Family Matters

A 6-Year-Old Boy Becomes a Girl: Do Schools Need New Rules for Transgender Students?

Parents of a transgender girl complained when their daughter, born a boy, was told to use the boys' bathroom

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courtesy of Mathis family

Coy Mathis, 6, a transgender girl who is banned from using the girls' bathroom at school

A year ago, when she was in kindergarten in Fountain, Colo., Coy Mathis became a girl. Until that point, Coy — born a boy — had resisted the boyish t-shirts and jeans that her parents laid out for her, hated the boy’s backpack she had to carry to school. She wanted to wear tutus and princess dresses, to grow her hair long, to slip into pink Mary Janes.

“I am a girl,” she told her parents starting at age 3. After visits to a pediatrician and a psychologist who advised her parents, as mom Kathryn Mathis puts it, “to let her live as who she was,” they finally did. Three months after kindergarten began, Coy transitioned from being a boy to living as a girl.

Kindergarteners are pretty forgiving folks, so they accepted that Coy now wore dresses with leggings and used the girls’ bathroom. But in December, Coy’s elementary-school principal issued an ultimatum from the school district: Coy could no longer frequent the girls’ bathroom; she would have to head to private bathrooms reserved for teachers or sick children — or enter the boys’ bathroom.

Coy’s parents presented the school with a copy of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, which protects transgender people’s right to use a bathroom that matches their gender identity. The school didn’t budge, so the Mathis family pulled Coy out to homeschool her and teamed up with the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund to file a complaint with the state Division of Civil Rights. The school district has until mid-March to respond.

The unusual case points up the need for schools to discuss whether transgender students may need accommodation — or entirely new policies. Might a boy who identifies as a girl and plays on the school tennis team have an advantage over her teammates? Will transgender girls go out for varsity football?

(MORE: Gender-Free Baby: Is it O.K. for Parents to Keep Their Child’s Sex a Secret?)

Sixteen states have laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. But no one tracks how many schools have official policies on how to treat transgender students, says Michael Silverman, executive director of the Fund and one of the Mathis family’s attorneys. “In most situations when school districts are presented with appropriate transgender information, they tend to want to do the right thing,” he says. “We have always been able to resolve the situation.”

Until now. This week, Coy’s school district, Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, issued a statement that it “firmly believes it has acted reasonably and fairly with respect to this issue” and is preparing a response to the family’s formal complaint.  Silverman is hopeful that Coy’s situation will raise awareness of the need for schools to formulate more comprehensive gender-discrimination policies. “It’s an emerging civil rights issue that we’ll need to address,” he says. 

Meanwhile, Coy, 6, has become a media darling, flitting from Katie to CNN. It was not her parents’ intention. “We don’t want to put ourselves out there for the kinds of harassment and speculation that come along with media attention but at the same time the school stigmatized her and we really felt we needed to hold them accountable for what they were doing,” says Mathis, 27, a professional photographer and mother of five.

She and her husband have also been confronted with questions about how someone as young as Coy can be sure about her gender identification. But it’s not unheard of for children who are 6 — or younger — to express uneasiness with their gender. Still, it can be difficult to figure out which children are simply testing boundaries or having fun with pretend play — boys clickclacking around in their mothers’ high heels, for example — and which truly feel they’ve been born into the wrong body. “It’s normal for children to want to break out of gender boxes when they’re little,” says Diane Ehrensaft, director of mental health at the Child and Adolescent Gender Center in San Francisco and author of Gender Born, Gender Made. “But transgender children have a need to say, I’m not the person you think I am.”

(MOREThe ‘Sissy Boy’ Experiment: Why Gender-Related Cases Call for Scientists’ Humility)

The best thing parents can do is respect their kids’ gender preferences. “I’m not saying it’s easy to be a transgender child in our culture, but it’s a lot easier than trying to be a boy when you know you’re not,” says Ehrensaft. “Once parents get on board, the children calm down, they are happier, they relax into themselves.”

That’s exactly what happened with Coy. When her parents were forcing her to cut her hair short and shun skirts, she acted depressed and rebellious. “As soon as she switched to her true identity, she started making friends and her grades went up,” says her mother.

