“I am a boy and I know that with every fiber of my being.”
– Drew Adams
Last week, a federal judge in Florida ruled that a 17-year-old transgender boy, Drew Adams, has the right to use the boys’ bathroom at his public high school. A major victory for transgender students in the U.S., the court relied upon the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act to craft its decision.
Important to note, this decision affirms the finding that the meaning of “sex” in Title IX’s anti-discrimination provision includes “gender identity” for the purpose of its application to transgender students. This reaffirms a line of cases holding that Title IX’s protection against sex discrimination is applicable to the discrimination transgender students experience.
Lambda Legal brought the lawsuit on behalf of Drew Adams and argued that the St. John County School Board in St. Augustine, Florida, enacted a discriminatory restroom policy, which sent a message that transgender students in the school district are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded to other students.
The School Board cited concerns that allowing Drew to use the boy’s bathroom would pose a threat to the privacy and safety of other students. But Judge Corrigan refuted these concerns in his opinion:
“The evidence is that Drew Adams poses no threat to the privacy or safety of any of his fellow students. Rather, Drew Adams is just like every other student at Nease High School, a teenager coming of age in a complicated, uncertain and changing world. When it comes to his use of the bathroom, the law requires that he be treated like any other boy.”
As the judge also noted, transgender students “typically seek privacy and discreteness in restroom use.” The Court found that there have been no reports of problems from any boys or boys’ parents during the six weeks of freshman year when Drew used the boys’ bathroom at his high school. This is consistent with national trends: there is no evidence that transgender people pose a safety threat in the bathrooms they use.
“I am so grateful that I can just focus on being a regular kid at school.”
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) July 26, 2018
Beyond safety and privacy concerns, the case directly addressed the underlying issue at hand: the school’s unequal treatment of Drew as a transgender boy. When the principal of Drew’s high school was asked whether she considers Adams to be a boy, she replied: “I do not.” Judge Corrigan heard testimony from medical experts regarding gender identity. According to these experts, a transgender individual is someone who “‘consistently, persistently, and insistently’ identifies as a gender different than the sex they were assigned at birth.”
Drew Adams had taken clear steps to assert his gender identity. He met with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles as well as the Florida Department of Health to ensure that both his driver’s license and birth certificate matched his gender identity. He legally adopted a new name, used male pronouns, and dressed and presented as male. Given that Drew’s school records, legal records, and medical records all confirm that he is a boy, the judge ruled that Drew “consistently, persistently, and insistently identifies as a boy” and must be treated as a boy by the School Board.
At the core of this case is dignity, and thanks to this ruling, Drew will no longer have to walk to the other side of the school and miss class time to use a gender-neutral bathroom. He can now use the boys’ bathroom, just like any other boy. Most importantly, he can focus on applying to college, leading student organizations, and simply being a kid. Children’s Rights hopes that future cases can continue to affirm the civil rights of all LGBTQ kids.