Last evening I published Insisting transgender students be put at risk . At the time, I promised to follow that up with two more stories this evening. The first of those stories concerns an attempt in California aimed at preventing that risk as well as angry people who wish to thwart that effort. The second story concerns a situation in Colorado in which a transgender child actually was made a target by a change of policy in her school district.
In both California and Colorado there are actually legal protections from discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of gender identity. Wouldn't it be cool if people understood that a school is part of the very heart of the definition of "public accommodations."
California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has introduced AB-1266, a bill that would give young people the right to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities consistent of the gender with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the sex listed in in the pupil's records.
The religiously conservative Capitol Resource Institute has promised to fight the legislation. They are fantasizing that they are fighting on behalf of students who might "object to sharing bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms with students of the opposite sex."
The CRI calls the legislation "extreme" and "dangerous".
This is really a rare thing, so to make this drastic, radical mandate on the schools for an extremely rare situation is just hijacking the school system.
--Karen England, CRI
If it is so rare, then what is the problem with preparing for it? I suggest that Ms. England is shielding her true motives.
The bill would amend Section 221.5 of the Education Code to add:
(f) A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs, activities, and facilities, including athletic teams and competitions, consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.
Discriminating against transgender people is illegal in California, but supporters of Ammiano's bill say the bill is necessary to ensure that school districts do not deny gender variant students the opportunity to participate in activities and will feel welcome on campus.
We would strongly argue that our nondiscrimination laws would already establish that transgender students should have access to facilities and activities that reflect their gender identity or gender expression, but because they don't go into that level of detail, it's important to clarify this right.
--Masen Davis, Transgender Law Center
Transgender students have discovered, for instance, that after transitioning their records have placed them in physical education classes based on their previous gender.
I felt very humiliated and very ashamed to be excluded from all the other girls. I would even be wearing the girls' gym clothes, and the boys would be very confused why this girl would be forced to be on their team.
--Devon, Northern California
The Transgender Law Center's Ilona Turner says that her office fields calls several times a month from parents whose children have been instructed to use the locker rooms, bathrooms and gym attire which do not conform to their gender.
Often students get assigned to use adult restrooms, but those facilities are generally inconveniently located, causing the students to accumulate tardies and outing them whenever they use those facilities.
Why do we need laws like the Ammiano bill and the recent directive in Massachusetts?
We only need to look at the current incident transpiring in Colorado.
Colorado is another state that supposedly has protections from discrimination for transgender people.
Coy Mathis is 6 years old. She was born male but has declared herself a girl since she was old enough to express herself. She attended school as a girl last year in kindergarten with no issues. But in December, "out of the blue" according to her parents, her parents were informed that she would not be allowed to use the girls bathroom beginning in first grade.
Coy has been using the girls restroom in kindergarten at Eagleside Elementary School. The staff and teachers refer to her by the appropriate pronouns.
But the Fountain-Fort Carson school district changed its policy, requiring transgender children to use the restrooms assigned by sex or the nurse's restroom, or a staff restroom.
By forcing Coy to use a different bathroom than all the other girls, Coy's school is targeting her for stigma, bullying and harassment.
--Michael Silverman, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF)
Kathryn Mathis and her husband Jeremy were shocked, and filed a complaint against Eagleside Elementary with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. Fearing the intense bullying that occurs to children labeled "different," Kathryn and Jeremy decided to home-school Coy.
You see a little girl walk into the boys' bathroom, that's setting her up in an unsafe situation. Or you see her having to walk quite a ways from her classroom to the adult staff bathrooms or the nurse's restroom and you're singling her out when you do that. You're creating a stigma that doesn't need to be created.
Coy is one of triplets.
We started noticing when Coy was about 18 months, as soon as she started expressing herself, she was really expressing that she was a girl. Of course, our thought at the time was that she was a little boy who liked girls' things. It wasn't until she started becoming depressed and anxious that we knew there was something else going on and took her to medical professionals, who then, in fact, told us she was transgender.
The school district defended its actions by doubling down the bigotry: they declared that as Coy gets older it will cause problems to have "him" use the female restroom because of children and parents made uncomfortable by "his presence".
School district attorney W. Kelly Dude (yes, that's really his name) had this garbage gush forth from between his lips:
The decision 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. However, I’m certain you can appreciate that 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.
Dude said that the issue needed to be addressed now, because later it would be "psychologically damaging". Better to psychologically damage the trans kid now, I guess.
It is difficult as an adult to see someone being punished now, even traumatized, for what may happen in the future. There were not any parents objecting to Coy using the girls restroom when the school changed its policy. It changed the policy based on imaginary future complaints of imaginary parents of other students.
I don't know about anybody else, but I find that to be outrageous. The boys in that school may grow up to be rapists, so can't we lock them up now?
Through the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, Coloradans have made it clear that they want all Colorado children to have a fair and equal chance in school. Coy's school has the opportunity to turn this around and teach Coy's classmates a valuable lesson about friendship, respect and basic fairness.
It is not appropriate for the school to place a bulls eye on her back by saying she's so different from every other student that she has to use a bathroom that no other student uses. That is not an acceptable outcome.
We want her to be treated like every other girl at school.
While it’s clear that larger society has yet to adapt to changing definitions of gender and gender roles, school, it seems, should be one place where tolerance and respect are given primacy. If nowhere else, school should be a place where kids can feel comfortable figuring out who they are — a place where they can learn to be comfortable in their own skin.
Every father has a vision of what they want their son to be like, but in this case, Coy is a girl … I don't want her to grow up and regret her horrible childhood. Whatever is best for Coy … is all I want to see.
The parents of Coy Mathis have filed a charge of discrimination with the Colorado Division of Civil Rights. They have chosen to publicize this matter by appearing on a nationally televised show with their child, sharing their point of view with national and local media, and holding a public press conference to announce the filing of the charge. The District firmly believes it has acted reasonably and fairly with respect to this issue. However, the District believes the appropriate and proper forum for discussing the issues identified in the charge is through the Division of Civil Rights process. The District is preparing a response to the charge which it will submit to the Division. Therefore, the District will not comment further on this matter out of respect for the process which the parents have initiated.
--school district statement
Coy had been scheduled to participate with her parents in an episode of the Katie show before they received notification of the change of policy.
The family has now launched a petition at Change.org.
They gave Coy three options for where to go to the bathroom: the boys' room, the staff bathroom with adults, or the nurse's bathroom which is used by sick children.
Coy is not sick, she is not an adult, and she is not a boy.
Coy is a girl. She wears girls' clothes, is addressed by everyone at the school using female pronouns, and has been accepted by her classmates and teachers as a girl. But if the school separates her from all her classmates to use the bathroom, they are singling her out for mistreatment, and teaching her classmates that it's okay to discriminate.