The fight for transgender equality: Gavin's story

13News Now sits down with the transgender teen whose fight to use the bathroom of the gender he identifies with will be heard in the highest court of the land.

13News Now Laura Geller has the story

GLOUCESTER COUNTY, Va. (WVEC) -- A transgender student from Gloucester is getting an incredible amount of global attention since the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear his case. Gavin Grimm is asking to use the boys' bathroom at Gloucester High School; now, he's the unintended poster child for the transgender equality movement.

Gavin Grimm is just 17 years old. Think back to when you were that age.

At 17, the average person is thinking about getting a driver's license, having fun at prom, and going to college, but Gavin's is not the typical teenage narrative.

At home with Gavin

Coming home from school, sitting down to do his homework at the dining room table, Gavin Grimm could be any kid in America, but if you listen to him, you will hear a somber tone, a dread not typically found in someone as young as 17.

“I look forward to no aspect of school,” he lamented.

Some of the most private, intimate aspects of Gavin’s life have been made public as he fights to be able to use the bathroom of the gender with which he identifies. Gavin is a transgender person. He describes it as feeling out of place in his own body.

“Going into female-oriented spaces felt just wrong and inappropriate and uncomfortable because I was like, 'One of these things is not like the other, and that would be me, and that would be because I am a boy in the girls' room,’” he explained.

The battle against his school division to use the bathroom is one that makes the simple question of “How’s school?” a strain for him to answer.

“I don't like that question,” he responded. “That's a hard question. I was thinking about it today. I get asked: 'How was school today?' I don't want to answer that question.”

The word he finally comes up with in response is “exhausting.” He said he's "managing." Gavin is a 17-year-old high school senior, just "managing."

“I'm able to sit through a school day and do my work and stay mostly present, but it's not something I'm enjoying,” he told us. “I'm dreading it.”

17-year-old Gavin Grimm and his mother speak with 13News Now Investigative Reporter Laura Geller on Gavin's fight to use the bathroom of the gender he identifies with, and the upcoming Supreme Court case.

How we got here

Stress has been a part of Gavin's life for as long as he can remember. At 14, Gavin finally talked to his mom about what he was feeling.

“One of the first things I read was the suicide rate of these kids,” his mom, Deirdre, remembered. “That's all I needed to read from then on to be supportive. I didn't want my child to become one of those statistics.”

So, Gavin started living life as a boy in most of his friend and family circles. In his sophomore year of high school, his family got permission from the Gloucester High principal to use the boys' bathroom at school.

“I think people sort of anticipate this to have been some formative, transforming, wonderful, magical experience, but for me it was just, 'Okay, cool. I'm going to use the bathroom now,'” he recalled.

That didn't sit well with some in the small, mostly rural Gloucester community. The school board enacted a policy that bars Gavin from using the boys' bathroom, so he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. The suit has sparked an often contentious debate over if and how public schools should accommodate transgender students.

A national conversation

As the case winds its way through the court system, the kid who only wanted to use the bathroom in which he felt comfortable is forced to discuss issues far beyond typical teenage problems.

“It's unfortunate that the conversation had to evolve to the point that this is now a national discussion, but I also think that it's a necessary thing, a necessary message and a necessary fight to have,” Gavin rationalized. “This is something that so many people are struggling with nationally, and nothing is going to be done about it, no progress is going to be made unless people talk about it.”

People are, in fact, talking about it. Gavin has done interviews with the national press. Protests have been organized. A state law in neighboring North Carolina has been hotly debated, and his family has been in the spotlight.

We asked Gavin if he would still make the same decision to file the case against his school division if he knew what would happen over the course of the two years.

“I would absolutely make the same decision because to not make that decision is to not be myself, is to accept a form of discrimination that is absolutely unacceptable,” he replied.

Now, he waits for the sense of relief he believes graduation day will bring in the spring. He has high expectations for what that time could be.

“I would love for it to be such a non-issue that no one's talking about it,” shared Gavin.

He realizes, though, that might not be possible.

“This country is not ready to be open and accepting to all types of people, but I would at least to set a realistic hope and expectation, I would like for the country to at least be further along than it is now,” he added.

So, for now, the kid who says he once felt like an outcast takes comfort in the advice he gives one of his best friends, his pot-bellied pig, Esmerelda.

“Let's just let you go,” he whispers to her in his backyard in Gloucester. “Let's just let you go.”

The ACLU, which is helping Gavin with his case, told 13News Now it seems most likely the Supreme Court will hear the case in February.

Gavin Grimm Lawsuit


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