The transgender student who reshaped the national debate on school bathroom policies received a generous scholarship from another notable figure in the LGBTQ activist community last week.
Gavin Grimm, a trans male, made national headlines when his 2014 case against a Virginia school board’s “bathroom policy” nearly made it to the Supreme Court. Grimm’s efforts led Time Magazine to name him one of 2017’s most influential people in America and could still upend discriminatory bathroom policies in Virginia.
Despite his accomplishments, Grimm couldn’t afford a college education until Aaron Jackson, known for building a rainbow-painted house across the street from Kansas’ Westboro Baptist Church, gave him a scholarship last week.
Jackson, a straight male, has a colorful history of LGBTQ activism stunts — he previously launched a pride flag into space and planted another one in Antarctica. After the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016, he gave another college scholarship to one of the victims.
Jackson told the Huffington Post that he had heard an update on her progress that it reminded him of the importance of “giving someone a chance to make something of themselves.” To that end, he posted an inquiry on Facebook about a queer or trans kids who could not attend school due to financial reasons. Grimm was mentioned numerous time, Jackson said it was an easy choice.
‘To me he is like the Rosa Parks of the trans bathroom debate,’ Jackson wrote.
Grimm expressed his gratitude to Jackson for the scholarship in a Facebook post:
“I can’t express how grateful I feel to have my work and my life supported in such a significant way. The enormous gift of not staring down crippling educational debt as I enter the workforce as a teacher is something I can never hope to pay forward enough,” Grimm replied.
Grimm’s trans bathroom case could still end discriminatory policies in Virginia and across the country
Grimm was a student in Gloucester County in 2014, when he started using the boys’ room during his sophomore year. The school forced him to use the girl’s bathroom instead. Grimm didn’t feel comfortable, so he started using a private toilet in the nurse’s office. That caused him to feel isolated from his peers and get singled-out and bullied.
He teamed up with the ACLU to sue the school board. The case went as high as the Supreme Court, but when the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidance that schools should allow students to use the bathrooms that associated with their gender identity, the court struck the case from the docket.
The case was sent back to a U.S. District Court, where a judge denied the school board’s motion to dismiss the trial, ruling Grimm was within his rights to sue under Title XI, which bans sex-based discrimination. The case will resume in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Though the outcome of the lawsuit is to be determined, in 2019 the Gloucester School Board introduced a policy as a result of public pressure to allow transgender students to use the restroom consistent with the student’s asserted gender identity.
“If this policy had been in place when I was a sophomore at Gloucester High School, I would have been able to continue using the same restrooms as other boys without being singled out and isolated from my classmates and friends,” Grimm said in a statement to Newsweek.