The anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed yet another lawsuit against a high school on behalf of some anonymous plaintiffs for respecting the needs of a transgender student. The suit against Virginia High School in Virginia, Minnesota makes the same legal arguments as nearly identical suits filed in Illinois and North Carolina, but stands out for the way it demonizes the transgender student the girls in the case encounter at school.
As in the other suits, ADF argues that Title IX should not protect “gender identity” as an aspect of “sex,” that the Department of Education did not follow administrative procedure in adopting the new interpretation, that allowing trans students to use facilities that match their gender violates the “safety and privacy” of other students, and that the policy also violates the religious beliefs of those students’ parents. The Virginia High School case, however, outlines specific complaints against a specific transgender student that try to paint her as a terror for simply acting like the girl that she is. It also argues that the plaintiffs are the victims of bullying, when it seems they are simply disparaged by other students for not respecting the trans student.
The complaint identifies the trans student as “Student X,” a sophomore who is engaged in athletics. It identifies her repeatedly — and insistently — as a “male” with male pronouns. Defending this choice in a footnote, ADF explains, “although Plaintiffs are aware that Student X professes a female gender identity, it is his [sic] male sex that is relevant to determining whether Plaintiffs’ rights have been violated by Defendants’ actions.” In other words, it helps ADF’s case to make this student sound like she’s not a girl.
It then goes on to describe various encounters that the girls in the case had with Student X, attempting to describe ordinary teenage behavior in the most dastardly sounding way.
For example, Girl Plaintiff A and Student X were both on the girls’ track team together. Early in the season, Student X would change in a stall, but then she’d “sit on a bench in the locker room while Girl Plaintiff A and other girls changed their clothes.” Then later, she started changing in the open locker room with the other girls, “removing his [sic] clothing down to tight women’s boyshort-style underwear.” In other words, she used the locker room for its intended purpose and talked to her teammates.
Girl Plaintiff A would try to avoid Student X by coming early or changing on the opposite side of the room, but “Student X started moving throughout the locker room to change, dance, or sit, and he [sic] would make loud rude comments to other girls about Girl Plaintiff A and other girls who did not want to change near him [sic].” The complaint never explains how Girl Plaintiff A may have interacted with Student X in the first place, it just suggests that Student X was the rude one for calling out her rejection.
Apparently Student X enjoys the camaraderie of the locker room with her teammates:
Student X began dancing in the locker room while Girl Plaintiff A and others prepared for track practice. Student X would dance in a sexually explicit manner — “twerking,” “grinding” or dancing like he [sic]was on a “stripper pole” to songs with explicit lyrics, including “Milkshake” by Kelis. On at least one occasion, Girl Plaintiff A saw Student X lift his [sic] dress to reveal his [sic] underwear while “grinding” to the music.
The complaint lays this out as if the transgender student was some lewd anomaly. But after Parent A complained on behalf of Girl Plaintiff A, the school pointed out that “students, including Student X, are permitted to play music and dance in the locker room.” Dancing is a thing that happens in high school locker rooms.
In fact, it seems to be the case that the six girls in this lawsuit are the anomaly and that most other students are not only comfortable around Student X, but defend her. Another anecdote speaks of an occasion when Girl Plaintiff D was in the locker room and Student X “walked into the girls’ locker room while she and other girls were changing.” This left her “teary-eyed and visibly shaken,” according to Parent D. As Girl Plaintiff D tried to avoid Student X, “other girls started questioning her and bullying her about waiting until Student X left to undress.”
Girl Plaintiff E was similarly “emotionally distraught” when she learned about the policy allowing Student X to use the facilities, even though she did not participate in athletics of phys ed with her. She decided she could only use the staff restrooms, which in once case made her late to class. “The teacher and her peers questioned her about being late,” the complaint says (emphasis added). After that, she would sometimes hold her urine all day or wait until her phys ed class when she knew Student X wouldn’t be there.
Girl Plaintiff F felt “very uncomfortable” with the kinds of conversations Student X had in the locker room, including questions she asked about other girls’ bra sizes and the changes happening to their bodies — a common topic among teenage girls. She, along with with Girl Plaintiff A, are actually not returning to Virginia High School this year, “because of the Policy and bullying at school” (emphasis added).
Other clues in the complaint suggest that these six girls are alone in the problems they have with Student X. The school district held an assembly that explained that the trans-inclusive policy was part of its anti-bullying efforts and that, as the complaint describes, “any student who objects to the Policy will be viewed as a bully.” This assembly, along with a similar community meeting for parents, “upset Girl Plaintiff A because she understood the message to be that the District will not protect her privacy and, instead, will continue to disregard the anxiety, embarrassment, and stress she feels as a direct result of the Policy.”
The irony is that these girls are objecting to a self-imposed burden that many other schools have actually imposed on transgender kids. Trans kids have been forced to use staff restrooms, nurses’ offices, or other alternatives instead of being allowed to use the regular restrooms. This has had real consequences for trans kids, who feel ostracized and stigmatized and who miss class and face real health complications because they don’t feel safe to use any restroom.
The suit makes clear that these students and their parents simply reject Student X’s gender identity and object to her existing at school as a typical girl. They also object to being portrayed as bigots because this rejection is based on their religious beliefs.
Like in the Illinois suit, the new complaint argues that the girl plaintiffs experience “anxiety, stress, humiliation, embarrassment, intimidation, fear, apprehension, and distress throughout their day” because they know that they might have to share a facility with a trans student. The complaint also relegates gender identity by describing it as “subjective, fluid, and not rooted in human reproduction or tied to birth sex,” borrowing from a recent report on LGBT research that was riddled with anti-LGBT propaganda and ignored many studies that contradicted its conclusions.
It’s unclear what fate these lawsuits might face. ADF recently withdrew its identical suit in North Carolina, explaining to ThinkProgress that Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and the North Carolina General Assembly are already doing enough to fight transgender student inclusion there. “With the interests of ADF’s North Carolina clients well-represented in federal court, ADF has strategically shifted from direct litigation to a supporting role,” the organization said in a statement.
But the North Carolina litigation has been delayed while the Supreme Court considers a similar case about a transgender student seeking bathroom access in Virginia. The outcome of that could settle all of these cases, but ADF seems intent to filing as many different lawsuits as it can in the meantime.