TAMPA, Fla. — Now more than ever, the LGBT community is seeing increased visibility across the country. Here in the Tampa Bay area, organizations and leaders acknowledge how far we’ve come, but how much more we still have to go.
“I was fired for being LGBT,” said Justice Gennari.
Progress towards acceptance and change hasn’t come overnight, or without its challenges.
“The owner of the company met with me and told me to tone it down. I didn’t know exactly what he meant. I wasn’t being sarcastic when I was like, ‘I’m sorry?,” said Gennari. “He said, ‘Well, tone down your gayness,’ basically, and I politely declined, and the very following day, I got a phone call and was told not to return to work.”
Gennari is now the President and CEO of the Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber. He explained things have changed drastically from then to now, and he said we’re seeing a lot more employers being more inclusive, whether they’re a LGBT business owner or not.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion has been on the forefront of businesses, corporations, and even small mom and pop shops across the United States and across the world,” said Gennari.
Advocates say visibility for the LGBT community has greatly increased over the years and has seen unprecedented support lately. Gallup’s latest update from this past February on LGBT identification found 5.6 percent of US adults identify as LGBT, which is up from Gallup’s previous update based on 2017 data.
“I think that with the visibility that we have right now, it’s allowing our younger generation and even our older generation to feel more empowered to be authentically themselves,” said Gennari.
“LGBT people are our friends, they’re our family, and we’re going to continue to gain rights, and this is a fight we’re going to win,” said Michael Womack, a communications manager for Equality Florida.
Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for the state’s LGBT community. Womack shared the challenges that still exist.
“As we’ve gained rights, there’s been a dramatic pushback from conservative legislatures and conservative governors across the country. Florida is one of them, and we have to fight hard, and we have to keep pressing,” said Womack.
Both Equality Florida and the Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber have resources for people to help be an ally, a reminder that progress isn’t finished yet.
“Just remember that during Pride Month, it’s fantastic to raise your flag and to show your pride, but there’s many different ways to be supporting the LGBT community outside of Pride Month,” said Gennari.