Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis are the proud parents of five kids: a 9-year-old girl, a 2-year-old girl, and 6-year-old triplets.
When the triplets were born, it appeared they had two boys, Max and Coy, and one girl, Lily. But by the time the kids were 18 months old, that equation was being called into question.
While Max was the typical boy — his current obsession is dinosaurs — Coy liked princess dresses and high heels. The Mathises tried to appease Coy, buying pink boys' clothes, but by the time the child entered school it was becoming clear that this wasn't just a phase.
Coy threw fits when asked to put on boys' clothes to go on outings. The child was teased by peers when she insisted that she was a girl. One day, Coy came home completely devastated that her teacher had moved her from the "girls' line" to the "boys' line" during a classroom activity.
"She came home and said, 'My teacher doesn’t even know that I’m a girl!'” Kathryn remembers.
That was the last straw. The family headed to the doctor and the psychologist, who told them that they needed to let Coy be herself. Given that Coy had always acted in a feminine matter, no one in the family was particularly surprised or upset.
“I don't think there was any kind of loss of a son," Kathryn says. "We just gained an awesome daughter."
While some would say that 6 is very young to go through such a situation, Kathryn notes that discussions about gender-reassignment surgery or pills that can delay puberty (and the changes to the body that come with it) are still a long, long way off. Right now, they're just letting Coy be Coy.
“I just think back to when I was a child and no one had to tell me I was a girl," Kathryn says. "I knew I was a girl.”
Besides, Kathryn notes, Coy is a triplet, and though her other children were raised under the exact same conditions, neither of the others was transgendered. This, she believes, is innate to Coy.
So in September 2011, the family met with school administrators at Eagleside Elementary School in Fountain to discuss the situation. Kathryn remembers being blown away at how accepting they were of her child.
That year, Coy transitioned to being a girl. She wore girls' clothes, stood in girls' lines and went to the girls' bathroom. It was the happiest Kathryn had ever seen her child. Coy became bubbly and enthusiastic, and her grades shot up. She also made friends who were accepting of her differences. Parents were equally understanding.
So Kathryn says it was a big surprise when school officials contacted her in December to say that Coy would no longer be allowed to use the girls' restroom. Kathryn says she was told that there had been no problems with Coy, but school officials were concerned that problems would crop up later when Coy was in middle school and high school, and they didn't want to set a precedent.
Kathryn called a lawyer, hopeful the situation could be resolved without involving Coy. She asked the school district to allow Coy to keep using the girls' restroom while the lawyers worked out the issue. The district refused. In response, Kathryn has pulled all of her children out of school and is home schooling them.
She's also taking legal action.
Tomorrow, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund will hold a press conference at the Capitol Building to announce the filing of a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division on Coy's behalf. It will be the first case looked at under the Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act involving bathroom use by a transgender person.
In the meantime, Coy is eager to get back to school. She has been mostly separated from her friends, and Kathryn says her daughter is lonely.
In the last few days, however, Coy has had plenty of company — from the media.
Kathryn says she was initially hesitant to bring her story forward, but she eventually felt it was the right thing to do. Coy has appeared on Katie Couric's show and on CNN, and is expected to be featured heavily in local media.
Here's a release that went out Tuesday that promises to up the profile of Coy's story.
Colorado Family to Announce Complaint Alleging School Discrimination Against Transgender Child
Legal Complaint Alleges Six-Year-Old Transgender Girl Denied Access to Girls' Bathrooms at School
DENVER, CO - The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) will hold a press conference on Wednesday, February 27, on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol Building to announce the filing of a Complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division on behalf of a 6-year-old girl who has been barred from using the girls’ bathrooms at her elementary school. For the past year, Coy Mathis, a first-grader at Eagleside Elementary School in Fountain, CO, has used the girls’ bathrooms. In mid-December 2012, the Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 informed her parents that Coy would be prevented from using the girls’ bathrooms after winter break. The District ordered Coy to use the boys’ bathroom, a staff bathroom, or the nurse’s bathroom. This is the first case to challenge a restriction on a transgender person’s bathroom use under Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act.
WHAT: Press Conference
WHEN: Wednesday, February 27, 11:00 am
WHERE: West Steps of the Colorado State Capitol Building, 200 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado
WHO: TLDEF Executive Director Michael D. Silverman; Kathryn Mathis, Jeremy Mathis, six-year-old Coy Mathis and siblings, community members.
WHY: “We want Coy to have the same educational opportunities as every other Colorado student ,” said Kathryn Mathis, Coy’s mother. “Her school should not be singling her out for mistreatment just because she is transgender.”
“By forcing Coy to use a different bathroom than all the other girls, Coy’s school is targeting her for stigma, bullying and harassment,” said Michael Silverman, TLDEF’s executive director, and one of Coy’s lawyers. “Through the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, Coloradans have made it clear that they want all Colorado children to have a fair and equal chance in school,” he added. “Coy’s school has the opportunity to turn this around and teach Coy’s classmates a valuable lesson about friendship, respect and basic fairness.”