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Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of Transgender Teen In School Bathroom Case


Ashton Whitaker is graduating from high school on Saturday, and that's a big deal. So is winning a federal appeals court ruling. That happened to him earlier this week on Tuesday.

ASHTON WHITAKER: I kind of absorbed it privately mostly because Tuesday was the first day of my finals, so I was pretty fried. And so I was trying to, like, take all of it in at once.

MCEVERS: A federal court upheld an injunction allowing Ash Whitaker, who is transgender, to use the boys bathroom at school. He'd sued the Kenosha Unified School District in Wisconsin which was trying to prevent him from doing that. It all started after a teacher who had him in class before his transition later saw him in the boys bathroom.

I talked to Ash Whitaker about this case last summer after he first filed the suit, and we talked to him again this week. He says he doesn't hold a grudge against that teacher.

WHITAKER: I'm a pretty forgiving person, I would say. And honest - he didn't mean it to be malicious in any sort of sense. He was honestly just confused. There's no ill will or anything.

MCEVERS: And so now I mean this is the end of, like, a two-year process. I mean it's been a long time coming. What does that feel like?

WHITAKER: Pretty liberating - not going to lie. There were times where I just wanted all of this to be done. I wish it wouldn't be an issue because it's tiring to constantly fight and fight and fight. But at the same time, I'm not too keen on just letting this go. I would like to assist future generations of trans kids if I can.

MCEVERS: Yeah. Do you ever regret sometimes having to be so public about it, though? Like, it does sound tiring.

WHITAKER: I wouldn't say I regret anything about this whole process. I wish that trans people weren't treated as inconveniences because that's - a lot of the times what it's like is that, oh, if you were just not trans, this would be so much easier. Whether I was public about it or whether Gavin Grimm was public about it or not or another trans individual going through this, trans people still exist. And having one really public case isn't going to make them go away.

MCEVERS: Gavin Grimm, a student in Virginia...

WHITAKER: Virginia, yeah.

MCEVERS: ...Who went through a similar situation at his school. Was there any backlash?

WHITAKER: There will always be people who just don't understand. And they'll just lash out because of it, or they'll lash out because it's something different, something that they're not used to seeing. And therefore, if it's not, quote, unquote, "normal," it shouldn't exist, which is quite a shame, actually.

But yeah, I tend to avoid news articles online and looking at the comments because that's primarily where they all are at. I've not had too many people, like, personally reach out to me. But when they do, I usually just shut it down as politely as I can because if they can't give me the respect of being polite, then I'll still give them that respect anyways.

MCEVERS: What would you tell, like, other kids, you know, like a freshman or a sophomore getting into this now? What would you say?

WHITAKER: Don't be afraid to be who you are. It does take a lot of courage to be so open about your identity. It takes a lot of acceptance and a lot of self-love. But the results are so worth it. So I just - I urge younger trans youth to just keep going. It does take time. But again, getting that result of being happy with yourself is so much worth it.

MCEVERS: Ashton Whitaker, thank you so much.

WHITAKER: Thank you.

MCEVERS: That was 17-year-old Ashton Whitaker. A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that his rights were violated when his Wisconsin school district said he couldn't use the boys bathroom. And that Virginia student you heard us talk about, Gavin Grimm - in April, a federal appeals court in Virginia ruled the opposite way in his case.

(SOUNDBITE OF ODESZA AND ZYRA SONG, "SAY MY NAME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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