Colorado couple recounts fight for rights of transgender daughter

When Coy Mathis was five, she informed her parents that she was a girl. This may seem like a pointless statement and obvious fact, except for one small matter: Coy is biologically male. Born a boy, and identifying as female, Coy is one of an increasingly growing number of transgender children. Evidently though, a local Colorado school doesn’t see it that way.  While more and more transgender youth are coming out, and they are finally being understood as human beings, the Colorado school board did not see it that way; to them Coy is a boy. This presented a problem for Coy and her parents, Katherine and Jeremy. They recently filed a human rights complaint against the school board.

 It all started when Coy wanted to use the girl’s washroom. She had already started dressing as a girl and her teachers had made the pronoun switch. In the eyes of state law, that is good enough. Coy identified as a girl, so she was a girl according to Colorado law. The school thought differently and came to the conclusion that because Coy was born male, she would have to use the boy’s restroom. After the Mathises and their Michael Silverman informed them they were violation of state law, they offered an alternative: the staff washroom or the health station. Katherine and Jeremy subsequently pulled Coy from school. I spoke with Jeremy about their decision. Here is a portion of that conversation:

 DM: Why did you decide to go public?

 Jeremy Mathis: Well initially, when the school first brought to our to attention that they didn’t want to continue on allowing Coy to use the restroom, we tried to work it out verbally with them, they said they weren’t going to budge… once we filed a complaint with the civil rights division, we knew that it was going to become public.

 DM: When did you first realize that Coy might be transgendered?

 JM: Well it was officially diagnosed when she was five, but Coy told us she was a girl before that, in hindsight, Coy was telling us this the whole time.

 Gender identity disorder, as it commonly known, or “gender dysphoria” can occur in very young children, as it did with Coy. However, a recent CBC documentary claimed that many pediatricians are hesitant to diagnose it before the age of ten because some children to grow out of it, although most do not.

 Jeremy: Coy has always been who she is and she hasn’t given us any indication that’s she’s gonna decide one day,'Never mind, I’m a boy.' Forcing her to be someone she wasn’t was really psychologically damaging to her.

 Jeremy and Katherine ended up pulling Coy out of school and are currently homeschooling her. When asked why they couldn’t her send her somewhere else, Jeremy explained that their town is quite small and thus all the schools are overseen by the same school board. He also stated that while they could have moved to the next district over, no one should have to move for their basic human rights. While Jeremy is worried about some of the negative social affects homeschooling can have on his daughter and ultimately wants the school board to admit their wrongdoing and allow Coy back in, right now he believes homeschooling is the safest option for her.

Jeremy believes that because transgender issues are finally being talked about and becoming socially accepted, we are hearing more of their stories.  Hopefully Coy’s case will only increase visibility and promote acceptance and awareness.

 The Diagnostics Statistics Manual (DSM) recently removed transgender from its list of “disorders” and while that is a move in the right direction, Jeremy feels it is just a small step and that there is much more work to be done.

 Gender Identity, while by no means a new phenomenon, has only recently started to be understood. Even many within the LGBT community have differing opinions and various levels of support. While the medical profession has certainly made some strides in understanding the psychological, social, and physiological implications of Gender identity, there is still much more to be learned. Hopefully Coy and her family will bring us that.

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