At 6, of course, changing gender is as easy as changing clothes. Around age 11, Coy can take medication that blocks puberty. Hormones may be offered at around age 16, along with a visit to a gender specialist to determine if Coy fully understands the implications of undergoing gender-reassignment surgery.

Mathis and her husband have been reading books and canvassing transgender children and adults, asking them how their experience could have been improved in an effort to smooth Coy’s transition. Even after a year, they’re still adjusting to having four girls and a boy instead of three girls and two boys. Says Mathis: “I don’t think anybody ever expects to have a transgender child.”

(MOREBeing Transgender Is Still Widely Misunderstood)

94 comments
LisaCecelin
LisaCecelin

I feel like the child is too young to determine its gender. I used to have boys that i played barbies with and I used to play GI Joes with them. I think the child should be considered male until he is a certain age, where he understands what exactly it means and if he really is transgender. As a child I don't think he really understands what the differences really are between a boy and a girl and he does have several sisters, it would be very easy for him to think he wants to be like them.

Odindis
Odindis

@LisaCecelin Did you read the part about how he was depressed and had behavioral and school problems until he was allowed to live as "she" felt to be natural for her?   My brother played with a baby doll, but never wanted to be a girl.  It's not the same thing.  If they had done to her what you think is right, it would have denied her own intuitive process, cut her off from the flow of her own sense of self, and forced her to live a lie from an early age.  These parents did the right thing for their child.

john1513
john1513

No quotes from the father?

loverboy012609
loverboy012609

Labels destroys who we are and it doesn't who or what we are. We just humans who need to use the restroom like others. So when we place labels on children that is how they see themselves and society doesn't. Well! the only ones who understand a transgender is a transgender no one else even if you think you do understand you don't. But Thanks, for standing up for and supporting us for being just that human like you.

AlexC.
AlexC.

Bravo for her parents for not only accepting their child for who she wants to be, but also for going above and beyond in sticking up for her.  THAT is what good parenting looks like. Beautiful.

pakorasandpasta
pakorasandpasta

I thought the goal was to NOT have sexual stereotyping.  Why does this boy have to be a "girl" because he wears tutus and has long hair?  Why can't he be a boy in a skirt?  Oh, right, because we are still bound by stereotypes - even the parents and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education fund folks, and those stereotypes have been passed on to this sweet child.  I read nothing in this article about "masculinised genitalia" and assume this child has a penis.  According to this article, the ONLY reason this child self-identifies as a girl is that he prefers what our society and his parents have taught him are "girl" clothes.  Do away with the stereotype and you lose the conflict.  I am more concerned about the parents' taking him on a publicity tour.  If you're going to teach your child to be who he is - a boy who likes skirts and long hair, then you're going to have to teach him that that's okay and normal and to hell what other people think.  Presenting him to the public to talk about how different he is has the opposite effect.  Poor kid.  Put on your dance clothes and go to the park with your friends!  You are not a freak show to be paraded in front of the world.

AlexC.
AlexC.

Well the article mentions that Coy herself had identified as a girl from quite early on.  Her parents seem to be wonderfully supportive, and if she somewhere down the road decided that she no longer wants to identify as a girl, then I'm sure they would be just as supportive.  They really just seem to be going based off of their child's best interest at this point, no need to get your knickers in a bunch..

ZoeEllenBrain
ZoeEllenBrain

I wish people knew some facts that haven't been publicised.


1 in 500 women - meaning 1 in 500 schoolgirls - have CAH - Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia.
CAH causes masculinisation of genitalia. Sometimes almost indetectable, sometimes into a full phallus.

There have been and will always be thousands of schoolgirls with masculinised genitalia in the US school system at any one time. There always have been.

