Friday Fodder: When adults are overly concerned about which toilet a six-year-old pees into, there’s a problem

130227015108-coy-mathis-story-topWhen adults are overly concerned about which toilet a six-year-old pees into, there’s a problem. With the adults. Not the child. This week a transgender rights group announced that it has filed a discrimination complaint in Colorado on behalf of a first-grader who was born a boy but identifies and presents as a girl. The girl is recognized by the state as a female and has attended elementary school only as a female. She has always used the girls’ restrooms, until this December when she was told that she had to use either the boys’ bathroom or the unisex bathroom in the school office.

I’ve been asked to comment about the legal and civil rights that the little girl has or doesn’t have. I can’t. I don’t live in her state or know her laws. But, I can tell you that I’m sure there are bigger issues in Colorado and the country than where the little girl goes to wash her hands and powder her nose. Adults, the school, the district and the state should focus on those issues and on trying to make this world a better place for everybody, instead of making it a worse place for a first-grader. If you ask me, the school administrators aren’t thinking about their student’s educational, mental or emotional health – they are thinking about her genitalia.  And, that’s disturbing.  http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/27/us/colorado-transgender-girl-school/index.html

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130227154735-dnt-fraternity-helps-fund-sex-change-00004629-story-topThese frat boys at Emerson College helped to restore some of my faith in humanity this week, when they announced that they were raising money to fund “top surgery” for one of their members who is transgender and recently had the surgery declined by his insurance company. “Phi Alpha Tau members, defying the conventional stereotype of a fraternity, launched a campaign on an online fundraising site — Indiegogo.com — with a goal of collecting the $8,100 needed for the procedure, scheduled for May.” They raised more than $16,000.  http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/27/us/massachusetts-fraternity-sex-change/index.html

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Who wants to go to the 2013 Gender Spectrum Conference in Berkeley, CA, this July? I do, I do! Registration opened this week. Click here to learn more and sign up.

The Gender Spectrum Conference is a special weekend where you can:
• Meet other parents and caregivers at various points in their journeys of raising gender nonconforming and transgender children and teens
• Offer your gender nonconforming or transgender child (ages 5 and up) the gift of meeting other children in similar circumstances
• Attend over 40 workshops for adults around relevant topics in the fields of medicine, mental health, education, the law, social issues, and more
• Explore issues specifically focused on children who are gender creative but do not identify as transgender
• Schedule one-on-one time at our Family Support Center with experienced professionals in the areas of medicine, mental health, the law and spiritual guidance

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Who wants to be on TV? I’ve been contacted by an award-winning production company and a top-rated national cable network that are casting for a new reality series that will explore unique perspectives on parenting. They are eager to include a gender nonconforming family. Click here to learn more.

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43 Responses to Friday Fodder: When adults are overly concerned about which toilet a six-year-old pees into, there’s a problem

  1. Dawn Conti says:

    This issue of the poor little gir is just too disturbing.. she was fine till some fool had to make her life miserable….As to the guys trying to raise money to help their transman friend… those young men should recieve the peace prize for their compassion and regognition of the fact, that just because someone is different, does not mean they are a bad person.. young men, I send you all a hug.

  2. Bennett Schneider says:

    I gotta warn anyone thinking about your mention of the reality TV show: think reeeeeeeeeeally carefully. I do not advise exposing any child to national audiences and the rigors (and mind blowing ego warping) or Hollywood. I speak from experience and from being a former teacher of the Kids Program at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institue in West Hollywood. Let your child be prominent in their local community, perform all the theater they want, even do a local news show, but national expose is too extreme for a developing child psyche and the things the circumstances of national recognition and fame exert on even the toughest of adults are far too extreme to subject children to and expect them to come through it normal. There are some rare examples, but the rule of thumb is: keep your kids safe and off TV.

  3. natsera says:

    I don’t know that anyone can answer this question, but from what the parents said, Coy was very definite about being a girl from the time she could express her thoughts. And it made me wonder whether it would be ethical or possible to perform reassignment surgery on one so young. How long does such a child have to wait, while carrying genitals that don’t fit? Should she have to wait until she develops recognizable male features such as a beard and body hair and a deepening voice or starts to go bald? Should her parents be allowed to make that decision for her?

