A trans activist in Florida is trying to become the first transgender voice in the Florida legislature.
Melina Rayna Svanhild Farley-Barratt filed this week to run for an open North Florida state Senate seat. She’s no stranger to Tallahassee, reports Florida Politics, having served as the legislative director for the Florida Chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Farley-Barratt has lived in Gilchrist County, Fla., since 2010 and has found a greater level of community embrace than some might expect.
“I know rural North Florida gets a lot of fear from city folks,” she tells The Advocate. “But at least in my area, I have definitely seen a socially liberal undercurrent in Gilchrist County in terms of it being more accepting, even if policies don’t indicate as much.”
She’s long wanted to run for elected office, not just to lobby officials. With an open Senate seat where she lives, now seems the right moment. With the election of openly trans pols like Virginia Del. Danica Roem winning election in Southern states, the time seems right.
“It’s been a progression,” Farley-Barrett said. “Right now is a great time. I think in two years it will be better.”
Like Roem, Farley-Barratt lists local issues first when discussing her platform, whether that’s a toll road proposed through North Florida or environmental threats in local waters.
If Farley-Barratt gets on the ballot as a candidate next year, she will be only the second transgender candidate to qualify for a legislative race in the state, after 2018 House candidate Alanis Garcia. She’s the first to ever run for state Senate, and of course no trans candidate has won a legislative office in Florida.
Thanks to that alone, she knows her gender identity will come up. She plans to stress the value of diversity of all kinds in collegial bodies like the legislature.
“When a hammer is your only solution, every problem looks like a nail,” she said. “That’s why it’s important have many different people, a different tool in toolbox for every problem.”
She’s running in a heavily Republican area and will likely face Jennifer Bradley, the wife of retiring Sen. Rob Bradley, in the coming election. But while that brings challenges, Farley-Barratt said she hopes to find a path working a geographically large part of Florida.