Just by using the bathroom in which he felt comfortable and safe, Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen boy, drew out the worst of his Virginia community. Just for being who his body and mind told him to be, he was forced to endure inconsiderate teachers and fellow students, an unsympathetic school board and hateful neighbors, one of whom called Grimm a “freak” in the teen’s presence at a public meeting.

“I was in a room full of adults, and it felt vicious,” said Grimm.

Now, as if the local animosity wasn’t enough, six officials from other states, including Maine Gov. Paul LePage, have joined the chorus of intolerance, filing a legal brief in favor of the policy created by Grimm’s school district to keep the teen from using the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity.

There is no reason for LePage to be involved in this case, and his position goes against rulings by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and the will of state voters, who in 2005 outlawed discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

What’s more, he is perpetuating harmful transgender stereotypes, and contributing to an atmosphere that makes life difficult, and even dangerous, for transgender Americans of all ages.

UNFAIR CRITICISM

The policy — adopted by the Gloucester County, Virginia, school board in 2014, after Grimm began using the boys bathroom at his high school — states that the use of bathrooms and locker rooms “shall be limited to the corresponding biological genders.”

After it was upheld by a federal judge, the Obama administration and the American Civil Liberties Union filed an appeal, arguing that the policy violates Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in federally funded education.

LePage, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and the attorneys general of four other states are opposed to that appeal, saying that Grimm and other transgender boys should use the “same facilities as other biological girls.”

Last week, LePage told the Bangor Daily News that he is “appalled at the lack of parenting that child’s received.”

“A parent should at least prepare their child to move into a world of transgender,” he said, “not just file a lawsuit at 11 years old.”

Grimm, though, was 15 when the controversy started.

It’s troubling that LePage apparently doesn’t know the basic facts of the case, but even more so that the governor would criticize Grimm’s mom, who after a tough start has helped him navigate an incredibly difficult path, both with his own internal struggle, and with the prejudice around him.

HARMFUL STEREOTYPES

Grimm’s story is similar to the case of Nicole Maines, the transgender teen girl who faced the same discrimination in Orono. The 2014 Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling in her lawsuit guaranteed that transgender students here have the right to use the bathroom for the gender with which they identify.

After coming to terms with their respective gender identities, both Grimm and Maines faced humiliation and marginalization at school, where they were forced to use a separate bathroom from their peers.

Both also were confronted with the mistaken belief that allowing transgender people into a bathroom opens the way for exploitation by sexual predators.

Though that worry has been proven wrong in every state that has banned transgender discrimination, it persists, along with other offensive stereotypes, such as that transgender people are confused or mentally ill, or that they are somehow “broken” or abnormal.

These stereotypes hang on in part because people in power lend them legitimacy.

Rather than stick up for the stigmatized and alienated, the bullied and harassed, Gov. LePage has gone out of his way to support a cause that pushes them further to the margins.

Unfortunately, there is no doubt that Grimm has heard the governor’s message, as have other transgender teens trying to decide if it is safe to tell the world who they are.

It is up to the rest of us to make sure they can hear the voices of justice and tolerance just as well.

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