[Marxism] Bathroom Case Puts Transgender Student on National Stage

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 24 17:30:29 MST 2017


NY Times, Feb. 24 2017
Bathroom Case Puts Transgender Student on National Stage
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

WASHINGTON — The bespectacled teenager in the gray A.C.L.U. hoodie and 
cargo pants stood, back pressed against a chain-link fence on 
Pennsylvania Avenue, under a sign saying “No Trespassing, Authorized 
Personnel Only.” The White House, illuminated at night, cast a glow over 
well-wishers who, having just wrapped up a protest against President 
Trump, waited in line to pay homage to 17-year-old Gavin Grimm.

Mr. Grimm looked a little flustered. “Absolutely humbled,” he pronounced 
himself, as his admirers thanked him for being brave.

With Mr. Trump’s decision this week to rescind protections for 
transgender students that allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding 
with their gender identity, the next stop is the Supreme Court, where 
Mr. Grimm — an engaging yet slightly awkward young man — is the lead 
plaintiff in a case that could settle the contentious “bathroom debate.”

Amid a thicket of conflicting state laws and local school policies on 
bathroom use, the suit, which pits Mr. Grimm against his school board in 
Gloucester County, Va., could greatly expand transgender rights — or 
roll them back.

Mr. Trump has portrayed the issue as one of states’ rights, and already 
the country’s transgender students face differing realities depending on 
their school. Some are restricted to the bathroom of the gender on their 
birth certificate. Others are not. Then there are the students like Mr. 
Grimm, who have had separate facilities set aside for them.

At issue in Mr. Grimm’s case is whether Title IX, a provision in a 1972 
law that bans discrimination “on the basis of sex” in schools that 
receive federal money, also bans discrimination based on gender 
identity. President Barack Obama concluded that it did. Despite Mr. 
Trump’s action, lawyers for both Mr. Grimm and the school board said 
Thursday that they expected the case to go forward, with oral arguments 
set for March 28 and school officials across the country awaiting the 
result.

“No one was in a rush to bring this case to the Supreme Court,” said 
Joshua Block, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which 
represents Mr. Grimm. “Gavin didn’t choose this fight; this fight 
happened to Gavin. But now that we are here, lives are at stake, and 
they are at stake in a way that is even more acute because you don’t 
have a federal government anymore to protect us.”

For Mr. Grimm, who said he knew he was a boy “as soon as I was aware of 
the difference between boys and girls,” the case amounts to a crash 
course in government and media relations. It bears his initials, G.G., 
because he is a minor, and the name of his mother, Deirdre.

At home in rural Gloucester, he is a kid with a pet pig named Esmeralda, 
a geek’s love of Pokémon cards and 600-plus Facebook friends. He wears 
$12 sneakers from Walmart and likes eating at Fuddruckers because the 
name sounds funny. He is applying for college, but doesn’t want to talk 
about it.

But here in the nation’s capital and in big cities around the country, 
Mr. Grimm is now a hot property, the new face of the transgender rights 
movement. Laverne Cox, the actress and activist, gave him a public 
shout-out at the Grammys. (“Everyone, please Google ‘Gavin Grimm,’” she 
said.) After his appearance here Wednesday night, he dashed off to New 
York to appear Thursday morning on ABC’s “The View.”

At the protest here Wednesday night, he was the star speaker, besieged 
with teary hugs and cellphone selfies. The mother of a transgender child 
burst into tears when she saw him. A government lawyer shook his hand. 
Activists posed for pictures.

Suddenly, he is hearing his name mentioned in the same breath as Norma 
McCorvey, the eponymous plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case 
that established a national right to abortion (and who died last week), 
and Jim Obergefell, whose case led to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Mr. Grimm looked awe-struck at the thought. “I just hope I do it 
justice,” he said quietly.

When Mr. Grimm was about 12 or 13, he said, he was able to put a name to 
what he was feeling and recognized himself as transgender. He came out 
first to his friends, which was easier than telling his parents.

