Thousands of Americans Call for Supreme Court to Affirm Dignity for Transgender Students

By Adam Polaski • March 2, 2017 • 11:22 pm

Today friend-of-the-court briefs were filed in the first-ever case on transgender rights to go before the Supreme Court, G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board. The case is being brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a Virginia transgender boy named Gavin Grimm, who is challenging a policy in his local school district that singles out transgender students for discrimination and prohibits him from using the boys’ restroom at his school.

Thousands of people spoke out – including teachers and administrators from dozens of states, faith leaders of all different religions from every single state, other transgender students and their family members, state Attorneys General and city officials who say that cities are strengthened when no one faces legal discrimination, and law enforcement officials committed to protecting transgender Americans from harassment. Freedom for All Americans provided support in collecting signers and contributing to multiple amicus briefs, including law enforcement, school administrators, and cities.

These briefs are a powerful assertion that protecting all people from discrimination is an American value. They demonstrate for the first time in a U.S. Supreme Court case that a broad and diverse array of people across the political spectrum and throughout the country support transgender equality. And they communicate a vital moral imperative to the nation: #StandWithGavin and with all transgender students across the country who simply wish to learn like any other student. Take a look at some of the impactful briefs, then read them all at the ACLU’s website.

Teachers, Educators & School Administrators

Several of the briefs, critically, elevate the voices of educators and school administrators who are the best examples for why transgender students must be treated with respect — because policies like this, put simply, work. In a brief coordinated by Lambda Legal, superintendents, principals and other school officials from 31 states and the District of Columbia, whose districts are collectively responsible for 2.1 million students, shared their perspectives.

Lambda Legal’s Tara Borelli explained: “The real world examples included in our brief demonstrate one simple truth: inclusive policies work. Schools that allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity consistently report that all students — not just transgender students — benefit from policies that respect gender identity and encourage inclusivity. Across the country, forward-thinking schools and school districts are proving the fearmongers wrong,” Borelli added. “Their experiences show that respectful and inclusive policies create active and engaged student bodies.” Read the brief.

An additional brief representing more than one million teachers was filed by the National Education Association; the American Federation of Teachers; and others, stating: “Educators are, above all, advocates and protectors of their students. Compelling them to discriminate against and harm their students runs counter to everything about their personal and professional mission.” Read the Brief.

The National PTA, GLSEN, and other groups committed to encouraging children in schools, added: “Educators can and do provide transgender students the inclusive and supportive environment they need—including equal access to restrooms and other essential facilities—to thrive in school and beyond. Indeed, contrary to Petitioner’s assertion … schools and districts across the country have already experienced longstanding successes in implementing restroom policies that do not discriminate against transgender students. These policies have transformed the educational experience of transgender students while—critically— avoiding any disruption or harm to the educational experience of other students.” Read the Brief.

Transgender Students

Dozens of transgender students in many different states are represented on a brief supported by Lambda Legal. One of the signers is Brandon Adams, a 15-year-old transgender teenager from Framingham, Massachusetts who has spoken movingly about his experience. Most recently, his story helped lead to the passage of transgender public accommodations protections in Massachusetts with a campaign FFAA co-chaired, Freedom Massachusetts. Brandon said today: “When I came out as a transgender boy at my school, I was singled out and asked to use a separate restroom simply because I am transgender. When I complied with the school’s request and used a gender-neutral restroom, other students would physically harass and bully me. Because of their hatred and fear, I often avoided the restroom at school, causing me to drink less water, get headaches, and feel dehydrated. I asked to use the boys’ restroom because that’s where I felt safe, because that’s who I am — a boy. Schools should support students in any way they can, and make all kids feel safe, so we can focus on our education and on being kids. I hope the Supreme Court listens to our stories and stands up for equal treatment for kids like me and Gavin.”

The briefs illustrate the ways that transgender youth thrive when supported as their authentic selves. In an ACLU media call this morning, Jonathan Eber, Brandon’s father, explained more:“When Brandon came out as transgender at his school, administrators were mostly supportive, but they simply seemed at a loss for what to do, especially because they were untrained and uneducated about what it means to be transgender. The solution was simple: Brandon is a boy, and he belongs with other boys, not treated differently because of who he is. Brandon has been thriving at school ever since his school updated their policies to be fully inclusive and supportive of transgender students. Kids should be thinking about their first date, about getting their driver’s license, about applying to college — not living in fear. Being transgender is only one part of who Brandon is and there is so much more to his story. We hope the Supreme Court affirms fairness for all of our children so that no one has to face discrimination when they should be focused on their education.” Read the Brief.

1,800+ Faith Leaders in Every Single State

More than 1,800 clergy and religious leaders representing every single state signed onto a brief making the religious case for transgender equality. The signers include more than 95 national religious leaders, including the leaders of the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Metropolitan Community Church, the Alliance of Baptists, Muslims for Progressive Values, and Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Judaism. The presidents of six seminaries and the leaders of 49 religious organizations also signed the brief.

The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, said today: “The book of Genesis declares that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. This divine decree proclaims the inherent sacredness, dignity, worth, and equality of every human person. The way of love for God and our neighbor that Jesus taught is the way to honor the sacredness, dignity, worth and equality of each person. For this reason, we work for the equality and dignity of transgender people, who, like the rest of us, are created in God’s image and likeness.”

Freedom for All Americans helped to recruit signers in a brief featuring more than 1,800 clergy and religious leaders belonging to approximately 50 unique religious traditions and geographically representing all 50 states. FFAA contributed to the brief alongside Religious Institute and the National LGBTQ Task Force. Read more about the faith brief, and Read the Brief.

