A Sarasota, Fla., suburb is waiting for its school board to meet and vote on potentially expanding a new transgender-inclusive bathroom policy, following a packed hearing on the issue.
Pine View School in Osprey is the first school in its district to allow trans students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity, reports the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The policy was adopted January 14.
Nate Quinn, 17, was assigned female at birth but identifies as male. As Fort Myers TV station WFTX notes, "he dresses like a man, refers to himself as a man, and said he feels like a man."
"I was born male," Quinn told the station, "and everyone else saw me as female. But I've always known I was male."
Quinn wants the Sarasota County School Board to expand the policy county-wide, but more than 100 opposed to that idea packed a board meeting this week. And to demonstrate their solidarity, the opponents dressed in white.
Jared Gritton, pastor of First Baptist Church of North Port, told the board their opposition isn't coming from a place of hate. He said the trans-inclusive policy should never have been adopted.
"Not only is a transgender policy not required by law ... but what rational father is going to stand by as an 18-year-old biological male follows his 14-year-old daughter into the bathroom?" he said, according to Orlando TV station WFTV. "This policy attacks students' purity, sense of right and wrong ... and is something utterly opposed to God. Students suffering from gender confusion deserve respect ... but others should not endorse what amounts to a harmful delusion."
Quinn made his own plea to the board and addressed those gathered against him.
"I'm here today to encourage a vote to implement policies countywide that would give transgender students access to the bathroom and locker rooms corresponding with their gender identities," said Quinn. "To those who oppose this supposedly radically liberal policy, do you know what it means to be transgender? I was born a male' my life just requires more effort for me to be seen as the male I am. Please open your hearts to the transgender students of Sarasota."
Quinn is not alone in speaking up for trans rights. Another Pine View transgender student, assigned male at birth, told the board she has been a girl as long as she could remember. Before the policy was adopted, she said, she was harassed by boys just for using the boys' restroom, and all she wanted was to use the bathroom and leave.
"I was very harassed every time I went into the bathroom because the people in there would do horrible things like ask me prove I was a boy," said the student, identifed only by her first name, Alaya, according to WFTX. Her mother also spoke, telling the board that there have been no instances of transgender kids harassing others in their preferred bathrooms.
"But trans kids are in danger if they do use the wrong bathroom," she said.
Board chair Shirley Brown tried to clarify possible misinterpretations of the policy, reports WFTV. "The bathroom is not going to be unisex, and sex is not part of being transgender," Brown said. "It's about personal identity, not sexuality."
According to WFTV, Pastor Jay Sheppherd of Port Charlotte said the problem is that those in favor of transgender rights refuse to listen to their side.
"I have gone to public school, and I understand what bullying means," said Sheppherd. "Does 'bullying' only apply when we disagree? Could this be construed as bullying against area pastors?"
He contended, "The LGBT community is not looking for a solution, but for conservatives like myself to change our thinking, but that's not going to happen."
The school board meets on February 16 and has promised to discuss the issue.
Watch the report below from WFTX.