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Transgender kids and school bathrooms

February 28, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Should a Colorado transgender girl be permitted to use the girl's bathroom at school?

Jeremy and Kathryn Mathis, parents of 6-year-old Coy, who was born male, are suing the Fountain-Fort Carson School District in Colorado after the principal informed them that Coy would no longer be permitted to use the girls' bathroom. Instead, school officials wanted Coy to use the boys' bathroom, faculty bathrooms, or the bathroom in the nurse's office. The school district reasoned that parents of other students and Coy's classmates would become uncomfortable with the situation once Coy hits puberty and they didn't want to set a precedent.

Coy, one of a set of triplets, apparently has acted like and claimed to be a girl since toddlerhood. The parents let Coy dress as a girl since the child was 4 and changed all Coy's identification to indicate female gender.

The Mathis' lawsuit hit the news the same week that Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released a new set of guidelines for schools dealing with transgender students. The guidelines instruct schools to treat students as the gender they identify as, including allowing them to use the bathrooms for that gender. Schools would not necessarily inform the parents of the students if their kids identify as a gender different than the one they were born. Teachers are instructed to talk with the student first and find out what the student wants to tell his parents about his gender identity.

It also calls on schools to discipline students who consistently express discomfort with the transgender student or call him or her by the "wrong" gender pronoun. In one high school that had a transgender girl enroll, a principal sent out a notice to teachers that included these instructions: "Continued, repeated, and intentional misuse of names and pronouns may erode the educational environment for Jane. It should not be tolerated and can be grounds for student discipline."

Massachusetts' guidelines also state: "Some students may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex segregated restroom, locker room or changing facility. This discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student. School administrators and counseling staff should work with students to address the discomfort and to foster understanding of gender identity, to create a school culture that respects and values all students."

If Coy were attending a Massachusetts school, it's likely that there would be no lawsuit. However, different states have different rules. Last year, Maine, which apparently has a different law in place, ruled that schools are not required to permit a transgender student to use the bathrooms for the gender they identify as. I'm not sure what laws Colorado has in effect, but Coy's school apparently felt it had not been discriminatory because Coy was allowed to dress in girl's clothing, was addressed by the female pronoun and treated like a girl in all other aspects. It might not be a done deal in Massachusetts either. FOX News reports that a Democratic Massachusetts state lawmaker is putting forward a bill that would require people to use the bathrooms (and other sex-segregated facilities and activities) appropriate for their anatomical sex.

Undoubtedly North Dakota schools will be asked to deal with this issue sooner or later, if they haven't already. What do you think is a fair solution for a student like Coy?


Article Comments



Mar-02-13 10:54 AM

Billy, the article said they were already using the nurses restroom as a gender neutral facility, they don't need to make it any more special than that I hope. I should have said special facilities available for the cross threaded.


Mar-02-13 10:36 AM

BillDoesNotGetIt: I fail to see how you can say we've moved away from segregation. Having separate bathrooms for boys and girls is the very definition of segregation.



Mar-02-13 10:26 AM

Oh, my mistake. I didn't know Coy was a boy's name. I don't think I've ever seen it used before as a name, hence the confusion. Apparently it has Gaelic origins, and it means "Son of Aodh". Hardly gender specific then, but it just goes to show that even enlightened parents may fall into the trappings of selecting gender-specific names. At this point, I would suggest to the parents that they try adding an "a" to the end of the name to make it appear less gender restrictive.


Mar-02-13 9:17 AM

"The parents of this kid object to Coy being required to use that school's gender neutral bathroom in the nurse's office." But being national news is OK, it must be a circus at their house. Who knew we would end up with a neutral gender in the first place so I say make special facilities for both setters and pointers.


Mar-02-13 7:04 AM

Some of these groups are calling for gender neutral bathrooms in school, probably one or two in addition to sex segregated facilities. The parents of this kid object to Coy being required to use that school's gender neutral bathroom in the nurse's office.

As far as I know, Coy is more typically a boy's name.


Mar-02-13 1:25 AM

I'm not really sure why we need to define bathrooms in terms of "boys" or "girls" in the first place. I mean, if we're laying it all out on the table here, by labeling bathrooms, aren't we really just pigeonholing children into one category or another?

That seems very restrictive for those who may not have been so fortunate as Coy to have firmly established gender identity early in life, independent of genitalia and societal stereotypes.

Kudos to Coy's parents. It seems as if they particularly proactive in their approach to selecting a gender-neutral name at birth. Why, it was almost as if they knew gender identification might someday become an issue for him... or ...was that her? Did I get that right? Did I use the correct pronoun? I wouldn't want to be perceived in any way insensitive to the plight of prepubescent gender confusion.


Mar-01-13 11:10 PM

Any man who thinks they are a woman or woman who thinks she is a man is insane.


Mar-01-13 12:47 PM

Double Wow!!


Mar-01-13 10:13 AM

I'd also add that more doctors these days are prescribing drugs that stop puberty in transgender kids so they never develop into adult males or females. Then they start cross hormones -- female hormones in Coy's case -- at about 15 or 16 and the kid might be able to have a complete sex change operation at age 18. They've done more stories on these kids in recent years and some of the teenage transgender girls look pretty much like other high school girls. You wouldn't necessarily know if they didn't tell you. Dating probably gets pretty tricky, though I imagine being socialized as a girl throughout elementary and middle school might be an advantage for the child's psychological health.

But does it trample on other kids' rights?


Mar-01-13 10:09 AM

Coy looks like a very cute little girl in the pictures I've seen, dressed up in pretty typical attire for that age. The other children at the school may well not even know that Coy has male genitalia. Girls' bathrooms also have stalls, so it's not like anything is on display. That's one argument in favor of letting a transgender girl use the girls' bathroom.

What this kid has is technically called gender dysphoria. They don't know why it happens, but I would assume it might have something to do with the hormones the brain is exposed to in utero. The brain may be female and the body is male. The parents describe little Coy refusing to wear boy's clothes, turning his nose up at the toy cars and tractors he got for Christmas, stealing his big sister's fringed towel because it looked like a tutu, crying when the preschool teacher made him line up with the other boys and asking to be taken to the doctor to have his body fixed. A psychiatrist diagnosed him as transgender.


Mar-01-13 9:06 AM



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