Opinion: Stop obsessing over where trans kids use the bathroom

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Editor’s note: Gavin Grimm is a transgender activist. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Lily more reviews at CNN.



CNN

It’s the middle of the college year in a small town in Virginia. Dozens of speakers gathered at a school board meeting for their chance to comment on the board’s most burning question: where Gavin Grimma transgender boy, go to the toilet?

This was my experience during my sophomore year of high school at the end of 2014, as I continued the process of settling down fully.

I had become the news item and the subject of headlines not only in my hometown, but across the country. At that school board meeting, the parents of the kids I grew up with were calling me a freak right to my face — and talking about my genitals in a public forum. That’s how far they were willing to go to inflict hate on a child.

What I experienced seven years ago was not an isolated case. To this day, transgender children no older than me, and some even younger, are intimidated by school systems who are supposed to protect and nurture them, sacrificed in a culture war fabricated by a theocratic Republican Party that insists on spouting baseless claims about transgender students. One of the most common myths is that there is an increased risk of sexual assault in washrooms (or other single-sex spaces) if trans people are allowed access to gender-appropriate facilities – a lie that continues to be perpetuated.

Students at McLean High School in Virginia walk out of class as part of a statewide protest in September 2022 against proposed changes to state policies regarding transgender students.

Similar struggles to mine are still endured by transgender children in school across the country. This is truer than ever in my state of Virginia, where the State Board of Education has proposed tough new bans on how and where trans children can participate in school life. Last month, the public comment period for proposed changes in Virginia schools policy changes saw tens of thousands of people weigh in. (Officials announced the new policy will not take place until the end of this month at the earliest, to give them an opportunity to review the comments.)

My activism on transgender rights led me to write a children’s book with co-writer Kyle Lukoff titled “If You’re a Kid Like Gavin”, detailing my battle for equality and freedom. I hope that even if transgender children don’t have the support of a loving parent like me, they will see themselves reflected in its pages.

There is no evidence to suggest that giving transgender Americans the access to spaces we deserve puts other people at risk. In fact, transgender people are one of the groups most at risk – and are a frequent target of murderous violence. Transgender people over the age of 16 are four times more likely to become victims of aggression than cisgender people. And those the attacks are on the rise as Republicans fan the flames of hate, while Democrats often propose only lukewarm support.

Even as a high school student, I saw that threats to the lives of Trans Americans had reached a dangerous tipping point. I had never wanted to be an activist. I was just a child. But I felt like the task of raising awareness of a community that had been pushed to the margins fell to me.

I had to do the important work of educating the adults of my world – including those in this school board meeting, some of whom had apparently never heard the word “transgender” before. These people were angry and fearful. They were served baseless rhetoric that appealed to their biases, and that has become a dangerous reality for transgender people in America. today.

These dangers are many, and not all of them come at the hands of a potentially violent abuser. For example, a report from Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law published in March 2022 estimates that 54,000 transgender people aged 13 to 17 were at risk of losing access to gender-affirming medical care amid a flurry of anti-trans bills being proposed in state houses across the United States.

These treatments, which allowed me and other transgender people to become the people we were meant to be, have been researched and peer-reviewed and are best practices developed by the American Medical Association, American Pediatric Association, American Psychiatric Association, the endocrine society and other leading health organizations.

Yet across the country they are being banned, challenged or delayed indefinitely, while people hoping to transition face a series of hurdles and hurdles before they can access treatment.

There are only about 300,000 transgender youth in America and yet, while Republicans are obsessed with the bodies of these children, bomb threats are directed against hospitals and schools. Parents are reported for child abuse for supporting and loving their children. This assault is launched on all fronts.

Ultimately, my activism – and my willingness to fight for my rights – led me to sue the Gloucester County School Board for excluding me from the boys’ toilets at my school. Gloucester High School had insisted that I use the girls’ bathroom, later forcing me to use the bathroom in the nurse’s office.

Protesters in McLean, Virginia during a September 2022 school walkout across the state over the rights of transgender students.

After making his way through the system for four years, courts ruled that the school board violated the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX of the 1972 United States Education Amendments, a federal law prohibiting schools from sex discrimination.

My case ended in a victory for trans students. The win at the fourth circuit level meant that, in the jurisdiction of Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, the protections afforded by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 include transgender people . The Supreme Court declined to weigh in, allowing the decision to stand. As a result, all Fourth Circuit schools were required to adopt a policy in their schools that provided for the needs and rights of transgender students based on model policies established by the Department of Education.

Or so I had hoped. In fact, appropriate policies have been enacted throughout the Fourth Circuit in response to social change, other court rulings, the tireless work of transgender activists, and the outcome of my case.

But last year saw the election of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who ran on a platform that included blatant disinformation and targeted attacks on marginalized communities.

Under his directives proposed by the administration, transgender students would only be allowed to use their correct name, pronouns, and facilities if a parent requests it in writing. Even then, the measure contains no language requiring schools to approve such requests. This excludes children who have not “dated” their parents or guardians for safety or other reasons, or whose parents or guardians are not supportive.

And especially that of Virginia policy template contains language allowing schools to go beyond the guidelines and institute even more restrictive rules, saying, “Each school board shall adopt policies that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Virginia Department of Education.

It appears that Governor Youngkin is prepared to reject not only established federal and state laws, but also the advice and best practices of leading authorities on the physical and mental health of children and young adults. Youngkin and his administration have framed discriminatory actions in language about child protection, religious liberty and parental rights, but I am convinced that his real agenda is to scapegoat an already coerced minority, in a cowardly attempt to gain support from its base.

He may succeed, but his gains will be temporary. A few weeks ago, thousands of college students across Virginia left school to protest Youngkin’s proposed restrictions on trans students. Protests continue against this unjust policy project. The transgender community is not going away.

We are still fighting and we will win.

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