Gloucester trans student goes to Fourth Circuit Appeals Court over “discriminatory” school bathroom policy
A transgender student from rural Virginia went to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today to appeal a ruling that says he can’t use the men’s restroom.
Gavin Grim, 16, became the focus of a new bathroom policy passed by Gloucester County’s school board in November, 2014. The policy requires students to use the restroom aligned with their biological sex, not their gender identity. This forced Grimm, who was using the men’s restroom for seven weeks without incident, to use a separate, gender neutral restroom provided by the school.
Joshua Block, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project, served as Grimm’s lawyer in his lawsuit agianst the school board.
Block argued Grimm should be granted the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender.
“It makes no sense for a trans boy on testosterone with a medical ID card from the state to use the women’s restroom,” Block said during today’s hearing which sought to put an injunction in place allowing Grimm to use the boys restroom despite the school’s policy until the case gets a full hearing.
Block argued that Title IX, the federal policy which protects students from sex discrimination in public schools, should be used as protection for Grimm since the language is about gender discrimination and the need for equality. According to Block, Grimm is not being treated as an equal if he must use a bathroom that does not correspond with his gender or one that excludes him from the rest of the student body.
Grimm said that the anxiety of having to use a separate restroom from his peers has been detrimental to his personal well being, affected his desire to go to school, and impacted the quality of his education.
Three judges, Paul V. Niemeyer, Andre M. Davis and Henry F. Floyd, presided over the hearing and lobbed equally difficult questions to both sides.
Neimeye questioned whether making Grimm’s use of a female restroom was discriminatory stating that gender was made of “the physical and psychological” and that Block was narrowing in on the psychological aspect. He went on to wonder how this would apply in a locker room scenario.
Block retorted that locker rooms are not the same today as they were 20 years ago and that many trans students view their born anatomy shameful and do not aim to flaunt it to begin with.
At the school board hearings which lead to the new policy, parents expressed concerns that someone could take advantage of allowing people with non corresponding anatomy to use a certain gender’s facility, a point the defense attorney for Gloucester County stressed.
This idea was brought up at trial as well and Block said that these worries had nothing to do with Grimm and had more to do with a “hypothetical concern” that , so far, has not materialized in other schools that allow trans students to use their gender’s bathroom.
When the defense began their arguments, the Gloucester County School Board’s attorney David Corrigan was almost immediately asked by judge Davis what the harm was in allowing Grimm to use the men’s restroom.
Corrigan stated that it was a “privacy concern by parents and students.” He went on to say that the school had already made “accommodations” for Grimm by installing the closet-sized one person bathroom for anyone to use, and they were therefore not violating Title IX.
Concerns over what gender was and how the school board came to their definition of gender made Floyd ask what medical expert or scientific information the defense had to prove that gender was something assigned at birth and had to be kept concrete.
“So biology is destiny? This is 2016,” Floyd said.
Floyd also wondered at what point in a sex change, since it takes multiple surgeries for the process to be finished, could a student start using their “new” gender’s facility.
The defense attorney said that he did not know, nor was he aware of medical or scientific input into the policy.
At a press conference following the hearing, Black said it wasn’t a good idea to look into a judge’s remarks during a hearing like this, but they hoped for an outcome which would allow Grimm to use the boys restroom before he finishes school next year.
Grimm sat flanked by his two ACLU attorney’s and said the hardships he’s faced since that first school board meeting were real and challenging.
“I say by while people repeatedly called me a girl. “She.” “Her.” “Young lady.” “Confused young lady.” Even “freak,”" he said. “Bullying is already and enormous problem for high school aged youth, and especially for transgender youth. To hear adults of my community teat me as if I was a creature for their ridicule and observation, or some oddity on a stage was incredibly dehumanizing to an extent I could not possibly convey.”
While he’s continued to face challenges from his school, his peers and his community, Grimm said he kept on with the legal fight so others like him wouldn’t have to face the same problems.
“No kid should have to think so hard about performing a basic and private function of being alive,” he said. “I hope that I will be on of the last kids that has to go through something like this, and I am going to do what I can to ensure that.”
An outcome from today’s hearing is expected in the coming months.
The North Carolina governor cited costs of litigation, noting that his state is also the defendant in a lawsuit filed against him by the Dept. of Justice on similar grounds.September 19, 2016
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