Gavin Grimm, the Virginia teen whose case against his school board has made him one of the faces of the fight for transgender equality, spoke Thursday before a congressional forum on civil rights in the era of President Donald Trump.
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Under Trump, the Departments of Education and Justice in February dropped a guidance that instructed schools to protect LGBTQ students under Title IX, including by allowing transgender kids use the facilities that corresponded to their gender identity, rather than their biological sex.
Grimm—whose lawsuit against the Gloucester County school board for blocking his use of the boys’ bathroom was punted by the U.S. Supreme Court after Trump’s policy reversal—testified at a hearing convened by Democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where he slammed the Trump administration’s decision.
“The guidance had a very simple message: treat trans students with dignity and respect them for who they are,” Grimm said Thursday. “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,” he said. “That President Trump—the leader of our country—and his administration do not care about protecting you from discrimination.”
Grimm testified feeling “so disappointed” by the policy change and said “actions speak far louder than words, and the message sent with this action could not have been more damaging for trans youth.”
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“My case will not be resolved until after I graduate, but this fight is bigger than me,” he said Thursday.
The House committee convened the forum to “examine the appointments, polices, and orders undertaken in the first 100 days of the Trump administration in order to help foster an agenda for the protection of civil rights.” It acknowledged that “minority communities have been justifiably concerned about the continuing role of the federal government in protecting their civil rights.”
Its ranking member Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) was joined by Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), and other members of Congress. It is unclear if any Republicans attended.
The forum took place just after the Trump administration nominated two controversial lawyers for key roles in the Education Department—one who represented Florida State University during a sexual assault case and one who accused Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign of enabling sexual predators—raising concerns that the agency may drop civil rights protections in schools.
“The posts are among the most high profile in the department,” the New York Times wrote this week. “Staffing in the Office for Civil Rights has been a source of concern for civil rights advocates ever since the Trump administration rescinded protections for transgender students as one of its first education policy moves.”
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