Karen Fratti
March 09, 2017 5:02 am
The Washington Post/Getty Images

Transgender activists and allies were gearing up for the big decision on transgender bathroom use this session, but on Monday, the Supreme Court rejected Gavin Grimm’s transgender bathroom case, sending it back to a lower court. This doesn’t mean that the fight is over, or that there’s no hope of getting a decision in favor of the transgender community, but it is a pretty big setback.

In case you haven’t been following the news, 17-year old Grimm sued the Gloucester County school district in Virginia for not allowing him to use the bathroom that corresponded to his gender.

Last year, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals used the Obama administration’s guidelines that said schools had to allow transgender students to use the bathroom they identified with. The school district continued to disagree, and this it was sent to the Supreme Court. Arguments were supposed to begin this month and Gavin’s appeal relied on those Obama-era protections.

But late last month, the Trump administration rolled back those protections. Court cases rely on laws and precedent and without those protections, Grimm’s case has to go back to a lower court to be hashed out, yet again. The lower court will be trying to decide if prohibiting transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice is sexual discrimination under Title IX. And if the federal government can call those shots, it’s going to be a long road.

Luckily, Grimm isn’t discouraged. He told The Washington Post that he was bummed he would be graduating without a Supreme Court decision about what bathrooms trans kids could use in schools, but he’s sticking with it.

One of his lawyers, Joshua Block from the American Civil Liberties Union, was optimistic, too. He said,

“This is a detour, not the end of the road, and we’ll continue to fight for Gavin and other transgender people to ensure that they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The school board is also optimistic that Trump’s rollback of transgender protections means that they have a good chance at winning, since the Supreme Court vacated Grimm’s earlier appeal. They think that schools should be able to “protect” its students by mandating that students use bathrooms that correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth.

But there have been no instances of any violence in bathrooms when transgender individuals use them — except when they’re the targets of it. A small survey of 93 trans people in 2009 found that 70 percent of trans people report being harassed or physically attacked in a bathroom. Forcing trans students, or adults, to use bathrooms that don’t correspond to their gender puts them at risk. It’s dangerous.

Let’s hope the lower court can see that, despite the Trump administration’s uninformed views.

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