Trans Students Are Already Protected Under Federal Law, Affirms the Justice Department

Extending the federal government’s determination that existing sex discrimination protections cover trans people too, the Department of Justice has stepped in on behalf of a trans student whose school discriminated against him by making him use segregated facilities.

The case in question involves 16-year-old Gavin Grimm, a student at Gloucester High School in Virginia. Grimm is transgender and has been diagnosed with severe gender dysphoria. According to the ACLU, Grimm’s mother told the school about his male gender identity at the beginning of his sophomore year in 2014 so that he could transition without difficulty. The school was apparently welcoming of Grimm, and for a number of months Grimm was allowed to use the male restroom facilities without difficulty.

However, some parents learned that Grimm is transgender and complained to the school. As a result, the school board then debated and adopted a new policy in December last year that requires all students to use the facility that accords with their “biological gender” and trans students to use separate single-stall facilities, effectively segregating them for no other reason than their being trans. The district was warned by the ACLU that this is illegal under the 14th Amendment and that it also violates Title IX, the federal mandate against sex discrimination.

To give you an idea of how it feels for Grimm to be put in this position, he is quoted as saying: ”Now that the board has passed this policy, school no longer feels as safe and welcoming as it did before. Being singled out is a glaring reminder of my differences and causes me significant discomfort every time I have to use the restroom.”

It’s important to note that part of the vital treatment for gender dysphoria is being affirmed in your gender identity. By segregating Grimm, the school board has effectively stigmatized him, undercutting his gender affirmation and thereby inflicting emotional distress.

“These policies inflict real harm on real students. By adopting this new ‘biological gender’ policy solely to prevent Gavin from using the same bathroom as other boys, Gloucester Public Schools sends an incredibly stigmatizing message that segregates Gavin and other transgender students from their peers,” Joshua Block, attorney in the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project, is quoted as saying. “Schools can address privacy concerns by making unisex bathrooms more widely available for any student who is not comfortable using a communal restroom facility, but they cannot discriminatorily require transgender students – and only transgender students – to use unisex bathrooms.”

As touched on above, the ACLU of Virginia has filed a lawsuit against Gloucester County School Board for this policy. At the same time, it sent complaints to both the Department of Education and the Department of Justice. The DOJ has now reportedly responded, filing alongside the ACLU a brief that affirms the administration’s belief that Title IX does cover trans students:

“Under Title IX, discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex. The term ‘sex’ as it is used in Title IX is broad and encompasses gender identity, including transgender status. (…)

“Prohibiting a student from accessing the restrooms that match his gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX. There is a public interest in ensuring that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination.”

This assertion relates back to the much talked about series of memos released in December of last year, where various departments of the federal government affirmed that trans identity is covered under Title IX, including transgender children in schools. The Department of Education had previously indicated this belief, but we’ve seen a gradual unpacking of that determination as the months have gone on, and this latest case is among the first to test in the courts that Title IX applies to gender identity, and specifically is the first to argue that it applies to trans students.

Given that trans people are not protected under state law in a majority of U.S. states, this federal protection is crucial, and therefore the DOJ’s defense of Grimm’s rights on this basis is important. It doesn’t however get rid of the need for federal legislation specifically enumerating trans people (and LGBs too) to make it clear to businesses and schools that this discrimination is not acceptable.

For Gavin Grimm’s case, the ACLU has filed for preliminary injunction until the court rules on the wider questions before it, so that Grimm can use the same restroom as his male classmates for the start of the 2015-2016 school term.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you!

M Quann
M Q3 years ago

Thank you.

Nick L.
Nick L3 years ago

@Marianne C.
Excuse me? I am very much a transgendered man and I was being funny. It didn't occur to me that someone would think I was pretending to be trans. What kind of sicko would do that?

Is it just because I don't have obvious scarring on my chest? I was an A cup and had a periareolar.. ie-NO SCARS. Also I will have you know it took me 2 LONG YEARS on T to grow that beard. And if I do shave I'm lucky to have even a shadow in 3 weeks let alone days hahaha.

I am sorry to have offended you with my joke though. It was a bit tasteless.

Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman3 years ago

When a tourist in Paris, I learned that French men will go to any restroom that they want to. While heading for the ladies room, I saw a man leaving it. I had to check the signs twice to be sure that I was going to the correct place.

I wonder if there are any statistics about men bothering women in ladies rooms in France. I'm guessing that there is no problem worth reporting.

Marianne C.
Marianne C3 years ago

@ Nick L:

Yes, if you went into the ladies room flaunting your shirtless pecs and three days growth of beard. Because it would be OBVIOUS that you are not a woman of either the biological or the trans variety.

But when somebody is laying siege to the ladies bathroom, and has the door locked, and the men's room is right next to it, and there's nobody in it, and it has a lock on the door, you can bet your sweet Speedo I'll be using it.

Nick Lawrence
Nick L3 years ago

I dare the courts to bring a law in where you have to use the bathroom of your biological gender! There would be women screaming and running for thier lives if I was to walk into the ladies toilets, sooner or later I would get beaten up by a secrity guard or whoever came running to "save" them. Could really do with all the money I would get in compensation for simply being a law abiding citizen.

Problem is I don't want to frighten anyone who is just trying to go to the toilet. I know how it feels to be scared in a public bathroom and wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Christine V.
Christine V3 years ago

glad they are protected

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Vikram S.
Vikram S3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

Boys and girls in school DO need separate restrooms - kids unsupervised can "roughhouse" and boys being often stronger could bully and harass the girls - as some do outside the restrooms, but in the claustrophobic restrooms with people's pants down it could be WORSE. Separate restrooms have ALWAYS been seen as necessary, for gosh sakes a kid needs to pee in peace!

That said, girls generally accept a Trans girl, and boys a Trans boy, as one of themselves - UNLESS THE PARENTS MAKE A FUSS. As the song in South Pacific says, "You have to be taught to hate". Also there are now good books and teaching materials that teachers can introduce, if there's any discussion coming up.

Girls recognize "a girl with a penis" as being NOT a boy or a bully or a sneaky voyeur.
I think one can't find a SINGLE INSTANCE of Sexual Harassment BY a Trans person.
OF a Trans person, by the uneducated, yes.
Just "being uncomfortable" is NOT a reason to exclude a person from the restroom proper to their declared gender. GET OVER IT. NO Crime is being committed, NOBODY is actually hurt, except maybe the Trans person. And, excuse me, PISsss on what the Bi-bul says about it...
It is good for places of Public Accommodation, to have "Gender Neutral" restrooms where, for example, parents might want to go with their other-gender kids. But Trans people should not be EXILED to such restrooms - it should be their personal choice.