Lee County protest takes aim at Trump transgender decision

Protesters stood at the corner of Cypress Lake Drive and Summerlin Road to decry at Trump Administration decision that withdraws federal protection for transgender students that required schools to allow them to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identities. ELLEN THALLS / WINK News

SOUTH FORT MYERS, Fla. An appearance by an unlikely opponent of President Trump set the scene for a demonstration in support of her cause Sunday.

Between 30 and 40 protesters waved signs and shouted to voice their concerns over the Trump administration’s decision Wednesday to end federal protection for transgender students that required schools to allow them to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identities.

Jackie Evancho, who sang the national anthem at Trump’s inaugural, tweeted her displeasure with the decision in support of her transgender sister. She performed Sunday at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, not far from where the protest took place.

“As a community, we are going to take the power upon ourselves to make a change, and make sure that we are equal as all other Americans are equal,” said protester Lynn Murray, who has a transgender grandchild.

The Trump administration came down on the side of states’ rights, lifting federal guidelines that had been issued by the Obama administration. Without the Obama directive, it will be up to states and school districts to interpret federal anti-discrimination law and determine whether students should have access to restrooms in accordance with their expressed gender identity and not just their biological sex.

“I don’t think it should be up to our states,” Murray said. “It should a government rule, so wherever we travel within the United States, we’re always protected as transgender people.”

It’s not clear how Florida will proceed. The Obama administration’s guidance was based on its determination that Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education, also applies to gender identity.

While not legally binding, the guidance sent a warning that schools could lose funding if they did not comply.

The Trump administration’s decision feels like a step backward, said Jenna Satterfield, who doesn’t want children to be targets of discrimination.

“I transitioned myself 21 years ago,” Satterfield said. “I know what they’re going through and they shouldn’t have to go through what I went through to become the person I am now.”

Conservative activists hailed the change, saying the Obama directives were illegal and violated the rights of fixed-gender students, especially girls who did not feel safe changing clothes or using restrooms next to anatomical males.

“Our daughters should never be forced to share private, intimate spaces with male classmates, even if those young men are struggling with these issues,” said Vicki Wilson, a member of Students and Parents for Privacy. “It violates their right to privacy and harms their dignity.”

Sunday’s protest drew a mixed reaction from passersby, some of whom honked their car horns in support and some of whom angrily gestured at the demonstrators. But more people than not reacted positively, organizers said.

WINK News reporter Ellen Thalls went live via Facebook from the scene:

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.