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Pioneering Florida Transgender Candidate Dies of Cancer

Melina Rayna Svanhild Farley-Barratt

A Florida transgender and women’s rights activist who was running for the state's Senate died of cancer Wednesday.

Melina Rayna Svanhild Farley-Barratt, legislative director for the National Organization for Women’s Florida chapter, was in hospice care at the time of her death.

“A sad day: Melina Rayna Barratt, Democratic candidate for FL Senate Dist. 5 has passed on,” tweeted Barbara Byram, a House candidate who knew Farley-Barratt.

When she first announced her candidacy, Farley-Barratt spoke to The Advocate about running. While a long shot running in a majority Republican north-central Florida district against GOP nominee Jennifer Bradley, wife of the outgoing state senator for the district, she remained optimistic about what her candidacy could bring.

Fueled by victories for trans candidates like Virginia Del. Danica Roem, she felt hopeful about the chance for greater representation in legislatures.

“It’s been a progression,” Farley-Barratt said. “Right now is a great time. I think in two years it will be better.”

She told Florida Politics she had considered running for other offices before choosing the open Senate seat. She passed on running for Congress. “The Florida Senate is easier to manage,” the experienced lobbyist said.

She felt a greater diversity of perspectives in politics would improve life for all.
“When a hammer is your only solution, every problem looks like a nail,” she said in her Advocate interview. “That’s why it’s important have many different people, a different tool in toolbox for every problem.”

She was just the second trans candidate in Florida to qualify for the ballot for a state legislative race.

Even before running, Farley-Barratt was among the most high-profile trans activists in the state, testifying on LGBTQ+ issues to the Florida legislature routinely.

Since 2012, she had been receiving treatment for metastatic follicular thyroid carcinoma that started in her thyroid and spread to her spine. She discussed her fight with the illness with Florida public broadcaster WUFT, something she waged while continuing to lobby on women’s issues. She told the outlet it was during that fight she decided to come out.

Florida NOW Secretary Lakey Love has established a fund to cover memorial and cremation costs for Farley-Barratt.

“Melina is well known for her feminist work battling for the equity and rights of women and LGBTQIA+ equity in Florida's Capitol, throughout the state, and around the nation,” a GoFundMe page reads. “She is the first transgender woman candidate to run for election as a legislator in the Florida Senate and, even in ill health, she fought bitterly to stop the bitter discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people.”

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