A transgender student in the US has won an $800,000 settlement from his former school district over “humiliating” transphobic discrimination he suffered while at school.
Ashton Whitaker (pictured, right), who is now in college, identified as male while at school in Wisconsin and filed the lawsuit in 2016 after staff continually referred to him as a girl and banned him from using male bathrooms.
“The idea of using the girls restroom was humiliating and there was no way I could do it,” Whitaker is quoted as saying in court documents.
“If I were to use the gender-neutral restrooms, I would also stand out from everyone else with a big label on me that said ‘transgender.’”
He said he felt “scrutinized and degraded” by administrators and reported suffering health problems including anxiety and migraines because he drank less water in an attempt to minimise bathroom use.
Last year, Federal District Court judge granted an injunction that allowed Mr. Whitaker to use boys bathrooms during his final year at the school.
The school appealed, arguing “a student cannot unilaterally declare their gender then demand that they be treated like ‘all others’ in that sex classification,” but it was upheld by the court.
Last week, the Kenosha Unified School Board voted to settle the lawsuit for $800,000, local media reported.
“I am deeply relieved that this long, traumatic part of my life is finally over and I can focus on my future and simply being a college student,” Whitaker said.
“Winning this case was so empowering and made me feel like I can actually do something to help other trans youth live authentically.
“My message to other trans kids is to respect themselves and accept themselves and love themselves. If someone’s telling you that you don’t deserve that, prove them wrong.”
Ronald S. Stadler, the school board’s lawyer, told the New York Times that the district “never engaged in any acts of overt discrimination against transgender individuals,” but conceded Whitaker had been told not to use the male bathroom.
He said the board’s decision to settle was made partly to avoid continuing legal fees. He said Whitaker’s fees alone had totalled $1.7 million.
“I think eventually the Supreme Court is going to have to take this issue and issue a ruling, because we have lower courts all across the country that have looked at it in various ways, and it’s not always consistent,” he said.
(Photo by Transgender Law Centre)