Metro Weekly

Deirdre Grimm pens open letter as Gavin graduates from high school

Mother of trans student at center of Title IX case believes the courts will decide in her son's favor

Gavin Grimm - Photo: Todd Franson

Gavin Grimm – Photo: Todd Franson

Deirdre Grimm, the mother of transgender activist Gavin Grimm, has taken to the op-ed pages in The Washington Post, writing an open letter reflecting on her son’s fight to be treated according to his gender identity.

Grimm, who graduates from Gloucester High School on Saturday, June 10, became famous after he sued the Gloucester County School Board for adopting a policy that relegated him to the girls’ restroom or a single-sex facility, in spite of being recognized as a boy by the school system and his vital documents matching his gender identity.

Deirdre Grimm says people teach their children to “be kind,” “love,” “live life to the fullest,” and that “everyone deserves to be treated with equality, dignity and respect.” Unfortunately, she says Gavin had to learned those values by facing adversity due to the school board’s discriminatory treatment of him.

“When Gavin came out as his true self, I honestly didn’t even know what it meant to be transgender,” she writes. “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,” she says, referring to a study from the Youth Suicide Prevention Program. “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,” Deirdre Grimm writes, recalling the abuse and harassment Gavin received from adults who objected to his use of the boys’ restroom for a period of nearly two months. 

“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,” she adds. “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.”

Grimm’s lawsuit made history when the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that Grimm should be allowed to sue the school board for violating his Title IX rights, the first decision of its kind in the country. The matter was headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, until the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidance that instructed schools to treat transgender students according to their gender identity. The high court then ordered the 4th Circuit to rehear the case. 

“Make no mistake: Gavin’s fight is not over. We are about to have the case reheard,” Deirdre Grimm writes. “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.

“Gavin knows that this fight is about much more than him, just as it is about much more than restrooms, she adds. “It’s about dignity and respect.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com