A teenage activist and educator, taking up the fight for transgender students’ rights. Confronting the judicial system so that others will not be denied the protections to live as their true selves.
Featured lessonCelebrating and Defending Trans and Non-Binary Lives
Gavin Grimm grew up in Gloucester, Virginia. He came out as transgender in 2014 during his sophomore year at Gloucester High School. With his principal’s permission, he used the boys’ restrooms at school for several months without any problems, before a handful of parents went to the school board to complain. A public meeting was held to discuss the situation, amounting to a frightening and humiliating conversation about Grimm’s body. One adult after another stood up to express hateful sentiments, after which the board voted to ban him from using the boys’ restrooms.
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Gavin Grimm sued his school. His case worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, to be argued in March 2017. However, it was sent back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to be reconsidered in light of the Departments of Justice and Education pulling back the previous Obama administration’s Title IX guidance clarifying protections for transgender students. In 2019, Grimm won his case in the lower court. The school appealed, and in August 2020, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the school board policy that prohibited Grimm from using the boys’ restroom violated both Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
In June 2021, Grimm won an even bigger battle. The U.S. Supreme Court released an order rejecting a petition from the school board to hear the case after Grimm prevailed in the lower courts. The order leaves in place the Fourth Circuit court decision that found the school board had violated his constitutional rights. That decision featured strong language supporting constitutional protections for transgender children against discriminatory treatment at school. The precedent set by the court in Grimm’s case covers states that fall within the circuit—Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia—and will provide a road map for courts elsewhere in future fights over transgender rights.
“All transgender students should have what I was denied: the opportunity to be seen for who we are by our schools and our government.”
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