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Colorado school bars transgendered 1st-grader from using girls' restroom

By P. Solomon Banda

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:58 p.m. HST, Feb 27, 2013

FOUNTAIN, Colo. » At first, Jeremy and Kathryn Mathis didn't think much of their son's behavior. Coy took his sister's pink blanket, and shunned the car they gave him for Christmas.

Then, Coy told them he only wanted to wear girls' clothes. At school, he became upset when his teacher insisted he line up with the boys. All the while, he was becoming depressed and withdrawn, telling his parents at one point he wanted to get "fixed" by doctors.

When the Mathises learned he had gender identity disorder — a condition in which someone identifies as the opposite gender — they decided to help Coy live as a girl. And suddenly, she came out of her shell.

"We could force her to be somebody she wasn't, but it would end up being more damaging to her emotionally and to us because we would lose the relationship with her," Kathryn Mathis said. "She was discussing things like surgery and things like that before and she's not now, so obviously we've done something positive."

Now, her family is locked in a legal battle with the school district in Fountain, a town 82 miles south of Denver, over where Coy, 6, should go to use the bathroom — the girls' or, as school officials suggest, one in the teachers' lounge or another in the nurse's office. Her parents say using anything other than the girls' bathroom could stigmatize her, and open her up to bullying.

Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 declined to comment, citing a complaint filed on behalf of the Mathises with the Colorado Office of Civil Rights that alleges a violation of the state's anti-discrimination law. School officials, however, sent a letter to the family, explaining their decision to prevent Coy from using the girls' bathroom at Eagleside Elementary, where she is a first-grader.

"I'm certain you can appreciate that as Coy grows older and his male genitals develop along with the rest of his body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls' restroom," the letter read.

School districts in many states, including Colorado, have enacted policies that allow transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. Sixteen states, including Colorado, have anti-discrimination laws that include protections for transgender people.

Legal battles such as the one the Mathises are facing are rare, said Michael Silverman of the New York-based Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund who is representing the Mathises. He sees about a dozen cases each year. Silverman refers most cases to social workers who work with districts to work out a solution to a well-recognized medical condition.

Psychologists don't know what causes the condition, but it was added to the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual in 1980 — some three decades after the psychological concept of gender began to be developed.

The manual's fifth edition, due out in May, changes the name to Gender Dysphoria — which refers to the distress from the gender conflict — partly out of concerns that the current name is stigmatizing, said Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York psychiatrist who serves on the working group that suggested the changes.

There's no consensus on how to treat it in somebody Coy's age because of a lack of data on the disorder in prepubescent children. Research suggests that many children gradually become "comfortable with their natal gender," an APA task force reported in 2011. But the goal of any treatment should be to help the child adjust to its reality, the APA said.

Coy is a triplet, with a brother, Max, and a sister, Lily. At 5 months old, Coy was already expressing a preference for items associated with girls, the Mathises recalled. A friend gave them baby blankets, and Coy took a pink blanket meant for Lily. The Mathises didn't think too much of it.

They bought Coy toys normally associated with boys, but she showed little interest. While Max was excited when Coy opened her Christmas present in 2009 to find a toy car from the Disney movie "Cars," Coy simply set it down and walked away.

As Coy got older, she found and wore her older sister's bathing suit, which had fringe that made it look like a tutu.

Still they pressed on in raising a boy, encouraging Coy to wear boy clothes and bought shirts that had pictures of sports, monsters and dinosaurs on them. She showed little interest, and refused to leave the house if she had to wear boy's clothes.

It didn't bother her father, an ex-Marine, that Coy liked to wear pink bows and dress up in girls clothes. That is, until Coy insisted on leaving the house with them on.

"She would see the stereotypical outfits laid out and then get this look of defeat and then would go, 'I'd just rather stay home,'" her mother said. "It wasn't about the pink. It was about people knowing she was a girl."

When Coy asked to be taken to the doctor to be "fixed," they took her to a psychologist who diagnosed her.

Coy started kindergarten in August 2011 but once the Mathises learned that Coy's behavior wasn't a phase, they allowed her to wear dresses and identify herself as a girl in the middle of the school year. The withdrawn child who was lagging behind in school began to flourish.

In kindergarten, the children used unisex bathrooms. Last fall, in first grade, the district allowed her to use the girls' bathroom. But then they told the Mathises that Coy would have to either use the staff bathroom or the one in the nurse's office starting in January. Coy is being home-schooled now, along with her siblings, while the issue is being litigated.

The family hopes that the district will reconsider, especially since using the bathroom is done in private anyway, and that Coy isn't stigmatized by being forced to use a different bathroom than her peers.

"The doctor's bathroom is only for sick people and I'm not sick," said Coy, wearing white tights, a red dress and sweater and sitting on the living room couch at her house as her siblings played a computer game nearby at the kitchen table.

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Maneki_Neko wrote:
I didn't know you could be "trans-gendered" at 6 years old. Sheesh, I must be getting old.
on February 27,2013 | 12:32PM
TLehel wrote:
You can't. It's parents that allow this sort of thing to happen. At that age they are way too young to make any sort of decision of their own that they are a different gender. Maybe in teenage years where identity crisis and sex drive actually starts. Preposterous, I swear. Watch, that kid is gonna hit puberty and realize he was a boy all along.
on February 27,2013 | 01:30PM
purpleboi wrote:
Did you not read the article...it says its a disorder. how would you know that this is not possible if you are not in that position...you have to think about it from their perspective...There are children who are smart and understand a lot at a young age...why is this any different. it makes them good parents for being OPEN MINDED and helping understand their child. Not forcing them to be one way or another, but letting the child make the choices as long as the child is kept safe...Geez people...
on February 27,2013 | 01:50PM
fandm wrote:
Sorry, a 4-year-old doesn't get to call the shots. Good parents are not their child's "friend."
on February 27,2013 | 04:13PM
8082062424 wrote:
What sad is the parents think only there child feeling matter not the other 20 plus student in her class
on February 27,2013 | 01:48PM
grantos wrote:
Why should they care about the feelings of someone else's child? Think about it. Shouldn't they put their own child's feeling first?
on February 27,2013 | 02:54PM
8082062424 wrote:
then they should understand when the other parents object it there right. they also are looking out for the interest of there children
on February 27,2013 | 05:20PM
sailfish1 wrote:
grantos - they should think about the feelings of the other children too. The other children just might beat up on this kid if they feel that they are not being treated fairly. People should always consider other people's feeling.
on February 27,2013 | 10:38PM
paradiddle wrote:
Simple solution. Have a bathroom for girls, a bathroom for boys, a bathroom for transgenders. Oh wait...also need a uni-sex bathroom for those who are un-decided.
on February 27,2013 | 02:27PM
Skyler wrote:
Something's not quite right here...
on February 27,2013 | 03:07PM
Agility wrote:
The boy are all going to love that and it will make all the other girls jealous. And I bet they were trying to avoid sex in the bathroom, ha ha and who did a sex change on a first grader???
on February 27,2013 | 03:15PM
retire wrote:
The way things are going, Coy will probably be running for President when he/she hits 35.
on February 27,2013 | 09:37PM
fandm wrote:
From now on, all bathrooms should be labelled "penis" and "vagina" instead of men/women, male/female, etc. That way, you use the bathroom of the sex organ you have. Gluing feathers to your body does not make you a chicken.
on February 28,2013 | 04:26AM
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