After interviewing New York Times reporter John Schwartz, I was struck by the similarities between his experiences and those of our local Mathis family. Even though John's son Joseph and the Mathis' daughter Coy have very different backgrounds (see our cover package here), their families have both struggled with systems that lag behind when it comes to issues of sexuality and gender.
Schwartz writes in his memoir Oddly Normal about a therapist Joseph saw on recommendation from his second-grade teacher. "We summoned our courage, walked into her office one day without Joe, and nervously told her we thought he might be gay," Schwartz writes.
"What a terrible thing to say about your son," she responded.
Kathryn Mathis, Coy's mom, says she's constantly having to clear up misconceptions about her transgender daughter.
"If your 5-year-old biologically born girl came up to you and said, 'I'm gonna wear this princess dress 'cause I'm a girl,' you wouldn't say, 'Oh, you're too young to know if you're a girl or not.' People always phrase it as [Coy's] too young to make such a life-changing choice, but it's not ... a choice at all. She doesn't know what transgender is. ... She's always felt like she was a girl and just happens to have a body that doesn't look like a girl."
At 13, Joseph attempted suicide. He survived, but not without scars.
At 6, Coy is just beginning to learn about life's challenges, but she's young enough that it's entirely possible for her to have a very different outcome.