Women & Gender

Bethel: Discrimination against transgender child challenges Colorado’s existing policies

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement has conquered many milestones since the start of its first gay rights organization, The Society for Human Rights, in 1924. But the effort has not yet completely conquered the discrimination against gay and transgender members of our society.

A recent case in Colorado regarding a transgender 6-year-old girl has garnered much attention. Coy Mathis, who was biologically born a male, identifies herself as a girl. Only in first grade, Mathis is at the center of an anti-discrimination dispute.

Unlike the lesbian and gay communities, the transgender community did not establish its first organization until 1966, in San Francisco. A 2011 article by The American Prospect discussed the lack of funding available to the transgender community in comparison to its gay, lesbian and bisexual counterparts.

In recent years, the media have begun to slowly include gays into cultural discourse. Brands such as Absolute Vodka and Amazon target both heterosexual and homosexual markets.

But while LGBT individuals are making cultural headway, the transgender community is struggling to keep up. It seems as thought the “T” is falling behind in this progressive era.

Mathis’ story is powerful because of her age. After she was told she could no longer use the girls bathrooms at school, her parents took her out of schooling. The administration’s decision was driven by concerned parents of Mathis’ peers, and was a precautionary action for future bathroom usage once Mathis becomes older and more developed.

From the time Mathis was young, she would have anxiety attacks if people treated her as a boy, according to a March 17 article in The New York Times. Her interests, appearance and mannerisms identify her as female. But because she is biologically endowed with male sex organs, her femininity is not perceived as legitimate.

Colorado already has anti-discrimination laws, established in 2008, protecting transgender people. But Mathis’ age is a curveball in this dispute, and will inevitably force the legal system to establish more concrete laws regarding discrimination against transgender students.

Compared to the entire LGBT movement, the transgender student community is extremely small, according to The New York Times article. The fear of harassment by fellow students is a main factor. The fact that Mathis, at 6 years old, is so comfortable with her sexuality, despite how others may feel, is remarkable.

The parents of Mathis’ peers at school, who disapproved of her using the female bathrooms, argued it would negatively affect their children. They did not consider the negative affects it would have on Mathis to be singled out and treated differently.

The American Prospect discussed some of the cruel discrimination against transgender members of our society. It exposed the ignorance some people have, and the fact that many choose to disregard and ignore what they cannot understand. But in true American fashion, the everlasting fight for equality will not let this issue lose momentum.

This case will challenge Colorado’s policy on the matter, and will likely become a stepping stone to open up disputes on similar matters in other states.

If our society is able to reassess some of its cultural norms, progress will be made. The perceptions Americans once had on civil rights and women’s rights have changed drastically, because their meanings were redefined.

Paris Bethel is a sophomore advertising major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at pbethel@syr.edu.

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