Transgender child's parents sue US school

Last updated 05:00 07/03/2013
Coy Mathis, transgender child
AP

POSTER CHILD: Told to live life as a girl, 6-year-old Coy Mathis' parents are now suing her school over toilet access.

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A 6-year-old girl with violet hair has become the unlikely poster child for the transgender people's rights after her United States school barred her from using the girls' bathroom.

The family of Coy Mathis has filed a civil rights lawsuit against her Colorado school over the issue, which has become a cause celebre since hitting the headlines last week, CNN reported.

Coy was born a boy but according to her mother she started expressing herself as a girl at the age of 18 months.

When the behaviour continued, the parents sought medical advice and were told that their child was transgender - a little girl in a boy's body.

Though they diagnosed Coy as having a gender identity disorder, doctors recommended against surgery until she was older.

They told her parents to let her "live life as a girl," Coy's father Jeremy told a press conference announcing the lawsuit.

When the child was in kindergarten at Eagle Elementary School in Fountain, Colorado there was no problem because Coy was allowed to use the girls' bathroom.

But in December school officials told the family Coy could no longer use the girls' facilities and would have to use the boys' or nurse's bathroom instead.

"That wasn't a safe environment for her," said Coy's mother Kathryn Mathis, a nurse.

"It set her up for a lot of harassment and it wasn't a place where we were able to let her be because we want her to be safe and we want her to be healthy."

Their case was taken up by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which hopes that Coy's story will have far-reaching ramifications.

"For many transgender people, discrimination is a daily part of life. Unfortunately for Coy, it has started very early," lawyer Michael Silverman said.

"The world is going to be looking at the school (to) send a message to the world and teach tolerance, fair play and equal rights."

The school said its 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".

Kathryn Mathis is not blind to the possibilities but fears the district will stigmatise her daughter at a crucial stage in her development.

"They're punishing a 6-year-old for something that hasn't happened and may not happen," she told CNN.

"Her body development is none of their business. That is up to her and her doctors in the future.

"Right now we need to be protecting a 6-year-old, not a middle-schooler or a high-schooler."

"We are hoping that they will change their minds and they will teach that you can love somebody and accept somebody even if they are different."

The case has sparked strong reaction on social networks and news sites.

- Deutsche Presse-Agentu

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