2014 was a year of gains for the trans community, and Gina Duncan led the way in Florida

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Orlando – Gina Duncan has had one busy year. If it seemed as if ever month she was speaking at another city council meeting or in front of a county commission to discuss transgender rights—it’s because she was.

In June, Duncan became Equality Florida’s transgender inclusion director. She was, of course, already familiar with the statewide organization. She joined as a board in December 2013.

“After I had the good fortune of meeting with Nadine Smith, we were brainstorming about what I was doing and her goals to increase Equality Florida’s focus on representing the entire LGBT spectrum, and it just was a perfect fit,” Duncan says.

In February, she helped launch the “Transgender Dynamics in the Workplace and Classroom” initiative, which aimed at educating employers about the dynamics of the transgender community. It also directed those employers on how to embrace trans employees’ presence in the workplace to help increase productivity and economic development.

Duncan’s work history helped set her up to be the activist she is today for not only the transgender community, but entire LGBT community as well. Her advocacy began when she was in transition and still a regional manager at Wells Fargo. There, she was asked to become involved with Wells Fargo’s Employee Resource Network, Wells Fargo LGBT Pride Network and she was the East Coast Chair for Wells Fargo’s Pride Group. By then, she was overseeing 46 different pride chapters from Maine to Texas.

“After retiring from the mortgage banking industry, I started my own consulting business, which I saw there was a need of in the area of transgender education, awareness and inclusion in the workplace,” Duncan says. “I started doing consulting work with the Fortune 500 companies around Florida and actually across the country.

“I was very pleased to see that corporate America very much embraced wanting to have fully inclusive policies for their employees and offer a welcoming environment for all people.”

A big part of Duncan’s job includes public policy work, in which she has been very involved the last year. She has been in the forefront of every initiative to amend Human Rights Ordinances to include gender identity and expression, allowing for full inclusion for all people.

“It’s been one of the most gratifying years of my life, and it’s been very rewarding that, with the support for Equality Florida, we’ve been able to increase the education, the scope and the awareness of what it means to be transgender and working toward transgender equality across the state of Florida,” Duncan says.

With the help of many others, Duncan said amendments have been passed in the City of Orlando, Sarasota and, most recently, Miami-Dade County to include transgender protections. And those are just a few of the many Florida municipalities to do so in 2014. She adds that the passing of the Miami-Dade County amendment was a huge accomplishment because it is the most populous county in the state. It’s also a big victory because of the number of people that came out in support and in opposition of the measure, and the media coverage it drew.

But the most memorable moment of 2014 for Duncan is when she helped advocate for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Florida Competitive Workforce Act.

“I had the opportunity to speak with Senator Bill Nelson on behalf of Equality Florida and the Democratic Party to seek [his] support for ENDA,” Duncan says. “Senator Nelson had spoken with several people from the LGBT community but still had some concerns that involved transgender issues. I was asked to sit down with him and his wife and speak to those concerns.
“We had a wonderful conversation, and I think Senator Nelson and his wife came to better understand transgender people and transgender issues. Two days later, I was informed that Senator Nelson was a co-sponsor of this important national legislation. Even though it didn’t pass, it was a very rewarding event for me to have potentially affected something on a national scale. That was very impactful to me personally and very gratifying.”

This year also saw transition of Trans*Action Florida into an Equality Florida program. TransAction is now a network and council of transgender leaders across the state linked together through Equality Florida.
Looking toward 2015, Duncan hopes to expand TransAction and continue advocacy across the state for transgender rights and protections, working under the direction of Equality Florida.

“I just want to continue doing what I’m doing,” Duncan says. “In the end, all of the work that I do, in corporation with so many people, helps people everyday. The suicide rate of the transgender community [is] so high. If we can reduce that and improve the qualityof life for transgender people in the state of Florida or in the Southeast, then I will be totally fulfilled.”

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