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Transgender High School Student Responds To White House Guidelines


The Obama administration made clear today to school across the nation they could lose federal funds if they discriminate against transgender students. This guidance from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education caps off a week of tension between the federal government and North Carolina over a new law in that state. Soon, we'll hear from North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. But first, we turn to Gavin Grimm, a transgender student at Gloucester High School in Virginia. He has been through this debate in a very public way. He used the boys' restroom at school until some parents complained. The county school board sided with them. Gavin sued. The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in his favor. Earlier today, I asked Gavin what he thought of the Obama Administration's new guidance.

GAVIN GRIMM: Well, I think it's a very positive thing. It can give a lot of schools that may not know what to do a very clear outlining of exactly what they should be doing.

SIEGEL: Is there an issue of safety here as well as civil rights, or no?

GRIMM: I mean, certainly, if you, you know, look at a trans-woman who looks, by all accounts, like a woman and is expected to go into the men's room, you can certainly get violence that way. And if you look at a trans-man who looks, by all accounts, like a man and he goes into the women's room, you get just nastiness. You know, I myself was kicked out of quite a few women's rooms before I was even fully transitioned.

SIEGEL: Let's talk a bit about your experience. Before the school board stepped in, you used the boys' restroom at school for almost two months. Were there complaints?

GRIMM: Not that I received. I didn't have any kind of altercations. I didn't have any funny looks. I didn't exchange words of any kind - positive or negative - with anybody. Like, nothing abnormal happened in any case of me using the restroom. In every single case of me going into that restroom, I used it and I left.

SIEGEL: Well, the school board then adopted a new policy requiring you to use an alternative private restroom. Why wasn't that an adequate solution, as you saw it?

GRIMM: Because, you know, that's basically saying, you can't use the restroom with the rest of the kids. I'm not unisex. The alternative facility was a unisex bathroom. I'm not unisex. I'm a boy. And there's no need for that kind of ostracization.

SIEGEL: Since all this, I mean, what has life been like in school since your case was settled by the court?

GRIMM: I mean, not a whole lot different. The injunction was not granted, so it's still a while off until I'm able to use the boys' room at school. And things are just about how they have been. It's - you know, no one really says anything to me directly, but it's kind of uncomfortable to be there in general.

SIEGEL: Kind of uncomfortable to be there in general?

GRIMM: Yeah. I mean, you know, I don't have a restroom I'm allowed to use aside from the nurse's room or an alternate private facility, which is not adequate. And, you know, of course, now, it's such in the public eye. And I know for a fact that all of my peers surely are not supportive. We have a very mixed demographic in Gloucester, so, you know, it's kind of - it's kind of uncomfortable knowing that, you know, anyone in this room could have a serious problem with who I am.

SIEGEL: What do you think about the allowance that's actually made by the U.S. Department of Education - or at least they cite school districts that makes such an allowance - for other kids who are uncomfortable with a transgender student in the restroom, and they might be able to use another facility. What's your reaction to that?

GRIMM: I think that's, you know, fine. I don't have a problem with anyone using a unisex bathroom if - you know, if someone feels more comfortable in a single-stall location or what have you, that's fine by me. It's not my business, really, just so long as I was able to use the correct room, which is the the boys' room.

SIEGEL: Even if the motive for using the unisex bathroom for them might be to avoid using the same restroom that you're using?

GRIMM: Yeah, I mean, you know, if that's - that's their prerogative. They don't - if they don't like me, if they have a problem with me, I'm not looking to really change that because, you know, that's not my responsibility, you know what I mean?

SIEGEL: Yes, I do. Gavin Grimm, high school junior, transgender in Gloucester County, Va., thank you very much for talking with us.

GRIMM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.