Saturday, February 23, 2013

"Transcending Gender Lines: Title IX and Transgender Rights"

Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in a symposium at the University of Wisconsin about Title IX's application to transgender rights, sponsored by the law school's Journal of Law, Gender and Society.  Devi Rao from the National Women's Law Center kicked things off by discussing how Title IX courts have interpreted sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of gender nonconformity, clarifying the law's protection against harassment to include transgender and other gender-nonconforming students.  I followed by talking about legal precedent from the employment context, that if applied to cases involving students, could broaden Title IX's protections for transgender students to cases outside of the harassment context, where gender nonconformity theory may be less useful.  Rounding out the morning, we heard from Professor Jillian Weiss from Ramapo College, who emphasized the limits of Title IX in securing transgender rights, and advocated for judicial recognition of a constitutional right to gender autonomy as a way to supplement efforts to secure their legal protection. 

In the afternoon, Harper Jean Tobin from the National Center for Transgender Equality argued that Title IX should be interpreted to allow students access to single-sex facilities like bathrooms and restrooms based on their gender identity. Afterwards, Ilona Turner of the Transgender Law Center and Scott Thomspon from the law firm Cleary Gottlieb made a similar argument in favor of transgender students' participation on athletic teams. 

In addition to these presentations, we all enjoyed engaging discussion facilitated by able moderators.  It was a great day of insight and inquiry in Madison. I'm looking forward to the publication of these conference proceedings in an upcoming issue of the Journal.