In more old-fashioned days, a fuss wasn't made over this. But now the issue with Trans kids - a different issue but also involving girls with masculinised genitalia - has been politicised by what can only be described as a hysterical mob, it's now time to bring this fact to your attention,.

theogirl
theogirl

Ok what you are saying is so blatantly false and misguided. I understand that you want to stand up for transgendered people but your tactic of claiming that XY as male is just plain wrong is ludicrous. XY is indeed the male sex chromosome. The other chromosomal makeups that you've listed are abnormalities and all come with some type of sexual dysfunction and/ or sterility (some are more severe than others), but still the normal/proper make up for a male sex chromosome is xy and the normal/proper make up for a female sex chromosomes is xx. Any other derivative that you find other than that is an abnormality. No matter how frequent you see it,  these are still classified as chromosomal abnormalities. Irregardless, everybody deserved respect no matter what their genetic make up is, but the stance that you are using to combat bigots and misinformed people is logically heavily flawed. 

ZoeEllenBrain
ZoeEllenBrain

Maybe this might aid understanding. It over-simplifies a bit, but captures the essence.


Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF Endocr Dev. 2010;17:22-35

The fetal brain develops during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. However, since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which may result in extreme cases in trans-sexuality. This also means that in the event of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.


ZoeEllenBrain
ZoeEllenBrain

@yourmathsolutions@ZoeEllenBrainUm..  haven't got the faintest idea what you're talking about re blocking.

"They are theorizing that there is one, but this study did not prove it.  Why didn't they find one?"

That's not the way science works. We found evidence of a link. In fact, in thousands of papers, we've found evidence of a link. We're now pretty sure there is a link, we've not come up with any explanation for the data if there is no link in fact.

Much as we're pretty sure that if an apple comes off a tree, it will fall down.

We're about as sure of this as we are of the germ theory of disease, but less sure than that the sun is a ball of hot gas.

Individually, each experiment suggests a link. Overall, they "prove" it, not to 100% certainty, but over 99.99999%.
We can't be certain that there's a link in every case, just that we've never found a case where there is no link, and we've looked at tens of thousands. There might be one though, we can't rule it out.




yourmathsolutions
yourmathsolutions

If a six year old boy told his parents he was a dog, is it right to pretend that he is and ask the school to feed him dog food and treat him as if he was a dog? No, because he is a human being. Gender is determined at birth. Your DNA is either male or female. Every cell in your body is coded either male or female. If the mind is confused on the issue you fix the mind not the body. It is your mind that is broken.  What this boy's parents are doing to him is abusive!  Honestly, where on Earth has good sense gone???  Can nobody think clearly anymore?  

Kenita
Kenita

I went to elementary school in a Buffalo, NY suburb with identical twin brothers who later transitioned.  We were only about 8-9 years old and they were my friends.We lost contact after they left our school, and I heard that they had a horrible time in middle school and high school, victims of contact bullying. At such a young age, Roman and Gabriel Pickett were incredibly feminine in every way, the way they walked, talked, their mannerisms, in fact Jenny Jones featured them on her show in the early 90's.  It broke my heart when I found out that Roman / Chanelle was murdered when she was just 23 years old. Her killer only got 2 years in prison, his lawyer used the "Trans-panic" defense, even though her killer frequented the night club that was a hot spot for the alternative crowd.  He even wrote Chanelle love letters and witnesses said that they were dating for weeks. For her killer to use the excuse that he didn't know that Chanelle was a man, is pure fiction!  Please read the article.http://www.gendertalk.com/articles/archive/globcp.shtml

Sadly, I recently heard that the surviving sister, Gabriel / Gabrielle was also murdered in June 2003.  I was in shock and heartbroken.  Twin brothers at birth, twin sisters in death.  Beautiful souls throughout their lives.  May they rest in peace.  

So because of my personal experience, I wish that our society would be less judgmental. Many hurtful people say that children like Chanelle and Gabrielle are brainwashed by their parents or they CHOOSE to do this.  Children do not choose to be different and to stick out in a crowd.  They were beautiful little GIRLS, not beautiful little boys.  What they were in their hearts and minds was real.

tlahwright
tlahwright

I know how this child feels, I am Vietnamese even though I feel French, I wish people would accept me as French!

