Virginia teenager Gavin Grimm isn’t mincing words when it comes to how he views the Trump administration’s record on transgender rights.
On Thursday, Grimm was one of several witnesses called to testify before a meeting called by Democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce that focused on the concerns over whether the federal government would continue defending the civil rights of underrepresented minority communities, including the transgender community.
Speaking before the Democrat-led panel, Grimm criticized the Trump administration’s recent decision to withdraw guidance to schools urging them to allow transgender students to use facilities that match their gender identity.
“The guidance had a very simple message: Treat transgender students with dignity, and respect them for who they are,” Grimm said. “Treating trans students with dignity and respect should not be controversial. The decision to withdraw the guidance sent a terrible message to some of the most vulnerable people: that President Trump — the leader of our country — and his administration do not care about protecting you from discrimination.”
The guidance to which Grimm alluded had been issued in the spring of 2016, elaborating on an interpretation of Title IX that had long been embraced by the Obama Department of Education’s Office on Civil Rights: that discrimination based on gender identity constitutes sex discrimination. That interpretation had been the basis of a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that found that Grimm had a right to sue his local school district over its policy banning him from the boys’ restroom.
“Earlier this year, the White House announced that President Trump continues to be ‘respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights,’ just as he was throughout the election,” Grimm said. “But actions speak far louder than words. And the message sent with this action could not have been more damaging to trans youth.”
Grimm recalled how hurt he and other transgender people felt when the guidance was withdrawn earlier this year. Subsequently, Grimm’s case — which had been slated to be heard by the Supreme Court — was sent back to the 4th Circuit for reconsideration. Now, Grimm’s lawsuit challenging his school’s restroom policy won’t be resolved until well after he graduates, and his lawyers will have a harder task of convincing the 4th Circuit to adopt a more expansive interpretation of Title IX that heretofore has not been embraced by non-LGTBQ legal experts.
But Grimm, who has become a major figure in the transgender rights movement since embarking on his lawsuit, also expressed hope that more Americans are rallying to his side, even if he’s concerned that the government is dragging its feet.
“On the night the Trump administration withdrew this guidance, I stood with hundreds outside the White House to speak out against this action. While we stood there, in both anger and heartbreak, I was nonetheless inspired by the tremendous outpouring of support for trans students. Signs saying, ‘Protect Trans Kids’ and ‘I Stand with Trans Students’ were everywhere,” he recalled.
“Actions do speak louder than words, and the message that night was clear: regardless of what obstacles come before me or other trans students, regardless of what hatred, or intolerance, or discrimination we may face, we will be fine, because we have love on our side. that’s something that even the withdrawing of the guidance cannot change.”