Teen Activist Gavin Grimm on How We Can All Be Trans Allies
When I came out to my high school principal, I didn’t know what to expect. Turns out, neither did he.
None of us really knew how to approach the situation, so we tried to do what made sense. I had already come out to my parents and friends as transgender, so when I entered Gloucester HS as a sophomore, I was just Gavin. Peers and teachers used my name, referred to me by “he” and “him,” and, after getting the okay from my principal, I used the boys’ restroom like everyone else. I was treated just like every other guy in school.
That didn’t last long. Some parents complained about their kids sharing a bathroom with a trans student. Then some adults in the community who didn’t even have children in the school district joined in the complaining. The school board held meetings all about where I should be able to pee. It was embarrassing, and it was a lot to deal with alongside everything else high school already throws at you.
Eventually the school board did something that didn’t make sense: They decided I could no longer use the boy’s restroom, singling me out and forcing me to use the restroom in the nurse’s office, separate from my peers and far away from my classrooms.
My family and I took the school board to court for my right to use the restroom that matches up with my gender. In fact, my case was headed all the way to the Supreme Court until the Trump administration announced that it didn’t agree with the previous administration’s position that Title IX, a federal law banning sex discrimination in public schools, protects trans students like me. Now it’s going to take more time for my case to wind through the court system.
Despite my case not being heard by the Supreme Court this term, I’m still fighting to overturn my school board’s decision. Unfortunately, my court case won’t be decided before I graduate, but I’m going to keep fighting because none of the trans and gender nonconforming students that come after me should have to face the discrimination I did.
The good news is that there’s something you can do to help other trans students like me. There are the really basic things, like treating your trans classmates with respect, and using the names and pronouns they ask you to use for them. There’s standing up to students who might bully or pick on LGBTQ students, or correcting people around you who misgender transgender people, even when the transgender person isn’t around. All of that makes a big difference, both to your trans peers and your entire school.
And then there’s something major you can do to be a trans ally: You can advocate for trans-inclusive restroom policies in your school. Even if you don’t have a transgender classmate right now, it’s never too early to make sure your school is a safe place for all students, including LGBTQ ones.
Talk with your classmates about getting involved. Maybe your school has a GSA, or another LGBTQ-inclusive group you could team up with. Talk to your teachers and your school administrators. Let them know that your classmates want a school where everyone is safe to be themselves. You can take this fight for trans equality all the way to your school board — after all, it’s their job to listen to students and teachers, and to make schools a better place for everyone.
Maybe you don’t have a trans classmate right now. Eventually, someone in your high school will be—about 1 in every 100 people are trans. That might not seem like a lot, but 1 in 100 Americans is equal to the entire population of Delaware. Just think of how many students come through your school each year. At some point, every school in the country is going to face this challenge. It’s important that schools create a safe place where all students feel respected and affirmed. And right now, you can make a huge difference in your school by speaking up for trans rights.
By Gavin Grimm, 17