by Gail M. Deady, Esq., The Secular Society Women’s Rights Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Virginia
Gavin Grimm is a junior in high school in Gloucester, Virginia. Gavin is a boy but, because he is also transgender, his school district prohibits him from using the boys’ restrooms. He is instead forced to use the girls’ restroom or single-user, gender-neutral restrooms. With the help of the ACLU of Virginia and the ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project, Gavin challenged this policy in federal court as discriminatory. In a landmark decision last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed with him.
Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, educational institutions receiving federal education funds are prohibited from discriminating against students on the basis of sex. There are some exceptions to that general prohibition, such as a regulation allowing schools to designate separate restrooms for male and female students.
In April 2014, however, the Department of Education issued guidance stating that if schools treat male and female students differently, they must treat transgender students consistently with their gender identity.
Gavin came out to his family as a transgender boy in the summer of 2014 and began his transition, which meant living all aspects of his life as a boy. That fall, Gavin enrolled in school as a male student with his new legal name: Gavin. Unsure of how his peers would react to his transition, Gavin initially asked to use the nurse’s restroom.
At first, everything went well. School staff supported Gavin’s transition, and most of his peers accepted him as just another male student. When it became clear to Gavin that he could safely use the boys’ restrooms, he asked for and received school administrators’ permission to do so. Gavin used the boys’ restrooms without any problems for about seven weeks.