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City Commissioner Hayes-Santos proposes legalization of toplessness

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

During Thursday’s General Policy Committee meeting, Gainesville City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos proposed that female toplessness should be permitted in the City of Gainesville.

The agenda item was titled “Making the code of ordinances gender-neutral,” and it was clear that few, if any, commissioners other than Hayes-Santos had read the backup. Mayor Lauren Poe had excused himself from the meeting a few minutes before the item came up, saying, “I absolutely support making our entire City organization, ordinances and everything else, gender neutral, so if that comes up I am absolutely in support of that.”

In introducing the topic, Hayes-Santos said, “This was brought to me by neighbors early last year about their concerns about the gender discrimination in our City code. I believe our laws in our city should not discriminate based on gender, and our laws do discriminate based on what gender you are. We should change our codes… to allow any gender to do what are currently allowed by men. Men have the most rights in our community, and every gender should have the same rights that men currently do in our city.”

He also said that any portions of the code that specify gender should be replaced with gender-neutral terms because “there are many people in our community who are not reflected in our City code, neighbors who are non-binary or gender fluid, and that should change.”

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Commissioner Gail Johnson said she had just looked at the backup and “I was excited and then I was completely horrified.” She said she supported making the language in the codes “more inclusive specifically around identity,” but when she saw the research about toplessness laws, “like my jaw dropped, and it is about revising language around public nudity to make female toplessness legal with what I feel is under the guise of being discriminated against because of their gender, right? So I’m personally offended because I wonder where this came from and why we are talking about it.”

Johnson continued, “Women do not care right now whether or not they can be topless in public. What we care about is equal pay for equal work. We care about, you know, the compassionate treatment of rape victims and sexual assault victims, we care about the child care crisis happening in our city… So like why are we talking about female toplessness?”

Hayes-Santos replied, “There are multiple women that I’ve spoken to who do feel discriminated against. I understand your thoughts, but there are other people in our community that have different feelings.”

Commissioner Gigi Simmons said she agreed “100%” with Johnson.

Commissioner Reina Saco said she didn’t want to put words in Hayes-Santos’ mouth, but “we might have people who identify as non-binary but who might be penalized by our penal system as male or female, as how they present themselves, and that is part of the whole ‘Can I go topless?’ issue… It might be a concern for those of our transgender neighbors who police might identify as male or female, and that could have consequences… I was at first a little horrified as well, saying it is two different issues, but I could see where de-gendering that part is part of protecting our transgender and our nonbinary neighbors who police might not have the appropriate empathy at the moment to identify a person as non-binary or their appropriate gender based on, you know, whether a person has breasts of a certain nature.”

During public comment, a woman who was identified as Hannah Hill said,  “I am in favor of this. You see, society for a large time, for all of history really, has been centered around the man and, like, this patriarchal society, and not only by making this language more inclusive and de-gendering it, are we promoting inclusiveness and eliminating the inequality between the binary genders, but we are then including the non-binary genders left in the gray matter of these language structures, so it is really important for me, as a female who grew up in this society where it is man, man, man, man, man, to kind of see us go forward… They were asking why topless laws are being talked about in this gender neutralization… As a female, the sexuality, the inherent sexuality that comes with nudity needs to be culturally depleted, like we need to get rid of that. And the only way to do that is to neutralize it… Europe being a leading example… You see less problems with sexual assault, with rape, you see these topics being talked about in a more open fashion, less taboos are being generated around this subject. Ultimately, you are curing generations of trauma going forward.”

The commission voted unanimously (with Ward and Poe absent) to ask staff to do a full presentation on the topic for a future General Policy Committee meeting.

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