QUEER VOICES
02/15/2017 12:02 pm ET | Updated Feb 15, 2017

Laverne Cox References 'Hidden Figures' To Make Powerful Point About Trans Rights

"This is about public accommodations and public accommodations are always key to civil rights."

Emmy-nominated actress and transgender activist Laverne Cox thinks there’s something very similar about today’s anti-trans bathroom bills and the Jim Crow era bathroom rules that people of color were up against.

While appearing on both “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” this week and “CBS This Morning,” Laverne Cox referenced a plot line in “Hidden Figures” to explain the connection. 

In the movie, physicist Katherine Johnson is assigned to a work group consisting only of white people and, as a result of racist segregation laws, is forced to use a bathroom over half a mile away.

“What people should know about these bathroom bills that criminalize trans people... is that these bills are not about bathrooms,” Cox told “CBS This Morning.” “They’re about whether trans people have the right to exist in public space. If we can’t access public bathrooms, we can’t go to school, we can’t work, we can’t go to healthcare facilities ― this is about public accommodations and public accommodations are always key to civil rights. I can’t help but think about that moment from ‘Hidden Figures’ when Taraji P. Henson’s character has to walk 45 minutes to the bathroom ― Gavin had to go to a special ‘gender neutral’ bathroom, a nurses bathroom that was way out of the way.”

Cox was referring to Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old who is at the heart of an upcoming SCOTUS case surrounding transgender rights and bathroom access ― the first time SCOTUS will hear a case about trans rights.

In 2016, Grimm fought against the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia for the right to use the public school bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity. Cox used her time on stage at the Grammy’s Sunday night to draw attention to Grimm and what has now become a SCOTUS case, slated to be heard on March 28.

James Michael Nichols is a queer writer and cultural critic whose work focuses heavily on the intersections of identity, art and politics. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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