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GLOUCESTER, Va. (AP) — Amid the cornfields and marinas dotting this conservative tidewater Virginia enclave between the York River and Mobjack Bay, people are divided over what one local pastor calls “the civil rights issue of this generation” — how to deal with a transgender student’s demand to use the boys’ restrooms at the local high school.

“If they’re not fixed like a man, they should not use the men’s bathroom,” Gary Pilkinton, a 56-year-old movie special effects worker, told a reporter recently outside the local Wal-Mart.

Another shopper, Cheryl Walker, took the opposite view.

“I don’t care what bathroom he uses,” the 71-year-old retiree said. “Just don’t go potty on the hallway floor.”

Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, sued school officials over a policy requiring him to use either the girls’ restrooms or a single-stall, unisex bathroom open to all students. The 16-year-old Gloucester High School junior claims it’s stigmatizing and discriminatory. Some classmates and their parents argue that his presence in boys’ bathrooms would be disruptive and a violation of privacy.

It’s a new and decidedly modern issue for this rural eastern Virginia county that dates to 1651, promotes itself as Daffodil Capital of the World and takes pride in its history: home of George Washington’s grandmother and the Indian princess Pocahontas.

The dispute, which unfolded in heated school board meetings and spilled into federal court, is not unique to Gloucester. A transgender student’s use of the girls’ facilities in a Missouri high school triggered a recent backlash by parents and a protest by nearly 200 students. Last year, Maine’s highest court ruled that a transgender fifth-grader could use the girls’ restroom.

Grimm said he’s not surprised by the division in Gloucester County.

“There’s the side that’s like, ‘Wow, Gloucester is really in the Stone Age with this one — just let you pee and be yourself and be happy,'” Grimm said. “And there’s a lot of people from Gloucester who are like, ‘It’s the Bible Belt and Satan is in our town.'”

Grimm, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, says he started refusing to wear girls’ clothes by age 6 and told his parents he was transgender in April 2014 — a year before Caitlin Jenner made an international splash by publicly divulging her transgender status.

Grimm’s parents helped him legally change his given name and took him to a psychologist who determined he has gender dysphoria, characterized by stress stemming from conflict between one’s gender identity and assigned sex at birth. Grimm began hormone treatment to deepen his voice and give him a more masculine appearance.

During the last school year, Grimm was allowed to use the boys’ restrooms until some parents complained. Amid the ensuing turmoil, the school board voted 6-1 for the policy restricting students with “transgender issues” to the single-stall facilities or those corresponding to their biological sex. Grimm complied, using a restroom in the school nurse’s office, but found it unbearable.

“It’s humiliating, it’s ostracizing and I don’t want to take that walk of shame to the unisex bathroom and know that everyone who saw me go in there knows why I’m in there — because I’m different, and I’ve been marked different by my school and publicly. … I’m not comfortable with it whatsoever. I’m not an ‘other’ and I’m not unisex, I’m a boy,” Grimm said.

In Gloucester, a community of about 37,000, some are mostly concerned about Grimm’s well-being.

“I think it’s a hard situation, especially for somebody so young,” said Marcella Randal, 68, during a smoke break on a bench outside the senior center on Main Street. “It could also be dangerous. You know those young boys in high school aren’t going to understand that.”

Kim Williams, owner of the Short Lane Ice Cream shop, said she doesn’t hear much about the dispute from students who drop in. She wondered if the controversy could have been handled by letting the students decide.

Even among the student body, however, there is sharp disagreement.

“The way I look at it, gay, straight, transgender, hermaphrodite — I don’t discriminate,” Gloucester High School senior John Pence said. “I don’t see why it’s such a big deal.”

However, student Scott Williams told the school board that other teens who don’t want to run into Grimm in the restroom would speak up if not for the fear of being labeled intolerant.

“My friends and I are uncomfortable with co-ed bathrooms and locker rooms. Don’t we matter too? How is it fair to advance the rights of one by violating the rights of a thousand? The unisex restroom isn’t perfect, but it’s the best option,” he said.

Williams was among about three dozen residents who made impassioned two-minute pleas to the school board.

Local pastor Ralph VanNess asked, “Where does it end?” He added, as the audience applauded, that the rights of “the other young men in Gloucester High School” should be respected.

But another clergyman, Fred Carter, told the board: “The issue we are talking about now is the civil rights issue of this generation. Who are we to judge?”

Most school officials have clammed up about the dispute, citing the ongoing litigation. The school board defends its policy in court papers, saying it has a longstanding practice of limiting the use of restrooms based on a student’s biological gender.

Barbara J. King, who’s an anthropology professor at the College of William & Mary and a Gloucester County resident, said the community backlash reflects a lack of understanding about what it means to be transgender.

“A lot of this is based on fear — that changes happening nationwide are not always known and understood in smaller communities,” King said in an interview. “It seems to be a continual discussion of privacy. I just have a hard time understanding what the big harm is and what the big danger is. I’ve never had that explained to me.”

