Don’t Use Girls As Props to Fight Trans Rights

CreditNicole Xu

Last month, a Minnesota federal court received a complaint about rampant gender discrimination in one of the state’s school districts. The lawsuit claimed that girls were subject to harassment, barred from participating in athletics, and forced to transfer schools rather than tolerate a hostile environment.

It seems like the sort of case that feminist warriors, like my colleagues at the National Women’s Law Center, might bring. But the plaintiffs’ lawyers come from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative nonprofit organization that is elsewhere suing the federal government to stop it from protecting transgender students’ rights. The discrimination noted in the lawsuit stemmed from the presence of a transgender girl in the girls’ locker room.

Over the past year, the A.D.F. has filed lawsuits across the country challenging schools’ decisions to respect transgender students by letting them access single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity. These policies, the right-wing group claims, actually threaten girls’ educations. Many of its arguments are similar to those made by a Virginia school board defending itself in a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a male student who was denied access to the boys’ restroom because he is transgender. The Supreme Court is still deciding whether to hear that case.

In the Minnesota lawsuit, Privacy Matters v. U.S. Department of Education, the A.D.F. attempts to tell a tale of gender-bending terror. Instead, the complaint reads, heartbreakingly, as the story of a transgender girl acting like any other girl — dancing in the locker room, expressing insecurities about her body — in the face of rejection by her peers.

The federal government has made clear that Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination includes discrimination against transgender students. But the Minnesota suit claims that Title IX backs up the other girls in the locker room: Because they feel uncomfortable with a transgender girl present, the lawsuit claims, they are victims of sex discrimination.

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