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Transgender student denied access to bathroom, told to use storage closet

12:05 AM, Aug 27, 2013   |    comments
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CLEARWATER, Florida - A Safety Harbor transgender nursing student says her Pinellas vocational school isn't allowing her to use the women's restroom. 

Alex Wilson, 25, has been living as a woman for four years. Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida is getting involved on her behalf.

"I love what I do. I love taking care of the patients and I want to learn more to better help the people I take care of," said Alex.

She's a busy woman too. Wilson is working full time as a certified nursing assistant while putting herself through school at Pinellas Technical Education Center, pTEC, so she can become a licensed practical nurse.

Wilson, who's transgender, was born a boy but since she was 12 she said she's identified with being female. She's currently undergoing gender transition right now. She mentioned that to some of her fellow classmates recently, and a month later she said she was called into the office. 

"Basically told that I can't use the women's restroom and I can't use the men's restroom- and the only restroom I was given access to at that time was a storage room that did not lock from the inside," Wilson explained. 

Wilson showed 10 News video of the storage room bathroom, which is in a different building from her classes. She said she's also allowed to use the faculty men's bathroom, but was told if she used the regular bathrooms on campus, charges would be filed against her, which she said is despite the fact that she'd already been using the women's bathroom for months.

"I lost sleep. I was constantly crying about it," said Wilson. "I felt singled out. I felt like everyone was against me. I felt alone."  

According to Wilson, she was denied the basic rights everyone else has.

Daniel Tilley is an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union and has written a letter to the superintendent of the Pinellas County School Board asking the school to comply with federal law. Tilley says it's sex discrimination.

"We are certainly happy to work with them to develop policies that are appropriate," added Tilley.

Alex said the school should have been more sensitive and understanding, especially since she's considered female on her driver's license and with Social Security. 

"The United States government and Florida's government recognize me as female. They need to have restrooms that can be accessed by both, both sexes, like a family restroom."

Wilson said she recently found out that is not the case and that a lot of her classmates do support her.

Meanwhile, Melanie Marquez Parra, a spokesperson for the Pinellas County School Board, said it has received the ACLU's letter and its legal office is now reviewing it.

Follow 10 News Anchor Tammie Fields on twitter @tammiefields

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