    A little background: I have a transgender friend who didn’t get help until she was in her late 30′s. (She is now 66) She is lucky because she never had much body hair to begin with, but speaks in a strange falsetto, and has a masculine hairline. She had surgery to make her larynx less prominent, but she’s tall, and will never appear completely feminine. She has told me horror stories about what she went through as a child — she tried to “dock” her penis with a rubber band when she was in preschool. Maybe she couldn’t have verbalized her feelings, and I’m pretty sure her parents would not have understood or believed her need to live in a female body, but it seems to me that she has gone through far more than she should have had to. I have seen other transgender adults who also don’t have the true bodies they deserve, and I wonder what the answer is. I would really like to hear others’ thoughts on this.

    • George says:

      Regarding actual surgery, I believe the general idea is to wait until the person is 18 or older, because then they can legally make such a permanent decision. A child’s feelings at six or eight or ten may change by the time they’re fifteen or eighteen. Basically, who we are at ten is not who we are when we’re twenty. Granted, the foundation remains, but the person matures and changes with experience. Major, permanent decisions should wait until maturity.
      Having said that (about surgery), there are many trans children who begin hormone treatments around age ten. Another reason to hold off on surgery is to let the body mature as well, even if hormone therapy sends it in a preferred direction. Or especially if!

      • natsera says:

        Can you tell me more about hormone therapy? Is it possible to inactivate the male hormones, while replacing them with female hormones? Or vice-versa in a child who was born female and realized that they were really male? I understand your point about maturity, but it would be unfortunate if those children, who were as definite as Coy seems to be, were forced to undergo opposite-gender puberty (which is what my friend was forced to do)!

      • George says:

        You’d have to google the details of hormone therapy; Plenty of info is out there, along with blogs from folks who’ve been involved with its use. My understanding is, the point is to avoid or restrict puberty that would, as you say, accentuate the undesired gender. I believe it does this by using hormones of the body’s opposite sex to trigger the desired gender’s changes, and slow or stop the undesired changes.
        For a male body, it makes the testicles shrink, prevents the penis from growing and can also make it shrink; it also can trigger breast growth. This isn’t anywhere near a complete change, but it’s partway, and makes later, more drastic changes easier.

        Here’re two links, just to wiki, but there’s a lot more out there:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hormone_replacement_therapy_%28male-to-female%29
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hormone_replacement_therapy_%28female-to-male%29

        Googling transgender hormone therapy gives a lot of leads.

  4. SJ says:

    Everybody on this list should watch the Halloween episode of The New Normal. One of Dr. Dave’s buddies has a non-gender compliant child and the show illustrates how he deals with it.

  5. Lisey says:

    I love this blog, but something about this story irks me. It has nothing to do with the actual issue at hand (I fully agree that Coy should be allowed to use any bathroom she chooses), it’s more the fact that this child is being paraded before the national (and even international) media. I’m not saying that the actual story should not be covered, but this child has rights and is too young herself to make the decision to have the whole world know who she is.. I hope this makes sense, I’m in no way trying to cloud the issue at hand.

    • George says:

      Too young to choose? That’s why the parents made the call, as with most important issues in a child’s life. They felt it better to stand up for her, and insist for her, AND for all such children elsewhere. They make a stand, then others can too. That’s how things change.

  6. I say live and let live. People are so closeminded and fear the concept of something different from themselves; someone who isn’t “normal” or who doesn’t think like them is ridiculed and made into an outcast. Who cares which bathroom a child uses? I have brought my son into the women’s room (he’s 7) with me many times on our outings into town (we live on a very remote military installation outside of a city). This is what I prefer so that I know my child is safe. That’s just me though.

  7. Kira says:

    For all those who think Coy should be subjected to using the “little boy’s room”, I will point something out. Coy has been going to school as a girl, all of her friends and classmates see her as a girl. The fact she was using the girls restroom was a non-issue. Now imagine what will happen if she is forced to use the boys room, all those little boys, who also have only known her as a girl, go in to pee and find a girl in there. Just how much explaining are these “concerned parents” going to have to do then? Let’s not even get into what is going to happen to Coy… all of the harassment, all of the bullying, all of the potential violence she would face because she is going to be seen as different. And you know what? She will face such things not because the other children had a problem. She will face them because of adults who are too ignorant, too intolerant, too small minded, to accept the fact not everyone is the same as they are. That not everyone is as perverted as they are. Yes, I am calling them perverted, because they are assuming a little, 6 year old child, is going to grow up and do the sorts of things they think about doing if they were in the same place as she is now. It’s called “projection.”

