Trans activist: Nate Quinn spent 2016 fighting to keep trans students safe in the bathroom

By : Jeremy Williams
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Doing something that would deem you remarkable is difficult enough. To do so as a teenager is a whole new level, but Nate Quinn is definitely deserving of that kind of praise.

Quinn came out to his parents as transgender when he was 16 years old, but unlike the typical teen who rebels away from authority, he sat down with them.

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Nate Quinn at a rally demanding equal rights for transgender students in Sarasota County. Photo from ANSWERS Suncoast’s Facebook page.

“They didn’t know anything about trans issues when I came out so they educated themselves. I helped them educate themselves, and they got me a therapist who understands trans issues and helped me how I needed to be helped,” Quinn says.

Quinn then went to the administrators at Pine View, a grades 2-12 magnet school in Osprey, Fla., which he attended and asked for a trans-inclusive bathroom policy.

“I started my junior year in 2015 when I first came out and they said no,” Quinn says. “So I went back my senior year, the beginning of this year, and asked again and they said no again, so I decided I was going to fight them on it. I told them they need to get educated on the issue and that I wasn’t going to back down on this.”

Quinn organized a call-in to the school, creating a Facebook page asking students and members of the community to all call Pine View on the same day asking for a trans-inclusive bathroom policy. Within a few weeks, Quinn had nearly a thousand commitments to call the school.

“The school saw that and said ‘We can’t afford to have a thousand people calling into the office in one day,’ so we had a meeting,” Quinn says. “They said to me ‘OK, we’re going to change it so what specifically do you want?’ They changed the bathroom policy and allowed me to use the bathroom that aligned with the gender I identify with.”

Quinn got what he wanted, and could have stopped there, but something else weighed on his mind.

“I told Pine View that that works for me and that it was good enough for them to do, but now I was going to take it to the Sarasota County School Board, and I would get the rest of what I want from them,” he says.

Nate Quinn (Center) with fellow students from Pine View, the school that enacted a trans-inclusive bathroom policy in Sarasota County. Photo courtesy of Nate Quinn.

What Quinn wanted was for all the schools in Sarasota County to be covered under this policy.

“When I was starting the fight it wasn’t just ‘I need bathroom rights and that’s it.’ I knew I was going to be gone after this year, but what about the trans kids after me? What if they weren’t able to fight for those rights themselves,” Quinn says.

Quinn went to the Sarasota County School Board in February and asked them to change the policy, and they said no. Quinn went back in March and asked again, but received the same answer. So Quinn did the only thing he felt he could: He organized.

“We did two protests, [including] a march downtown which had about 200 people show up and march with us. I’ve had lots of meetings with the school board,” Quinn says.

Quinn didn’t get the results he had hoped for. The school board instead refused to vote either way, saying it would see how the U.S. Supreme Court handles the issue. Quinn is ok with a stalemate for the moment. He got the issue the attention it needed, and for him that’s a win.

Quinn is now a freshman at the University of Florida.

“It’s a lot more liberal up there,” Quinn says. “I live on campus and ended up getting another liberal roommate and two conservative ones, so it’s been a struggle sometimes. But we talk and discuss policy and I have definitely educated them on transgender rights and issues.”

An activist’s job is never done.

Gallery photos by Jake Stevens.

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