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Poetry Brings Solace to the Courtroom
In his New York Review of Books article “Poetry in the Courtroom,” ACLU National Legal Director David Cole writes about Gavin Grimm’s brave confrontations with the justice system, and a judge’s choice to honor Grimm’s struggle with a poem. Here’s Cole:
Poetry and judicial opinions do not often mix. Judging is ordinarily a prosaic task: weighing arguments, applying tests of legal doctrine, finding facts, stating conclusions, declaring winners and losers, announcing law. This is not the stuff of poetry.
But every once in a while, poetry is called for. It can capture what reasoned judgment cannot. On Friday, April 7, Judge Andre Davis of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit resorted to a poem by the Palestinian-American writer Naomi Shihab Nye, in an extraordinary opinion praising a young man who fought for his rights—and lost. Judge Davis’s opinion attests to the courage of Gavin Grimm for standing up for his rights, even as the court denied his request for vindication of those rights.
In 2014, Gavin Grimm, a fifteen-year-old in Gloucester County, Virginia, was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition caused by an incongruence between one’s gender identity and the sex one was assigned at birth. Assigned female at birth, Gavin realized, as he hit puberty, that he identified as a boy. The treatment for gender dysphoria includes hormone therapy. But the principal prescription for a transgender boy is to live as a boy. Gavin and his parents informed his high school of this fact at the beginning of his sophomore year, and that year, with the school administrators’ approval, he began using the boys’ restroom at school, just as all other boys did, and just as Gavin does everywhere else he goes.
Continue reading at New York Review of Books.