The United States Supreme Court ( USSC ) announced Oct. 25 that it will review a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals finding that federal anti-discrimination laws protect the right of transgender teenage boy to use the men's restrooms at his Virginia high school.
The American Civil Liberties Union ( ACLU ) brought the case on behalf of Gavin Grimm challenging the Gloucester County School Board's decision to force him into separate, single-stall restrooms that no other student is required to use.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had sided with Grimm after the ACLU argued that the school board's policy is a clear violation of Title IX, a federal law barring sex discrimination by schools receiving federal funding.
That decision had cleared the way for Grimm to start his senior year at Gloucester High School using the restroom in accordance with his gender identity rather than being singled out for it.
But the school board appealed and the USSC issued an Aug, 3 stay while the eight judges decided on whether or not the case would be reviewed.
"I am disappointed that I will have to go through more of a school year discussing where I'm going to be using the restroom," Grimm said. "But I'm not afraid and I'm not discouraged. I'm looking forward to using my platform for as much positive awareness to this conversation so that, hopefully in the future, no other kids are going to have to go through this."
ACLU LGBT Project Senior Staff Attorney Joshua Block echoed that disappointment but added that "we are going to tell the Supreme Court and tell the country the reality of who Gavin is and who trans kids are across the country."
In Illinois, those kids include a transgender student in Palatine's District 211 whose fight to use the girl's locker room led to a contentious debate in 2015 and, ultimately, a vote in her favor.
But, in May of this year, a group calling themselves Students and Parents for Privacy brought suit against the federal government and District 211.
With a ruling yet to be made, the student's rights remain unresolved.
Immediately after the USSC stay in Grimm's case, Evanston Township High School District 202 abruptly canceled an Aug. 4 committee meeting that, according to a report from the Evanston Review, was originally slated "to discuss the district's policy on transgender students."
In September, Windy City Times reported that an Elgin transgender middle school student had been granted permission to use the locker room in accordance with their gender identity. However, one member of the school board tried to raise alarm via social media indicating a clandestine attempt to keep parents and the Elgin community out of the decision and stating that objections should be voiced to the school board.
Grimm's case carries with it ramifications that are as deeply personal to his own experience as they are far reaching.
"When Gavin is forced to use a separate restroom from the rest of his peers, it's not only humiliating but it interferes with the ability to get an equal education that Title IX and our civil-rights statutes are supposed to protect," Block said. "Gavin has to plan out how he is going to go to the restroom when he's in class, he has to do everything he can to avoid drinking liquids and hold his urine as long as he can."
It was a sentiment echoed by the LGBTQ parents advocacy group PFLAG who said, in a statement, that "no student should have to choose between getting an education and their personal safety; forcing students like Gavin to use a restroom that does not align with their gender identity will put them significantly in harm's way."
A Supreme Court decision in Grimm's favor will have a positive impact on transgender students nationwide.
"Ultimately this about making sure that all people, including transgender people, are allowed to fully participate in school life," Block noted. "The [USSC] can always decide it on a narrower ground but, since 2000, we've had a steady drumbeat of court decisions holding that, when you discriminate against someone because they're transgender, you are discriminating against them on the basis of sex and this might be an opportunity for the Supreme Court to join that chorus of decisions."
However, with at present only eight justices, there seems no clear measurement of predicting where that decision will fall.
"I hope that all eight justices rule to affirm the fourth circuit's decision," Block said. "A core issue in this case is the dignity of individual trans people and Justice [Anthony] Kennedy has been very vocal in saying that protections against sex discrimination in the Constitution aren't designed to [protect] groups, they are designed to protect the individual and that the harm in classifying someone on the basis of sex is to refuse to recognize them as an individual and just treating them as a faceless class of people. That insight is equally applicable here."