“All I Want To Do Is Be a Normal Child and Use the Restroom in Peace.”

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“All I Want To Do Is Be a Normal Child and Use the Restroom in Peace.”

Sixteen-year-old Gavin Grimm had been using the boys’ restrooms for almost two months without any problems until the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia decided to debate his right to do so. (Photo: via ACLU)

A few minutes ago, we filed our opening brief in our appeal of Gavin’s case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. I wrote about Gavin’s case last July, when we argued on behalf of Gavin in federal court in Norfolk, Virginia. I was proud to stand with Gavin then, and I’m even prouder to stand with him today.

Gavin is a 16-year-old boy at Gloucester High School in Virginia. He is transgender and is undergoing hormone therapy; he has legally changed his name; and his state identification card identifies him as male. In all aspects of his life, he uses the boys’ restrooms, just like any other boy would. But at school, Gavin is singled out for different treatment. Even though Gavin had been using the boys’ restrooms for almost two months without any problems, the Gloucester County School Board decided to debate Gavin’s rights to use the restroom. The board ultimately passed a new policy that prohibits Gavin, and any other student with “gender identity issues,” from using the same restrooms as the rest of his peers. This policy forces transgender students to go to separate, single-stall restrooms that no other student is required to use.

Last June — the day after classes ended — Gavin filed a lawsuit challenging the school board’s stigmatizing policy under Title IX, a statute prohibiting schools from discriminating on the basis of sex, and the Constitution. Gavin asked for an injunction allowing him to use the boys’ restroom while the case is pending. We had hoped to get that injunction before classes began this September so Gavin could begin his junior year with a fresh start. The Department of Justice and Department of Education filed a brief supporting Gavin. But a few days before classes began, the district court in Norfolk denied Gavin’s request for an injunction. 

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Gavin is now asking the Fourth Circuit to reverse the lower court’s ruling, which conflicts with modern precedent recognizing that transgender people, like everyone else, are protected from discrimination based on their sex. In order to equally participate in school, work, and society, transgender people — like everyone else — have to use the restrooms. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Education have all recognized that transgender people should be able to use the restrooms that correspond to their gender identity and cannot be segregated into separate restrooms away from everyone else. 

From the first time he stood up in front of his school board and a room full of hostile adults, Gavin’s message has been simple: “All I want to do is be a normal child and use the restroom in peace.” Hopefully by the time Gavin begins his senior year, he will finally be able to do that.

P.S. Want to know what Gavin and other transgender youth are up against? John Oliver sums it up well here:

Joshua Block

Joshua Block is a senior staff attorney for the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project.

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