Today in news that makes you proud to be a part of humanity: a small, yet important, win for the transgender community thanks to the bravery of Coy Mathis and her family. For those of you who don’t know who Coy is, she is a 6-year-old trans girl who started to identify as a girl at a few years old. When she entered kindergarten at Eagleside Elementary, her very awesome parents informed the school that though Coy was born biologically male, Coy identified as a girl and should be treated as such.
Though the school initially agreed, by the time she got to 1st grade, she was barred from using female restrooms by the district, which issued the statement, “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." Wow, good one, CO school district. Way to be incredibly insensitive and offensive by not using Coy’s preferred pronoun.
It doesn’t stop there. In fact, their “genius” solution was for Coy to use the gender-neutral bathrooms. The problem with this is that it singles Coy out among her peers and isolates her as being the only child required to use those bathrooms. Her parents subsequently pulled her out of school and started to homeschool Coy due to the school’s discriminatory policies.
Coy, in middle with sister (left) and mother (right)
However, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a complaint on Coy’s behalf and took the issue to court. This week, the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled that the school discriminated against Coy when deciding that she couldn’t use the girl’s bathrooms, thus creating a situation where she could be subject to harassment from peers and subjected to a hostile, intimidating environment.
The school argued that Coy’s birth certificate stated she was a male, but this was countered by the fact that all of Coy’s recent medical and legal documents identified Coy as a girl. Though there are problems with the rigid gender binaries in our society, Coy’s actions and behavior as strictly female helped prove to the court that Coy’s female identity is to be taken seriously. As more and more people realize that anatomy does not determine gender identity, hopefully we can have a more open-minded approach to gender and sex. We need to make important strides for individuals who do not identify or conform to the gender identity and behaviors expected of them due to their assigned gender at birth.
Coy, with a sassy boa
Although only 17 states and Washington D.C. have legal protections for transgender people, we can only hope that this ruling will have a positive and influential effect upon future rulings involving trans folks.
Thank you, Colorado Civil Rights Division, for making the right call. By affirming Coy’s identity, this victory paves the way for thousands more people to feel comfortable in our society to live their lives without fear of hostility and intolerance. Although court decisions help in so many legal ways, changing the minds of individuals and the way our society approaches gender identity is an integral part of transgender acceptance as well. Though we have so much more to do, there is no denying this is a fantastic step in the right direction.