Local Community Speaks Out on Gavin Grimm Transgender Case

Rally for Transgender Rights Planned for March 28 in Lansing

BY JASON A. MICHAEL

They were supposed to take the case up March 28. But on March 6, the Supreme Court decided to remand the case of Gavin Grimm, the Virginia teenager who sued for the right to use the restroom that matched his gender identity at his high school, back to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision came after the Trump administration rescinded Obama era guidance to public schools in support of transgender students and based on recent case law that has more often than not proven that transgender students are protected under Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination and gender stereotyping.

Members of the local LGBT community came together March 1 for a panel discussion following the new guidance issued from the Trump administration, which rescinded the Obama administration guidelines. They are now speaking out against the Supreme Court and for Grimm. These conversations will continue during a rally at the state Capitol planned for March 28, the day the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear opening arguments in the Grimm case, will proceed as planned.

"I'm disappointed," said Lisa Goyette, a board member of Stand with Trans and a parent of a transgender child. "There was a great deal of anticipation leading up to the March 28 date. What we were hoping for was that a decision could be made at a national level so that we do not have to have states deal with a civil rights issue."

Had the case been heard by the Supreme Court, Char Davenport, a transgender activist who is affiliated with Stand with Trans and the National LGBTQ Task Force, said it would have been hard to win with the court's current makeup of only eight justices - four liberal and four conservative.

"With the four-four court at this time it was going to be probably a tough case to get a majority on," said Davenport. "By remanding it back down to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals we're going to have to argue the case from a different perspective or within a different context. Gavin Grimm's case is just one of several cases that are making its way through the appeals court process. We've had some victories - I think there are maybe four cases moving forward - so we're hopeful that we'll win those cases or at least be able to advance them forward. Obviously, the context now rather than in the Obama era in terms of the guidance that the Obama administration offered is that without that guidance we have to go back to what does sex discrimination mean and does that include protections specifically for trans students?"

For Roz Keith, founder of Stand with Trans and the mother of a transgender son, the fact that any child would be forced to go to court just to be able to pee in the bathroom that matches their gender identity is insulting.

"I feel that nobody should have to go to any court, local or federal, to use the bathroom," Keith said. "As a parent of a transgender teenager there's just so much wrong with that. [This latest setback] is so much more than just a court hearing being changed or canceled.

"The fact that we've reduced transgender rights to a bathroom issue is really the bigger issue because it's so much more than that," Keith continued. "I think that it's difficult for anyone to truly understand what it's like to be born in the wrong body. And even if you have a family member a child or a parent that identifies as trans, you still can't fully know what that means. I could never pretend I knew what it was like to be [my son] Hunter. If you don't have lived that experience you can't understand it and it shouldn't be judged. It's OK to say 'I don't understand so help educate me.' But it's not OK to say 'I don't understand it so we're not going to recognize these people as citizens with full rights in our country.'"

While this particular battle may seem momentarily lost, the war on transphobia, leaders say, will continue.

"While it is disappointing that the Gavin Grimm case will not be heard at the Supreme Court, it is certainly not the end of the fight," said Equality Michigan Executive Director Steph White.

"Like our allies across the country, Equality Michigan is still fighting from every angle to support transgender students. Just last week I led a delegation of transgender students and their parents to have a conversation with the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. I wanted the students and families who are most impacted by this issue to have the chance to speak to her directly, and I'm glad that she agreed to hear them out. We also introduced her to two of the leading national policy organizations who work on schools and trans issues, GLSEN and the National Center for Transgender Equality."

White said the March 28 rally is in support of "not only Gavin, but all transgender students. It's more important than ever that we show up for transgender young people and send a message to policymakers that all students, regardless of their gender identity, deserve safe schools and communities."

Davenport said that good attendance numbers at the rally are crucial if the cause is going to have an impact.

"I would encourage every trans person, every parent of a trans kids, educators, allies - I would encourage them to go. Don't walk away from it. The more people we have the better."

Changing hearts and minds, she said, is what's going to ultimately lead the community onto victory.

"Maybe we didn't win the day, but we've taken such huge steps forward. We're going to get there. We're winning."


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