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Grimm On Supreme Court Decision Upholding Transgender Student Bathroom Access

Gavin Grimm during a press conference in 2016. (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

The Supreme Court indicated support on Monday for a lower court’s ruling in favor of Gavin Grimm, an advocate for the transgender community who sued his school district for not allowing him to use the boy’s restroom. 

Grimm, now 22, sued Gloucester County Public Schools in 2015 with the aid of the ACLU. The school board passed a policy requiring students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender assigned at birth, or to use one of a few gender-neutral restrooms. 

In the lawsuit, Grimm and his lawyers argued  that Title IX and the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause protect Grimm and other transgender students from policies that restrict gender expression, including the bathroom policy - which effectively singled out Grimm as the only openly transgender student.

He feels grateful for the organization’s support.

“That was probably the best thing you could have handed me in that situation as a fifteen year old who had strong convictions about who he is and what he deserves and what other trans people deserve,” Grimm said.

Grimm told VPM that he’s always felt like an outsider. Before coming out as trans, he was singled out for his weight, autism, and being “what you might call a tomboy.” So when his story started getting attention and the opportunity to make a change for himself and others was presented, he took it.

“I deserve to have this right,” Grimm said, “and I’m not unused to fighting with you people. So if I have to stand up for myself, that’s what I’m gonna do.”

The Fourth Circuit Court, based in Richmond, agreed with the ACLU’s reasoning last year. The Supreme Court finalized the decision this week by denying an appeal.

Eden Heilman, one of Grimm’s attorneys and the legal director of ACLU Virginia, said the denial makes the circuit court’s ruling the “law of the land,” at least in Virginia and surrounding states:  West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Maryland.

“So really where we stand now is that this... has large impact on these policies throughout the country,” Heilman said. She pointed to three other federal court decisions from around the country, and said Grimm’s fight is a big one.

“He is doing this not just for himself, but so that no student ever has to face the kind of discrimination that he faced at that in Gloucester County Schools,” Heilman said.

The Gloucester County School Board declined to comment by the time of publication.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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