For the family, it was a jolt, his mother said. It made her question 
preachers — she eventually left her church — but strengthened her faith.

“God gave me this child to open my heart and my mind,” Mrs. Grimm, a 
nurse, said.

In 2014, when Mr. Grimm was 15 and starting his sophomore year, the 
family told his school he was transgender. Administrators were 
supportive at first and allowed him to use the boys’ bathroom.

But amid an uproar from some parents and students, and after two tense 
school board meetings, the board barred Mr. Grimm from using the boys’ 
bathrooms and instead adopted a policy requiring transgender youth to 
use separate “single user” restrooms. The school now has three such 
restrooms, but two are in refurbished utility closets, said Mr. Block, 
the A.C.L.U. lawyer.

Kyle Duncan, a lawyer for the school board, said the board “agonized” as 
it sought a thoughtful way to accommodate Mr. Grimm while protecting 
students who felt uncomfortable. “This is a sensitive and difficult 
issue in which everyone’s privacy rights need to be respected,” he said.

But Mr. Block said that Mr. Grimm had been singled out for “classic sex 
discrimination.”

Mrs. Grimm was more pointed: “This school board has targeted my child.”

Her son did not always have such aplomb. Before he began “living 
authentically,” his mother said, he was introverted, often retreating to 
his room. She winces at the times she tried to curl his hair and make 
him wear dresses.

Mr. Grimm is, by all accounts, the perfect plaintiff, poised beyond his 
years. He knows how to deflect unwanted lines of questioning (he will 
not talk about his twin brother, friends or teachers) and is unfailingly 
polite in replying to intimate queries about his bathroom habits (“If I 
have to go, I go to the nurse’s restroom,” he told a local television 
reporter on Wednesday night) and his emotions (“It’s incredibly 
frustrating, it’s embarrassing, it’s very uncomfortable. I have this 
neon sign above my head that says I’m different from my peers”).

But at heart, he is still a kid. Once, while touring the National 
Archives here, Mr. Grimm excitedly played Pokémon Go in front of the 
Declaration of Independence, as Bill Farrar, a spokesman for the 
A.C.L.U.’s Virginia affiliate, patiently tried to remind him that he was 
probably “the only person here who has a legal proceeding before the 
Supreme Court.”

The two have bonded over hours of travel, including a dash from 
Gloucester to Washington on Wednesday. Mr. Grimm stuffed his belongings 
in a white trash bag, sticking in a dress shirt at the last minute, 
which proved handy for “The View.”

Because Mr. Grimm is to graduate this year, it is unlikely that he will 
benefit if the court finds in his favor. And legal experts say that is a 
big if. The Supreme Court could rule narrowly, send the case back to the 
appeals court for further review, or decide to wait until similar suits 
percolate through the federal court system.

And with just eight justices on the court — confirmation hearings for 
Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, Mr. Trump’s nominee for the ninth seat, are 
scheduled to begin March 20 — the justices might be inclined to wait.

“There are many reasons not to resolve this issue now,” said Carl 
Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, who has 
followed the case.

But Vanita Gupta, who ran the Civil Rights Division in Mr. Obama’s 
Justice Department and helped write the directive that Mr. Trump 
rescinded, said the Grimm case had already advanced the cause of 
transgender rights, just by raising awareness.

“There has been such social and cultural change in the hearts and minds 
of people in this country,” she said, “and I think that’s only going to 
grow, even if there is a legal setback.”

Whatever happens, Mr. Grimm appears destined for a life of advocacy. He 
says he feels a heavy burden standing up for other transgender people, 
knowing that everyone is different. He worries that other young people 
will not have the support that he has had.

While he is not much on school (he is taking only the two courses he 
needs to graduate), he would like to be a geneticist. He wants to know 
how the brain works.

But asking him about his career plans brings a Gavin-like answer — wry 
and pointed.

“I want to be,” he said, “someone who doesn’t have to talk about where 
he is going to use the bathroom.”




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