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Gavin Grimm Is Heading to the Supreme Court

Gavin Grimm
Gavin Grimm
James Esseks,
Director, LGBTQ & HIV Project,
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October 28, 2016

Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old boy in rural Virginia, just needs to pee. That wouldn’t be the focus of much attention, except that Gavin is transgender. With the permission of the school principal, he used the boys’ restroom for nearly two months without any problems. But after some parents complained, the school board passed a new policy prohibiting him from using the boys’ restroom and forcing him to use the girls’ room or a single-user restroom constructed especially for him.

Gavin didn’t think it was right for him to be treated differently than all the other boys at his school — singled out as unfit to share common spaces with his peers. Gavin sat through two long school board meetings where parents and community members called him a safety risk, a “young lady,” and a “freak.” Then, Gavin had the strength to stand up in front of the crowd and explain, “All I want to do is be a normal child and use the restroom in peace,” emphasizing that, “I am just a boy.”

With the ACLU’s help, he challenged the school district’s restriction as discriminatory. Back in April, a federal appeals court ruled for Gavin, holding that schools that bar students from using restrooms that match their gender discriminate based on sex in violation of Title IX, a federal law against sex discrimination in education.

The school board asked the Supreme Court to review Gavin’s win, and today the court said it would take up the case. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will agree that excluding transgender students from using the common restrooms used by everyone else is sex discrimination and that it’s wrong.

Gavin’s case, and the so-called restroom debates more broadly, are about much more than just restrooms. This is a chance for the country to get to know our transgender family, friends, colleagues, and community members. This case will put Gavin’s story before the public and the justices who will be deciding what equality for transgender people means.

What should become clear is that restroom restrictions bar transgender people from full participation in public life by making it challenging or even impossible to go to work, to school, to the movies, or a restaurant. And that letting transgender people use the restroom doesn’t intrude on anyone else’s privacy or safety. Gavin — and so many other transgender people all across the country — are living proof of that reality.

Now that the court has accepted this case, the restroom issue, which has been percolating in national discussions for years, has a face: Gavin Grimm. We are so grateful to Gavin for the strength he has shown in standing up for himself and others as well as for the bravery of transgender people all across the country who are fighting to ensure that the type of dehumanizing treatment that Gavin endured doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Together, we can achieve equality.

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