Trans Teen Is the First to Fight for Equal Bathroom Rights in a Federal District Court
There is no evidence that trans individuals have harassed or otherwise harmed others in public bathrooms. Yet legislators in states across the country still try to bar trans individuals from using the bathroom that correspond with their gender. One teen is fighting this treatment. On Wednesday, his case became the first of its kind heard by a federal appeals court, according to Vocativ.
Gavin Grimm, 16, was forced to use either women's or unisex bathrooms at his Gloucester, Virginia, school after administrators received complaints from his peers' parents, Vocativ reported Wednesday. The ACLU, which represents Grimm and brought the case against the Gloucester County School Board in June 2015, is arguing that this gender-based restriction equates to segregation and violates Title IX, according to the same report.
The experience is not just ignorant or insulting, but physically uncomfortable and potentially damaging. Grimm said the discomfort of avoiding the bathroom outweighs that of using the incorrect facilities. Grimm uses the bathroom "once a day at max, though I try very hard not to go at all," he told MSNBC on Tuesday. "At this point, I've just become very good at holding it."
But the issue is not just about Grimm's physical experience, it's also pushing back on "ridicule and public insult from people who refuse to see me as a human, male student worthy of respect and equal treatment," he told Vocativ.
The discrimination Grimm has faced is "inherently stigmatizing and demeaning for anyone," ACLU senior staff attorney Joshua Block confirmed to Vocativ, and "also has serious medical consequences."
Grimm is hardly the first to face this treatment. One 2013 study revealed that as many as 70% of trans individuals had experienced a negative reaction when using a bathroom, according to Think Progress. Several states have even attempted to codify this discrimination into law. In 2015, legislators in Florida, Arizona, Texas and Kentucky all introduced "bathroom bills" intended to curb trans individuals' rights to use spaces designated for use only by the gender with which they identify, and lawmakers in South Dakota and Virginia have already proposed similar bills this year.
The Virginia teen is also not the first to fight back. In November, for example, federal education authorities found one Chicago high school's refusal to allow a trans student athlete to change in the same girls' locker room as her teammates violated her rights under Title IX. Trans individuals and their allies have also protested this injustice beyond the legal system: Several parents of transgender children joined forces last April for a "lobby day" organized by the Transgender Education Network of Texas, according to the Texas Observer and many others spoke out using the hashtag #WeJustNeedToPee in March, the Advocate reported.
Ultimately, these individuals are fighting for much more than the right to use the bathroom of their choice. As Ilona Turner, legal director at the Transgender Law Center, told MSNBC, "access to restrooms is really about being able to participate fully in public life."