Gavin Grimm is a senior at Gloucester High School in Virginia.
This op-ed has been updated to reflect the news that the Supreme Court will take up Grimm’s case.
If you told me two years ago that the Supreme Court was going to have to approve whether I could use the school restroom, I would have thought you were joking.
In the fall of 2014, I began my sophomore year at Gloucester High School in Virginia. At the end of the previous school year, after years of stress and anxiety, I had finally come out to my family as transgender. Over the summer, with the guidance of medical professionals and the support of my family, I legally changed my name and was finally able to live authentically as a boy in all aspects of my daily life.
I was excited about starting the new school year. Before school started, my mother and I met with the high school principal and guidance counselor, and they were understanding and supportive. I was a little nervous about how other kids would react, but I was more concerned about turning in my homework assignments, which tended to magically disappear as a result of my sometimes poor organizational skills.
At first, I used the nurse’s office restroom, but after a couple of weeks the long trips back and forth felt stigmatizing and unnecessary. I was using men’s restrooms in restaurants and shopping malls, so I told the principal I would like to use the boys’ restrooms at school, too. I thought then, perhaps naively, that this common-sense “issue” would be resolved quietly and privately, as it should have been.
If only. Even though I used the restrooms for almost two months without any disturbance, a group of parents and community members heard that “a girl” was using the boys’ restroom and began complaining. Instead of supporting me and the decision of the school administrators, the school board convened two public meetings, inviting the community to discuss my genitals and restroom usage in front of reporters and television cameras.
I continue to suffer daily because of the school board’s decision to make my bathroom use a matter of public debate.
After the public discussion, the school board passed a new policy to stop me from using the same bathrooms as other kids. The policy says students with “gender identity issues” can’t use the restrooms that match the gender they live every day. Instead, the school board said I should go back to using the nurse’s office or use a new “unisex” single-stall restroom so that no one else would have their privacy invaded by using the same restroom as me. It was humiliating and painful.
I feel the humiliation every time I need to use the restroom and every minute I try to “hold it” in the hopes of avoiding the long walk to the nurse’s office. And the humiliation can come when I least expect it.
Just a few weeks ago I was sitting with my friends at the high school football game and having fun — until I needed to take a restroom break. The stadium did not have the option of a single-stall restroom, and the main school building was locked. Suddenly a night out with my friends was marred by the realization that someone was going to have to take me to a gas station if I needed to use the restroom. Every day brings that little bit of extra planning and that nagging feeling that someone is going to find a new way to single me out.
What keeps me going is the knowledge that I am not the only transgender student out there, and I have the chance to make things better so other transgender kids do not have to go through what I am going through. With each step, my potential for positive impact has increased. First within my school district. Then within the federal courts, where a U.S. District Court ruling in my favor was stayed by the Supreme Court. And now, with the Supreme Court deciding Friday to take on the case itself, that impact could now potentially resonate across the nation.
I did not choose to announce to the news media that I am transgender. My school board made that decision for me. But now that I am visible, I want to use my position to help the country see transgender people like me as real people just living our lives. We are not perverse. We are not broken. We are not sick. We are not freaks. We cannot change who we are. Our gender identities are as innate as anyone else’s.
I hope the justices of the Supreme Court can see me and the rest of the transgender community for who we are — just people — and rule accordingly.
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