OSPREY — After coming out as transgender in 2015, high school student Nate Quinn was bullied.
As a 16-year-old at a student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Osprey, Quinn fought for inclusion.
“It is important at any age to have inclusive education regarding gender diversity,” Quinn said.
Quinn said education about gender is “very outdated.” Any school or teacher being inclusive already is doing a good job, Quinn said.
“Trans people have always existed. We just recently in the United States have become more visible and have popularized the vocabulary that explains our identities.”
Quinn said the recently observed International Transgender Day of Visibility, observed last week, shouldn’t be looked at negatively or as taboo. It’s about celebrating the survival of trans people and the progress made toward equality.
“I hope everyone is learning to celebrate our identities with us this year,” Quinn said.
While growing up, Quinn’s mother was outspoken against gay marriage. Quinn told a Pine View guidance counselor he felt like a male who was trapped in a female body.
After coming out as transgender, Quinn faced bullying and other new challenges. Quinn asked a principal to use the boy’s bathroom at the school and was told no. Later, the principal agreed, making Pine View the first and only Sarasota County School to allow transgender students to use a bathroom coinciding with the gender in which they identify.
Despite backlash, criticism and protests from other parents at the school and at School Board meetings, Quinn’s mother and others were supportive.
The district faced a loss of $2.5 million in federal funding if it discriminated against a student on the basis of sex or gender.
The district created a LGBTQIA Task Force to address that and other issues.
“I think it just takes education for most people,” Quinn said. “Once they realize that humans are so diverse and we exist on all of these spectrums rather than binaries, everything makes a lot more sense.”
Quinn said people have been taught about gender and sexuality in ways that can be difficult to unlearn.
“It can take intense patience and effort to think about these concepts in new ways,” Quinn said.
Since transitioning, Quinn found a love for educating and helping people grow beyond the “narratives that they grew up learning about gender and sexuality.”
“I’ve never felt that my body was female. Because I am male, to me my body has always been male also,” Quinn said. “Transitioning isn’t about becoming male, since I’ve always been male, regardless of how my body has looked, but rather aligning my body to how I would like it to be.”
Today, Quinn is 22 and studying clinical mental health at the University of North Florida.
Quinn found support and guidance in Heather Eslien, a licensed counselor in Sarasota who specializes in gender diversity.
“Her work and passion about trans issues is what made me love advocacy and eventually drove me to also go to school to become a counselor,” Quinn said.
Quinn wrote an email last week after L.A. Ainger Middle School students and teachers recognized International Transgender Day of Visibility at the school where some students identify as transgender.
“Get educated on trans identities by a trans person, especially the process for children who are transitioning,” Quinn said. “These types of people always claim child abuse, but parents are usually having to be educated by their children or their children’s counselor. When children transition it literally only means changing the name and pronouns they are referred by and maybe a change of clothes or hairstyle.”
The letter noted students are not going on hormones or having surgeries early — so if they later realize they are not trans, it’s not an irreversible decision.
“Trans identities are too often talked about only in terms of surgeries and such, but what Trans Day of Visibility is truly about is the love that trans people find for ourselves when we are accepted and supported.”