A high school boy in Pennsylvania was humiliated and emotionally harmed by being forced to share a locker room and bathrooms with a transgender boy, according to a lawsuit filed by a top religious conservative group, which ripped an argument from the progressive playbook and turned it on its head.
The suit says that Joel Doe, an anonymous name for the high school junior, was changing his outfit for a PE class last October when he noticed the transgender boy, whom the lawsuit refers to as female.
"When he was standing in his underwear about to put his gym clothes on, he suddenly realized there was a member of the opposite sex changing with him in the locker room, who was at the time wearing nothing but shorts and a bra," according to the complaint filed on Tuesday in US District Court.
"Plaintiff has experienced embarrassment and humiliation, both in terms of being viewed and viewing a student of the opposite sex in a state of undress and because of the stigmatization and criticism he received from other students and adults," the complaint continues, noting that he "also fears the future embarrassment of meeting students of the opposite sex in the bathroom when simply relieving himself."
By allowing the transgender student to share the facilities, the lawsuit alleges, the Boyertown Area School District has violated the boy's civil and constitutional rights.
Lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian advocacy legal group representing the plaintiff, have asked a federal judge to suspend a school policy that lets transgender students use facilities that match their gender identity.
The case inverts arguments made in the past by several transgender students in other lawsuits that attempt to overturn school-district rules that restrict access to bathrooms. Among those students is Gavin Grimm, whose high-profile case is winding through federal appeals courts.
In those cases, transgender students have argued that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex, and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment ensure students can use facilities that match their gender identity. A federal judge in Pennsylvania's western district upheld that view in February.
But the suit filed in the state’s eastern district on Tuesday claims the same civil rights law has the opposite effect — thereby making transgender-friendly school restroom policies illegal.
Because Title IX allows for sex-segregated facilities as a general matter, the complaint says, only people identified as male at birth may enter facilities designated for boys, and vice versa. The suit adds that the 14th Amendment guarantees privacy from people of a different birth sex in those facilities.
"The policy harms Doe because unless he surrenders his right to bodily privacy, he can no longer use the locker room designed for use by boys," the suit says.
After seeing the transgender boy partially undressed, Doe complained to school officials “that there was a girl in their locker room," the lawsuit says. But the school principal allegedly told him that "students who mentally identify themselves with the opposite sex could choose the locker room and bathroom to use, and physical sex did not matter.”
The principal also allegedly told the boy to “tolerate” the situation and act as naturally as possible.
The boy reportedly felt so uncomfortable by the threat of sharing locker rooms with the transgender boy that he didn’t change clothes before PE, instead opting to wear street clothes — which has “resulted in disciplinary action and poor grades.”
Ever since the incident, the boy “does not feel secure in the locker rooms or restrooms that are properly set aside for the exclusive use of boys to protect their privacy from exposure to members of the opposite sex," the suit says. Lawyers add that the boy “now avoids using the restroom during the school day because of the ongoing risk of having his privacy violated.”
"The anxiety, embarrassment, and stress he feels as a direct result of [the school district’s] practice and actions has caused him to refrain from using restrooms as much as possible, stress about when and if he can use a given restroom without running into persons of the opposite sex, and opting to hold his bladder rather than using the school’s restroom," the suit says.
Outside Your Bubble is a BuzzFeed News effort to bring you a diversity of thought and opinion from around the internet. If you don’t see your viewpoint represented, contact the curator at email@example.com. Click here for more on Outside Your Bubble.
Dominic Holden is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Dominic Holden at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.