Jeremy Mathis, an integrated communications student at Colorado State University-Pueblo, gained national news attention after his 6-year-old transgender daughter, Coy, was told she couldn’t use the girl’s bathroom at her school, Eagleside Elementary, in the Fountain-Fort Carson School District.
Katie Couric interviewed Coy and her parents on Feb. 26 as a part of an hour-long program about being transgender on her NBC talk show, Katie.
Kathryn Mathis, Coy’s mother, told Couric that they really noticed Coy gravitating towards girl’s toys and clothes when she was 18 months old.
Mathis said that Coy had been using the girl’s bathroom at school for about a year before the school prohibited her from doing so.
In a news release Mathis said the school told the family that Coy could either use “the boy’s room, staff restroom or a bathroom in the office that is for sick children.”
The family feels that by prohibiting Coy from using the girl’s bathroom, it is “singling her out which can lead to bullying and harassment.” They have since pulled Coy from school and are home schooling her until “the school corrects their actions.”
A complaint has been filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Division because the family feels that the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act has been violated.
The act says discrimination based on disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin or ancestry is unlawful.
In a news release Mathis said the act prohibits schools, and other public organizations, from discrimination, which includes restriction to bathrooms.
Transgenderlaw.org says, “Places of public accommodation may not deny any person participation, entry, or services based upon the person’s sexual orientation, including transgender status.”
Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and lawyer to the Mathis family, also appeared on Katie.
He told Couric that the people of Colorado have “already spoken” on the issue and the anti-discrimination laws in Colorado make it illegal to deny Coy use of the girl’s bathroom. He added that along with Colorado, there are 16 states that protect transgender children in similar situations.
Though the parents said they did not want attention brought to Coy in school, they have allowed media coverage because the complaint made is already public record.
“We decided to go public to make sure the school was being held accountable for their actions,” Mathis said, “It is not okay to treat someone poorly because they are different.”
A transgender student at CSU-Pueblo, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she feels torn about the issue.
“Part of me feels like I stand on a soapbox and preach to everybody,” she said.
On the other hand she said she feels that her goal is to be recognized as a woman and bringing attention to her by making her opinion openly heard would defeat that.
She said that society has become more understanding but there is a lot of unknown and a lot of questions.
“Any time you stray from the unknown, that’s when people don’t know what to do,” she said.
She said she can see where the district is uncertain of how to handle Coy’s situation, but she also understands the want to be accepted just like any other individual.
Her belief is that the school district would not have had a problem if they had not known about Coy’s transition.
In fact, she did part of her observation for her degree at the same elementary school Coy attended. She said while being at the school nobody ever knew she was transgender; she was treated just the same as anybody else.
“I want people to embrace me for who I am because this is who I am,” she said.
Her transition took place during the summer between her first and second year of college. She said that only a few people knew about it and if Coy had started school without anybody knowing, there would not be a reason for the district to have any kind of issue.
“Everybody judges everybody,” she said, which is why she chooses not to share her story unless somebody asks. She added that she does not expect everybody to embrace her but that it is just a part of life.
She said that as open and accepting as people claim to be, they don’t completely understand the social difficulties associated with being transgender.
“There is the fear of the unknown, but there’s also a yearning,” she said adding that a culture shift is the reason why Coy’s story has become big in the news.
Mathis said he hopes by telling their story it would change the mindset of people who do not completely understand the situation.
“If you got to know her you’d love her,” he said.