Not So Elementary: A Trans Student's Fight With Her School

When a Colorado school told a 6-year-old transgender girl she could no longer use the girls’ bathroom, her parents fought back.



Six-year-old transgender girl Coy Mathis (center, in maroon) and her family took the stage with GLAAD President Graddick, who encouraged everyone to sign a petition urging Coy's Colorado elementary school to continue allowing her to use the girl's restroom.

Since 2008, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act has prohibited gender identity–based discrimination in public accommodation. On December 26, TLDEF sent a letter to school district superintendent Cheryl Serrano explaining as much.

“CADA defines ‘public accommodation’ to include ‘an educational institution’ like Eagleside,” reads the letter. “It defines ‘sexual orientation’ to include ‘transgender status.’… In short, Colorado law protects Coy and other transgender students from anti-transgender discrimination at Eagleside and other public schools in the state.”

The complaint was formally filed February 15. By March 7, the district had rejected offers for mediation, increasing the likelihood that the issue will go to trial. Therefore, Coy’s case “is the first test of Colorado’s antidiscrimination law as it relates to access to bathrooms for transgender people,” says Silverman. Access to bathrooms has been a contentious issue in the fight for transgender equality. Last year transgender college students in Arkansas and Pittsburgh fought for the right to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity. In 2012 a transgender third-grader in New Hampshire won the right to use the girls’ restroom, but Mathis may be the youngest person to take on the issue, which may work to her advantage.

 “It’s never too late for the school district to do the right thing and to teach a powerful lesson to its students, to the community, and to the world, about tolerance, respect, and fair play,” Silverman says. Coy’s mother agrees.

“We’re not asking for any special treatment for Coy,” says Kathryn, who has four other children. “We just want her to be in a safe environment where she’s treated equally.”