For 17-year-old Taylor, a typical school day presents unique challenges: Does he use the boys bathroom, or the girls? What can he do to keep his teacher from calling him she? When is the right time to tell classmates his secret?
Taylor, a sophomore at a Broward County high school, is a member of a group of transgender youth who say they were born into the body of one gender, but think, feel, and identify with another.
People just dont understand it, said Taylor who was born a female, but identifies as a male.
For Taylor and others like him, every day can be a struggle.
He cant take physical education because that means undressing in front of the other kids. Hes been embarrassed by one teacher who repeatedly calls him she. He wonders how his classmates would react if his secret got out.
Taylors last name and school have been withheld, as have those of other transgender students interviewed for this article, because they fear being bullied or harassed.
Understanding the difficulties and threats these students go through, the Broward School Board recently changed its non-discrimination policy to acknowledge transgender students.
Any employee who discriminates against someone for any reason race, ethnicity, gender, and now gender expression may receive a punishment, ranging from a warning to being fired.
For example, an educator who embarrasses a student could face a reprimand.
In reality, the policy is still words on paper. There are no bathrooms being installed for transgender students; theres no policy on whether a transgender student can try out for a sports team for the opposite sex; no set policy on which school uniform to wear.
These are fairly new issues for us, said Teri Williams, who works in the districts office of prevention programs. But as issues arise, theyll be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Williams said the goal was to make students as comfortable as possible.
It is something we had to do, added School Board member Jennifer Gottlieb. We want all children to feel safe when they are at school.
Broward is only the third school system in the state to have such language, behind Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties.
Stratton Pollitzer, the deputy director of Equality Florida, said Broward has always been a leader in protecting students. In 2008, the district added language to its anti-bullying policy that includes gender identity. The policy is now used as a model across the state, said Pollitzer.
Browards policies are among the strongest in state, he said.
Transgender student Andrew Viveros who was born male, but identifies as a female says she is hoping Browards new policy will be the start of more equality in school.
Andrew, who recently made headlines when she won the title of prom queen at McFatter Technical Senior High, said running for prom queen was her way of following her dreams. Even though she was met with some resistance from students a few of whom began a petition drive to have her removed from the list of candidates Andrew said it is important that transgender kids have the same opportunities as other students.
I really think there needs to be more education in schools, she said. Everyone should be able to feel comfortable at school.