By Joshua Block, Senior Staff Attorney, LGBT & HIV Project
The Supreme Court granted an “emergency” stay yesterday to stop Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old transgender boy from Virginia, from using the boys’ restroom at school.
Gavin has facial hair, a deep voice, and a state ID that identifies him as male. In every aspect of his life outside school, he is recognized as the boy that he is. But when Gavin goes back to school for his senior year of high school, he will be singled out from every other student and forced to use a separate single-stall restroom that no one else is required to use.
According to his school board, Gavin’s mere presence in the boys’ restroom is a violation of other boys’ privacy. No one, including the school board, thinks it would be appropriate for a boy like Gavin to use the girls’ restroom. So the school board converted a couple of old utility closets into single-user restrooms that Gavin must now use to “protect” other students from his mere presence. He has been shamefully forced to use a separate restroom or the restroom in the nurse’s office for the past two school years.
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Gavin bravely took his school district to court, arguing that the school board’s policy violates Title IX, the federal statute that protect students from being excluded from school programs and resources on the basis of sex. The United States Department of Education and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed with Gavin as well. As a result of the fourth circuit’s ruling, Gavin was preparing to begin his senior year with a fresh start. He would finally be able to use the restroom without being isolated.
Sadly, that won’t happen. Even if the Supreme Court ultimately decides to let the lower court’s decision stand, Gavin will have had to spend most of his senior year forced to use a separate restroom from the rest of his classmates, simply because of who he is.
If you ask the school board why they are going to all this effort just to stop one kid from using the restroom, they will tell you that this is about more than Gavin. It is about what happens when a transgender student uses the locker room (even though Gavin doesn’t take gym and transgender students across the country use the locker room all the time without incident) or a transgender student wants to use the showers or about stopping a non-transgender boy from pretending to be a transgender girl to sneak into the girls’ restroom (even though schools administrators across the country report that this doesn’t happen). They will say this is really about a host of fears, and hypotheticals, and far-fetched scenarios. They will say it is about anything else but Gavin.
Try telling that to a 17 year-old kid who was just told by the United States Supreme Court that the prospect of him using a toilet in the “wrong” restroom was an emergency that could cause irreparable harm.