Transgender Student In Virginia Bathroom Case Reacts To Trump's Order
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The Supreme Court is going to hear arguments next month in a case that gets at this question directly of who can use which bathroom. It's being brought by Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old high school senior in Gloucester, Va. At birth, doctors identified him as female. When he was a teenager, he came out as a boy. Today, his birth certificate says male, he takes testosterone supplements, and he's had surgery. The county school board said he could not use the boys' restroom and must use a private bathroom. Gavin Grimm and his lawyer, Josh Block of the ACLU, join us now. Welcome to the program.
GAVIN GRIMM: Thanks for having us.
JOSHUA BLOCK: Thanks, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Gavin, we just heard those voices from people at the Conservative conference happening near Washington, D.C., this week. And I wonder how you respond to what you just heard.
GRIMM: Well, a lot of what I heard was an unwillingness to admit that the bullying that transgender students face is legitimate. I basically heard people trying to in some way imply that it wasn't a problem and that transgender students don't face unique challenges at school because of their transgender status.
SHAPIRO: The school created unisex bathrooms, including one at the nurse's station. Why is that not an adequate solution?
GRIMM: The problem with mandating that I use alternate facilities is I'm essentially being forcibly segregated from my peers. This idea that it's a unisex bathroom - sit down and go use it - is an idea of a compromise. And I'm not looking for a compromise. I'm looking for my right. I'm looking for the ability to live my life like every other one of my peers is able to do. I'm not unisex. I'm a boy. And it's unreasonable to expect me to be the only peer that is not allowed to use the restrooms with my other peers.
SHAPIRO: Can you explain the impact that it has on you when the rest of the students see you go into this specially designated restroom?
GRIMM: It's very embarrassing, and it just really stirs up the fact that this is what my school is doing to me. This is a walk of shame. I feel like everyone is scrutinizing me and saying, I know why he's in there - because he's transgender, and the school board doesn't think he can be with the rest of the population. It's just such an unnecessary, stigmatizing inconvenience. And every single time I have to go to the bathroom, I'm reminded very, very poignantly of that.
SHAPIRO: Josh, you are the lawyer representing Gavin. How does the new guidance from the Trump administration change the case that the Supreme Court is getting ready to hear?
BLOCK: So we don't know the full answer to that yet, but there are essentially two questions up in front of the Supreme Court. The first is - should courts give extra deference to what the Department of Education says? And the old Department of Education under the Obama administration put out guidance saying that you need to treat trans kids like everyone else. You can't have boys' and girls' restrooms and then exclude transgender boys and transgender girls from using those restrooms. And the lower courts, while the Obama administration was still in power, had deferred to that interpretation.
But the second question and the question that's not going to be changed by this guidance change at all is - what does Title 9 mean, and what does the regulation authorizing restrooms mean? Title 9 is a federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in schools. It's been on the books since 1972. That's a question of federal law.
SHAPIRO: The guidance that the Justice Department and the Department of Education put out last night says this should be an issue left up to the states. Josh, why do you believe this is something that should not be decided by states and local school districts?
BLOCK: Because we passed a statute in 1972 that's been on the books for four decades where we made a national decision that we are going to protect every single person in this country from sex discrimination in institutions receiving federal funding. If you want to discriminate on the basis of sex, you can do that, but don't use federal money to do it. Every claim of sex discrimination against anyone is a federal question. Your basic civil rights to be free from sex discrimination don't depend on what zip code you live in.
SHAPIRO: Gavin, you're going to graduate in the spring, and any ruling in this case will likely come at the end of your high school education. Why pursue this case that you may not see the fruits of even if you do prevail?
GRIMM: Even if I am graduated by the time this decision is handed down, I'm not the only trans student at Gloucester High School. And I'm not the only trans student that would be affected by a Supreme Court decision in this case. And that's really what it's about. Regardless of if I am affected as a student, there are hundreds of thousands of students who will be affected. And so it's just very, very important that while we have this platform, we try to do what we can to protect those students.
SHAPIRO: Gavin Grimm and Josh Block, thank you both so much.
GRIMM: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: Gavin Grimm is a high school senior in Gloucester County, Va. His lawyer, Josh Block, is with the ACLU. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case next month. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.