Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stop Policing The Bathroom: Coy Mathis

The gender binary is a form of hierarchy and oppression.  Rather than uniting the human race, it divides us into two “distinct” groups. Many cisgender people take it for granted on a daily basis, as they are inherently socialized to do so. Trans* people, however, live in a culture that is vehemently ruled by the gender binary and are subject to a daily battle. 

I recently read an article by Andrea Rael, provided by Huffington Post, in which she discussed the experience of transgender first-grader, Coy Mathis, whose elementary school administration decided to stop letting her use the girls’ bathroom. The rationale? The school “took into account not only Coy but other students in the building, their parents, and the future impact a boy with male genitals using a girls’ bathroom would have as Coy grew older.” The schools decision to forgo mediation with Mathis has stirred up debate over anti-discrimination laws.

Colorado is actually one of sixteen states across the country that has an anti-discrimination law that protects transgender people. This means no discrimination, even in the public school space. Moreover, the laws implications allow for a transgender person to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Coy's school does not seem to agree, and they continue to argue that the Colorado law is unclear. Should I call their bluff? 

According to Rael, Mathis had been attending Eagleside Elementary School in Fountain, Colorado since 2011. The school had initially been supportive of Coy. Only recently in January of this year did the school confront Mathis and her family with the bathroom issue. Her parents decided they would temporarily pull her out school and home school her until the school acknowledged the seriousness of her case.

According to the article, Mathis’s parents have been supportive of her decisions and they have worked to be patient and understanding with her throughout the process. Although they did initially think she was going through a phase, further research and professional advice told them that they needed to support her and how she was. None of my trans* friends had early intervention or parents that were as supportive as Coy’s parents seem to be from an early age. I am affected by this piece because I have heard how complicated and scary the process can be and I wish that if not strangers then parents, atleast, would trust their trans* child. Trust that they know themselves better than anybody else. This is not a phase. This is real life. To hell with cisgender privilege--this is your kid we are talking about. 

At the tender age of six, Coy is in the prime of her formative years, and being able to use the girls’ bathroom is a crucial part of her identity development. Why? Because it is helping her affirm that people know she is a girl. The coming out process is tricky and nerve-wracking. And parental support and backing makes such a big difference. In this case, the Mathis parents filed a complaint against Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 through the Colorado Civil Rights Division in February. Their goal is to convince the school to change its stance, which would allow Coy and future trans* students to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity. Yes, we are arguing about things as “base” as using the bathroom. But, this is where our gender binary system, coupled with heterosexism, has left us today.

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