Honda-Phillips family, one of seven families featured in the brief

Honda-Phillips family, one of seven families featured in the brief

Transgender Law Center and the law firm Cooley LLP today filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of four organizations that work with transgender students and their families. The brief features the voices and stories of seven families each raising a transgender child and was filed in support of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student whose case against his school for discrimination will be heard by the court on March 28. Amici for the brief are PFLAG, Inc., Trans Youth Equality Foundation, Gender Spectrum Charitable Fund, and Gender Diversity.

“All students should be able to feel safe going to school and getting an education. That’s just baseline,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “The stories of the wonderful families in this brief illustrate that when school administrators follow the law and support all of their students, including transgender students, everyone thrives – and that when schools target transgender youth for harassment and discrimination, the results are heartbreaking.”

“My husband and I never wanted our children to be anything other than themselves, and it hurts to think that our daughter lived so long as someone she didn’t feel she was inside,” said Michelle Honda-Phillips, mother of ten-year-old M, who is featured in the brief. “She isn’t pretending or wanting to be a girl: she is a girl. Her school, her classmates, and her teachers understand that and support her, and there are no issues – just normal school life with kids supported in learning, growing, and being themselves.”

Gavin Grimm, the transgender boy at the center of the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, was barred from using the boys’ restroom at his Virginia high school and forced to use a separate restroom from all other students. Gavin won an initial victory in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which the Gloucester County School Board appealed to the Supreme Court. The Fourth Circuit held that singling out a student to use a separate restroom from all of their peers violates Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination by schools. A similar case brought by Transgender Law Center on behalf of Wisconsin student Ash Whitaker will be heard in the Seventh Circuit on March 29th, just a day after the Supreme Court arguments. Ash won a preliminary injunction from a lower court in September after the court found he was likely to prevail under both Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

“Children should be loved and supported unconditionally,” said Amber Briggle of Denton, Texas, another parent whose family is included in the brief. “For a long time, I didn’t understand what my son was trying to tell me. He went through a heartbreaking time in first grade where his grades slipped, he was acting out, and he would hold it all day because he didn’t think he was allowed to use the boys’ bathroom but he knew the girls’ bathroom wasn’t right for him. Now, knowing he has our support and we love him for who he is, Max is happy and thriving — and that’s all a parent can ask for.”

“We’re proud to partner with Transgender Law Center in the filing of this brief and believe that cultivating an environment that is inclusive to all students is imperative for our nation’s schools. Cooley is dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals and making sure everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, especially students,” said John C. Dwyer, partner at Cooley LLP. “The stories and experiences of the families in this brief exemplify the importance of this issue for transgender youth.”

Pictures and quotes from the families featured in the brief can be found here, and the families are available for media interviews.


Transgender Law Center is the largest national organization dedicated to advancing the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming people through litigation, policy advocacy, and public education. TLC changes law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.

About Cooley LLP: Clients partner with Cooley on transformative deals, complex IP and regulatory matters, and high-stakes litigation, where innovation meets the law. Cooley has 900 lawyers across 12 offices in the United States, China and Europe.

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