives of transgender individuals and other vulnerable residents.

The program would provide government-issued IDs to those without access to proper name documentation. This includes seniors, survivors of domestic violence, foster youth, formerly incarcerated, homeless and transgender individuals.

The Board of County Commissioners approved the bill on Feb. 1. It was more than eight months in the making.

“Creating a community ID card not only gives access to basic services to residents who have been left out for not having a driver’s license, but it also makes our community safer by fostering a better relationship between the police and the community,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in a Feb. 1 press release.

Only seven days after the bill’s approval, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans the use of LGBTQ+-related discourse in schools. This could set back transgender progress in the state.

Some incidents of misidentification have led to discrimination in jails among transgender residents of Miami-Dade, including LGBTQ+ advocates and influencers Christian Pallidine, Gabriela Amaya Cruz, and Jae Bucci.

Another — April Castillo, an FIU alumnus — felt out of place on Feb. 8 at what was supposed to be a night out to de-stress with friends.

“I was at Flanigan’s and had to show my ID to prove it was me. It just feels wrong,” Castillo said. “It’s just really dysphoria-inducing because it’s the wrong name and outdated photo. The bartender just thinks of me as a guy as soon as they see my ID.”

Many transgender individuals experience gender dysphoria or an insecure feeling regarding a disconnect between one’s gender identity and the sex assigned at birth.

The bill would especially benefit Castillo’s ability to communicate with police, she says.

“God forbid I get pulled over by a cop… it’s so awkward because I’ll say, ‘I know it’s my ID, but my name is April,’ but then they’d say, “No, I’m sorry, you have to go by your legal name,” she said.

With over 92 anti-transgender bills across the United States, Mayor Levine Cava hopes the community ID program is one step toward combatting the epidemic. She condemned the “Don’t Say Gay” bill the day it was passed.

“In America, we shouldn’t be making it harder for our children to grow up because of who they are,” Cava tweeted on Feb. 8. “We should be helping them feel welcomed and valued and loved –– especially in our schools.”

The bill – led by the nonprofit organization, Branches – is modeled after similar measures approved in Broward, Alachua and Palm Beach counties.

While the Palm Beach program lists’ schools’ as one location where the Community ID is accepted, it is unclear if the same applies for Miami-Dade.

The legislation follows a resolution – originally sponsored by Commissioner Eileen Higgins, District 5 and approved by the board in June 2021.

“A community ID is a critical tool for our most vulnerable residents, not only to access Miami-Dade County services but also to give people a sense of belonging in our community,” said Higgins in a press release on Feb. 1.

Applications are not being accepted yet. Branches will update its website and social media when applications open, according to a press release.

Jesse Fraga studies Digital Journalism as well as Women's and Gender Studies. He was awarded "Best Coverage of LGBT Issues" and "Best News Photo" by the Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine State Awards. Fraga works as an intern for Miami New Times and was the former News Director of PantherNOW. He hopes to bridge the gap between queer news and mainstream media.