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Coy Mathis and her parents, Jeremy and Kathryn, will be guests on “Starting Point” live Thursday in the 7 a.m. ET hour.
(CNN) — A transgender rights group announced Wednesday that it has filed a discrimination complaint in Colorado on behalf of a first-grader who was born a boy but identifies as a girl.
The filing stems from a decision announced last December by officials at Fountain-Fort Carson School District that Coy Mathis could no longer use the girls’ bathroom at Eagleside Elementary.
Mother Kathryn Mathis said she and her husband were shocked.
“We were very confused because everything was going so well, and they had been so accepting, and all of a sudden it changed and it was very confusing and very upsetting because we knew that, by doing that, she was going to go back to being unhappy,” she told CNN. “It was going to set her up for a lot of bad things.”
Coy was born with male sex organs but has identified as female since she could express herself, her mother said. The child had attended classes during her kindergarten year with no problems and no complaints from anyone at the school, Mathis told reporters at the Colorado Capitol in Denver, where she was flanked by her husband, Jeremy, and four other children.
Mathis family: We need to protect Coy Transgender hoops player takes to court Chaz Bono’s emotional transition 2011: Tammy and Mario: Gender journeys
Wearing a girl’s winter coat, Coy stood behind her mother.
Afraid bullies would make fun of her daughter, Kathryn Mathis said she pulled Coy out of school during winter break.
“In the end, we just want what is the best for Coy,” Mathis said about the complaint. “We want her to be able to go back to school and be treated equally without discrimination and harassment.”
Attorney Michael Silverman of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is representing Coy, said the complaint — which was filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Division — is intended to have an impact beyond a single family or school.
“For many transgender people, discrimination is a daily part of life. Unfortunately for Coy, it has started very early,” he said, adding that the complaint is a “test of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act.”
“The world is going to be looking at the school,” he said, which can “send a message to the world and teach tolerance, fair play and equal rights.”
A girl’s life
For most of the past year, Coy has dressed as a girl.
Coy’s passport and state-issued identification recognize her as female.
Transgender kids: Painful quest to be who they are
Kathryn Mathis said she got a call “out of the blue” from the school in December saying that Coy could use the boys’ bathroom, gender-neutral faculty bathrooms or the nurse’s bathroom, but not the girls’ facilities.
The district “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,” a letter the family’s attorney received in December said.
“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.”
In a statement Tuesday, the district’s attorney, W. Kelly Dude, said: “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.”
“It’s sad that the Mathis family had to file a civil rights complaint in order for their daughter to be treated equally,” said Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, in a statement. “The students clearly aren’t the only people at this school who need more education.”
A little-studied group
Transgender children experience a disconnect between their sex, which is based on their anatomy, and their gender, which includes behaviors, roles and activities, experts say.
For the general public, transgender identity may be a new concept, though many might recall Chaz Bono, the child of entertainers Sonny and Cher. Born female, Bono underwent a transition in his 40s to become a man. He wrote in his book “Transition” that, even as a child, he had been “aware of a part of me that did not fit.”
He appeared last year as a man on “Dancing with the Stars,” in part, he said, to destigmatize being transgender.
Being transgender no longer a mental ‘disorder’ in diagnostic manual
Comprehensive data and studies about transgender children are rare. International studies have estimated that anywhere from 1 in 30,000 to 1 in 1,000 people are transgender.
Some children as young as age 3 show early signs of gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder, mental health experts who work with transgender children say.
These children are not intersex — they do not have a physical disorder or malformation of their sexual organs. The gender issue exists in the brain, though experts do not agree on whether it’s psychologically or physiologically based.
Many transgender people report feeling discomfort with their gender as early as they can remember.
Transgender job seekers face uphill battle
Gender identity is often confused with sexual orientation. The difference is that “gender identity is who you are, and sexual orientation is who you want to have sex with,” said Dr. Johanna Olson, a professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Southern California, who treats transgender children.
Children around age 3 are probably not interested in sexual orientation, she said. But experts say some children who look like they will be transgender in early childhood turn out to be gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Differences in schools
School policies toward transgender students vary across the United States.
In New York, for example, the law says students can’t be discriminated against on the basis of their gender identity.
But in Maine, a court ruled in November that a school district did not violate a transgender student’s rights when she was told she couldn’t use the girls’ bathroom.
Gender nonconformity is not a disorder, group says
Dude, the Colorado school district’s attorney, has said there is nothing in that state requiring public schools to permit transgender students to use restrooms intended for the gender with which they identify.
He added that the Fountain-Fort Carson School District adheres to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act in all respects: “Coy attends class as all other students, is permitted to wear girls’ clothes and is referred to as the parents have requested.”
She also has easy access to bathrooms other than the girls’, Dude said.
Coy’s case will be the first to challenge a restroom restriction under the state’s anti-discrimination act, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund said.
For now, the first-grader is being home-schooled.
Girl Scouts accept transgender kid, provoking cookie boycott
Reaction to Coy’s story
CNN’s online audience has responded to this story with a range of questions and comments, with many saying the child is too young to comprehend gender differences. Mostly, posters said they felt sorrow for Coy as a child who is struggling.
“Just let the kid use the gender-neutral bathrooms. When he/she is a teen, if he is still convinced he is a girl, maybe then you can get into it with the school,” said commenter EDM.
“This kid is going to have a hard enough life if he really is transsexual, why start fighting battles now, when he should just be blissfully ignorant”?
Transgender teacher sues school for alleged discrimination
Commenter AlawJ said the story left a “negative impression of the parents.”
“My rash view may be unfair, but I remember being that age and have helped raise 9 nieces and nephews. One wanted to be a firetruck and ran around making truck noises. Another one of the boys liked to play dress up with the girls,” AlawJ wrote. “My fiance’s little brother always wore dresses as well. But, at the end of the day, the parents are there to be the adults and make decisions for them.
“I also am a little weary when you read a story where the parents are filing lawsuits for their 6 year old child’s rights.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story quoted certain reader comments that were harshly critical of Coy’s parents. We removed these comments because we decided they did not increase understanding of this complex and personal issue.
CNN’s Cristy Lenz and Madison Park contributed to this report.