    So cudos to all of you, mature, right thinking, concerned…. perverts. Your going to make a child’s life a living hell just so you can feel better about yourselves. BRAVO!

  8. Cait says:

    Reblogged this on Cait.

  9. What I want to know- and it isn’t in the article on CNN, is, what changed? Who, at school, all of a sudden freaked out and decided that what was happening was not ok, when it had been ok for quite a while. Who is so controlled by their irrational fear of ?? that they just HAD to go be stupid. Seriously! I don’t know about anyone else, but any argument that can be put forth won’t hold any water.

    Love what the Emerson frat boys were able to do!!!

  10. Nina says:

    I love love love this blog. I love the people who write comments, because I really really need to be uplifted. It gives me joy. I am primary grade teacher who came across this blog last year, when I had a potentially non-conforming kiddo in my class. I think at the time I wrote a comment about starting off with the timely announcement that “It’s okay for boys to like pink paper. The color pink does not belong to just girls. Anybody can like pink if they want.” This came up again early this year. Gave “pink” speech. A few times. Just yesterday, one of my six year old students told me that she heard someone say “You can’t like pink” to another child at her church. She said she told the other (older) child, “He can like pink if he wants.” Score!!!!!! There is hope.

  11. Amanda says:

    In 44 years of using public girls bathrooms, I cannot recall ever seeing anyone elses genitals. As this seems to be their issue, they must have strange bathroom habits themselves.

  12. May says:

    If Coy is recognised as female on her state identification and passport, then surely she is legally female and the school haven’t got a leg to stand on? Would they do the same to someone who was born and registered as female at birth but was intersex in some way? Do they perform an inspection of all the children’s genitalia before allowing them to join the school? (If the answer to this last one is yes then they all need to be sacked immediately.)

    I really hope that what seems to be me to be an increase in this sort of discrimination and stigmatising is actually indicating that treating transgender people this way is getting less and less acceptable in the public view, therefore meriting media attention instead of being standard. Perhaps in fifty years this sort of thing won’t even occur, but that’s not a lot of comfort to Coy right now :(

  13. fairyjerbear says:

    I am always dismayed at the deep seated prejudice and ignorance around issues facing transgender individuals. I have had friends and colleagues who happen to be transgender for some 25 years. I have seen first hand the results of prejudice on the lives of my friends. This has made me a warrior, (of the pacifist variety), on behalf transgender rights and the rights of everyone to adopt what feels right to them no matter the gender associated with a particular behavior or manner of presenting themselves. In light of this I found myself fuming reading comments to news stories about the family faced with an inflexible school (and it would seem many in the community. It saddens me that we are still in the gender “dark ages” with so much education and cross cultural communication remaining to be done. Such a fuss over someone using the restroom in a stall behind a closed door.

    Thankfully the news about the supportive fraternity who raised funds for their fellow “brother.” It goes to show that our society’s future is in good hands with the generation now taking their place as citizens and supporting policies and politicians who embrace sexual and gender diversity. It makes this fairy trapped in a bears body swell with pride!

  14. Hi Mom. Here’s a link to my blog post about the same topic, inspired by a nasty viewer comment on the local TV newscast my parents watch. It includes a link to a PDF of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Law. Coy is actually covered under Colorado’s law — she can’t be discriminated against when it comes to using the bathroom. The school district could have saved itself the money it’ll cost for legal fees — plus the embarrassment — had it had the wisdom to read the law first.

  15. jillian says:

    Don, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here, and just try to explain briefly: if a child thinks of herself as a girl, she IS a girl. Period. Nobody else gets to decide.

  16. nrlymrtl says:

    I always thought the gender of the bathroom was more for the adults than the kids. Meaning that if little kid me was with my mom in public, we used the ladies and if little kid me was with my dad in public, we used the mens. As a little kid, I didn’t notice there was a difference in the bathrooms…tho looking back as an adult it does explain why I had to wash my hands thoroughly after ‘washing’ my hands in the urinal. Hey, when you’re little, everything is based on what you can reach, right?

  17. doubleinvert says:

    Last year I was at the Gender Spectrum Family conference as a volunteer. I’m planning on doing the same this year too. Maybe we’ll see each other there!

