Transgender Rights in Schools: The Issue Explained

By Victoria Robertson on March 11, 2017

Imagine not being allowed to use a bathroom because of your identity.

Unfortunately, this is the unfair reality for many transgender students across the country, as issues of gender identity vs. biology persist.

For those unfamiliar with the issue, transgender students across the country want to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify, rather than that dictated on their birth certificate.

However, many schools across the country are fighting back, forcing students to use their biologically assigned gender when using the restroom.

No, this does not seem like that big of a deal.

Yes, it is.

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Gender identity is a big deal and, especially for those undergoing hormonal changes, using the restroom can become anxiety ridden. Universities typically have communal restrooms, and transgender individuals have enough anxiety in these issues as it is. To now restrict them on which restroom they’re allowed to use is even more confining, and for what purpose?

Many argue that allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify will open the door for problems such as sexual assault and other issues.

But let me ask you this: if someone was going to enter a bathroom to commit such an offense, would it really matter if the school told them they could use that bathroom or not?

No. It wouldn’t.

There’s no invisible line protecting bathrooms from members of the opposite sex. Anyone can walk in at any time, and that isn’t going to change.

The issue here is acceptance and the lack thereof.

Another step back for transgender rights came this week as the U.S. Supreme Court said that it wouldn’t hear Gavin Grimm’s case regarding his ability to use the restroom of his choice. They even “wiped off the books” a lower court ruling that claimed federal law allowed Gavin to utilize the restroom matching his gender identity.

According to Joshua Block, Grimm’s representation, “This is a detour, not the end of the road.”

This is hitting headlines now because the Supreme Court previously agreed to hear the case on the 28th of this month, but Trump made a policy change last month regarding the issue, which affects the lower court’s ruling on the case, as they heavily relied on the earlier version of the policy.

According to Mara Keisling, the executive director of National Center for Transgender Equality, “It’s not a loss, it’s really just a temporary setback.”

According to her, similar cases are being heard throughout the federal courts, so it’s only a matter of time before something positive results.

In the case of Grimm specifically, his legal name change and hormone therapy began following his freshman year, as the female born student began to identify as male.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, which is why it was expected that his case would be heard by the Supreme Court.

While the principal of the high school originally granted the student permission to use the men’s restroom, the school board soon after implemented a policy regarding bathrooms which limited their use to the students’ biological gender.

Grimm sued. So what was the claim?

It was a pretty fair one. Grimm sued on the grounds of stigmatization and isolation, something the appeals court agreed with.

The appeals court utilized Title IX, which bans sex discrimination, in their verdict.

According to the ruling, “a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.”

Of course, just last month, the Trump administration rescinded both the above statement and the Obama administration’s warning to schools regarding federal funding and transgender bathroom rights.

So what’s next for Grimm?

His case isn’t over. He’s going to the Fourth Circuit once again, which could send it all the way back to the Virginia trial court.

According to the Gloucester County School Board, it “looks forward to explaining why its commonsense restroom and locker room policy is legal under the Constitution and federal law.”

On the other side, the ACLU isn’t giving up. They stated, “while we’re disappointed that the Supreme Court will not be hearing Gavin’s case this term, the overwhelming level of support shown for Gavin and trans students by people across the country throughout this process shows that the American people have already moved in the right direction and that the rights of trans people cannot be ignored.”

In this day and age, everything is offensive to everyone. Something as simple as which bathroom a student can use turns into a civil rights case.

Wouldn’t it just be easier to be accepting and understanding of the struggles of others, and to implement policies that prevent discrimination?

Decades after the civil rights movement, we shouldn’t still be having this argument.

We’re all going to have to come to terms with the fact that the world is filled with gray area — not everything is going to have a clear-cut answer. The best way to determine what’s best is to consider what the decent thing to do would be.

The bottom line is this: privilege is no excuse for ignorance.

Victoria is a dedicated writer who graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She currently writes freelance pieces for various sites and works in Marketing for Myndbee Inc., promoting their current mobile app, Picpal.

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