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Tallahassee LGBTQ+ Advisory Council Meets To Discuss Tony McDade's Death

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Valerie Crowder
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WFSU News
A school zone in Tallahassee

Tallahassee's LGBTQ+ Advisory Council held an emergency meeting Thursday to address last week's officer-involved shooting of Tony McDade, a transmasculine person. City officials wanted guidance on how to talk about McDade, but council members are conflicted about approaching the issue.

As Tony McDade's family makes funeral plans, people across the nation are calling out local officials and news outlets for misgendering McDade. The initial police report and eye witness accounts gendered McDade as a woman. In a Facebook live video McDade posted the morning he was shot, he referred to himself using male and female pronouns. Close friends say McDade identified as a transgender man. Now, the city is asking its LGBTQ+ advisory council for guidance on what pronouns to use when referring to McDade.

A Leon County judge hearing an emergency request to block the name of a Tallahassee police officer involved in a recent shooting says he won’t immediately issue a ruling. The case centers on whether a police officer can claim victim privacy rights under Florida’s Marsy’s Law Constitutional Amendment.

"We have family members who still want to address the situation as, you know, she/her with family, and it's a very delicate situation because I can only speak for myself," says council member Janel Diaz.

Diaz is also a transgender woman. She says she knows first-hand the issue can be complicated because sometimes family and friends refer to transgender people using pronouns that don't match the gender they identify with:

"I have kids. I have an 18-year old son. I have a 21-year old daughter, and I have a 25-year old daughter, and they call me dad."

Cesar Matthews, another council member, has a different perspective. He's a black transgender man.

"I think it's really wrong for us to not say, Tony. I think it's really wrong for us to not say he/him," Matthews says.

Reverend Joe Parramore, a co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Council, says he spoke with Mcdade's funeral director.

"So in all publications regarding the funeral, it will say Natosha/Tony," Parramore says.

Natosha is McDade's legal name. Parramore says McDade's mother wants to be respectful of McDade's extended family and members of the LGBTQ community.

"And has agreed to allow them to use Natosha/Tony when referring to them," Parramore says.

"Tony, can't speak for himself right now. He can't speak for himself. So if the family came to a resolution to say 'hey, look, you know what, out of respect for y' all'—cause guess what? That mother don't have to say anything or appease anybody because that was her child," Diaz says.

She says it feels like some people in the LGBTQ community are trying to capitalize on McDade's death.

"The LGBTQ wants to embrace the situation as you know, cops shot tony because he was [a] black trans man," Diaz says.

Diaz explains that she doesn't think that was the main issue.

"We have to call a spade a spade, and we have to be real, and we have to call it as we see it, and we know, Tony was profiled as a black man. It is what it is. They didn't say, you know, the police did not pull out their guns to say 'oh that's a trans man let's kill him. He's part of the LGBTQ community. Oh, let's kill him.' I don't think that was it at all. That's from my perspective," Diaz says.

The board voted Wednesday to create a “citizens review board,” in partnership with the county commission and law enforcement agencies.

The day he died, McDade allegedly stabbed and killed 21-year-old Malik Jackson. As a police officer responded to the scene, the officer said McDade pointed a gun at him. He later shot and killed McDade.

Mattews says he hopes the council will do more than have a conversation.

"I think if we're engaging in nothing but dialogue, then it's a battle lost, and if we're trying to engage with the community that we already don't have engagement and ties and connections to then it's going to continue to be that way," Matthews says.

Council members say one idea is to create a fund to help pay for name changes on legal documents for transgender people, so their identity is clear. The group plans to submit comments on a report about what can be done to better support Tallahassee's LGBTQ community.