Friday, August 30, 2013

ACLU Presses Florida Technical College to Let Transgender Student Use Women's Bathroom

The ACLU has gone to bat for a transgender woman nursing student at the Pinellas (Florida) Technical Education Center who has been denied access to the women's bathroom, by issuing a letter demanding that they restore her right to access the same facilities as other female students.  The ACLU's client, Alex Wilson, identifies and presents as female, and is listed as female on her drivers license and Social Security card.  Additionally, she had undergone hormone therapy for four years.  She had up until this summer used the women's bathrooms at PTEC without incident, but was barred access by school officials after they discovered that she is transgender.  Since then, Wilson has been offered various bathroom alternatives, such as single stall toilet the "storage area" of a separate building, or the men's faculty restroom for which she would need to ask for a key, but none are as convenient or accessible as the women's room would be. Nor do those alternatives afford the same degree of dignity and respect for her female identity.

The ACLU's letter explains that the failure to treat transgender women in a similar manner to non-transgender women is a form of sex discrimination, which is prohibited by Title IX.  The letter cites legal authority from the employment context, including a 2012 decision by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizing that a transgender gender identity could not be the basis for singling people out for different treatment.  In addition to demanding Wilson's access to gender-specific aspects of the nursing program, including the women's bathroom, the ACLU letter encourages PTEC to adopt GLSEN's model policy for inclusion.

The letter does not include an express threat of litigation.  But that would be the likely outcome in the event that PTEC failed to honor the ACLU's request on behalf of Wilson.