Drew Adams was excited to start his freshman year at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Florida, in the fall of 2015.
Not only would it be his first year of high school — it would be his first year living openly as a boy. But Adams’ excitement faded after school officials told him he couldn’t use the boy’s bathroom because he is transgender.
Instead, they said he’d have to use the school’s fewer-and-farther between gender neutral bathrooms.
“I was upset and angry because I knew I didn’t do anything wrong,” Adams told NBC News.
Determined to fight back, Adams and his mother, Erica Adams Kasper, sued the School Board of St. John’s County in 2017 for discrimination. They were represented by lawyers from Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization that focuses on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.
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Adams’ attorneys argued that the school district violated his constitutional rights and his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which bars discrimination “on the basis of sex.”
In July 2018, the district judge agreed, stating: "[T]he evidence is that Drew Adams poses no threat to the privacy or safety of any of his fellow students. Rather, Drew Adams is just like every other student at Nease High School, a teenager coming of age in a complicated, uncertain and changing world. When it comes to his use of the bathroom, the law requires that he be treated like any other boy.”
The school district appealed in August 2018 to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case is now pending.
Adams, now an 18-year-old senior who will graduate this month, said he hopes the case will make high school easier for students who are also trans.
“I’ve always been very big about using my voice and using my privilege — the privilege of a supportive family and financial stability and all that — to better the lives of the less privileged,” Adams said. “So to know that I was doing that, and to know that I was making that sort of change that I was wanting to be making this whole time, was really empowering.”
Adams, an honor student, will attend the University of Central Florida in the fall, where he plans to double major in political science and psychology.
“[Pride] to me is liberation. It’s being able to be who I am and love who I love in every aspect of my life without fear, or even if there is fear, with a reclamation of that fear, and positive energy. Pride is the freedom to exist how I am and to not worry too much about what everyone else thinks, and pride is community, because Pride is knowing that there are other people like me and that I’m not alone, that just being proud of who I am is probably very important. It’s very important to be prideful for younger people who might need to see someone like them succeeding and being happy.”
“If I’m being really optimistic, I would first like to see homosexuality decriminalized in every country across the world. I would like LGBT people to be given marriage equality everywhere. I would like trans people to be treated as the gender of which they identify in every aspect of their lives. I would like trans people to have access to medical care that’s inexpensive and a medical community that maintains our dignity as our correct genders. I would like to see insurance cover trans health care.”