This past week, school officials in Colorado decided that Coy Mathis, a 6-year-old girl born with a male body, cannot use female bathroom facilities at her school. The decision to leave Coy dealing with such a divisive and uncomfortable situation is shocking and reflects poorly on Colorado and LGBT protections in the state.
Even though she has used the girls’ bathroom in her previous years in the Fountain-Fort Carson school district, officials now say Coy will no longer be “allowed” to use that facility. Instead, Coy will have to use the boys’ room, the staff bathroom or the nurse’s bathroom, according to CNN. The school is preventing Coy from using the girl’s bathroom because they foresee problems when Coy hits puberty.
Of course, puberty doesn’t start until around age 10, and it appears the school’s officials here are basing their decision on something that isn’t even close to becoming an issue yet. In Texas v. United States (1998), the Supreme Court looked at a another “preventative” measure and quoted an earlier case saying, “a claim is not ripe for adjudication if it rests upon contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all.” School officials need to learn from the Supreme Court’s discretion and realize that this is the wrong time to address the issue.
If, as the school “predicts,” a parent complains about a pubescent Coy using the girls’ restroom, then that would be a much more appropriate time to address the issue. But, thankfully, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act provides protection for members of the LGBT community and the school’s policy would undoubtedly be examined. Nevertheless, it is important to realize that the judgment by the school is predicated on future hypothetical conditions. Stigmatizing a child before she even graduates elementary school is boorish at best.
There is no point in speculating about what might happen in the future. Analyses of the facts right now show that Coy should be afforded equal protection at this time. The current Colorado law as written prevents schools from discriminating against the use of public facilities based on transgender status. This is a clear case of the school district stigmatizing a little girl because she was born a boy.
Right now, with the current set of facts, Coy should be allowed to use the girls’ bathroom and should not face discrimination at school.
The Colorado Girl Scouts faced a similar situation recently when Bobby Montoya, who was also born with a male body, said she wanted to join the Girl Scouts. Though local troops initially banned Bobby from joining, the Colorado Girl Scouts quickly responded, according to Mother Jones, by saying that “if a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”
The school district needs to follow the Girl Scouts’ example. On her official U.S. passport and Colorado ID card, Coy’s gender is listed as female. If the state and the federal government acknowledge that Coy is female, then the school district should likewise accept that Coy is a girl and not stigmatize her for being born with a male body.
Interestingly, the school in question, Eagleside Elementary, is located just outside of Colorado Springs, one of the most conservative areas in Colorado. Colorado Springs consistently takes conservative or libertarian stances on policies in Colorado. The conservatism of Colorado Springs could be a reason for the oddly non-progressive decision by school officials in Coy’s case.
Of course, if it is the political leanings of Colorado Springs influencing policy in the nearby school district, then the officials of the region should reexamine their own philosophies about personal freedoms. The libertarian movement is strong within that area, and classic libertarian philosophy aims to keep the government out of the lives of individuals and allow each person to make decisions that are best for them.
Clearly, the best course of action for Coy is to be allowed to use the girl’s bathroom. The school district should not interfere with the wishes of Coy in this matter.
The issue is not yet ripe for decision or litigation. The school district would do better to ignore the issue right now. Down the road, Colorado hopefully will protect the rights of Coy as a female. After all, Coy probably just wants to be like everyone else her age.
Dan Morgan-Russell is a freshman majoring in international relations.