GoFundMe campaign raises nearly $60,000 to help Gavin Grimm secure stable housing

The young activist recently won a final victory in his case against a Virginia school board for equal bathroom access

Trans activist Gavin Grimm won a historic victory last June after six years of fighting for equal bathroom access at his former Virginia high school. The 22-year-old faced significant housing insecurity in the wake of his milestone win, but thanks to community support, he may soon have a stable home to call his own. 

Grimm’s fight dates back to 2015, when he filed a lawsuit after Virginia’s Gloucester High School prevented him from using the restroom in alignment with his lived gender. The long-running case made it all the way to the Supreme Court in 2017, which declined to intervene and remanded the case back to the lower courts. The school board once again appealed to the Supreme Court in 2021 after courts continued ruling in Grimm’s favour, but the prior rulings held, cementing Grimm’s win. 

But thanks to the pandemic, he wasn’t even able to celebrate the win with the legal team that had become like family to him over the past six years. 

“It was really hard to celebrate this win when I knew that I would still be almost homeless, I would still be completely broke,” he says. “I was just alone at home, all by myself with no real celebration or acknowledgement of the conclusion of the most important thing so far in my young life.”

A series of “devastating” medical and personal crises made it even more difficult for Grimm to enjoy his victory. Faced with losing his home, he applied for public housing, but was placed on a years-long wait list, with a high likelihood of being offered places that couldn’t accommodate his accessibility needs or his cat. 

“If I were still waiting on housing right now, I’d be homeless,” he tells Xtra. “At this time, my voucher has not even been approved yet, and it’s been months and months and months. I was resigned to finding a location to live where I was miserable, where it didn’t meet my needs.”

To add insult to injury, news outlets including the Washington Post and BuzzFeed emphasized the $1.3 million settlement in headlines when reporting his victory. The coverage created a public perception that he was walking away from the case a millionaire, when in reality he received a nominal $1 in damages. When asked to change the headline, Grimm says BuzzFeed, which inaccurately reported that the money was being paid to the plaintiff himself, refused.

While he was offered the chance to ask for more compensation earlier in the proceedings, Grimm says there were strategic reasons for sticking with nominal damages. 


“If you ask for a larger amount of money for a settlement, you could move into discovery, and they could rip through all of your psychiatric records, could scrutinize absolutely every personal thing you ever had,” he says. “And I had already given so much of myself to the public in that process that I just said, you know what, that’s something that I’m not willing to do.” 

Plus, Grimm adds, he “wasn’t expecting money anyway” when he first filed the suit. “I wasn’t even aware that compensation was part of this process, potentially down the line,” he says. “I didn’t even think about it.”

But after years of financial stress, there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel: after an outpouring of community support, Grimm has raised the funds to be able to afford a stable living situation. Via a GoFundMe campaign, Grimm’s close friends have raised more than ​​USD$58,000 to support his rent and living expenses, less than $7,000 away from their $65,000 goal.

The fund has garnered substantial attention on social media, with donations and shoutouts from trans activists and celebrities, including Orange Is the New Black actress Laverne Cox, Matrix director Lilly Wachowski, Drag Race star Peppermint and ACLU attorney Chase Strangio. 

“Please read his story and remember that the trajectory of trans legal rights changed because of Gavin,” Strangio wrote. “He fought for us, now fight for him.”

But Vanessa Ford, one of the fund’s organizers and a chosen family member of Grimm’s, says the vast majority of the more than 1,000 donations come from small individual donations. “Where we’re at right now will provide some real stability and a place that is safe, wonderful, warm and a community,” she tells Xtra. 

Getting the money to Grimm comes with its own complexities, though. “I live with disability, and the services that I receive for my disability are absolutely crucial to my independence and ability to take care of myself,” Grimm says. But because of the way government assistance programs work, if his bank account exceeds $2,000 at any time, those crucial benefits, which include transportation to doctor’s appointments and insurance, all get taken away. 

Ford and Grimm tell Xtra that they are in the process of setting up a trust to make rental payments on an apartment he’s hoping to live in.

At 22, Grimm says he’s still trying to figure out who he is as a person beyond the case that defined his life for so many years. “When so many of your formative years have been committed to a fight like this, it’s very difficult for your identity and sense of self not to be caught up to some degree in this fight,” he says. 

Thanks to the outpouring of support, Grimm will have the time and space to go through that process, without having to worry about his housing situation. “There was no outcome that was going to look like this without the support and love of my community,” he says. “I just feel almost bittersweet in the sense that I wish everybody had their needs met like this. Every single person deserves this kind of support and love.”

Clarification: January 12, 2022 3:06 pmThis story has been updated to more clearly and accurately describe Grimm’s trust.

Oliver Haug

Contributing editor Oliver Haug (they/them) is a freelance writer based in the Bay Area, California. Their work focuses on LGBTQ2S+ issues and sexual politics, and has appeared in Bitch, them, Ms and elsewhere.

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