Sunday night’s (Feb. 12) 59th annual Grammy Awards featured a number of political statements and comments. But one of the most intriguing was more of a call to action from Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox, who served up some homework for the viewers watching from their living rooms, laptops, phones and tablets. “Everyone, please Google ‘Gavin Grimm,'” Cox said. “He’s going to the Supreme Court in March. #StandWithGavin.”
So, who is Grimm? He is a 17-year-old high school senior from Gloucester, Virginia, who has been fighting with his local school officials for several years for the right to use a boys’ bathroom. Grimm came out as transgender during his sophomore year and had been using the boys’ rest room until the local school board passed a policy that barred him from doing so and insisted he use a unisex one.
According to the Washington Post, with the help of the ACLU, Grimm’s family sued the Gloucester County School Board in June 2015 in federal court, arguing that the board’s bathroom policy violated Title IX, the federal law against sex discrimination in schools. He used the boys’ restroom at Gloucester High School for several weeks in the fall of 2014, but after some parents complained the school board ruled that December that students had to use the bathroom that corresponded to their “biological gender.” A federal judge dismissed Grimms’ lawsuit in Dec. 2015, but a U.S. Court of Appeals sided with him in April 2016 and said his lawsuit could continue, deferring to the Obama administration’s position that blocking transgender students from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity is discriminatory.
In June, a federal judge ordered the school board to allow Grimm to use the boys’ bathroom, then, at the school board’s request, the Supreme Court halted that order. The board appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the administration had gone too far in dictating policy to public schools about dealing with transgender students. In the interim, Grimm has been barred from using the boys’ restroom.
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for late March and the Supreme Court’s ruling on it — should the court decide to take the case — could have a huge role in determining what kinds of accommodations public schools make for transgender students across the country.
Last May, the Obama administration issued a directive to the Education Department ordering the nation’s public school to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. It’s unknown at this point if the the Trump administration will alter or rescind that directive, or how the Supreme Court will handle the case.
The Post caught up with Grimm — who was born female but identifies as male — on Sunday night and he said he didn’t know Cox would be mentioning him during the broadcast, which he wasn’t watching. He told the paper his mother Dierdre was in another room and he realized what happened when she “started shrieking… I was just so thrilled because I love her,” he said of LGBT activist Cox. “She’s just a beautiful person inside and out. I was really touched and thrilled and honored that that was the first thing out of her mouth.”
Grimm, who used to be painfully shy, realizes that he’s become a sort of focal point for the fight for transgender student rights and he said he’s doing his best to live up to that honor. “At this point that’s the role I occupy and I want to make sure I’m using that platform for positive,” he told the paper. “I definitely didn’t set out at the beginning wanting to or expecting to [be] shouted at the Grammys.”
Watch this video on Grimm’s fight:
Gavin’s cause got a huge bump from the Grammy shoutout:
— Women’s March (@womensmarch) February 13, 2017
— antonio (@antoniodelotero) February 13, 2017
I #StandWithGavin because Transgender rights are human rights! ———-??
— Janey Berkheimer (@JaneyBerkheimer) February 13, 2017
— Tyler Oakley (@tyleroakley) February 13, 2017
— Meghan Stabler (@MeghanStabler) February 13, 2017