Six-year-old Coy Mathis is transgender, and until December 2012, she was allowed to use the girls’ bathrooms at her elementary school in Fountain, Colorado. But then, administrators informed her parents that she would be required to use the boys’ bathroom, a staff bathroom, or the nurse’s bathroom. The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) urged the school to reconsider, but the school refused, so now the group has filed a complaint on Coy’s behalf with the Colorado Civil Rights Division.
This complaint will be the first test of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which includes protections based on gender identity. Other Colorado school districts, like Boulder Valley Schools, have already crafted policies guaranteeing “students shall have access to the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity consistently asserted at school.” Here, though, is how district officials at Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 justified discriminating against Coy’s gender identity:
The District’s decision took into account not only Coy but other students in the building, their parents, and the future impact a boy with male genitals using a girls’ bathroom would have as Coy grew older. The reason it has not apparently been an “issue” to date is that fellow students and even the other teachers in the building are not aware that Coy is a male and at his young age, he may appear to be a female. In addition, when he was in kindergarten last year, the restroom facilities were gender-neutral, as opposed to the restrooms used by elementary school students.
I’m certain you can appreciate that as Coy grows older and his* male genitals develop along with the rest of his body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls’ restroom, and that it would be far more psychologically damaging and disruptive for the issue at an age when students deal with lots of social issues.
The lawyer who penned the letter clarified in a footnote that male pronouns were used “not in an attempt to be disrespectful, but because I am referring to male genitals.” Of course, it is disrespectful, because Coy’s gender is not determined by her genitals — she is not a “boy with male genitals,” but a girl whose genitals are irrelevant — which is exactly the point of this entire issue. The state’s protections are determined by gender identity, not genitalia. Focusing solely on an individual’s anatomy is one of the biggest obstacles to respecting trans people as whole individuals, and it’s clearly the obstacle in this case.
Coy’s parents are currently homeschooling her until this situation is resolved.