Brave eight-year-old transgender girl sues Tennessee over vile anti-trans bathroom law

Protest for against bills targeting LGBT+ kids

A brave eight-year-old trans girl and her parents are suing Tennessee over a law that denies trans students and school staff access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. 

The family, alongside the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), filed a lawsuit against the Tennessee Department of Education and the Williamson County Board of Education on Thursday (4 August). 

The lawsuit detailed how the young trans girl, identified as DH, stopped using school restrooms entirely and “limited her food and water intake” to minimise her need to use the facilities. She also developed “migraines, reflex” and “recurring nightmares of school” as a result. 

The complaint described how the school initially agreed to support DH’s social transition but, by January this year, the administration “could not provide DH with the support she needed to complete her social transition”. 

That’s because Tennessee’s “Accommodations for All Children Act” – which was signed into law by governor Bill Lee in May 2021 – prevents DH from using the girls’ bathrooms at school. The law requires public schools to make “reasonable accommodation” for trans students, faculty and staff as they aren’t allowed to use restrooms or changing facilities aligning with their gender identity. 

According to the lawsuit, DH had to “clean restrooms covered in human waste before using them” and was “forced to out herself as transgender in front of other students or janitorial staff” because of the reviled legislation. 

“These restroom ‘accommodations’ provided to DH by the elementary school are not accommodations at all,” the complaint argued. 

It continued: “They reinforce the differential treatment and trauma associated with living under the School Facilities Law, violating DH’s constitutional and statutory rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”

Families hold placards at a rally against increasing legislative attacks on trans kids across the US

A rally against increasing legislative attacks on transgender kids across the US. (Universal Images Group via Getty/ UCG/ Michael Siluk)

DH has also been the victim of horrific bullying and harassment by her classmates, according to the lawsuit. 

She was repeatedly confronted about her gender by another student on the playground “without intervention by any teachers” and was physically assaulted when another student “repeatedly punched DH in her head at the bus stop”. 

The same student stood up on the bus the following week and “persistently shouted, ‘This kid is gay!’”

The lawsuit detailed that DH is still “misgendered and referred to as a boy or by male pronouns by teachers and students” to this day. As a result, the young trans girl told her parents that she wanted to stay home because she “feels safer” there than at school.

Cynthia Cheng-Wun Weaver, HRC’s litigation director, said it is “unfortunate” that Tennessee lawmakers used their authority to “attack some of our nation’s most vulnerable” people – children. 

“These power-seeking politicians will not stop pandering to their base, even if it means controlling which restrooms an eight-year-old uses at school,” Weaver said. “We should all be inspired by DH’s strength and determination to fight for the right to be who she is.”

She continued: “She, and all trans and non-binary children in Tennessee, deserve to be affirmed and encouraged to be who they are, in all aspects of their lives.”

AH, mother of DH and a plaintiff in the case, said her family chose to move to Tennessee because it was known as the “‘volunteer state’, whose citizens cared for their neighbours without hesitation – not a state that legalises discrimination against helpless children”. 

“Now, I am embarrassed to say that I live in a state that refuses to see anything beyond my child’s gender,” the mum said. “She is a bright, friendly, funny, creative, enthusiastic, little girl and is always the first kid to cheer you on if you are struggling.”

AH said she is showing her “volunteer spirit” by filing the lawsuit and fighting not only to affirm DH’s existence but also the “thousands of trans and non-binary children who live in Tennessee”. 

The HRC filed a similar lawsuit in 2021, challenging the state’s vile anti-trans bathroom law. But the HRC said the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed because the plaintiffs moved out of Tennessee.