Coy Mathis: Transgender Child in Colorado Told She Cannot Use Girls' Bathroom

Coy is six years old. She wears dresses, plays with dolls, and loves the colors pink and purple. But last December, school officials at Coy’s Colorado elementary school in the Fountain-Fort Carson School District told her parents she could no longer use the girls’ restroom. This is because Coy was born a boy.

Coy is transgender, meaning she was biologically born as a boy, but identifies herself as a girl. She feels comfortable dressing as a girl, playing with female classmates, and doing other activities that are typically associated with females. Her parents have supported the decision she made since she was old enough to express herself, but not everyone else has been so understanding. The Mathis parents said that "out of the blue," the school called to explain that Coy would not be able to use the girls bathroom when she started first grade. Kathryn Mathis and her husband Jeremy were shocked, and filed a complaint against Eagleside Elementary with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. Fearing the intense bullying that occurs to children labeled "different," Kathryn and Jeremy decided to home-school Coy.

The school district defended its actions by stating that as Coy gets older, it will cause problems to have "him" use the female restroom when she is biologically a male. School representatives say that they have acted in the interest of parents and children who may be made uncomfortable by Coy’s presence in the female restroom. 

Due to lack of research, little is known about the developing identities of transgender children the estimates of how many children may be transgender are as varied as one in 1,000 to one in 30,000 children. Children as young as three years old may identify themselves as transgender, or they may feel that something about them "doesn’t fit." And Coy is far from the only child who has experienced this feeling. At three years old, Thomas Lobel, born with apraxia a speech impediment signed to his parents that he was a girl. His parents thought he’d confused the symbols for "boy and girl." But no, when corrected, the toddler insisted that he was indeed a girl. No confusion. Thomas is now eleven years old, calls himself Tammy, and wears dresses. Mario, now fourteen, was born a girl in California. He has been living as a boy because he says, since the age of two, he has never felt like a girl.

While being transgender is no longer considered a ‘disorder,’ laws protecting the rights of transgender children vary greatly by state. The same goes for social institutions of every variety; while the Girl Scouts organization has recently accepted a transgender girl into one of their Colorado troops, transgender workers express frustration at often being discriminated against in the workforce. Some even say that they’ve been "laughed out of job interviews." While it’s clear that larger society has yet to adapt to changing definitions of gender and gender roles, school, it seems, should be one place where tolerance and respect are given primacy. If nowhere else, school should be a place where kids can feel comfortable figuring out who they are a place where they can learn to be comfortable in their own skin. 

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Nicole Polizzi

Nicole is an adjunct lecturer in Sociology, Philosophy and Composition at ASA in Manhattan. Professionally she is dually obsessed with the expansion/protection of human rights and social justice, and holistic, arts-inclusive education reform. Running, writing and belting Adele in the shower are her catharses.

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