Bathroom Battle

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"I'm not unisex. I'm a boy." To Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen, it's transparent why he wants to use the boy's restroom at his Virginia high school. For a time, school administrators allowed him to do just that, with barely a stir among his classmates. In fact, girls had objected to Gavin's presence in their own bathroom because they perceived him as male.

But the transpositive solution prompted complaints from some parents, so the school board adopted a policy that limited students to the bathrooms for their "corresponding biological genders" or a separate unisex restroom - leaving Gavin to use the girl's room or a separate facility that he feared marked him as a "freak." He sued the school district, and an appellate court agreed his case could go forward.

Now the Supreme Court has taken up Gavin's case, with a decision expected by next summer. Along with a dry procedural issue, the transformative issue facing the Court is whether the school district's refusal to allow Gavin to use the boy's restroom violates the federal law that bars sex discrimination in public schools.

To translate: Gavin's school tells him only boys can use the boys' room, and Gavin can't because the school considers him a girl. He's treated differently from other boys who identify as boys solely because of his perceived "biological sex." That's quite literally sex discrimination.

The lawyers defending the school board's policy don't see it that way. They say Congress didn't outlaw gender identity discrimination, and to hold otherwise would transgress federal rules allowing sex-segregated bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities, and in the process threaten other students' privacy rights.


But Gavin isn't trying to abolish sex-segregated facilities. He just wants equal access to the boy's bathroom, where separate partitions help preserve privacy for everyone.

That should be transparent even to a Supreme Court in transition.

With a Perspective, I'm Clyde Wadsworth.

Clyde Wadsworth is an attorney practicing business and civil rights law.