All Gavin Grimm wanted — like so many kids, teenagers, and people just like him — was to use the restroom in peace. When he came out as transgender to his public school in Gloucester, Virginia, the school allowed him to use the boys’ bathroom for seven weeks. His fellow students took no issue with it; it was only after a few parents found out that the school amended their decision, offering him his own unisex bathroom in a converted broom closet.
In 2015, the ACLU filed a sex discrimination suit on Grimm’s behalf against the Gloucester County Public Schools. In October 2016, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Grimm’s case, but reversed course in Feburary 2017, once the Department of Justice withdrew Obama-era Title IX protections based on gender identity.
“Gavin Grimm Vs.” sheds light on Grimm’s story in his own words, tracking the teenager’s journey with as much depth as an 18-minute documentary can. The film comes from a highly pedigreed team of documentarians: It was directed by “House of Z” cinematographer Nadia Hallgren, produced by Sundance documentary programmer Lauren Cioffi, and executive produced by Laura Poitras with her production company Field of Vision.
Grimm is an affable yet serious presence onscreen, shirking his lawn mowing duties and getting fitted for a suit for his court appearance. He is at ease at home with his generally supportive parents, who open up about their own struggles accepting his gender identity. “There’s a lot of misconceptions about what transgender means, and it’s a hard concept to wrap your head around,” says his mother. “I don’t really have a problem with it being hard to wrap your head around. What I have a problem with is people not even trying to wrap their heads around it.”
Trailblazing transgender actress Laverne Cox meets with Grimm to voice her support, and it’s heartwarming to see him light up while meeting one of his heroes. “This case is going to the Supreme Court with you, because you’re the one who can handle it,” she tells him. “God never gives us more than we can handle.”
Though the film ends on a less uplifting note, with Grimm’s case in limbo, it’s a vital portrait of this inspiring young activist.
Watch the moving documentary below: