On April 19, 2016, the Appeals Courts had decided in favor of a transgender student for him to use restrooms on the basis of his gender identity. On August 2nd, the case was reviewed by the Supreme Court, which ruled for a temporary situation in which the student, Gavin Grimm, could not access the boys’ restrooms anymore. The case is part of a debate that is touching lots of countries in the world. It also is interlinked with human rights as contrasting with one’s expression of gender identity, where ‘gender is not inherently nor solely connected to one’s physical anatomy’.
Gavin Grimm is a transgender boy: a person who was born with female physicalities but that recognizes himself as a boy. He attends the Gloucester County School Board, Virginia, where he was permitted to use the toilet he preferred as ruled by a lower court. The Supreme Court experienced internal division but finally accorded to temporarily block that lower’s court decision. This kind of revision is what in legal terms is called certiorari, that is a ‘decision by the Supreme Court to hear an appeal from a lower court’. The decision will also have force of ‘res judicata’: it will not affect other cases.
Restrooms through History
Through the centuries, public toilets have always been a topic of debate. Starting in the 1890s with the first implementation of restrooms with gender division, to Afro-American segregation, then to public toilets as ‘tea rooms’ for gay people in the ‘80s functioning also as a cornerstone for HIV diffusion, to end up in the ‘90s where toilets for people with disabilities were added. In the last few years, the LGBT+ communities raised awareness on gender identity and more and more people are asking to recognize the right to access the restrooms that accord the most to one’s gender.
The Case of Gavin in a Broader Perspective
Gavin, as many other people around the world, is experiencing what has been defined as ‘gender dysphoria’: a situation in which a person perceives a mismatch between the gender assigned at birth and what one really feels identifying with. The Court’s decision implies that Gavin will not be able to use male toilettes and many argued that the decision is a sexual discrimination. In this ‘temporarily decision’ gap, when Gavin will go back to school in September, it was accorded for him to access single-user restrooms. A temporary decision like this may endure identitarian segregation and slip into a violation of anti-discriminatory law. While Gavin was at first allowed to use boys’ restrooms a decision pushed by parents’ complaints opened restrooms according to biological gender.
The LGBT+ Community feels disappointed but not yet defeated. The Supreme Court decision seems in fact clashing with the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 that claims accordingly: “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”.