Profiles of Transgender Courage: Gavin Grimm


 Gavin Grimm is an American transgender man from Gloucester County, Virginia. (That's not far away from my hometown!) He is a teenager who received a doctor's note in order to use the male restroom at his high school. After a member of the community complained, the school prohibited him from using the bathroom that associated with his gender identity. The event coincides with bills that had been proposed in other southern states that prohibited transgender people from using a public restroom that best represents their gender identity, An issue that became highly controversial in 2015.


The issue starts with the issuance of Title IX in the United States Education Amendments of 1972 which "prohibits discrimination "on the basis of sex" in educational programs that receive financial assistance from the federal government." This description was intentionally written very brief, and left the interpretation of the amendment up to the executive in power. In 2010, the Obama Administration determined the definition of "sex" was ambiguous, and led to the interpretation that include gender identity. A "Dear Colleague" letter was released, stating that schools that received federal funding (which are most public schools) were obligated to prevent situations that had potential to cause anti-LGBT sentiments and that the Office for  Civil Rights (OCR) would accept complaints that violated the interpretation on this policy would be accepted for investigation.


As the regulatory guidance became more specific, cases started popping up all over the country, such as one in Arcadia, California (a city I don't live far from now) where a transgender boy was prohibited to use the restroom and locker room of his choice and was required to sleep in a separate cabin alone during an overnight school trip. Many of theses cases fell in favor of the students. In 2016, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was the first to rule on the scope of Title IX as applied to transgender students. This was Gavin's case, known as G.G. vs. Gloucester County School Board.

After Grimm came out as a transgender boy while attending Gloucester High School and started using male restrooms, the school board introduced policy that "shall be limited to the corresponding biological genders, and students with gender identity issues shall be provided an alternative appropriate private facility." At a school board meeting, Grimm was referred to as a freak and compared to a dog by many a number of speakers. When he refused to use the girls restroom, he was offered a broom closet that had been converted into a makeshift unisex bathroom. He opted instead to use the bathroom in the nurses office.

Gavin contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the school board on the grounds of Title IX. The case went to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and was heard by Judge Robert G. Doumar. Doumar ruled against Grimm, stating that being transgender is a "mental disorder" and that Gavin was a "female who wants to be male" while also going on an off-topic rant about marijuana enforcement and sanctuary cities. Grimm appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the ruling citing the interpretation of federal policy regarding Title IX and condemning Doumar's remarks and suppositions.  It sent the case back down to Doumar for further proceedings under the broader reading of Title IX. The school board moved for a rehearing en banc but Appeals declined to rehear the case. Doumar issued a preliminary injunction in Grimm's favor. The Supreme Court stayed the Circuit Court's decision in August 2016, and in October 2016, it agreed to take up the case. The Court reversed its decision to hear the case on March 6, 2017, and vacated the judgment in Grimm's favor citing the Trump administration's withdrawal of the reading of Title IX relied on by the Fourth Circuit.

The result of Grimm's case is disappointing and yet another example of the Trump Administration's persecution of the transgender community and the LGBT community as a whole. However, Gavin is still fighting and doing his part to bring progress to society in favor of the transgender community. He has since graduated from high school and the school board has called for the court to stay the case as his graduation leaves the case "no longer relevant.




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