My Guardian column this week is on the Coy Mathis case, which we’re discussing in a thread below. It’s much more 101 than the post here, since it’s targeted to an audience that may not be familiar with trans issues. A bit:
Coy Mathis is six years old, and she just wants to use the bathroom at school. For a year and a half, it wasn’t an issue. But in December, Coy’s school informed her parents that she would no longer be permitted to use the girls’ restroom. She would have to use the boys’ room, the staff bathroom or the one in the nurse’s office. Why? Because Coy was assigned male at birth.
Coy is one of many transgender and gender-nonconforming children in the United States who face discrimination, harassment and bullying – from adults and kids alike – simply for existing. Coy’s school didn’t report any problems with her using the girls’ room; they barred her from it nonetheless, singling her out for a special bathroom. According to a letter from the school’s lawyer, published by the New York Times:
“As Coy grows older and his male genitals develop along with the rest of his body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls’ restroom.”
Putting aside the creepiness of the school’s concern for one of its student’s genitals, and that in 29 years of using women’s bathrooms, I have never once caught a glimpse of anyone else’s bare crotch, it’s worth asking: why should the potential future discomfort of yet-to-be-discomfited students or parents trump the right of a six-year-old kid to be treated like everyone else?
Discrimination against transgender people is real, pervasive and often legal. And it often builds from ignorance and bias – things that start young.
“What we generally see is that most people support transgender rights,” Michael D Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense Fund, told me. He continued:
“Most people don’t think that a person should be fired from a job because they’re transgender, or thrown out of their home because they’re transgender, or discriminated against at school because they’re transgender.
“When we do see resistance, it’s often something that can be resolved through education and discussion. One of the things we see in transgender rights advocacy is that people just don’t know a lot about transgender people and what it means to be transgender. One of our most effective advocacy tools is education.”
He’s right. While transgender people do face widespread mistreatment, the discrimination doesn’t make much sense. Who, exactly, gets hurt if folks match their physical appearance to their gender identity? Why is it such a problem for a six-year-old girl to use the girls’ bathroom?
The full piece is here.