[35—Heywood v. MoDOT]

In spite of my mother's and lawyer's warnings, I still thought winning my court case would be a piece of cake.  The facts were on my side.

Not all cakes are worth eating, though.  Soap comes in cakes, and it tastes awful.

I kept nodding off the next morning.  I'd already drunk five cups of coffee and still I was a zombie. 

Mr. Richter seemed annoyed but Mother seemed to think it was some part of growing up—I intentionally left her with that impression.

"Heywood et al," the bailiff boomed over the courtroom, "versus Missouri Department of Transportation.  The Honorable Judge Sarah Wentworth-Stocks presiding.  All rise."

We stood up, the judge walked in.

"Be seated," she said, and sat herself.  She was tiny, and old.  She looked like a wizened pink raisin. 

Her air of authority was absolute and reminded me of Miss Tilly.

"The issue at hand," she began, without stopping to refer to any documents, "is the legal gender classification of the minor child, Danielle Lynn Heywood, born May 15, 1960 in the State of Missouri.  Are these facts correct Counselor?"

She looked at Mr. Richter. 

"Yes, Your Honor," he answered.  He was wearing a spiffy pinstriped suit and looked like a well-groomed million bucks—or at least a hundred-G's.

"Very well, has the plaintiff been apprised of the relevant statutes?"

"Yes, Your Honor, but we believe the Federal Constitution presides here."

"Do you?"   She seemed dubious.  "I'll be the judge of that."

That elicited a laugh from the gallery and a stern look from her.  Judge Wentworth-Stocks had no sense of humor.

"Please approach the bench with your client."

We went up front, in sight of everybody but out of their hearing.

"So tell me, Miss Heywood, why do you think your birth certificate should be amended?"

"It says I'm a girl," I answered with less conviction that I'd have liked, "and I'm not."

"And you can prove this."

"Yes, Your Honor," Mr. Richter handed her a sheaf of papers.  "If it pleases the court, I have filed a medical report signed by six medical doctors—three of whom are licensed to practice medicine in the State of Missouri—and an amicus curiae brief from a noted specialist in gender morphology with your clerk.  Here are additional copies for your perusal."

She looked them over briefly.

"Most irregular," she replied.  "Is it my understanding that if I grant your request, you will still be dissatisfied.  Is this true, Miss Heywood?"

"Excuse me?"

"Missouri law only allows a birth certificate or other pertinent document to be amended consistent with current state laws.  There are only two choices, and you aren't asking for either."

"Correct.  I'm neither a male nor a female.  It's in your reports, if you'd bother to read them.  It's not fair that I have to pretend to be something I'm not because the old dead men who made that law didn't know that a coin could land on its edge."

"Explain yourself," she told me tersely.  Then to my lawyer, "Counselor, please advise you client that she is in danger of a Contempt charge."

He gave me a look too; this was not what we'd planned, but I was tired of taking everyone's guff.  Maybe Tammy was influencing me, but she was right.

"Most people are male or female, like the two sides of a coin.  But sometimes, a coin lands on its edge.  It doesn't happen very often, but it did in my case.  I'm not a boy.  I'm not a girl.  I'm something else."

"Miss Heywood, as I just explained, my hands are tied.  I can grant your petition, in which your birth certificate will be amended to reflect that you are a male, or I can refuse, and you will remain legally a female.

"But let me be perfectly clear here; this is about legal classifications, not biology.  What gender do you most resemble?"


"Okay.  You've had the tests, what is your genetic sex?"

"Neither, Your Honor.  The report classified me as 'RR', a sex-selecting gene previously unknown.  I know you know this."  

"I'm merely asking for the record, young lady, on which you are not making yourself look very good."  She nodded to the stenographer.

"Look.  I'm neither a boy who thinks he's a girl, nor a girl who thinks she's a boy.  I'm new, and improved if you ask me.  It's not fair to make me fit into a category that I'm intrinsically not part of.  At least let me have 'other'."


Mr. Richter looked stricken.  I was a loose cannon, firing at our own waterline.  What was wrong with me?

"Take your client outside and calm her down, and don't bring her back into my courtroom until she can be civil.  I will see you in my chambers in five minutes.  Alone."


"Well, we're done," Richter said, tossing his briefcase onto the table at which we were sitting in the cafeteria. 

"What?"  Mother and I asked the question in harmony, like we'd practiced it that way.

"The Judge has already ruled."

"Am I in trouble?"

"No, Dani."

"What was her ruling," Mother asked.

"Petition Denied."

"I'm sorry Mr. Richter."

"Don't be.  I told you it would be an uphill battle.  But I do have to insist that you refrain from ad hominem diatribes in future courtrooms.  And trust me, there will be plenty."

"What next?"

"We appeal.  First to the state appeals board, then to the State Supreme Court, if they'll take it—unless we can get a Federal Judge to take it sooner for some other reason—and I've got a few ideas.  Then, and only then, can we take it to the District Court of Appeals."

"How long to the Supreme Court?"

"Ten years, three as a minimum, if they'll hear it at all.  The chances aren't good that it'll go that high."

"You said in your briefing the Constitution protects me based on Gender.  I know the XVI Amendment says that."

"Yes, but it's more complicated than that, Dani.  Gender is a suspect class, and you clearly fall under that.  But only if the court construes the case narrowly."

"What is wrong with these Judges?"

I could have been Tammy saying that.

"That's the wrong kind of question, Dani.  It would be better to ask what is wrong with the law, or the Constitution."

"There's nothing wrong with the Constitution," I spat back automatically.

"Isn't there," he anwered amiably.  "Then why is it subject to interpretation by sour old biddies with no sense of humor?"

"What?  You agree with me on that?"

"I have eyes, Dani.  But if you ever say that in public I shall deny it on a stack of Bibles.  The system isn't perfect, but it's better than most. 

"But what you have to learn, and I see a hard life for you if you don't, is to live with the system we have, and to change it when you can.

"But you mustn't let it get to you, or it'll kill you.  I'm not being hyperbolic; worry kills as sure as bullets."


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