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15 thoughts on “Transgender Student’s Battle Divides Rural Virginia Town

  1. He’s in high school, he’s a boy. Let him either use the boys or teachers. This shouldn’t be a big matter, other than the fact this kid wants attention and is getting it. He could later change his mind about being a woman in the next month. I think if he wants to dress like this or change his gender, I think he should just wait til he turns 18 and out of school to make a decision like this anyway.

    • Timothy Green on said:

      Uhmmmm your calling a confused little girl a he, … so Kevin where do we draw the line?? Overnite a boy has a “gender crisis” comes to school dressed as a girl is he allowed in tge female bathroom & dressing room now that he all a sudden identifies as a female?? … the slope is FAR to slippery to just let folks arbitrarily decide they wanna switch genders then magically be afforded the rights of the next gender, AND infringe on that genders private areas ie bathrooms, dressing rooms etx etc

    • No Kevin. That is a girl. She produces eggs, not sperm. She has a vagina. She needs to either use the unisex facility or the girl’s restroom. Period. Her fifteen minutes should have up long ago.

  2. blkfootblaque on said:

    Men are the destroyers of Earth. Men are the destroyers of Man. Men will try any thing New under the Sun if he finds he can get away with it. Notice how Men (that are on the down-low want to) pass this act off as “I might be Gay”. Actually they are in denial that they are Bi-sexual. All of it is a behavior to perform acts that feels good to you. Gay is born Gay but the sexual act in the behind is Man’s calling. Man is trying to turn young boys into homosexuals for their own gratification for their own lust. That’s why Parents need to keep their eye on their Children. Gay Males born Gay desire, is to be with the opposite sex. The act of having sex could be a hand-job, masturbation. They don’t have to bother each others derriere. The Doctors will tell you that nothing should be in your behind. As God made Woman for A Mans pleasures, the Doctor tells Females let nothing go in your behind. You are not a Dog or a Animal. GOD made their (a Dog or Animal) pleasure hole to create birth and release feces. You are human beings otherwise he would have made you with more animal like qualities. He specifically made Woman as Man sexual Partner. Men come along and defy what God made. If God wanted Man to become sexual with each other, he would have made Steve and not Eve. Their are freakness in Nature and Birth. This explains why some People can be born with a sixth finger, body joined together, transvestite and Gay Human beings. That’s just it, you are a Human Being not a Animal. Men decided to seek pleasure on themselves and they will sexually use Animals, Horse Sheep Dogs and other Mens behind. Now… they are after little boys because they can’t get pregnant. This World has gone to the Dogs. This World maybe destroyed again. I’d like it if some of these Men came back reincarnated as a Dog. They would deserve it. Otherwise be a Man and teach the Children that there are Morales, Principals, Values and Rules, and also the Love of God built inside of you. Do right. Control your Lust. Do you really want to be like the Devil?

  3. williaml on said:

    She can use the “ladies” room of she can hold it, but she cannot use the men’s room.
    If she goes into the men’s room, she will look stupid trying to use the urinal.

  4. Gavin, get over your discomfort, stay safe and use the restroom in the nurse’s office. Your classmates know what you are. Now help know who you are as a person.

  5. Jacquelynn4 on said:

    Is it me or has anyone else noticed that ever since Don Lemon started writing for BAW, we are being bombarded with these types of articles. I will not be manipulated into following the sheep over the cliff.

  6. specialt757 on said:

    Another case where someone is trying to shove their views down society’s throat. People didn’t like it when that Kentucky woman did it, but people are supposed to welcome this madness into their lives. Give me a break, YOU ARE DIFFERENT, you think you are a boy when you are a girl.

  7. That is a girl. And if a girl being made to use the girl’s restroom is too traumatizing for her, she should have to use the unisex facility. Period. No discussion. No debate. No forums. I wouldn’t care how many time she ran to the media to publicize her “dilemma”. People need to stop being made to feel like they are wrong for enforcing the rules. If as a girl, she finds it too harrowing to use the girl’s room or the unisex restroom, she should be sent home so her parents can home school her. All the disruptions and publicity surrounding this foolishness is not fair to the other students.

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  9. I’m so sick of this mess. Just use the unisex restroom! What’s the big freaking deal! You have no business in the boys’ restroom with your uterus!!! Same goes for the “I’m a male, but I identify female.” Your penis has no business in the girls’ bathroom. Get over yourselves!

    • cibinathat on said:

      ????Srr Here Now,,,,my friend’s aunt makes $81 /hr on the laptop . She has been fired from work for 7 months but last month her pay check was $20818 just working on the laptop for a few hours. look at this web-site+_+_+_+_+_ ►œ►œ►œ► Full Detail

  10. Timothy Green on said:

    No matter how many hormones you take or surgeries you have a man is still a man & a woman is still a woman, call me ignorant but this “gender dysphoria” bullshit needs to be treated with mental health counseling not with hormones & surgery

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