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Ed | Robert Asencio | An Unexpected Ally
by Pablo Hernandez

People love to say that technology separates and disconnects us, but I don't think that's true. I think there are very clear ways in which
technology, especially social media, actually brings us closer together, both with the people in our own communities and also in other
communities around the country (and world.)

A little over a year ago, my friend and I started a Facebook group,
A Kinder Miami, with the intention of sharing and spreading
ideas that can help transform Miami through politics and social
action. We didn't really know what to expect, and before we knew
it the group had grown (mostly on its own) to about 600 people.
Seeing our group grow so much and so quickly was pretty
exciting, but not as exciting as what would happen next.

A few months ago, through our Facebook group, we met a man
named Robert Asencio. He is a police officer, a candidate for
the Florida House of Representatives, a heterosexual man,
and...an LGBT advocate? We were very grateful to meet
someone who fit this description for two reasons. One is that
we are both very interested in politics and we care a lot about
Florida's, and Miami's, future. So naturally we are excited to
get up, close, and personal with the political process in any
way we can. The second reason is that it's always a pleasant
surprise to meet a heterosexual, cisgendered person who
supports, is interested in, and is knowledgeable about LGBT
issues. It's especially important at this point in history—as
lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are gaining a new level
of acceptance and empowerment across the country, and
transmen and women are finally being heard and getting the
respect and understanding they deserve.

ROBERT ASENCIO is running against Frank Artiles, the Florida State
Representative who created the notorious "bathroom bill," which would force
transmen to use women's bathrooms and transwomen to use men's
bathrooms. I'm sure I don't have to explain my feelings about that bill to
Ambiente readers.

I met with Robert in preparation for this article, and we discussed the bathroom bill, and LGBT issues in general. There were two things
that really impressed me about Robert. One was how much he already knew about LGBT issues, and trans issues in particular. The
second thing was his openness to learn more. At the beginning of our interview, Robert said something that really resonated with me.
We were discussing the fact that, ultimately, LGBT people are just like the rest of society and Robert said, "Life isn't prejudiced. They're
going to throw the same problems at you that they're going to throw at me."

But what I appreciated even more than that sentiment was his answer to my follow-up question. I asked him what he would say to
someone who points out that, in addition to the inevitable challenges of life, there are also a specific set of issues that we as LGBT
people have to deal with. And Robert responded by saying, "Help me understand what those issues are." I believe that many people,
especially politicians, would take my question as an opportunity to preach about their personal philosophy or to prove how informed or
enlightened they are. But Robert's natural, immediate response was just to listen and learn even more.

This kind of openness is rare and refreshing, and not something I necessarily expected to find in a politician. It seems to me that there
are a lot of people who want to and try to be open, but Robert makes it look easy. It seems to come naturally to him, that he is just an
open-minded, open-hearted person without trying to be that. We often complain about how there are no honest politicians, but I like to
think that maybe we are at the point where people are tired of the old system, and maybe we are ready for an honest, real candidate.

My original point about society becoming more connected by social media is actually one of the things that make me feel optimistic about
the future of politics. It seems to me that the constant recording, sharing, and re-sharing of almost every aspect of life leaves less room
than before for politicians to harbor secret agendas without getting caught. For example: in the past, an important speech made by a
state representative may never even be heard by the people in the state itself, but now state representatives' speeches are regularly
posted on YouTube, and occasionally even go viral. The speech that comes to my mind is New York State Senator Diane Savino's
beautifully brave and moving speech on marriage equality from December 2009. The video has been watched over 700,000 times on
YouTube, and I know I personally have seen it pop up on Facebook several times in the last few years. (If you haven't seen it, by the way, I
really recommend watching it. It's on YouTube as "NYS Senator Diane Savino speaks on the Marriage Equality bill.")

So we are living in an era in which two ordinary, unestablished activists can meet and befriend a state-level political candidate, and in
which the effects of a little speech made on a Wednesday in Albany can still be felt almost six years later in Miami. I think we're doing just
fine.














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