On Wednesday, yet another federal appeals court ruled that allowing a transgender boy to use the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms does not violate the rights of cisgender students or parents. The decision is a resounding victory for trans youth and all who care about gender justice in schools and beyond.
At this point, two federal appeals courts have rejected the arguments from those who want to keep transgender people out of public life – including schools. They argued that protecting trans students violates Title IX, the law that protects all of us from sex discrimination in education. And in each case, courts rejected these arguments.
One of the most awful parts of these cases, for me, is the other side’s argument that just using the restroom becomes an act of sexual harassment if the person using it is trans. Given how often trans people face actual sexual harassment and violence, it is galling when our opponents attempt to pervert the law and use it as a weapon to drive us out of public space. They say that our very presence in public facilities is so offensive that schools have an obligationto kick us out. The court roundly rejected that argument, stating that the “use of facilities for their intended purpose, without more, does not constitute an act of harassment simply because a person is transgender.”
This Oregon school district did the right thing when it chose not to discriminate against a transgender young person by giving him equal access to facilities, and reminding teachers and staff of their duty to prevent bullying. As the court said, the school had “the legitimate purpose of protecting student safety and well-being, and eliminating discrimination on the basis of sex and transgender status.” What’s more, “nowhere does the statute explicitly state, or even suggest, that schools may not allow transgender students to use the facilities that are most consistent with their gender identity.”
Throughout this case, trans youth and allies from Oregon and around the country have rallied to insist on fairness and decency. Tyler Warner, a transgender high school student from Sutherlin, Oregon who was targeted in a similar suit, says, “I want every trans kid in Oregon to know that they have rights. Being segregated into a single-user bathroom isn’t ok.” Trans students also spoke out in an amicus brief, including K.E., a transgender boy in Idaho who had to give up cross country because he wasn’t allowed to use the boys’ locker room. He heard about a transgender wrestler in Texas and all the “challenges he dealt with,” and “did not even want to try it.”
“I want every trans kid in Oregon to know that they have rights. Being segregated into a single-user bathroom isn’t ok.”
Tyler Warner, high school student from Oregon targeted for being trans
As exciting as this victory is, it comes at a moment when trans youth are under renewed attack. After failing in their attempts to push trans people out by focusing on restrooms and locker rooms, our opponents have shifted gears to target trans people by trying to keep us from getting the healthcare many of us need, and keeping us out of sports. Dozens of states have introduced bills targeting trans youth. The same day that this federal court ruled that protecting trans students doesn’t violate Title IX, a lawsuit was filed attacking trans student athletes in Connecticut, in yet another misuse of this federal law. As Terry Miller, one of the trans girls targeted in this new law suit says, “There is a long history of excluding Black girls from sports and policing our bodies. I am a runner and I will keep running and keep fighting for my existence, my community, and my rights.”
“There is a long history of excluding Black girls from sports and policing our bodies. I am a runner and I will keep running and keep fighting for my existence, my community, and my rights.”
Terry Miller, student athlete targeted for being trans
We need to make sure trans youth like Tyler, K.E., and Terry never have to fight alone. I encourage you to tell your local lawmakers that trans students belong in our schools and that these attacks need to end.
Gabriel Arkles, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU LGBT & HIV Project