After eighteen months of life outside the womb, Coy Mathis expressed desires to be a girl despite having male organs. According to Mathis’ parents, Coy’s gravitation towards feminine clothing and toys traditionally associated with girls were non-verbal expressions of a female identity. And by age six, Coy verbally articulated the belief of being a girl. Instead of fighting Coy, Coy’s parents accepted the belief by obtaining a passport identifying Coy as a girl, notifying the school to treat Coy as a girl, and having Coy’s medical information identify Coy as a girl. And when Fountain-Fort Carson School District denied Coy access to the girls’ bathroom because of his male organs, Coy’s parents fought back.
The Mathis family filed an action with the Colorado Division of Civil Rights alleging that the elementary school violated the state’s public accommodations law when it denied Coy “full equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, and advantages because of her sex (female) and sexual orientation (transgender).” The school district defended its decision arguing that Coy was not denied access because of sex or transgender status, but because having someone with male organs using the girls’ restroom created safety concerns for parents and other students. Additionally, it would set the precedent for transgender individuals in high school.
The state agency ruled for Coy holding that because state law recognizes transgender individuals as a protected class under the public accommodations law, and has previously provided transgender individuals the right to restrooms consistent with their gender identity, the school district committed unlawful discrimination. The agency further claimed that the school failed to provide any evidence that parents had legitimate concerns against Coy using the girls’ restroom, and that telling Coy “she must disregard her identity while performing one of the most essential human functions constitutes severe and pervasive treatment.”
At age six, Coy Mathis set a precedent for many schools dealing with this issue. So naturally the critics ask should the world accept the notion that a six year old child is equipped to identify his or her gender. While much debate lies on whether certain preferences are born/revealed versus developed over time, teachers and parents are nonetheless charged with the responsibility of training and guiding how children think and behave. Is it possible to lead and follow a child? Can we discern when a child is revealing an identity versus experimenting with options?