Gavin Grimm is officially a national LGBTQ civil rights hero

A teenager from a small town in Virginia got shouted out at the Grammys, praised on progressive podcasts… and then his name echoed in a thousand headlines

Gloucester, Virginia has a population of about 37,000. I drove through it one time. It’s very small.

In 2015, then-16-year-old Gavin Grimm sued Gloucester School Division over its policy regarding gender identification and bathrooms. The case was similar to the fight that would take place a couple hours to the South over what became known as North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill,” although it didn’t garner the same kind of media attention (at least back then).

On Oct. 28, 2016, the Supreme Court, which had issued a stay following a lower court’s decision, announced that it would hear the case. The Washington Post called it “the most high-profile case the eight-member court has accepted since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.”

The court recently set oral arguments for March 28.

Explaining to “CBS This Morning,” why she told viewers to google Grimm’s name before introducing Lady Gaga and Metallica at the Grammys, TV star Laverne Cox said:

This will be the first time that the Supreme Court is hearing a case about trans rights. And last year over 50 bills criminalizing trans people for using the bathroom that’s consistent with their gender identity were introduced in state legislatures all over the country.

(And, not that you need a reminder, but this Trump’s America now.)

Cox’s shout-out almost could not have been from a bigger megaphone. According to the New York Times, Grammy viewers averaged 26 million, and that’s just the people that watched it live.

Over the following days and hours, the press exploded (as the screenshots show) with stories and articles about the case. From the LA Times to the New York Times; “The Daily Show” to “The Late Show.”

Grimm also got some mentions in the world of political podcasts —a refuge for many queer-identifying people and their allies.

John and Molly Knefel of Radio Dispatch discussed the case, on their Feb. 15 episode and explained how Cox’s move was “a perfect media strategy” in terms of keeping the case in the spotlight (starts at 42:50).

Citizen Radio’s Allison Kilkenny called called Grimm “an amazing person, and extremely brave and awesome,” on their Feb. 14 episode (12:30).

To those that care deeply about these issues — who are quite worried about the future these days — Grimm is undeniably a hero. He’s fighting a very important battle, the outcome of which will have major implications for the future of trans rights.

If they can make laws regulating which bathroom you can use, you can bet any remaining semblance of basic discrimination protections will be next.


Calling Grimm a hero may be the least we could do, considering that this case also robbed him of his high school years. He explained in an interview with the Daily Press:

[My] school experience is ruined and it will never not be ruined. It was taken from me, it was just blown out of the water. It’s never going to be what it should’ve been. It’s never going to be comfortable. I’m never going to be there and only have to think about what a normal high schooler has to think about. I’m always going to be the kid from the bathroom thing. I’m always going to be the transgender kid who made a fuss about bathrooms… [High school] is associated with many, many negative things at this point. And of course there’s the fear of, I’ve gotta go back and I can’t even use the men’s room. It’s ridiculous. And I have to go back in the face of this being so public… knowing that now more than ever there’s scrutiny on me by my peers.

Also from the Daily Press:

“It’s humiliating, it’s ostracizing and I don’t want to take that walk of shame to the unisex bathroom and know that everyone who saw me go in there knows why I’m in there — because I’m different, and I’ve been marked different by my school and publicly. … I’m not comfortable with it whatsoever. I’m not an ‘other’ and I’m not unisex, I’m a boy.”

And it’s not just his classmates. Imagine being the focal point of a national story in a community that, according to the New York Times, went 67 percent for Trump. When asked about the case, one local man told a reporter: “If they’re not fixed like a man, they should not use the men’s bathroom,” according to the Daily Press.

The video below includes some clips of parents’ negative comments about Grimm:

Maybe he should get like a day of the year or something…

Cue the #RealAmericanHeroes jingle.

For more info:

There’s nothing wrong with being emotional right now

And you’re an asshole if you make fun of people for being upset…

I’ve noticed a few of my conservative friends sharing articles and videos about professors canceling tests and colleges allowing absences because students are reacting emotionally to the election.

“Really??? I mean really???” one poster commented on a video from Fox News.

The caption read: “Tests canceled, pizza ordered. Sad kids at college campuses being consoled after election…”

It certainly fits the caricature of liberal millennials that the right wing media has created: that they don’t know how to process losing an election because they always got participation trophies; that they’re being overly-dramatic, narcissistic hypocrites who won’t accept the election results.

Even if you’re so brainwashed by Breitbart and Sean Hannity to not understand why people might be upset, the least you can do is let them grieve without tearing them down.

You may not understand why Donald Trump’s success would bring a female college student — or a Muslim parent, or a gay coworker, or your relative that you think is being sensational — to tears, that doesn’t mean the pain or fear they’re experiencing isn’t legitimate.

