Home Youth empowerment Trans activist Gavin Grimm urges Maryland high school students to demand what they deserve

Trans activist Gavin Grimm urges Maryland high school students to demand what they deserve

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When Gavin Grimm, a nationally known transgender rights advocate, was asked to deliver the keynote speech at the Montgomery County Public Schools Pride Town Hall rally, he didn’t hesitate.

As he told students he spoke to on Saturday, places generally considered to be among the most liberal — including Maryland’s most populous county, just north of Washington — offer their own challenges.

“When you walk into places like a school system with a lot of good intentions [supporters]people in that circle can feel really defensive or challenged if you say, “That’s great, but you’re not doing enough,” Grimm said.

His speech highlighted a gathering of around 300 students, parents and teachers intended, in part, to break down such resistance. Walter Johnson High School’s Pride Town Hall featured 11 panel discussions ranging from “LGBTQ+ Inclusivity in Grades 8-9 American History” to “ACT to Fight Bias,” a session on how best to address bias against LGBTQ students.

Among the attendees were a woman whose nephew just got out, and another woman whose son’s friends just got out. Sam Ross, a freshman at Montgomery Blair High School who had come to town hall, was heartened to see the women.

“They just wanted to know more about the community,” Ross said. “It was nice.”

The rally took place amid the ongoing culture wars and the high-tension debate elsewhere in the country, at the intersection of public education and gender identification. Asked about Texas, for example, where the governor compared gender-affirming medical treatments to child abuse, Grimm said the state shouldn’t be considered so far off.

“Texas is all of us,” Grimm said. “Even in this area, we have no idea that the leadership will not change, and the children of this school and the people of this school and this community are therefore not in danger.”

The events that propelled Grimm to a national voice on transgender issues began in 2014, after he transitioned as a sophomore in high school in Gloucester County, Virginia. The school had first allowed him to use the boys’ bathroom.

But the reaction from parents prompted the school board to reverse the trend and force Grimm to use a special bathroom. With the support of the ACLU, he filed a complaint, arguing that he should be able to use the boys’ bathroom.

Virginia school board settles lawsuit over Gavin Grimm’s request to use boys’ bathroom

The case went to a federal appeals court, which in a 2-to-1 decision found the school board discriminated on the basis of gender and violated the 14th Amendment by banning Grimm from using the bathroom that matched her gender identity. . Judge Henry F. Floyd framed the case in historical terms.

“The proudest moments in the federal judiciary have been when we affirm the budding values ​​of our bright youth, rather than preserving the prejudices of the past, he wrote. “How shallow is a promise of equal protection that would not protect Grimm from the fantastical fears and unfounded prejudices of his adult community. It’s time to move on. »

The Gloucester County School District appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court, which declined to hear it.

“I’m glad my years-long fight to get my school to see me for who I am is over,” Grimm said in a statement at the time, adding, “Trans youth deserve to use the bathroom in peace without being humiliated and stigmatized by their own school boards and elected officials.

At Pride Town Hall on Saturday, Grimm began his commencement speech by noting that Montgomery students enjoy a more accepting environment.

“It wasn’t my school experience,” he said, calling Montgomery a space for affirmation. “I was in a school system that was very comfortable dragging out a long and expensive legal battle for the wrong reasons.”

He remembers being scared when he was 15.

“I didn’t do what I did because I was brave and because I was naturally powerful,” he said. “I did what I did because no matter how I felt about myself, I believed in what I deserved. … My position was one of justice, not one of empowerment or trust.

At first, he said, things were fine.

Virginia school board to pay $1.3 million in settlement to transgender student Gavin Grimm, who sued over toilet policy

When I transitioned, me and my mom, we went to school before the school year started and she said, “This is Gavin. It’s a boy. It’s not a negotiation. It is not a matter of opinion. What are you going to do to keep this child safe? And to his credit, at the time, my manager was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know, probably supporting him.’ And was it good. For seven weeks I used the boys’ bathroom without incident, then the school board intervened.

In response to a question about how all students could support LGBTQ students, Grimm choked up when talking about his close college friends.

“They listened to me when I was talking about my pronouns or whatever. They were very respectful, but they weren’t into queer politics,” he said. is to love me, support me and support my rights in my fight. And that’s one of the best things you can do is be a positive, loving, and supportive member of the community.

He spoke about what he sees as positive and broader trends.

“Every year we have more people and we have more excitement and we have more young people ready to demand what they know they deserve,” he said, adding, “Even in the states where we have our agency, our contested, forbidden, and restrained personality, people don’t advocate for that at large. In every corner of this country where these laws are passed, you’ll find an allied mother or a couple of young people with a few signs. You’ll find someone who will stand up and say it’s not right.