The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion I fought for years in court for my basic rights as a trans kid. It shouldn’t have been this hard.

Gavin Grimm, who has become a national face for transgender students, speaks during a news conference held by the ACLU in Norfolk, on July 23, 2019. (Kristen Zeis/AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

Gavin Grimm graduated from Gloucester High School in Virginia in 2017.

Gavin Grimm discusses this piece in more detail on James Hohmann's podcast, "Please, Go On." Listen now.

I was a high school freshman when I first spoke at the Gloucester County School Board and said, “I deserve the rights of every other human being.”

It was 2014. The year when I first told my mom I was transgender, when I first used the boys’ restroom at school, and when the school board voted to deny me the right to use the same restroom as any other boy.

My school initially had no problems with my living as a boy. I was promised by administrators that I’d be referred to exclusively as “he” and “him,” and by my name, Gavin. At first, I avoided the boys’ restroom — I was too scared my peers might harass me or reject my presence. Instead, I used the bathroom in the nurse’s office. But my school was big, and having to book it from one side of the school to the other and back every time I needed to use the restroom quickly became unrealistic.

So I got the green light from my principal to use the boys’ restroom. That was when word started to spread. My peers began treating me differently, putting an uncomfortable distance between us, getting up from the lunch table when I sat down next to them. Within two months I became a top agenda item at the school board meeting, where parents directed vitriol at me and constantly misgendered me.

Now, over six years and several court decisions later, the Supreme Court has finally affirmed what should have been a simple request to live like any other kid, rejecting an appeal by the school board and allowing a lower-court decision in my favor to stand. It’s the third time in recent years the court has refused to take up a challenge to a legal triumph by trans youth whose constitutional rights were violated.

At last, my victory feels final. But I shouldn’t have had to fight this hard.

Being a teenager is never easy, especially when society has rejected you almost from the day you were born. I’d always faced bullying and harassment at school, but it got worse right as I was getting a taste of what it felt like to be comfortable, to be seen, to love myself. I wish my case had been resolved years ago, while I was still in school. It’s been challenging fighting in court just to be me. Other trans youth shouldn’t have to fight this hard, either.

Thankfully things are changing. I’ve grown up with this case, and the country has as well. More people today say they know someone who is transgender than they did in 2014. More trans youth can say they have a supportive teacher or parent — a crucial factor in reducing rates of depression and suicide among trans kids.

But the work of advocates for trans justice is far from over.

We just had a year where more states passed bills targeting transgender youth than at any other point. Just like my fight was never really about restrooms, these bills — targeting trans youth in sports, or the kind of health care trans youth can receive — aren’t really about sports or health care. They’re about ignorance and fear, and cisgender people’s responding to that fear by attempting to push transgender people out of public life.

Even if we weren’t under attack in state legislatures, trans people would not be liberated. Many of us — particularly trans women of color — are terrorized by harassment and violence.

To feel free, we need tangible things, like access to IDs that accurately represent our identities, competent and affordable health care, and the abolition of abusive carceral systems that harm trans people disproportionately.

We need support from allies who will defend us and keep sharing the stories of trans youth who continue to battle in court: like Dylan Brandt, who is fighting for health care in Arkansas; and Andraya Yearwood, who just wanted to run on the same team as other girls in Connecticut; and Becky Pepper-Jackson, from West Virginia, who comes from a family of runners, but who’ll be barred from joining her school’s cross-country team if the courts don’t act quickly to stop West Virginia’s new anti-trans sports bill from going into effect.

Not least, we need moral support. I urge you, when you see a trans kid hurting or fighting for their life: fight alongside them as if it’s your kid, your sibling or your best friend.

And for those of you reading this who might oppose us, I ask: Why? We’re going to be trans anyway. What do you gain by attempting to silence us? What do you gain by instilling ignorance and hate in your children who aren’t like us? What harm comes from allowing us to be who we are? Every trans youth deserves to grow up to be a trans adult — to live.

Read more:

Katrina vanden Heuvel: As Pride Month begins, Republicans double down on restricting transgender Americans

The Post’s View: It’s sad that just treating all children with respect has become a political issue

Megan Rapinoe: Bills to ban transgender kids from sports try to solve a problem that doesn’t exist

George Conway: America owes thanks to Trump’s lawyers — even William Barr

The Post’s View: The delta variant is bringing back the dark clouds of last year