About a Girl: Coy Mathis' Fight to Change Gender

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Days after the Mathis family returned home from the convention, in June, they discovered that the Colorado Civil Rights Division had rendered a verdict on their discrimination complaint against Coy's school. Director Steven Chavez had weighed the case and decided resoundingly in Coy's favor, granting her the right to use the girls' restroom, and coming down hard on the Fountain-Fort Carson school district for depriving Coy of her rights. "Telling [Coy] that she must disregard her identity while performing one of the most essential human functions . . . creates an environment that is objectively and subjectively hostile," Chavez wrote in his scathing 14-page ruling, adding that the school's rationale behind forcing Coy to use a different bathroom is "reminiscent of the 'separate but equal' philosophy."

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The determination is the nation's very first to effectively uphold the rights of trans students to use the bathrooms reflective of their identities, and is being viewed as a landmark case. "This decision happened in the middle of a cresting wave," says Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network. "This case was hugely important to calling attention to the fact that when it comes down to it, schools have an obligation not to discriminate."

Not surprisingly, Focus on the Family's Jeff Johnston expresses disappointment with the ruling. "We don't think it's healthy for girls to be exposed to a boy who thinks he's a girl in a bathroom," Johnston says. And he gently invites the Mathises to seek counseling and stop screwing up their kid. "It's got to be painful to reject your own masculinity. That's painful internal conflict for a child," he reflects. "You want to affirm his essence and the goodness of being a boy – that your masculinity is a good thing, and it comes from God."

The Mathises don't pay such people much mind. "All we ever wanted was for Coy's school to treat her the same as other little girls," says Kathryn. "We are extremely happy with the result." Nevertheless, Coy won't be returning to Eagleside Elementary. The Mathises have moved an hour and a half away to Aurora, where they hope to get a fresh start in the more progressive Denver metropolitan area. The Mathises have been impressed with how receptive Coy's new school district has been in dealing with its first openly trans student, even going so far as to enroll Coy as a girl – in accordance with Coy's new passport, obtained with the help of doctors' letters, which labels her as female – and reassuring the Mathises that no one, other than a few key staffers, would need to know that Coy is transgender. As far as Coy's classmates know, she is just another second-grade girl.

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Coy loves her new school. "She already has tons of friends, all girly-girl friends," says Kathryn. Her parents have been cheered by the way Coy has flourished into such a happy little girl – it feels like a signal that they're heading in the right direction. And at her birthday party in September, under the pink and purple Chinese lanterns that hung from the Mathis' living room ceiling, wearing the Wonder Woman outfit Grandma had sent as a gift, Coy stood with wide eyes as her pink kitty-cat cake appeared, topped with a glowing candle shaped like the number seven. She closed her eyes and made a wish.

This story is from the November 7th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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