RICHMOND, Va. – A transgender high school student from Chesterfield County shared his story during a panel discussion at Diversity Richmond Sunday addressing the rollback of Title IX bathroom guidelines for transgender students attending public schools.
Justin Syks advised the crowd to “just don't assume anymore" and said he knows the power words possess.
“Pronouns are very important,” Syks said. “You'd be surprised the way they can change someone's day.”
Syks joined other transgender youth and local activists for the panel discussion focused on supporting transgender youth in Central Virginia.
The event comes 10 days after the White House revoked Obama-era guidelines that let trans students in public schools use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
Syks said he found a positive in what some in the LGBT community believe is a setback.
"I've found a lot of allies through it, and a lot of people in my life has come up to me and said, 'I'm with you. I hear you,'” Syks said.
The Trump administration said the legal footing for the bathroom guidelines was shaky at best -- and that states should have the ability to set their own educational policies.
In Virginia, a slim majority of people think students should use the bathroom that corresponds with their sex at birth and not the one corresponding to the gender they identify with, according to recent Christopher Newport University Survey.
Syks admitted his journey has been difficult, but said that seeing a room filled with people who care shows his community sees him as more than a transgender teen.
"Though it is one of my identities, it's not the only thing I am,” he said. “It was just good to feel the community here supporting me.”
Virginia will be the center of the student restroom debate when the case of Gavin Grimm is scheduled to go before the Supreme Court on March 28.
Grimm sued Gloucester County Public Schools from not allowing him to use the bathroom corresponding with his gender identity.