As a journalist, you learn to compartmentalize world events: 35 civilians killed in car bomb attack, 300 missing after massive earthquake, Earth has entered its sixth mass extinction period — one simply lacks the emotional energy to respond to every headline.

Politics is also, for many of us, generally abstract. Even if we participate in getting someone elected, or work to change a law, it’s very rare that we are directly affected by the outcome.

I say this as an explanation, but also as a confession. I may have been moved to tears listening to Trayvon Martin’s father speak about how great of a person his son was, or by a friend’s story of being raped and ostracized, but for the most part, I feel very little emotion when dealing with politics or the news.

I watched the second debate between Trump and Clinton with a group of student activists. Some yelled at the candidates on the TV, some mocked their responses, but when it was all said and done, any humor in the room was sucked out the window.

Amid the post-debate chatter, one person started to cry. The room went tense — that awkward question: how to respond to someone breaking the taboo (especially for males) of crying in public. A friend consoled them. Another person started sobbing.

They expressed love for everyone in the room, and fear of being targeted because of their identity. More tears slid down cheeks.

I’m used to translating this kind of emotion into text, not experiencing it up close and personal. I may have been caught off guard, but I shouldn’t have been. I knew how deeply passionate these activists were about justice, equality, and fairness — and they had just watched the biggest threat to those things mock, interrupt and belittle the only hope for preserving them, in front of the entire American electorate.

“Orlando was my community. My people were attacked and killed,” someone sobbed. The group moved outside and formed into a couple circular group hugs with several people still crying, and the others telling them that they mattered; that they were not alone; that they were there for them.

It’s not hard for the LGBTQ community to identify deeply with the victims of something like the Orlando nightclub shooting. To them it wasn’t just another random mass shooting, but a targeted act; a heinous manifestation of the same hatred and bigotry that kept gay and lesbian couples from getting married until just last year, and almost always made them feel less than in schools, churches and, too often, society.

Pulse Nighclub, electroshock conversion therapy and record high numbers of transgender people being murdered are all part of the same beast… a beast Trump’s movement has empowered.

A beast that will only grow stronger when the Supreme Court inevitably gains a “family values” justice to take Scalia’s seat; and one that Mike Pants knows intimately well.

Considering that under Obama, a black, former community organizer, slightly less than one in three black men could expect to spend time behind bars during their lifetime, it’s not hard to imagine why the black community might be worried about a president who has been sued for housing discrimination and who praised stop-and-frisk (AKA blatant racial profiling) during his campaign.

Under Obama, who campaigned on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and promised to close Guantanamo Bay, hundreds of innocent civilians were killed by drone strikes in places like Yemen, Somalia, and Syria . The most advanced surveillance and intelligence system in history targeted whole families, funeral processions and weddings.

Donald Trump campaigned on bringing back torture programs and bombing suspected terrorists families intentionally — both of which are illegal under international law. It’s not hard to imagine why someone from or with family in Africa or the Middle East might have anxiety about their loved ones’ well being.

None of the people mocking those who are distraught about the future of this country would’ve questioned George W. Bush’s sincerity when he struggled to hold back tears in this address days after 9/11:

Or poked fun at John Boehner welling up at the thought of the American dream:

There’s no question that politics and ideals are worth getting emotional about, no matter what side you’re on.

A great number of Republicans voted for Trump not because they supported him, or approve of his actions, but because “Hillary/another Democrat would’ve been worse.” Mistreatment of minorities obviously wasn’t a big concern of theirs then, but it should be now.

At the very least, there’s self interest.

After the Holocaust, Protestant Pastor and German dissident Martin Niemoller explained what had happened during the implementation of the “final solution,” with these famous lines:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — 
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

There have already been dozens, if not hundreds, of instances of harassment and mistreatment of minorities since Nov. 8. Far from an abstract fear, it’s all but undeniable that Muslims, Latinxs, LGBTQ people, Sikhs, and other groups of people live in a more dangerous world than they did even days ago.

Regardless of who we voted for, we all have to take a side: love or hate, humanity or tribalism. There is no in between — no neutral on this moving train.

We have to listen with open minds when people say they’re afraid. Politics aside, we all have to exhibit a basic degree of empathy — and that starts with letting the distraught mourn in peace.

Many (all) of us were caught completely off-guard by the election results, and the full implications of what this means are still difficult to grasp. Years of hard-won progress will no doubt be eroded away before our eyes. The undermining of environmental measures alone will cost innumerable lives, no question.

If anything is ever worth skipping school, ordering pizza, and staying in bed all day over, it’s having to come to terms with the end of the world as we knew it.