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Blurry Lines Between Boy And Girl

I read a story today about an adorable little girl named Coy Mathis.  She is a first grade student at a school in Colorado and made the news because school officials will no longer allow her to use the girl’s restroom at her school, telling her that she must instead use the boy’s bathroom, the nurse’s bathroom, or one of the gender neutral facilities that are available.  Michael Silverman, the lawyer retained by the Mathis family, stated that the school is targeting Coy for “stigma, bullying, and harassment.”  For now, Coy’s parents have chosen to home school her until they can find some sort of resolution that will appease them and their daughter.

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The little girl in question here is transgendered; she has identified as a female and dressed as one for over a year, but has male sex organs.  Her passport and state issued identification both list her as female, but at her most basic, she is still a he.  The school made their decision because of the impact it would have on other students and their families for Coy to be in the girl’s restroom considering her physical differences and the fact that we have separate bathrooms for very specific reasons.  Attorney W. Kelly Dude said that the school is adhering to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by not keeping her from attending any classes, by referring to her as a female and allowing her to wear female clothing, and by allowing easy access to other facilities, including the gender neutral ones.

This is a tough situation to look at, as Coy is the same age as my own son and not quite old enough to fully grasp what is going on here.  For her, the thought process is likely “I act and dress and feel like a girl, so I get to use the girl’s bathrooms.”  Unfortunately, the physical differences between Coy and the other girls in the school are more than enough to justify the need for separation.  These are very young children who are barely comfortable with their own body, never mind one of the opposite sex, and not yet ready to handle the complex structure of the LGBT community.  They need to be educated of course, but the level of exposure should be strictly controlled and monitored by the parents until the children mature.

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Coy’s parents state that she began gravitating towards pink and sparkly things at 18 months of age after first taking notice that she was definitely different.  The parents were at a loss until Coy finally told them that she was “really a girl.”  Jeremy, the father of Coy and four other children, said that the revelation didn’t change anything, but simply clued them in to who she truly was.  The parents also state that Coy claimed “the school is just being mean to me.”  They have told her that the school’s proposal for the use of alternate bathrooms is unacceptable, especially since the nurse’s bathroom is for people who are ill, not for students in good health.  Kathryn, the mother, is home schooling all their children because of the school’s decision and because the school “may know a lot about teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, [but] they know very little about teaching tolerance.”

I sympathize with the entire family and hope that they are able to find a way to resolve this that makes them all happy and comfortable.  I also understand that the school’s decision must have been a difficult one, but in this case they did make the best call that they could think of.  Short of assigning someone to ensure a completely vacant girl’s restroom prior to Coy using it, there was no other way to protect the other students and protect Coy other than keeping her out of bathrooms assigned to females with female sex organs.  It’s incredibly unfortunate but it was the quickest way to resolve the situation in the the least disruptive manner.  It was also not a decision that was said to be final; the parents could have easily suggested an alternate route that would appease all parties.  Instead, we now have children schooled at home and unable to properly socialize.

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I support equal rights for us all.  I think it’s of extreme importance to educate children and to ensure they grow up with an open mind so they do not unfairly discriminate against any person or group.  I try to show my son a variety of people and stress that we are different but we are all important people who deserve respect.  That said, I do not want my son in the girl’s bathroom, nor do I want female’s in his bathroom, regardless of how they are dressed and what gender they feel like.  He is far too young for me to begin explaining what it means to be transgendered; he was confused enough after catching a glimpse of RuPaul’s Drag Race and why “the lady sounds like a man.”  When he is ready to understand and learn, I will teach him,  Until then, I don’t want him exposed to certain things and as a parent, I get to decide these things.

If the school was trying to be malicious or discriminatory here, they would not have agreed to refer to Coy as female, nor would they be okay with a boy dressing and acting like a girl.  They could have also argued that a 6-year-old is too young to know that their gender is incorrect and therefore should not be allowed to pick and choose.  Instead, they chose what they thought would be the best way to protect all students by restricting the restroom use with the most basic criteria; boy parts equal boy’s restroom, and girl parts equal girl’s restroom.  It’s not ideal, but neither is a six-year-old trapped in the wrong body.  Nothing about this situation screams sunshine and happiness.  The school did what they thought was right and proper.

