SCOTUS Denies Trans Teen’s Use of Boys Bathroom
Seventeen-year-old Gavin Grimm has facial hair, a deep voice, and an ID that identifies him as male. But his school district won’t let him use the boys’ bathroom.
The American Academy of Pediatrics supports transgender students’ right to use restrooms that match their gender. So does the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old transgender boy, in April after his Gloucester County, Virginia school district denied him access to the boys’ bathroom.
But on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially told Grimm that he’ll have to wait to use the restroom recommended by medical professionals.
In a 5-3 decision, which was released just weeks before Grimm begins his senior year, the justices granted the school board’s emergency request to temporarily put the Fourth Circuit ruling on hold.
As Amy Howe reported for SCOTUSblog, Grimm will not be able to use the boys’ bathroom at school when he returns in early September. If SCOTUS denies the school board’s request for a full review, Grimm could regain his restroom rights soon. But if they decide to review the case, he’ll be waiting months for the Supreme Court’s final decision.
“Gavin has facial hair, a deep voice, and a state ID that identifies him as male,” his lawyer, ACLU senior staff attorney Joshua Block, wrote in a blog post. “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.”
It is still possible that SCOTUS will rule in Grimm’s favor. In the meantime, advocates and allies have taken to social media to send their love to the trans teen, who has long been fighting his school district’s restroom ban with the help of the ACLU.
“I woke up this morning and couldn’t believe that we had to tell our client that the court considered it an ‘emergency’ to stop him from using the restroom,” said Chase Strangio, the ACLU staff attorney who started the #LoveForGavin hashtag.
Since Strangio first posted under the hashtag, dozens have joined him in praising Grimm’s courage.
So far, Strangio says, Grimm has displayed remarkable grace under fire. When parents in Gloucester County first demanded that he be barred from the boys’ room, then 16-year-old Grimm reportedly went to the podium and said, “I didn’t ask to be this way. All I want to do is be a normal child and use the restroom in peace.”
The Supreme Court’s emergency stay comes in the midst of a months-long legal battle over North Carolina’s anti-transgender bathroom law, HB 2, and even as transgender people of color are being killed in the U.S. at an unprecedented rate.
Battles over transgender students’ right to use facilities corresponding with their gender are also being fought in school districts around the country, especially after the Department of Education issued guidance reiterating this right in May.
Initial research suggests that lives may be on the line in these fights. According to a February 2016 study in The Journal of Homosexuality, which used data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey on transgender college students, “denial of access to [bathrooms or campus housing] had a significant relationship to suicidality, even after controlling for interpersonal victimization.”
Grimm is certainly familiar with “interpersonal victimization.” At one public meeting, a Gloucester County resident called him a “freak.” Others, Grimm says, have called him an “it.” No matter what SCOTUS decides, Grimm will return to a school that has repeatedly tried to keep him out of the restroom in which he belongs.
“Sure, there may be some future positive outcome out of the Supreme Court but there are people dying today,” said Strangio. “We need to stand up and say to Gavin, to others, to the trans women of color who are afraid to leave their house, that we love them and are not going to stop fighting for them.”