EASTON, Md. (WJZ) — A Maryland teenager who won a settlement that allowed him to use the boys’ bathroom and locker room facilities at school tells WJZ the long court battle was about equality and not having to live “in a place of discrimination.”
16-year-old Max Brennan is a student at St. Michaels Middle and High School in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore. His settlement follows a major federal court ruling that found banning him from the restrooms that correspond to his gender identity is a violation of Title IX — the federal law barring sex discrimination in education.
“Using the restroom is something most people take for granted, but when you’re transgender, it’s really a right of passage to be able to use the men’s restroom,” Brennan told WJZ Investigative Reporter Mike Hellgren. “It might not seem like a big deal to other people, but for a transgender person, it can be a really huge deal.”
FreeState Justice assisted Brennan in his legal battle and called the decision “the first of its kind” in Maryland and “one of the first anywhere to hold that a school district could not exclude a student who is transgender from its locker rooms.”
Talbot County Schools did not comment on the settlement.
Brennan said it was especially tough when he used to play soccer or when he changes costumes for theater productions.
“The way I see it, I was being put in an ‘other’ category,” he said.
A judge cited Brennan’s case in a recent ruling involving Gavin Grimm, a transgender student in Virginia, who also won a favorable court decision.
The judge in Grimm’s case found the Gloucester County School Board’s bathroom policy “subjected him to sex stereotyping.” The school is appealing.
The Supreme Court has declined to make a ruling on whether cases like Grimm’s and Brennan’s amount to discrimination under Title IX, leaving it to lower courts.
Jennifer Kent, the managing attorney for FreeState Justice, said Brennan “asked the court to recognize him and treat him like any other boy. That’s all any student wants. They just want to be treated like any other person.”
Kent said, “We absolutely see cases where schools are being held accountable for discriminating practices in court.”
Brennan said he will be back at the same campus for his junior year. He said he has strong support from many teachers and fellow classmates.
“There’s always going to be a fight for the playing field to be leveled for everyone,” he said. “I don’t think that’s ever going to stop, but I do think things are getting much closer to equality.”
Brennan said he hopes the settlement blazes a trail for the future, “One of the things I set out for in the beginning was to make lives better for other students going through the same process I was… I definitely feel it was worth it.”