Deirdre Grimm is the mother of Gavin Grimm, plaintiff in the case Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board.
We teach our children to be kind. We teach them to love and to live life to the fullest. We teach them countless things to help them become better people, because as parents we all want the best for our children. And we demand that these values be taught in our schools so that when our kids graduate, they are open, compassionate people who understand that we all bleed the same blood and that everyone deserves to be treated with equality, dignity and respect.
My son, Gavin, will graduate from high school on Saturday. But he did not get the opportunity to learn those values at school. Instead, he learned them despite his school board treating him with the opposite of those values.
By now, my son’s story has spread to communities all across this country, because he stood up for himself as a transgender boy who wanted only to fully participate in his high school. He fought a policy that singled him out by forcing him to use a restroom separate from his peers. That fight took him all the way to the Supreme Court. Along the way, he helped people learn about the importance of treating transgender people fairly and equally.
Time magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential People of the year. During the Grammys, actress and activist Laverne Cox implored viewers to “Google ‘Gavin Grimm’ ” to learn about his fight. Countless people around the world began to #StandWithGavin on social media.
But before all of this, there was just my kid who was struggling.
When Gavin came out as his true self, I honestly didn’t even know what it meant to be transgender. I spent days and nights reading as much as I could. I read a study that said some 50 percent of transgender teenagers had seriously considered suicide. That was all I needed to know.
As a parent, you are terrified for your child’s safety. You expect there to be some tough times, especially in high school, but you tend to imagine it coming from other students. You don’t expect the parents to be the bullies.
Three years ago, parents complained to our school board because, just like every other student at his school, my son was using the bathroom that matched his gender identity. These parents then attacked him at a public meeting, humiliating him and our family in front of our community. This led to the school board requiring Gavin to use a private restroom.
Some may think this was a reasonable compromise, but this fails to appreciate how difficult such stigmatizing treatment can be, even just on a practical level. My son faced being late to class because he had to use a restroom on the other side of the building. To attend a school football game meant being prepared to hold his bladder, because there was no option for him at the field. He simply could not partake in the full high school experience.
Unfortunately, just weeks before Gavin’s case was to be heard, the Trump administration withdrew the Obama administration guidance that had clarified that Title IX protects trans kids. The Supreme Court sent Gavin’s case back to the lower courts to be reargued in light of this new reality.
Make no mistake: Gavin’s fight is not over. We are about to have the case reheard. No administration has the ability to change the meaning of Title IX. I look forward to seeing the rights of my son and other trans people recognized.
But the fact that we did not settle this while Gavin was still in school will be like an asterisk on his graduation. He won’t be able to remember his high school experience the way his classmates will, but he doesn’t think about that. Instead, he thinks about all the trans kids still out there who are being treated as less than everyone else. Gavin knows that this fight is about much more than him, just as it is about much more than restrooms. It’s about dignity and respect.
Gavin wasn’t looking to be on the front lines of a major civil rights battle. But he had the courage to stand up — because he knew deep down that it was right. His bravery has made all of us better and stronger people. My kid is truly awesome.
This week, Gavin will cross the stage at his high school graduation. I will undoubtedly feel the same emotions that mothers throughout the country with graduating seniors will be feeling: pride, love, excitement and so much more. But I am also inspired. I’m inspired by my son’s unyielding courage and determination. And I’m so thankful for all those who stand with Gavin as his fight — our fight — continues.