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Powers Assists APsaA with U.S. Supreme Court Brief in Transgender Bathroom Case

By March 9, 2017No Comments

Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville recently aided the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) in providing its client’s clinical expertise to a brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a transgender teen challenging a discriminatory restroom policy in Virginia.

The amicus curiae brief, which was filed March 2, was written in response to the case Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., in which a transgender teen argues that the school’s bathroom policy — which requires transgender students to use alternative private restrooms rather than communal restrooms — is unconstitutional.

Powers Senior Counsel and co-founder Jim Pyles, Principal Peggy Tighe and Associate Leela Baggett worked with APsaA, which contributed to the brief along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, American College of Physicians, and 16 additional medical and mental health organizations, known as the “amici” (friends of the court).

The purpose of the brief was to inform the Court of the medical consensus regarding what it means to be transgender, along with the protocol for treatment of gender dysphoria. The brief also discussed the harm transgender adolescents could face when they are excluded from restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

In the brief, APsaA and the other amici argue that transgender individuals have a “gender identity”— a “deeply felt, inherent sense” of their gender—that is not aligned with the sex assigned to them at birth, the opposite of cisgender individuals.

The brief also emphasizes that many transgender individuals are diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition that is characterized by debilitating distress and anxiety — which can be triggered by puberty — resulting from the incongruence between an individual’s gender identity and birth-assigned sex.

“Purposeful attempts to ‘convert,’ ‘repair,’ change or shift an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression” can “often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized attitudes,”  the brief states.

Instead, APsaA and the other amici recommend assessment, counseling, and, as appropriate, social transition, puberty-blocking drug treatment, hormone therapy, and surgical interventions to bring the body into alignment with one’s gender identity to treat gender dysphoria, although it can vary depending on the individual.  According to the brief, discrimination can have “striking effects on the daily functioning and emotional and physical health of transgender persons.”

On March 6, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated and remanded the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for further consideration in light of guidance issued by the Department of Education and Department of Justice on February 22, 2017.  The Fourth Circuit’s opinion had relied heavily on Department of Education guidance that concluded that Title IX, a federal law prohibiting discrimination in schools, requires a school to allow a student to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.  That guidance was rescinded on February 22, 2017.  Supreme Court analysts predict that, on remand, the Fourth Circuit will take another look at the question of whether the school’s policy violates Title IX.

APsaA is the oldest and largest national psychoanalytic membership organization, with more than 3,500 members. It believes bias against individuals based on gender identity or gender expression negatively affects the mental health of those individuals.

You can read the full amicus brief here. For more information about the amicus brief, please contact Powers Senior Counsel Jim Pyles at Jim.Pyles@PowersLaw.com or 202-872-6731 or Principal Peggy Tighe at Peggy.Tighe@PowersLaw.com or 202-872-6752.

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