A trans student must be treated equally and given access to the restroom that matches their gender identity, a court in the United States ruled in a landmark case. According to LGBTQI legal rights advocacy group Lambda Legal the judgment was the first in the US that involved a transgender student’s rights for equal access to restrooms.

The ruling of the US Court Of Appeals For The Eleventh Circuit came in a case filed by 19-year-old Drew Adams, against his former school Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Jacksonville, Florida.

“I am very happy to see justice prevail, after spending almost my entire high school career fighting for equal treatment,” Adams said in a statement. Adams is presently studying psychology and political science at the University Of Central Florida.

“High school is hard enough without having your school separate you from your peers and mark you as inferior. I hope this decision helps save other transgender students from having to go through that painful and humiliating experience.”

 Tara Borelli, Counsel at Lambda Legal which represented Adams, underlined the importance of the judgment saying that the appeals court, which had upheld a trial court order, had “sent a clear message that schools must treat transgender students with the same dignity and respect as any other student.

“The trial court was correct when it ruled that the law requires that Drew Adams be treated like every other boy and be allowed to use the boys’ restroom. We are glad the court saw the school board’s policy as unjust and discriminatory, and affirmed the inherent dignity and worth of transgender students,” said Borelli.

Adams said that the school had forbidden him from using the boys restroom when he was a student there. Born in 2000, Adams started living as a boy in 2015. He joined Nease high school as a ninth grader and his mother had informed the school authorities that Adams was transgender and was in the process of transitioning and presented himself as a boy.

Adams did not have any problem for the first six weeks when he used to use the boys’ restroom. One day he was pulled from class and told not to use the boys’ restroom. He was informed that two girls had complained after they saw him entering the boys’ restroom. There were no complaints from the other boys who had shared the bathroom with him.

He was given the option of using the multi-stall girls restroom which he said he found “insulting”or use the single-stall gender-neutral bathroom, which he said was “isolating, depressing, humiliating and burdensome.” Adams said whenever he had to walk past the communal restrooms to the single-stall gender neutral restroom it felt like a “walk of shame” and added to the stigma of being transgender.

After he found no support from the local school district, in 2017 he filed a suit against the school board through his mother Erica Adams Kasper. Adams said that barring him from using the boys’ restroom violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and the provision that prohibits sex discrimination. A trial court ruled in his favour, following which it went before the court of appeals.

The school board claimed that when Adams enters a boys’ restroom and there is a biological boy using the urinal, then that biological boy’s privacy is violated. The court said it did not agree with this claim.

 The court said that “the School Board’s preferred definition of ‘biological sex’ reduces Mr. Adams ‘to nothing more than the sum of [his] external genitalia at birth,’ to the exclusion of all other characteristics. This understanding of ‘sex’—or, for that matter, ‘biological sex’—is as narrow as it is unworkable.

“The School Board’s bathroom policy, as applied to Mr. Adams, singled him out for different treatment because of his transgender status. It caused him psychological and dignitary harm… A public school may not punish its students for gender nonconformity. Neither may a public school harm transgender students by establishing arbitrary, separate rules for their restroom use. The evidence at trial confirms that Mr. Adams suffered both these indignities” said the court while ruling that his rights were violated.

In another victory for the trans community, a federal court in the state of Idaho struck down a ban that prohibited transgeder people from changing the sex marker on their birth certificates to match their gender identity. In March, Idaho Governor Brad Little had signed two controversial laws that targetted the transgender community – one prohibited the birth certificate changes while the other banned trans girls from competing in female sports teams.

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