SARASOTA, Fla. - The Sarasota County School Board heard public arguments Tuesday on both sides of the heated debate on transgender students using the bathrooms of the gender they identify with.
Nate Quinn, 17, was born biologically female, but considers himself a male. He dresses like a man, refers to himself as a man, and said he feels like a man. "I was born male, and everyone else saw me as female. But I've always known I was male," he said.
He's been working to get others to see what he's known all along, leading an effort they got his school, Pine View in Osprey, to allow transgendered students like him to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.
Quinn said the next step is to see this change countywide, and he brought the issue before the Sarasota School Board during Tuesday's meeting.
More than a hundred people dressed in white showed their opposition.
"There's safety concerns involved in guys and girls sharing the same restrooms, as well as privacy. There's so much that our teens deal with already, to then have to go in and share a restroom with somebody of the opposite gender?" North Port Pastor Jared Gritton said.
"For me, to think of my boys being in that situation and then throwing a girl into the mix of watching them change or urinate or whatever it may be, it just seems completely outrageous to me," Tom Wolcott, father of two, said.
"The LGBT community is not looking for a solution, but rather for conservatives like myself to stop viewing it as a problem. But that's not going to happen," Port Charlotte Pastor Jay Sheppard said.
Other parents argue this is about letting transgender kids be who they really are.
Gabrielle is a parent to a transgender daughter, and said to 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.
Her young transgender daughter Alaya explained why. "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," she said.
The topic was debated for hours urging the school board meeting and both sides made it clear they have no intention of giving up.
Spokespersons for both Lee and Charlotte Counties said they determine an appropriate course of action when it comes to transgender students on a case-by-case basis.
Both have stand-alone public restrooms that are not gender specific.
The Sarasota County School Board will be discussing this issue at a workshop in two weeks.