Kathymiller94
Kathymiller94

Does this child have XX genes or XY.  If the child has XX she is a female. If it is XY, no sex change operation will up grade him to female as he will still have the inferior X Y genes. thus still the misfortune of being male.

didjesbydan
didjesbydan

Some of the comments on this are quite disgusting.  It makes me glad to be part of a more informed generation.

thewholetruth
thewholetruth

You do not get to pick your parents,Gender,race,height, etc...you live with what you were given.  This case may border on child abuse in  allowing a 6 year old to determine "What he/she" is.  This child could have been very normal in just a few years had the parents left the child alone. 

breindrein
breindrein

I'm open to teenagers deciding what sex they would like to be, but a child so young? Courts say that children cannot be held criminaly responsible for crimes since they are too young and they cannot make informed decision. So even if they want sex with a man/woman (18+) then it is rape since they cannot make an informed decision regarding physical intimacy like that. So how can a child so young be considered as making an informed decision about their sex? I've seen boys playing with dolls, wearing make-up and when they grow older they grow into standard hetro men. Naturally the parents could have decided to take his behaviour seriously and created an environment for him to grow up as a woman and he would have fallen into the role. Parents have a huge amount of power to shape children. I think at that young age specifically the actions of a child should not be acted in such a decisive manner yet. It might be overcorrections.

ChristIsLord11
ChristIsLord11

Judgement is coming on this perverse and wicked generation...

KellyGray
KellyGray

As someone who is trans, I am going to offer a little insight. The human mind has a sex of its own (think about it like this... boys think differently then girls), and studies have shown that trans individuals have mental structures similar to someone of the sex they say they are. While no one knows exactly why this is, one theory is that hormones in the womb alter how the brain arranges itself. 


The thing most people do not know about people who are trans... Left untreated (IE, raised as they are assigned at birth), half attempt suicide by their 20th birthday. While I know many people might not see this as a problem, for people who are trans, this is a real issue. Odds are you are going to get lower quality medical care over your lifetime, have a harder time getting a job (or keeping a job), a harder time finding a partner (and higher risks of domestic abuse then cisgendered [non-trans] individuals). If I had the power to be perfectly content as my birth gender, I'd gladly take it. It is a hard road, but now looking back, I am happier having done it.

KatherynFisher
KatherynFisher

Rather than simply listening to some shrink and letting the child have their way, the parents need to have medical testing done to determine if this child is genetically a boy or a girl. If the child proves after medical testing that they are more female than male, then have surgery done to make the child male, and their legal identity changed to reflect that idenity. If the child proves to be more male than female, then he needs to learn to accept the sexual idenity he was born with. Period. Until this happens he needs to dress and use the restroom for the identity he was born with. This may seem harsh and old fashioned but so be it. I am over 50 and sick of the gender bendin,g and kids being allowed to make their own rules and dictating to parents that is going on in our society today.

PhilRay
PhilRay

There is no hope for humanity.


This child was deliberately conditioned this way by his parents. They tried experimental parenting due to their hatred of boys. They openly admitted that this was intentional.


The whole lot of you are completely insane. Someday you will all get what  you richly deserve.

PaulAjimebueEkun
PaulAjimebueEkun

AS AFRICAN, I WILL BEAT THE HELL OUT OF THE CHILD, HE WILL SURELY COME TO HIS SENSE. NONSENSE

Kenita
Kenita

@PaulAjimebueEkun Dear Sir,

I teach English as a Second Language and I am horrified by your response.  Last year in Buffalo, NY a 9 year old boy was beaten to death by his Somali step father.  The step father tied the young boy to a chair and beat the boy to death with a wooden rolling pin in the basement of his home.  It sends chills up my spine to read your comments.  Now, you have led us to believe that you too would KILL your son or daughter, much like the Somali man killed his step-son last year.   Let's hope and pray that you change your mind.  I highly recommend that you read and educate yourself.  There was a very informative show a few years ago on 20/20, it was called "My Secret Self."  Please sir, do yourself and your children a favor, watch the show with an open mind.  God bless you and show you mercy.