Discrimination

In continuing to allow Coy to use female facilities while still physically being a male, the school opens a dangerous door.  What happens when Coy reaches puberty but is still in a dress?  Are we willing to have faith and assume that this sweet child will continue to be a sweet pre-teen and teenager and be respectful, or can we acknowledge that we don’t know what this child will grow up to want and err on the side of safety?  The child’s sexual orientation is not an issue yet, but will be once puberty begins.  I would not want my daughter to be using the same restroom in school as a male student, regardless of what they look and dress like.  I wouldn’t want to risk the very real possibility that some sort of sexual crime could result because of this, be it as serious as rape or an accidental indecent exposure.  I don’t want other students thinking they can change their wardrobe to get access to areas that are restricted to them because of their gender.  I don’t want to open those doors.

It’s a shame that things can’t be cut and dry and that Coy can’t freely use the girl’s bathroom because she identifies as a female.  It’s a shame that the bad behavior of others and the irrational fears of certain people means that schools and similar organizations have to put the wants and needs of many over the wants and needs of one or a small group.  It’s a shame that we have to work so hard to protect the innocence of children, especially when it comes as the expense of another child.  In an ideal world, Coy would be treated as a female 100% in every possible way.  Sadly, Coy is a little boy.  A 6-year-old little boy who is years away from knowing who she is and what she wants in life.  She may be spot on with her desire to be female or she may be going through a phase.  We don’t know and even she may not know completely, not just yet.

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We have to be respectful of Coy and allow her to embrace life as a female, but we cannot do it when it puts others in any type of danger, physical or mental.  Until we progress to the point where people don’t act as if the LGBT community is tainted or sick, we have to be respectful of parents who don’t want their young children exposed to it until they are older and matured.  We have to be respectful of the very reasonable fear parents have of allowing a male in a bathroom with females.  We have to allow schools to make certain hard decisions and respect those decisions when they are correct, even if they upset us.  The Mathis family is understandably upset, but what they have to grasp is that the school made the best call they could.  Unless they have a better idea that protects everyone, they should not be critical.

In my lifetime, I want to see discrimination against the LGBT community (and elsewhere) come to an end.  I want all consenting adults to have the right to marry who they choose, I want hate groups to vanish, and I want to see people judged on character and not on who they fall in love with.  But until we get to the point where we are all understanding and tolerant, we are going to run into problems like the one Coy and her family are facing.  One day, I hope schools will be properly equipped to handle a transgendered student in a way that doesn’t exclude them or make them feel different, but we’re not there yet.  Not even close.  But the positive side of this is that the school was obviously trying and obviously understanding.  We should focus on that and begin to build on it.  We’ll get there one day.

 

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About Jamie C. Baker

“Long time no see. I only pray the caliber of your questions has improved.” - Kevin Smith

Posted on February 27, 2013, in News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I’m all for tolerance and all that but to my mind, the biggest issue here seems to be the parents.
    the age 6, how can parents start behaving as if their kid is a sexually identified adult? At that age, one would think the best thing to do would be to go with what nature provided and see what happens from there. Instead this family appears to have made a judgement based on a comment and an attraction to sparkles. Granted, there is probably a lot more than what was printed in the article but the article is all we have to go on at the moment. I have to side with the school on this one and wonder what kind of decisions the parents are making. After puberty, if Coy decides he’s a she, that is different. I’ve seen Glee. I get it. But, c’mon…a six year old?? Seriously? Give the kid some time! jeez!

    • While sex and gender are related, they aren’t interchangeable.

      Also, children do begin the first stage of puberty at around six years old (adrenarche), so while thing don’t usually kick into high gear until the teen years, things are going on at that age.

      As for the school’s decision, everyone is ignoring that the school was probably making the decision that would best protect Coy. Just look at the prevalence of bullying in our schools and incidents of members of the Trans community being attacked if they use the wrong restroom in our adult community.

      As vicious as people think boys are in school, girls are a thousand times worse in the bullying they engage in. Coy would probably end up being a suicide statistic as a teenager if the school did absolutely nothing (and may still, because people suck).

      • I guess when I think puberty, I think body hair and discovering that sex isn’t gross like they once thought it was 🙂
        Girls are horrible. I can recall an adult female freaking out in a restroom (at a club that wasn’t strictly gay but was known for that) because a female came in that looked more manly than she did feminine. I remember how terrible kids were when I was in school. I see how awful people in my building are on a daily basis. The school did they best they could. It’s a shame that it wasn’t good enough for the family, but it was the right call.

    • That’s a good point. I read a bunch of articles with lots of commentary from the parents and it seems as if they are doing more pushing than understanding.
      Kudos for the Glee remark; that made me laugh! 😉

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