Transgender Adults

A brief of 101 transgender Americans, ranging from athletes to actors to writers to attorneys to educators to medical professionals contributed their own personal narratives to paint a picture of the many diverse experiences of transgender Americans.

Freedom for All Americans’ Chief Program Officer Kasey Suffredini lent his story to the brief. His quote included in the document: “I was terrified to reveal that I am transgender to my brother. We lost our parents over 15 years ago, and he is my only remaining immediate family. I was worried he would feel he didn’t know me, creating distance in our relationship, or at worst, reject me. I will never forget his words to me when I told him that after ten years of consideration I had decided to live as the man I have always known myself to be.  He said, ‘I love you and will always support you. What I care about is how I can just be hearing this now if you’ve been struggling with it for ten years. I thought we were close.’ This moment changed my life because, in that moment, I knew I was on the right path and everything was going to be all right.”

Jen Richards, the Emmy-nominated actress and writer of Her Story, says in the brief: “Bathroom restrictions are proxy battles for who is considered fully human. If you can’t use a public facility safely, how can you be an active member of the community? How can you be a citizen if the message of your own government is that you don’t belong? And what are you without community or citizenship? With my family in Greensboro, North Carolina, when it comes to guns, government, immigration, crime or media, there are many strong feelings, but very little agreement. There is no debate, however, about my womanhood, either at home or in church. The pastor didn’t know any transgender people before me, but he accepts that I’m a member of the congregation and a beloved child of God.” Read the Brief.

31 Cities, Counties & Jurisdictions

Additionally, a brief featuring the voices of dozens of city attorneys includes many of the cities represented by the Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination coalition, which advocates for LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies at the local level.“This is not a case about bathrooms — it is a case about fundamental civil rights,” said San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. “Stigmatizing an already vulnerable group is not an American value. Equality, compassion and being true to yourself — those are qualities we all embrace. Passing laws in our cities that guarantee the protection of transgender people has only enhanced public safety and led to communities that are more inclusive.” Read the brief.

Major Businesses

Many of the nation’s most prominent business leaders — including Apple, Twitter, Amazon, Airbnb, eBay, Microsoft, PayPal, Salesforce, Lyft, Tumblr, Yahoo, Gap, Warby Parker, among many others — signed onto a brief making the business case for non-discrimination. Belinda Johnson, Chief Business Affairs Officer of AirbnB, said today: “Our mission is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere and we’ve long supported the fight for equality and civil rights for the LGBTQ community. We are proud to add our voice to this important effort.” Read the Brief.

Medical & Mental Health Organizations

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, and American College of Physicians headed this brief, which makes the argument that transgender people must be treated with respect and dignity for the sake of their own mental health and the broader health of American society. The brief begins: “Transgender individuals have a gender identity that is incongruent with the sex they were assigned at birth. The medical community’s understanding of what it means to be transgender has advanced greatly over the past century. It is now understood that being transgender implies no impairment in a person’s judgment, stability, or general social or vocational capabilities. According to recent estimates, approximately 1.4 million transgender adults live in the United States—0.6 percent of the adult population.” Read the Brief Here.

Families of Transgender Children

The Transgender Law Center coordinated  a brief representing PFLAG, Inc., Trans Youth Equality Foundation, Gender Spectrum Charitable Fund, and Gender Diversity. The document highlighted the moving and impactful stories of six families where a child is transgender.  One of these families is the Shappley Family, based in Pearland, Texas. The family is raising a six-year-old transgender girl named Kai. Kimberly Shappley shared with the Transgender Law Center, “I am a Christian. I am a Bible-believing Christian. I love the Lord. But God makes no mistakes, and my child is fearfully and wonderfully made, just as the Scripture tells us. Being transgender doesn’t make her less fearfully and wonderfully made.” Check out more stories of families featured in the document, and Read the Brief.

Organizations Working Against Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Gender-Based Violence

More than 100 organizations committed to ending sexual assault spoke out against the often-repeated, extremely false myth that respecting transgender people will lead to violence against women and children. Terri Poore, Policy Director of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, said today: “Prohibiting a transgender boy like Gavin from using the boys’ restroom at school does nothing to increase student safety. As an organization dedicated to preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors, we support laws and policies that will help us with these goals including protecting transgender people from discrimination and supporting them accessing facilities that match the gender they live everyday. We believe in treating all people, including those who are transgender, with fairness and respect.”

The brief also furthers: “There is no evidence that Title IX’s nondiscrimination requirements (or any nondiscrimination protections for transgender people) increase risks to non-transgender people in public restrooms. But, without protection, transgender people face real risks to their safety. Transgender individuals, and the LGBT community generally, experience sexual assault, harassment, and abuse at greater rates than the rest of the population.” Read the brief.

Law Enforcement Officers

An important voice in this case is the voice of law enforcement officers, since far too often, opponents of transgender equality fabricate fears of violence as a reason for opposing inclusive laws and policies. The brief — which was signed by Chiefs of Police from Houston, Louisville, Minneapolis, Orlando, Seattle, Knoxville, Denver; retired Chiefs of Police of Los Angeles and Salt Lake City; and many police officers, sergeants and lieutenants –explains: “Regulations and rules like the one imposed by G.G.’s school seek to prohibit transgender people from using restroom facilities that match their gender identity but do not match the gender they were assigned at birth. These laws are often defended as purportedly necessary to ensure safety in public facilities. But public-safety concerns do not justify these laws, because there is no safety threat created by permitting transgender people to use public facilities that match their gender identity.” Freedom for All Americans was proud to help Lambda Legal with outreach on this brief. Read the Brief.

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