LGBTQ+ advocate and actress best known for her role as Sophia Burset in Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox, graced the Grammy’s stage this past Sunday to introduce Metallica and Lady Gaga, but made sure to simultaneously use the platform to urge viewers to google Gavin Grim and educate themselves on the fight for transgender equality.
“Everyone, please google Gavin Grimm. He’s going to the Supreme
Court in March. Hashtag, stand with Gavin!”
- Laverne Cox on Grammy Stage
Gavin Grimm is a 17-year-old transgender boy who is currently a student at Gloucester High School in Virginia and on March 28th he will be the plaintiff in a potential landmark trans right case that will take place in Supreme Court (G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board). Gavin, who dressed 100% male by the age of 12 despite his mother’s original disapproved, was raised in a religious household and pretty much knew who he was by middle school when he started binding his chest and wearing his hair short. He initially came out as a boy to his best friend and by the 9th grade he told the remainder of his friends, but publically it was still a secret. Gavin suffered so tremendously from anxiety, depression, and dysphoria (the distress a person experiences because of the gender they were assigned), that it affected him at school which resulted in him leaving school in the middle of his freshman year and not returning until sophomore year – after fully transitioning over the summer.
“I’m not proud of being trans. I hate being trans. I would give anything
not to be trans. I will always have to consider my trans status as a part
of my daily living. I can get every surgery in the world, and I
can still not father children.”
- Gavin in Metro Weekly Interview
Gavin was originally allowed to start using the boy’s bathroom in 10th grade with the permission of the school’s principal, but after almost two months the rules changed when an anonymous community member spoke out against Gavin and attracted the attention of the school board. At the next school board meeting Gavin was not only the topic of discussion, but was called a freak and compared to a dog that urinates on fire hydrants which led the board to a 6-1 vote establishing a policy that states, “bathrooms shall be limited to the corresponding biological genders and students with gender identity issues shall be provided an alternative appropriate private facility banning them from it.” Unfortunately, for those like Gavin, this private facility at Gloucester was a broom closet where the school installed a toilet and deemed it a “unisex” bathroom.
“I’m not a freak – my very existence is not a perversion. I’m just
a person who is trying to live his life like anybody else, and to
have to think about my bathroom usage is unacceptable.”
- Gavin told CNN
Gavin followed by suing his high school in 2015 under Title IX of the United States Education Amendment of 1972 which prohibits discrimination based on sex in schools, but his claim was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Doumar who interpreted Title IX to only apply to cisgender (gender identity matches the sex that one had at birth) women. In April 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th circuit overturned the judge’s ruling by finding that Title IX is vague and the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in March. Ironically enough, the Fourth Circuit Court granted Gavin the right to use the men’s bathroom, but the ruling was immediately placed on hold when the Supreme Court decided to take on the case.
Although it appears that the Gloucester County School Board has singled out trans students by subjecting them to differential treatment based on their gender identity, the outcome of this case holds much anticipation as the Supreme Court has once decided that a ban on sex discrimination also prohibits sex stereotyping (Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 1989) which prohibits the government from mistreating you because it thinks you’re identifying with, or expressing, the wrong sex/gender. The Court currently has only eight members due to the death of extreme conservative Justice Antonin Scalia whose spot has not yet been filled, but if the ruling ends in a 4-4 tie, the lower court ruling in favor of Gavin will stand.
“I never thought that my restroom use would ever turn
into any kind of national debate. The only thing I ever asked for
was the right to be treated like everyone else.”
- Gavin Grimm
Good luck Gavin!