  • ... says:

    look ya nuh!! :travel mi read 1 paragraph kmt dem need fi stop. a child only concern at that age is being a child how sexuality come in? unless it is being taught, drummed into their head

  • Foxy Lady says:

    It’s not uncommon at all. There are many genetic anomalies that manifest themselves in different ways, gender identification is only one of such. Excessive production of estrogen along with other biological anomalies. I would hate to have such a child, trapped in the wrong body, the ridicule, discomfort and self esteem issues, must be unbearable. For these individuals it’s not about sexual orientation as much as it is gender identification even prior to any thought of sexual persuasion. I sympathize with these kids.

  • ... says:

    Fozy mi nuh know mi jus old fashion I guess, maybe blind, biased or something but I honestly reflecting on children I interact with in the past & present & at 3 I don’t see them doing boy stuff or girl stuff per se I honestly only notice them doing universal kids stuff. I have been labeled homophobic so maybe my phobia blinding me.

  • Foxy Lady says:

    Dotty, as Jamaicans, we are all intrinsically homophobic which is why I am baffled at the large influx of gays and the overt acceptance of it. I am not saying beat or kill them, but I don’t think it’s natural in our community, it’s just that the men have lost themselves and gotten so weak they do anything for a dollar even if it means being another man’s bitch.

    In regards to the above, you remember as kids, there would be that one little boy we would call a cissy? We didn’t really know certain things back then and then the culture would make the parents suppress or beat it out of him. Some of us go through our tomboy stage and then hit latter teenage years and fell in love with dresses and heels, some could never warm up to or even walk in the heels?

    I think the difference is, it is unacceptable in our culture, or was back then so those urges or inclinations would have to be suppressed for fear of the beatings, especially for a boy. White people on the other hand are enablers and I have my own share of prejudices so I am not sure if it’s good or bad.

  • Met says:

    mi neva si no baby express a sexual gender at 18 months yet…shim/she well prime

  • Foxy Lady says:

    Met you know people’s stories are subjective. At 18 months a baby probably has a vocabulary of at most 15 words, mama, dada, my, baba, etc so that’s almost an impossibility. People tend to embellish their stories when they wish to get a point across which unwittingly takes away from the very point they were attempting to make. Nonetheless, I believe there are legitimate cases of gender misidentification (I think I just made that up), although I also believe that many children are confused with their own identification and are swayed and enabled in their confusing. My 16 year old cousin who is a virgin told me that she thinks she’s a lesbian. She’s never had sex, yet she FEELS this way. I just hissed my teeth and told her she’s been watching too much Tila Tiquela. Prom night I dressed her and did her make up and warned her not to go lose her virginity in the back of no car.
    These kids are crazy nowadays.

  • Foxy Lady says:


  • Met says:

    Foxy gay has become the style of the times..mi a wait this one out

  • PhantomPhoenix says:

    18 months is bull this oman wanted a likkle girl and may can’t breed again decide fi tun de likkle bwoy inna gal. One news article featured them and me would a lock de likkle long hair boy outta a de girls bathroom to…the doctor should be $**t for doing these procedures on babies.

  • Bless! says:

    i was hoping you would put this story up! i live in denver and saw her on the news ystrday, there is no way you woud say that is a boy, she looks all the way like a girl, she said she is a girl…and i believe her!! I always believed its a born trait, i have a boy family memeber that from a baby just love all things for girls, he would play w/dolls, and dress up and so on, he is 7 and i believe he will be gay. His adult male family members wld yell at him for picking up a girl toys all time, his mom finally told them to leave him alone and let him do what makes him happy, why should the child be miserable because he rather play with a barbie instead of cars….and i agree! if he turns out to be gay, i will know for sure it came from birth and was not taught…and i love him the same way, like crazy!!!


  • murasaki..lazy fi sign innnn says:

    They should make a bathroom with a question mark on it for those in transition…I believe these parents are out looking for fame rather than trying to resolve the issue with the school.

  • murasaki..lazy fi sign innnn says:

    do any of you remember the story that Met ran about the youngest person to have a sex change in the UK REGRETTING his/her decision when the teenage years came on and wanted to change back?

  • Me says:

    @foxy lady you are a very intelligent person. One of the best comparison is to remind us that as kids playing there was always one little boy who we refer to as “cissy”. I think that eighteen months might be too young to identify, however I do believe that some kids are born that way.

  • Ms.B says:

    So true Foxy! Not only is it real it’s recognized by the scientific community and with supporting evidence. Although kids can express a gender preference at an early age most are usually neutral that is y only at a certain age and after living in the chosen sex can someone change their gender. I don’t mean by surgery only but as in they get a new identity , papers – new certificate in their new gender.

  • MURASAKI says:

    I would be curious to find out at what age they started dressing the child as a girl?

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