ahsila
ahsila

Thank you for writing this.  It is incredibly important that trans children are supported medically, emotionally and socially. Yes, schools need policies to protect the rights of trans kids.  Unfortunately they are misunderstood and treated as Coy and her family are in many places across the country.  Every child has a right to be happy and safe at school. Children who are not happy and safe have a difficult time learning and isn't that what school is all about?  Denying a trans child the right to use the restroom that corresponds with his or her gender identity sets this child up for ridicule and harassment by peers and can create health problems.  Children spend most of their time at school and it needs to be a nurturing and accepting environment for all.  Adults are placing far too much emphasis on what bathroom this child is using rather than providing a supportive and inclusive educational environment for children with differences.  I applaud the Mathis family for standing up for what is right and hope that all schools can take a lesson from this. And with the question about sports.  yes, trans children have a right to access *any* activity they want to participate in *as* the gender they identify with..Trans kids don't live in this way just for kicks...they aren't doing this to get a "leg up" in sports...those claims and ideas are ridiculous.  They are who they are and need to be respected as such just like everyone else.

fatality1515
fatality1515

Hopefully they will have a real cure soon for all those perverts -homos, transvestites, pedophiles etc etc..

RebelsInKontrol
RebelsInKontrol

@fatality1515 Homosexuality and transvestites aren't even in the same category as pedophilia. Pedophilia actually harms people, whereas the other two don't at all. Way to be an ignorant jerk.

Peace_2_All
Peace_2_All

 @PhilRay 

You Said:  "What if people start arguing that the only reason children get traumatized by sexual contact is that society keeps telling them it's wrong!"

OMG...Are you friggin' kidding? We call that in logic... argument and debate a "slippery slope" fallacious argument on your part.  It is a huge "straw-man" red-herring argument.

You are so-far off base that your argument isn't even relevant nor is it on the same logical-level to make any sense.

And... you're convinced "Pedophilia will be *legal* in the US in less than 20 years."

Sure... yeah... that's gonna happen, buddy.  Right.

You and fatality1515 have got to be *trollin'*  no one can be **that** stupid.

Peace...



fatality1515
fatality1515

@RebelsInKontrol

Yes they are in the same category, it's a mental illness -either a chemical imbalance or bad brain wiring... and they do cause harm by spreading STDs and immorality, perversion in the society. For proof just take a look at the homos at your local gay sauna or on craigslist in the "men looking for men" section, better yet, go on xtube.

Peace_2_All
Peace_2_All

@fatality1515 

Please...fatality1515, you really can't be *that* ignorant and stupid, are you? Or are you just trolling?

You are arguments are specious.  

You Said: "And they do cause *harm* by spreading STDs and immorality, perversion in the society, etc..."

Hate to burst your bubble of ignorance, but...Gay couples aren't necessarily doing anything that many, many hetero couples all over the world are doing as well as part of their own sex lives.  But, I think you already knew that, right ?

And... STDs are spread in the hetero community as well, so let's get rid of that argument too.

And as for immorality... I'd love to hear specifically what exactly is *immoral* in your world that, again... isn't already being done by hetero couples?

And, how exactly are they(gays) **spreading** immorality? Afraid you'll catch the "gay disease" are you? LOL... ;-)

Peace... 

NatalieHammerNoblitt
NatalieHammerNoblitt

So proud of this family for doing everything they can to learn from professionals and others who have been in their child's shoes. This child will have a great advantage because they are so supportive. Sad that the school can't teach tolerance. I have a child with special needs and it is hard to be in the school system. It is so easy for them to try to put kids in neat little boxes and not see that each child has different needs. My son uses a walker and his school has no ramp, lift or elevator.

rpearlston
rpearlston

@PhilRay  What you really mean is that this child would have no hope if she were being raised b yourself or someone with beliefs similar to your own.  Thank goodness she has parents who are compassionate and want to help her be the person whom she is hard-wired to be.  

BTW, although being transgendered is not in any way, shape or form the same thing as being homosexual, you cannot pray this away any more than you can "pray away the gay".  In fact, if you were going to pray for anything in this situation, it ought to be for your own enlightenment.

Jaykel
Jaykel

@PhilRay @rpearlston They socially transitioned her to a girl *AFTER* seeking professional guidance on the matter.  Reading comprehension is quite the skill.