Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS
Posted by Sunny Bjerk , March 06, 2013
Image from Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund
Housing Works has been devoted to seeing NY pass GENDA (gender expression non-discrimination act) since 2003. And over the last 10 ten years one thing has remained crystal clear: these protections are needed not only in New York, but all across the country.
Take, for example, Coy Mathis’s story. Coy is a six year-old girl who had attended Eagleside Elementary School in Fountain, Colorado for nearly two years, until her parents recently found out that the school was transphobic.
That’s right. See, Coy is a transgender girl, and the school decided that rather than allow Coy use the restroom like any other six year-old girl who needs to use the restroom, that she would only be allowed to use the little boys’ restroom, the staff restroom, or the single-stall restroom in the school nurse’s office.
Coy’s parents, Kathyrn and Jeremy Mathis, decided to remove Coy from Eagleside and homeschool her instead of cowing to these discriminatory decisions. Soon thereafter, they decided to take legal action against the local school district, Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8. Now that word of their case is spreading, Coy’s parents are becoming true transgender rights advocates.
In an interview, Kathryn told reporters that Coy said she was a girl as soon as she was able to talk. “She just kept crying and said she was scared that she was going to grow up and have a beard and a hairy chest and everybody would know she was born a boy.” She hoped that Coy’s particular case would serve as a great opportunity in diversity and acceptance for the elementary school, but has instead turned into another case of LGBT discrimination.
The attorney representing the school district, W. Kelly Dude, has argued that there are no Colorado cases which require public schools to permit transgender students to use restrooms of the gender with which they identify.
But perhaps most insultingly, Dude said it was the threatening presence of male genitals in the restroom that finalized the school’s decision. The school “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.” He went on to add, “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.”
But as GENDA advocates in New York and across country know all-too well, GENDA protections aren’t about the bathroom, whose genitals look like what, or who pees sitting, standing, or at half-mast.
Rather, GENDA protections are about a person’s legal protections and equal access to education, employment, housing, and public accommodations. GENDA is about ensuring that all people, including Coy Mathis, are protected and safe to express their gender identity without fear of discrimination or being banished to the single-stall in the school nurse’s office.
Coy needs her gender expression protected under state law, as do thousands of transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers.
Don’t be fooled by the bathroom panic. GENDA is about protections, not peeing.
Want to help support Coy and her family? Sign their Change.org petition and share it with your networks!
“We are GENDA” is a new feature on the AIDS Issues Update blog, which will feature the voices of transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers and people across the country to illustrate the need for gender expression non-discrimination protections. Have a story to share? Email Housing Works’ Communications Manager Sunny Bjerk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the Update blog on Twitter @housingworks.blog comments powered by Disqus
Help us advocate for the rights of all people living with HIV/AIDS