Coy Mathis, a 6-year-old transgender girl who was banned from her first-grade bathroom, has won a statewide legal case in Colorado that might have far-reaching implications for the rest of the nation in protecting the rights of transgender children.
Coy, born a triplet, had been home schooled since last December, when school officials told her parents that she could no longer use the female facilities and ordered her to use the boys' or nurse's bathroom.
Her parents, Jeremy and Kathryn Mathis, with the help of the Transgender Legal and Defense Education Fund (TLDEF), filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division on behalf of Coy, alleging that the school has violated her rights.
"This is amazing because it is not just a win for Coy, but a win for every transgender child in the entire state," her mother, Kathryn Mathis, told ABCNews.com today. "It's amazing for all of them and their future. It lets them be who they are. They don't have to spend their childhood being discriminated against."
According to TLDEF, this is the "most comprehensive" ruling ever supporting the rights of transgender people to access bathrooms "without harassment or discrimination." This is the first ruling in the nation holding that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms that match who they are, and the most comprehensive ruling ever supporting the rights of transgender people to access bathrooms without harassment or discrimination, TLDEF said.
In a statement today, the Fountain-Fort Carson School District said it was "disappointed" in the ruling because "it not only failed to address conflicts between statutory and regulatory provisions raised by the district but failed to appreciate the unique circumstances that school districts must consider when faced with such situations."
They said their offer to let Coy use any of three single-user, gender neutral bathrooms on the same floor as the first-grade classroom as a "reasonable compromise" for the family.
The district also said it was consulting lawyers to determines their "next steps" in the case.
Coy was labeled male at birth, but has always known that she is a girl, which she has expressed since she was 18 months old. Since kindergarten, Coy had worn girls' clothing to school. Her classmates and teachers used female pronouns to refer to her, and she used the girls' bathrooms, just like any other girl in her school.
In mid-December 2012, the Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 informed Coy's parents that Coy would be prevented from using the girls' bathrooms after winter break. The district ordered Coy to use the boys' bathroom, a staff bathroom, or the nurse's bathroom.
Coy's parents removed her from school and filed a Complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division on Coy's behalf in February, 2013.
According to her parents, Coy has behaved like a girl since she was 18 months old. When her brother Max was consumed with dinosaurs, she was playing with Barbie dolls. By 4, she was telling her mother that something was wrong with her body.
While enrolled at Eagle Elementary School in Fountain, Colo., the 6-year-old presented as female and wore girls' clothing. Her classmates and teachers used female pronouns to refer to her, and she has used the girls' bathrooms.
The Mathis' have a set of triplets and two other children, Dakota, 8, and Auri, 2. The father, Jeremy Mathis, 31, is a former Marine who was honorably discharged with injuries. Kathryn Mathis, 27, is a certified nurse assistant and takes care of Coy's triplet, Lily who has been severely disabled since a viral infection after birth. She must be fed through an IV and is quadriplegic.
When Coy began complaining about "something wrong" with her body, her parents took her to a specialist, who diagnosed gender identity disorder. Doctors recommended no immediate medical intervention but to let her "live as a girl," the parents explained.
Since kindergarten, Coy has presented as female. Some of the school's bathrooms had no gender designation, but for those that did, she used the girls' facilities.
Because Coy is so young, medical experts have advised that she not undergo hormone therapy with an eye to surgery until she is in her teens.
"We have spoken to various doctors to prepare for what is ahead and they all say the same thing," said Kathryn Mathis.
As for Coy, her mother said the little girl "does not get the enormity of what the ruling means."
"She gets what he it means for her," she said. "We told her the lawyer was fight for us and the state has agreed with us. She was completely ecstatic. Her eyes bugged out and she jumped up and down: 'I can go back to school and make new friends.'"
At the time, Coy's school district said, it had "acted reasonably and fairly with respect to this issue," it said. "However [it] believes the appropriate and proper forum for discussing the issues identified in the charge is through the Division of Civil Rights process."
In December the school lawyers sent a letter to TLDEF that said: "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."
While other students and teachers do not notice that Coy has male genitals, the school said it feared as the child developed parents and students would become "uncomfortable."
"...It would be far more psychologically damaging and disruptive for the issue to arise at an age when students deal with social issues," the letter said.
Across the nation, schools are paying more attention to transgender issues, but there is little uniformity.
The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination against transgender students in public schools.
A report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force paints a bleak picture of life as a transgender person in the United States. The 2011 survey, "Injustice at Every Turn," found that discrimination is pervasive in "nearly every system and institution."
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