On November 25, 2019, the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed an amicus brief in the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in support of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who was mistreated in school because he is transgender. Representing a coalition of organizations that work with families raising transgender youth, the brief tells the stories of families raising transgender children in states within the Fourth Circuit (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) and around the country. Through their triumphs and challenges, these families help humanize the experiences of transgender youth and underscoring the importance of transgender children being able to go to school in an environment that is safe, welcoming, and does not treat them differently because of who they are.
For example, take M, a 15-year-old transgender girl, living in rural Virginia and former NCLR client (pictured above with her mother Amy).
After allowing M to use the girls’ restroom for a few weeks at the beginning of fourth grade, M’s school gave in to pressure from a few vocal parents and insisted that M use either the boys’ restroom or a single-user restroom. The school refused to see how harmful this policy was until they saw the potentially deadly consequences it could have. At the beginning of eighth grade, M’s school initiated a lockdown drill to prepare students for responding to an active-shooter situation. M was in physical education at the time and all the students were instructed to barricade themselves in their respective locker rooms, except for M. Her teachers initially instructed her to sit on the bleachers alone. Recognizing the potential danger that placed her in, they moved her to just outside the girls’ locker room and then, finally, allowed her to sit on the inside of the door to the girls’ locker room, still apart from her peers who were hiding deep inside the locker room.
The public outrage from that incident, combined with her mother’s tireless advocacy and behind-the-scenes support from NCLR, resulted in the school district changing its policies and treating M as a girl in all respects. Since the change in policy, M’s confidence has soared. She is a leader within the school community and able to be her full self at school.
The brief also offers the Court unique insights into other aspects of the lives of these families that are often not talked about from their struggles to reconcile their religious and political beliefs with their unconditional love for their child, coping with the loss of family and friends over the parent’s decision to support their child, or the painstaking process of parents setting aside their worries and anxieties to allow their child to flourish. Breathing life into the statistics about transgender youth, the brief demonstrates why courts across the country have consistently held that federal anti-discrimination law protects transgender youth from discrimination: any other interpretation would undermine the spirit and purpose of those laws, leaving vulnerable youth without the legal protection they need to fulfill their potential.
NCLR co-counseled with Cooley LLP and the Transgender Law Center to prepare and file this brief. We represented the following organizations: PFLAG, INC., Trans Youth Equality Foundation, Gender Spectrum, Gender Diversity, Campaign for Southern Equality, He She Ze and We, Side by Side, and Gender Benders.
If you would like to read the brief, click here.