Colorado’s civil rights division ruled on June 23 that transgender six-year-old Coy Mathis should be allowed to use the girl’s bathroom at her school. The division concluded that banning Coy from using the girl’s restroom was discriminatory.
Telling Coy “that she must disregard her identity while performing one of the most essential human functions constitutes severe and pervasive treatment, and creates an environment that is objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating or offensive,” wrote Steven Chavez, the division director, in the official decision.
The Mathis family is from Fountain, Colorado, located just south of Denver. They discovered that their daughter had “gender dysphoria” when she was only a year and a half old. Since then, Coy has lived and identified as a girl. Upon entering kindergarten at Eggleside Elementary school, Coy’s parents told the school of their daughter’s identity and were assured that she would be treated as such.
However, a few months into first grade, the district decided Coy would not be allowed to use the girl’s bathroom, fearing that students and parents would grow uncomfortable as time went on. They said Coy would have to use the staff bathrooms or a gender-neutral bathroom in the health office.
Coy’s parents, Kathryn and Jeremy, pulled Coy out of school and, after making no headway with school officials, lodged a complaint with the state’s civil rights division in February. They claimed such actions were in violation of Colorado’s 2008 anti-discrimination statute.
The district ruled that while her birth certificate identified her as a male, more recent documents identified her as female. Beyond that, it was clear that Coy had fully integrated into society as a girl, the state said.
The ruling in Coy’s favor sets the standard for other schools across the country.
The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, who filed the complaint on behalf of the Mathises’, released a statement saying, “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.”
Transgender people and their needs have become increasingly visible this year in the United States. Legislation has been proposed and debate has ensued in regard to public accommodations as well as other gender-specific organizations. A transgender-inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination Act has made progress, with 52 Senate cosponsors. Additionally, laws have shifted to make the process easier for transgender individuals to have their passport amended to reflect a change in gender.
Coy and her family have since moved to Aurora, Colorado. They plan to enroll Coy there, with the knowledge that she will be allowed to use the girls’ bathroom.
“We knew that this was discrimination. So it was validating to get the state to say ‘Yes, it is very clearly harassment,’ and they were doing something they shouldn’t have been doing,” said Coy’s mother, according to the New York Times.
“When I told Coy we won, she got this giant smile and her eyes bugged out. She said, ‘So I can go to school and make friends?’ ”