by Chris Loy
The University of Florida Levin College of Law hosted a lively three-panelist discussion on Tuesday entitled “Gender Identity in the Classroom.” The event was presented by OutLaw and the Federalist Society and the discussion centered on Title IX, transgender rights, and G.G. v. Gloucester School Board—a case currently on appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.
“Over 40 percent of people who are seen as transgender or gender non-conforming experience suicide ideation,” warned Dr. Anyaliese Hancock-Smith, a clinical psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavioral affirmative psychotherapy with LGBTQ individuals at the UF Health Springhill facility. In her introduction, Dr. Hancock-Smith painted the tragic, real-life portrait of transgender youths who deal with stigmatization every day in our schools.
Denise Brogan-Kator, senior legislative counsel for the Family Equality Council, a national LGBT rights organization, drew inspiration from Dr. Hancock-Smith’s introductory words to delve into the human story that is often drowned out among the sea of pleadings in monumental court cases such as G.G. v. Gloucester School Board. “At the core of this [case] . . . is the belief that Gavin is not a boy,” stated Brogan-Kator.
Michele Casey-Driscoll, 1L and prior public high school teacher in Orlando, shared her experience as a teacher and questioned the panel on the repercussions this ruling will have in schools around the nation.
“It’s a complex problem that won’t be fixed by a simple solution,” stated Casey-Driscoll referring to her concern over the Court eliminating a school’s ability to provide a third, sex-neutral bathroom option for transgender youth. “An option that,” Casey-Driscoll says, “is right for many students.”
Brogan-Kator’s sympathetic message was at odds with that of staunch libertarian Illya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute. Shapiro provided perspective into the ideology of the opposing side—legal argument that found support in an individual’s right to privacy.
While the panelists held radically different views, there was some common ground: the choice of which bathroom to use should not come from Washington. While the panelists believed that the decision should be made at a more fundamental level, they disagreed over the extent of how fundamental a level. Shapiro proposed that the choice should be made at the state-level, but Brogan-Kator stripped it down even further. True to her concern to every individual’s story, Brogan-Kator stated that the choice of what bathroom to use should be left to the individual, themselves.
“The panel provided a great overview and respectful debate on the gender issues before the court,” stated 2L Daniel Batista. “[However,] there were certainly questions concerning the nature of transgender as a legal classification that could have been discussed further.”
The case of G.G. v. Gloucester School Board centers around Gavin Grimm who, after coming out as a transgender boy, began using the boys’ restroom at his high school. After subsequent outrage in his community, Grimm eventually brought suit against the school board as violating Title IX when the school board prohibited Grimm from using the boys’ restroom and forced him to either the girls’ restroom or a unisex bathroom. After making the way through the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in October 2016. The case is scheduled for oral argument before the Supreme Court on March 28, 2017.