Following the fight for transgender rights nationally and in Sarasota

Photos by Kat Grimmett
Photos by Kat Grimmett

Over a year’s worth of discussions and protests have endured in Sarasota and across the nation relating to transgender people’s fundamental right to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity. On Feb. 22, Donald Trump rescinded the protections for transgender students that were issued under President Obama, just in time for an upcoming protest and speak-out in Sarasota.

The Trump administration’s decision once again conflicts with promises he made on the campaign trail. A New York Times report on Thursday, Feb. 23, claimed that Trump made a statement in April in which he supported the rights of transgender people “to use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.”

Even Betsy DeVos, the narrowly appointed Trump administration’s Secretary of Education, was hesitant to cooperate with Trump – who was persuaded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ desire to abrogate transgender civil rights protections. This move comes just a month before the Supreme Court hears oral arguments from G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board on March 28, a case resulting from a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the Gloucester County School Board for adopting a discriminatory bathroom policy.

“I have dedicated my career to advocating for and fighting on behalf of students, and as Secretary of Education, I consider protecting all students, including LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America,” DeVos said in a statement released Wednesday evening. DeVos considers this issue best to be discussed at the “state and local level. Schools, communities, and families can find – and in many cases have found – solutions that protect all students.”

In a statement sent to the entire campus community on Friday, Feb. 24, New College President Donal O’Shea pledged that, “New College will continue to enforce our regulations and policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity and any other protected characteristic under the law.” This is the third statement released by O’Shea directly relating to the Trump administration and its actions.

These actions come nine months after the Obama administration pledged to protect transgender students and just over a year after Nate Quinn, currently a first-year Psychology major and Music Performance minor at The University of Florida (UF), launched the Nate’s List Campaign for transgender student’s rights while attending Pine View High School, a Sarasota county public school. After facing discrimination when trying to use the restroom that aligned with his gender identity, Quinn felt that it was time to take action.

“It started my activism, because I didn’t want other students to have to go through everything I did just to be seen as an equal,” Quinn said in a Facebook interview.

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Nate’s List, a compilation of trans-inclusive policies written by Quinn and other Pine View High School students, calls for the Sarasota County School Board to adopt dress code, harassment, bathroom and locker room protections for transgender students. Quinn thinks it is crucial for Sarasota schools to adopt such policies because “protecting transgender students in policy allows for action when harassment and other excluding situations occur. It is also important for transgender students to know that they are supported, because when they aren’t we will continue to have high suicide, self harm, and depression rates among transgender people, which results when they are excluded by the system,” Quinn continued.

Five months after the launch of Nate’s List, and after five different events, a combination of call-ins to the Sarasota County School Board, protests outside of school board meetings, speak-outs during school board meetings and large protests in downtown Sarasota, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, under President Obama, issued a guidance calling on schools across the country to uphold Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by protecting and ensuring the civil rights of transgender students.

Despite this historic call, the Sarasota County School Board still denied to adopt Nate’s List, but Quinn did not hold back. With the help of Answer Suncoast, a regional chapter of a civil-rights organization, Quinn and allies organized at least another six events that took place between the Obama administration’s guidance and December of 2016. However, the Sarasota County School Board has still not adopted Nate’s List.

Even though Quinn is no longer regularly in Sarasota, he is continuing the fight more than one year later. He feels that now is as important as ever for Sarasota County School Board and other school boards across the country, to embrace trans-inclusive policies like those proposed on Nate’s List.

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“It is crucial to be in the streets protesting the actions going on from Trump right now. Our direct action over the next month will 100 percent sway the outcome of the upcoming Supreme Court case regarding transgender students. I hope that people will see this decision and know how necessary it is for them to come out and rally for transgender rights with us. The school board speak-out needs to be a priority as well, they haven’t heard from us in a while and they need to see that we won’t stop until we succeed,” Quinn said.

Join Quinn on the streets of downtown Sarasota on Sunday, March 5 at 11 a.m. to resist Trump and to stand up for transgender rights. Additionally, join him on Tuesday, March 7 at 6:15 p.m. at the Sarasota County School Board meeting to speak-out in support of Nate’s List.

Information from this article was gathered from nytimes.com, justice.gov, ed.gov, washingtonpost.com, and aclu.org.

 

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