“You deserve to be seen”: MCPS hosts annual Pride Town Hall


Aidan Donnan

MCPS hosted its fourth annual Pride Town Hall at Walter Johnson High School on Saturday. The school district held the event to build support for stronger LGBTQ+ school communities.

By Aidan Donnan

MCPS hosted its fourth annual Pride Town Hall at Walter Johnson High School on Saturday. The school district held the event to build support for stronger LGBTQ+ school communities, according to MCPS officials.  

The Town Hall featured a resource fair for LGBTQ+ students, panel discussions and a keynote address from transgender rights advocate Gavin Grimm. MCPS staff, students and community members could also attend workshops on inclusivity, strategies for responding to community backlash on school-based programs for LGBTQ+ students and LGBTQ+ representation in the curriculum.

At other workshops, attendees discussed including LGBTQ+ history in the school district’s 9th and 10th grade curricula and implementing a new LGBTQ+ studies elective at certain high schools around the county. 

Whitman music teacher Heather Borsum, a member of the MCPS Pride Alliance, helped host a workshop that explored the role of literature as a tool to spark conversation about identity with children at an early age. 

“[The Town Hall is] kind of a wide net of just people in the community and staff members who just wanted to bring these activities to the county,” Borsum said.

The school district hosted the event amidst an intensifying national debate on LGBTQ+ students’ rights and the place of the community’s history in classrooms across the country. 

In October, Texas lawmakers passed an anti-transgender bill that prohibits transgender girls from playing on female sports teams. In March, Florida lawmakers also passed a bill banning teachers from delivering classroom instruction and facilitating discussion on LGBTQ-related subject areas to students in kindergarten through third grade.

MCPS however, offers an LGBTQ studies course at ten high schools. Members of the student advocacy group MoCo Pride helped design the curriculum for the course, which explores LGBTQ+ identity, history and culture.

The school district also sponsors a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at each of its middle and high schools.  

Gretchen Gilmore, a sophomore at Thomas S. Wootton High School, participated in the “Queer and Trans Joy” panel and described her experience in as an LGBTQ+ student.

“In the past in my middle school, I’ve had experiences where I didn’t feel as welcome as I do now,” Gilmore said in an interview. “But I’m very happy with my current life and how that relates to my gender and sexualities.”

Before the event’s workshops took place, transgender rights activist Gavin Grimm delivered his keynote speech in the school’s auditorium. Grimm rose to national prominence in 2015 after suing his school district over a policy that forced him to use a bathroom that did not align with his gender. The Supreme Court refused to hear his district’s request to review the case and upheld the lower court’s decision in the 2020 case Grimm v. Gloucester County.  

In his keynote address, Grimm urged students to continue learning about the LGBTQ+ community and advocating for their rights.

“For the youth that are listening, you know what you deserve” Grimm said. “You know that you deserve equality, you know that you deserve to be seen, you know that you deserve to be respected.”