A transgender rights group is filing discrimination charges this week on behalf of a Colorado girl after her school issued an order refusing her access to the girls’ washrooms. Six-year-old Coy Mathis was born with male genitalia, but identifies as female. Her school announced in December that the first-grader would no longer be allowed to use the girls’ washrooms, and could instead use the boys’, the gender-neutral washroom, or the nurse’s washroom.
Coy’s mother Kathryn Mathis expressed disappointment with the decision, saying it exposes Coy to possible bullying and created a set-back after the school’s previously accepting position. “We were very confused because everything was going so well,” says Kathryn, “and they had been so accepting, and all of a sudden it changed and it was very confusing and very upsetting because we knew that, by doing that, she was going to go back to being unhappy. It was going to set her up for a lot of bad things.” Kathryn withdrew Coy from school over the winter break due to concerns about bullying.
Kathryn says Coy has identified as female since she could first express herself. Her state-issued identification and passport both recognize her as female, and she dresses in girls’ clothing. Kathryn and Coy’s father Jeremy have been supportive of Coy’s gender identity from the beginning. “In the end, we just want what is the best for Coy. We want her to be able to go back to school and be treated equally without discrimination and harassment.”
Some confusion exists in society regarding transgender individuals. While gender and sex are occasionally treated as indistinguishable, but are indeed separate concepts. The sex of an individual is physiological, defined by their possession of male or female sex organs. Gender, meanwhile, is defined as the culturally-created roles, ideas, and behaviours associated with maleness or femaleness. Transgender individuals identify with the gender not usually associated with the sex organs they possess. They are not intersex (born with both sex organs), and they may or may not wish to physically modify their sex organs to align more closely with their chosen gender. Additionally, gender identity and sexual orientation are separate concepts – an individual’s identification with a particular gender is not necessarily related to who they are attracted to.