During appearances on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and CBS This Morning this week, Emmy-nominated actress and transgender activist Laverne Cox drew a striking parallel between a plot line in Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures and recent anti-trans bathroom bills.
Cox stated on CBS This Morning: “What people should know about these bathroom bills that criminalize trans people... is that these bills are not about bathrooms. 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 the key to civil rights.”
Cox’s statements ring especially true for 17-year-old Gavin Grimm, whose fight for bathroom access is at the center of an upcoming SCOTUS case. Grimm’s appearance in court will mark the first time SCOTUS hears a case about transgender rights.
Cox continued: “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 out of the way.”
The comparison underscores the truth that recent arguments against trans bathroom access are hauntingly reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. Access comes at the heart of civil rights issues, and Cox’s statements make plain that trans issues are civil rights issues.
Another truth—these bills really aren’t about bathrooms. Anti-trans legislation reflects a fear of otherness and refusal to empathize; if conservative institutions are so concerned with keeping their daughters safe in public restrooms, why do conservatives support a president who suggests just “[grabbing women] by the pussy”?
Top photo: "CBS This Morning"
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Olivia Loperfido is an English and psychology major at New York University's College of Arts and Sciences, and the junior editor of NYU's Mercer Street (2017-'18). She enjoys spending time with her dogs and tortoise, watching RuPaul's Drag Race, and contacting her state representatives. Follow her on Instagram here and contact her via email here.