    -Connie

  18. mothlit says:

    Raising My Rainbow… I LOVE YOU!!! I come home from the hardest damn day of teaching (know that there are a bunch of us who care deeply and want to get it right), needing a bit of inspiration with what’s right in the world, and there’s this story about an Emerson College student and his fraternity validating his humanity and ours. Thank you. As for Colorado, that’s my state. And I can tell you that in terms of our political culture, we’re bottom of the barrel, following Texas and states who’ve gone the way of absolute standardization (we all have to be exactly alike in order to pour millions if not billions of profits into the hands of McGraw/Hill and similar such corporations), and the rules of our hallways and bathrooms reflect those values. It makes me so incredibly sad.

  19. Not being difficult and I love your CJ stories but girls and boys can go to their respective bathrooms, right? If my daughter had a classmate with a penis who thought he was a girl as a 9 year old, I’m sorry but he should be in the boys room. I’m talking about where kids share the bathroom of course. I’m open to hearing why I’m wrong.

    • Mom of a happy GNC Child says:

      It is about making the child feel comfortable within her own skin. In a ladies room there are stalls, so it isn’t like anyone is going to see her whipping out a penis in the ladies room. However making her go to the men’s room could make her very uncomfortable and nobody has the right to do that, especially to a child.

      • I see your point. My daughter is pretty mature mentally and I think we would have no problem explaining her her why so and so uses the girls room. Other kids and especially other parents wouldn’t be so supportive. It’s a difficult issue. I’m not against the idea for sure, I was just looking for reasoning. Thank you.

    • Ally says:

      For the same reason you would not give a blind child the same textbook as sighted children and say, well, you have eyes just like the rest of the children so you can just do what they’re doing and suck it up. Being born with genitalia that don’t line up with whether your brain is male or female is a birth defect. I know people want to believe that being male or female can be taught but it doesn’t work that way. Male and female brains are physically different not just genitals and sometimes they don’t match up. If they could do scans on their brains to show that these kids are dealing with a physically issue, not psychological or social issue, maybe the world would show them a little more compassion.

      • You’re probably right and I appreciate the insight. I find this topic fascinating and I appreciate all the information I can get. I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I wish my kids knew CJ. I’d love for them to be friends because CJ could be who he wanted to be around my kids or in my house for sure. It’s tough being a “regular” kid, so I admire CJ and his family for what they’re going through and how they’re dealing with it.

    • George says:

      I’m seriously curious as to why you think you’re right. What, exactly, is the problem with this child using the girl’s room? As has been pointed out, there are stalls, and no one’s going to see where the urine comes out. I’d bet you that Coy sits down to pee, too, so even if anyone looked they’d not see the genitals.
      If we were talking about a physical girl using the boy’s room, you might have a point, as the child might glimpse a penis (gasp!). That is, if one thinks that’s a bad thing. I do not.
      If your only reasoning is that it’s just wrong, or it’s not done, well, that’s not reasoning. It’s an unthinking reaction. Thinking is better.

      • George, I didn’t say I was right, I was just looking for more information I guess and being sort of the devil’s advocate. I could have worded my comment better, it was a long day and night. I’m not against CJ or kids/people like CJ at all! I don’t follow this blog because I’m looking to ridicule. I admire this family and I think CJ’s stories are fantastic. Aside from entertainment, a little bit of learning is a good thing too. I’m just trying to participate and I appreciate that we can discuss this without being mean to one another.

    • Lymis says:

      This isn’t just some whim that she had – she has lived her life this way.

      To the degree that there is any validity at all to this sort of issue, it is that we have some interest as a society of preventing someone from just announcing that for the moment they are the other gender, usually in an effort to prevent adult sexual assaults – which there is no data whatsoever that people identifying as trans are committing.

      That doesn’t apply to a child who has lived her life and is self-identified and identified by her classmates as a girl.

      Girls and boys should indeed use their respective bathrooms, and they shouldn’t be focused on what genitalia the other kids may happen to have. And this young lady IS a girl, and should use the girl’s restroom just like all the other girls. Whether or not she has a penis isn’t the issue. Her gender is.

  20. Thank you for these recaps! I’m honestly baffled by the rationale used in Colorado for why this little girl can’t use the girls’ restroom – that other children may see something they aren’t prepared to see, or that parents might have to have tough conversations after children see things they aren’t prepared to see. First and foremost, don’t all little girls’ rooms have doors? At what point will any child see what she’s doing, and if they do, doesn’t that point to a larger privacy issue? In all my years in school, I never once saw another child’s, ahem, private areas.

