Metro Weekly

School Bathroom Battles: Virginia fights against trans students

A ruling against a Virginia transgender student could bolster opponents of LGBT nondiscrimination policies

Gavin Grimm and legal team - Photo: via ACLUVA.org

Gavin Grimm and legal team – Photo: via ACLUVA.org

A transgender male student in Virginia can no longer use the public restroom at his high school. Instead, he will be relegated to a staff bathroom or other “alternative private” facility after a federal judge ruled against him on Friday, Sept. 4.

Gavin Grimm, a junior at Gloucester High School in Gloucester County, Va., had sought a preliminary injunction to allow him to use the boys’ restroom, in keeping with his gender identity. But U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar issued an order rejecting that motion, prohibiting Grimm from using the boys’ restroom and locker room facilities when he begins school this week.

Doumar did not provide any reasons for why he denied Grimm’s request for a preliminary injunction, merely stating in his order that an opinion further detailing his reasoning would be forthcoming.

Grimm’s lawyers said they were “deeply disappointed” with Doumar’s decision, calling the school board’s restroom policy “harmful and stigmatizing.”

“As a result of the decision, Gavin will have to start the school year under a demeaning and stigmatizing policy that relegates him to separate restrooms from his peers,” said Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “We expect today’s decision to be reversed on appeal.”

After coming out as transgender last year, Grimm and his mother notified school authorities, who agreed to allow Grimm access to the boys’ restroom. Grimm used those facilities for nearly two months, without incident, before someone complained to the school board.

The school board was then inundated with complaints from concerned parents and community members, backed by groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and the Virginia Christian Alliance, which have taken a firm stance on requiring students in schools to use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex. As a result, the board voted to adopt a policy requiring transgender students to use a staff restroom or other facility separate from the general population.

“It is difficult to face another school year of being singled out and treated differently from other students,” Grimm said in a statement. “I am determined to move forward because this case is not just about me, but about all transgender students in Virginia.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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