Metro Weekly

ACLU asks to intervene in locker room lawsuit on behalf of trans student

Minnesota high school student targeted by lawsuit hopes to defend her ability to use the girls' locker room

Photo: compujeramey, via Flickr.
Photo: compujeramey, via Flickr.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Minnesota are interceding on behalf of a transgender student in Virginia, Minn. who has been targeted by a parents’ group that seeks to ban her from the girls’ locker room because of her gender identity. The girl in question, known as Jane Doe, is a sophomore who plays for the girls’ volleyball team, previously played for the girls’ basketball and track teams, and was granted access to the girls’ locker room in accordance with the Virginia school district’s policy regarding transgender students. 

A small group of parents, acting through an organization known as “Privacy Matters,” has filed a lawsuit against Virginia Public Schools for its policy. They are also suing the U.S. Department of Education for its recently issued guidance provided to public schools regarding transgender students. In that guidance, the department encouraged school districts to treat transgender students equitably, including allowing them access to facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

The families behind Privacy Matters claim their daughters have been traumatized by having to share facilities with a transgender female, who they misgender in their complaint, referring to Jane Doe by male pronouns. The complainants also accuse Doe of dancing to loud music with “sexually explicit lyrics” while “grinding,” “twerking,” and “dancing like he (sic) was on a stripper pole” while lifting up her skirt to reveal her underwear. They allege Doe asked one girl about her bra size and requested they “trade body parts.”

But the ACLU alleges that the parents behind Privacy Matters, and their lawyers from the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom, are seeking to segregate Doe from her peers. In a press release, the ACLU claimed the complaint exaggerates Doe’s behavior “using misleading innuendo and salacious phrasing to depict the ordinary behavior of a teenage girl dancing with the rest of her friends as threatening or scandalous, just because she is transgender.”

“Providing inclusive and nondiscriminatory treatment to Jane Doe does not threaten anyone else’s privacy,” Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement. “The entire team talks, listens to music, and dances in the locker room as part of team camaraderie, and it is unfortunate that the plaintiffs have singled Jane Doe out from the rest of her teammates with these sensational allegations just because she is transgender.

“Schools can provide extra privacy protections or alternative changing areas for any student uncomfortable changing with the rest of the team, but no student has a right to unilaterally demand that transgender teammates be segregated from the team locker room,” Block added.

In a motion to allow Doe to intervene in the lawsuit brought by Privacy Matters, Doe’s lawyers argue that their client has a right to be free from discrimination on the basis of her sex under the Constitution, as well as under Title IX’s prohibitions on sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Doe’s lawyers also argue that using the girls’ restroom and locker room is a critical part of her treatment for gender dysphoria.

“Jane Doe wants what all of us want, to be accepted for who she is and participate as a member of the team, just like any other girl,” Charles Samuelson, the executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota, said in a statement. “It is hard enough being a teenager without being dehumanized and targeted with these false and sensational allegations.”

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