    Sounds to me like a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

    • Ihavemydaughternow says:

      Excellent point! Growing up, all the stalls had doors. The boys room has limited stalls with doors and urinals. This sweet child has been presenting as a girl since she started school. It is very hurtful to single her out now!

    • Ally says:

      Amen sister. I was appalled at the level of ignorance of the comments on cnn.com on this story and how many people said things like 6 year old girls should not have subjected to looking at a penis and I was thinking, where the hell do these people live where everyone is flashing their genitals in public restrooms. We have stalls with doors where I come from and we did way back in the day when I was in elementary school as well. I have managed to make it 48 years with never once having genitals flashed at me nor flashing mine in a public bathroom. With all the other birth defects we know of, I don’t understand why it is so difficult for people to wrap their brains around the fact that a girl or a boy might have genitals that for some reason don’t line up with their brain. It just goes to show how childish people can be when it comes to anything remotely associated with sex and how they have to wrap morality issues around it to make themselves more comfortable. The good news for Coy is that her parents are not those people.

      • George says:

        ” . . . how many people said things like 6 year old girls should not have subjected to looking at a penis ”
        What kind of twisted minds do those people have? Subjected, indeed! Guess what, folks – children SHOULD see the opposite sex’s genitals, of all ages. There’s no protection in hiding simple facts from children. Children should know about differences so basic. The parents should be able to talk to their kids and answer any questions, but, as has been pointed out, that’s exactly what they DON’T want. Pity the children.

      • Lymis says:

        I should sincerely hope we can make a distinction between making sure that children are appropriately educated in human biology and encouraging people wave their privates at each other in elementary school bathrooms.

        It is certainly someone’s job to educate these kids, not only on human genitalia but on more complex issues like gender and gender nonconformance.

        I don’t think that’s the responsibility of a 6 year old girl just hoping to pee in private like any of her classmates.

    • George says:

      I think you’ve hit on the big issue here – parents don’t want to have to explain it. They don’t want to talk to their kids about anything to do with sex, whether it be sexuality or gender. Get over it, people; teaching your children about life is a parents main job, regardless of the topic. The unfortunate thing is, some of those parents are teaching intolerance.

      • Ally says:

        Yes, it is definitely the parents issue and speaks volumes of how uncomfortable most people are with anything they think is related to sex, and they cannot make the distinction between sexual preference and gender identity. The times that my kid was exposed to nudity (and we are not talking porn here folks just innocent stuff) I approached it very calmly. Yes, that’s a human body, we all have one that’s what they look like. I’ve noticed there is way more objection to male nudity than there is to female nudity and I did not like the message that sent to him that his penis was something to be ashamed about or something offensive. While we are more open than many other societies, thankfully, there are many of still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to anything associated with sex and they freak out over the idea of having to explain anything to their kids, like they’re not going to know all this stuff by the time they are in 4th grade anyway. Because my son and his friends know I don’t have a lot of hang ups talking openly and honestly, they talk freely with me and ask me all kinds of questions. Their parents would be shocked how much their kids already know because they can’t bring themselves to talk to them.

  21. nyc flame on says:

    I’m leaving my opinion despite the fact that you didn’t ask for opinions. I assume you posted the last item about the television show in case other families with gender-nonconforming children wish to participate.

    A child cannot and should not have to attempt to weigh all the potential ramifications of placing their ‘specialness’ on television before the world to see and judge and react however they so choose. While I wish television shows about such topics could be useful in forwarding the national consciousness and acceptance of diversity, the arc toward justice is very very long and we are not there yet when a child who displays their gender-nonconformity on national television can do so without fearing for their ability to get a job, housing, walk down the street, once the buffer of insta-fame has disappeared and the years begin to go by and the depressing where-are-they-now vultures come lurking. Think about how there is even a self-defensive archness to the “WE ARE THE NEW NORMAL” of The New Normal, which requires Granny Right Wing Bitch to balance the boldness of the main characters.

  22. scopeypdx says:

    In my child’s Kindergarten classroom all the children use the same two-stall bathroom. So far, no lasting damage to anyone has been detected.

    • George says:

      When our two (boy & girl) went to preschool, we choose a diverse one, and a bonus was that the kids all used the same multi-stall bathroom. Not only was this (in our opinion) good for the kids, it showed us the good attitude of the staff. No one was overly concerned with such matters, and that felt like a good thing. They had better, more important concerns with the kids.

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