Six-year-old Coy Mathis was born a boy, but has identified as a girl since she was 18 months old.
That wasn’t good enough for Eagleside Elementary School in Fountain, Colorado, which last December insisted that Coy had to use the boys’ restroom, even though she had been using the girls’ bathroom until then, and clearly identifies as a girl.
Her outraged parents immediately pulled her out of school, and last February they filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) on her behalf.
Now, in a first-of-its-kind ruling in the U.S., the CCRD has sided with Coy’s parents, agreeing that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms that match the gender they identify with.
It’s a major victory for transgender Americans, but it’s also depressing that it took a court case to reach such an obvious conclusion.
According to NBC News, CCRD director Steven Chavez criticized administrators with the Fountain-Fort Carson School District, accusing them of creating “an environment rife with harassment” when they chose to refer to Coy as a boy. By doing this, the school district broke a prior agreement with Coy’s parents to use her preferred gender identification.
In another first in victories for those who are transgender, Multnomah County, which includes Portland, has just become one of the first in the country to require gender-neutral, single-occupancy restrooms in all future construction projects. The executive order was signed on June 18 by county board chair Jeff Cogen.
Naturally, Focus on the Family thinks the idea of even mentioning transgender people using bathrooms is a bad idea. In response to a bill currently moving through the Delaware legislature that would add gender identity to the state’s nondiscrimination and hate crime laws, Focus on the Family slams what it calls the “bathroom bill.” In doing so it refers to the “biological male,” apparently totally missing the point in terms of transgender individuals.
If you ask Coy Mathis to talk about herself, she will tell you she is a girl. Trans women are women: not only do they identify as female, but they are perceived as women as well. The same goes for men: there are plenty of trans men who are seen only as men by the people who know them.
The issue will surely come up again in the world of education, and Massachusetts has already taken the lead on this. An eleven-page document issued earlier this year carefully details how schools are to handle the needs of transgender students and provides definitions and background information for school officials who might not be familiar with transgender issues.
“Schools should not discriminate against their students, and we are thrilled that Coy can return to school and put this behind her,” said Kathryn Mathis, Coy’s mother. “All we ever wanted was for Coy’s school to treat her the same as other little girls. We are extremely happy that she now will be treated equally.”
“This ruling sends a loud and clear message that transgender students may not be targeted for discrimination and that they must be treated equally in school,” said TLDEF’s executive director Michael Silverman. “It is a victory for Coy and a triumph for fairness.”
According to TLDEF, 17 states and the District of Columbia offer some sort of legal protection for transgender people. Let’s hope that number keeps increasing.
And best wishes to Coy for a great year as a second-grader.
Photo Credit: KUSA TV online video