Growing Pains: The Trouble with Colo.’s Gender-Bending Civil-Rights Ruling

by Ian Tuttle

A troubling case out of Colorado: Fox 31 Denver reports that the Colorado Civil Rights Division has ruled that transgender first-grader Coy Mathis, who was born a boy but identifies as a girl, was the victim of discrimination when Eagleside Elementary School barred her from using the girls’ bathroom. The ruling found that the ban “creates an environment that is objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating or offensive.”

Coy’s parents say that their child “gravitated to girl things” at just 18 months, and at the age of five, those preferences having continued, they “socially transitioned” their son to a girl, growing out her hair and changing pronouns.

Mental-health experts call Coy’s condition “gender dysphoria” — when a person’s biological sex and self-identification do not match. Its causes are unknown.

Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, in which Eagleside Elementary School is located, reportedly sent a letter to Coy’s legal defense team, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, saying, “The district’s 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.”

That reasonable consideration seems to have escaped Colorado’s civil-rights enforcers, whose view of the situation suggests that Coy lives in vacuo. But any assessment of her unusual situation must take into consideration the fact that it does create difficulties for those around her — not because they are bigots, but simply because they are aware of the psychological and physiological differences between girls and boys.

Kathryn Mathis says, “All we ever wanted was for Coy’s school to treat her the same as other little girls.” But while any mistreatment should be fiercely condemned, Coy is, well, not like “other little girls.” Under the guise of “civil rights,” Colorado has refused to make rather obvious and important distinctions, and opened itself up to thornier dilemmas in the future: Should Coy be able to use the women’s changing rooms at the mall? The girls’ locker rooms in high school? Should she compete as a male or female athlete?

There is a place for discussion of civil rights here, but Coy’s situation is more complicated than shallow appeals to social justice allow.