The Coy Mathis Decision: A Landmark Moment in Transgender History


Even if you are normally not a follower of transgender issues in the media, this is one you probably haven’t missed.

It hit the stands today that the Colorado Civil Rights Division has ruled in favor of Coy Mathis, a six-year-old transgender girl whose parents filed a complaint in February 2013 against her school district for barring her from using the girls’ restroom at her elementary school. The reason they filed the complaint is because Colorado has anti-discrimination laws which protect transgender people, and this was one of the first tests to see how they apply to transgender students.

Why is this considered such a landmark decision?

The decision marks the first ruling in the nation holding that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms that match the gender with which they identify, and the most comprehensive ruling ever supporting the rights of transgender people to access bathrooms without harassment or discrimination. — The New York Times

Here is one of the most powerful statements from the decision:

Telling Coy “that she must disregard her identity while performing one of the most essential human functions constitutes severe and pervasive treatment, and creates an environment that is objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating or offensive,” Steven Chavez, the division director, wrote in the decision. — The New York Times

Although this is a story which has captured the attention of world it’s one that has especially moved and affected me, as well as my transgender clients.

In February 2013, when the complaint was filed by her parents, Coy and her family were living in a community just a few miles away from my private practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I was interviewed in February for an article written for our local paper, The Gazette, and was able to help confirm for readers that “Transgender Awareness Begins Early.”

Since then I have had the pleasure of meeting Coy’s father, Jeremy Mathis, as part of an effort to create a social and support group for the parents of gender variant children in the area. I shared with him how many of my transgender clients have said to me, once they learn about Coy’s story, “That girl is so dang lucky to have those parents.”

Here is the comment I left on The Gazette‘s coverage of today’s announcement:

“As a mental health counselor in Colorado Springs I am thrilled to hear of the results of this case. On behalf of the hundreds of adult transgender clients I serve, they could only wish their parents and our society would have allowed them to begin to explore the possibility of transitioning at a younger age, sparing them the years of anxiety and depression that results from not being able to be your true self. Thank you to Jeremy and Kathryn Mathis for having the courage to stand up for their daughter’s rights.”

Homework Assignment

If you agree with the Colorado Civil Rights Division’s ruling, your support is needed at this time. Post a comment on at least one news story about the Coy Mathis decision, as there are many negative ones to counter-balance. Although this is an understandably controversial issue for folks to debate, there are far too many comments that are hurtful, hateful, and personally insulting to Coy and her parents. Show class and understanding when writing your comments – try to reach the “teachable middle” with what you say.

Here are a few articles from which to chose:

Huffington Post
The New York Times
Colorado Springs Gazette
The Denver Post

If you are undecided or uncertain as to how you feel about the ruling, take this opportunity to learn more about it – the coverage is already staggering and more than likely will continue for a long time to come. Talk with others about it, explore what it is that you have concerns about as well as what you agree with. As I mentioned above, if you are in the “teachable middle” then your questions and comments are essential towards moving forward with more education and understanding around this topic.

Let’s start a conversation on this blog post as well!

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  • melanielb15

    June 24, 2013 at 2:41 PM Reply

    Ok Dara–I did it! It took lots of chocolate covered almonds but I couldn’t let the meanies have the majority word! Thanks for the inspiration–hugs.

    • Dara Hoffman-Fox

      June 25, 2013 at 5:24 PM Reply

      Thanks Melanie, I’m grateful to the chocolate almonds for getting you through that!

  • Coy's dad

    June 24, 2013 at 3:45 PM Reply

    Read the D8 response here This means to me that they are not done with their end of the fight. I invite you all to also sign the petition if you haven’t already: Thanks:)

    • Dara Hoffman-Fox

      June 25, 2013 at 10:30 AM Reply

      Thank you for the heads up Jeremy. I have to say I am disappointed in their response, but sadly not surprised. I’ll get the link out there as well for the petition. Be well in these challenging times!

  • Zoe Ellen Brain

    June 24, 2013 at 6:52 PM Reply

    As a mental health professional, what are your opinions on the many explicit death threats to the parents, and the calls for the child to be “culled” on the CNN comments site?

    Are there any where you think there may be a credible threat of violence? At one point the death threats were averaging 2 per minute, the denigration 3 per second.

    For that matter, what do you think the likely effect might be on Trans* and Intersex people of the sheer volume of hatred expressed by the majority of commenters there?

    • Dara Hoffman-Fox

      June 26, 2013 at 8:38 PM Reply

      It’s truly awful to know just how much this issue results in true hatred in some people, isn’t it. My hope is that the threats of violence will be given the proper attention by the authorities. Otherwise, my advice is that we ignore the haters to the best of our ability – they don’t deserve our attention. My hope is that they are a small yet loud bunch. For those who are trans, I would advise to avoid those comments as much as possible – it’s absolutely painful for the psyche and the heart to endure them.

  • Zoe Ellen Brain

    June 24, 2013 at 9:18 PM Reply

    There’s real risks here, not just “someone being mean on the Internet”

    Artimus Chokes • an hour ago

    LOL!!! I just reported both of the Mathis parents to the passport office of possibly supplying a fraudulent birth certificate or lying on the passport application. It was really easy to do. I would encourage the rest of you that really give a crap about this to flood the passport website with the same information. Five years in prison for both parents will definitely put Coy in a normal home even if it is foster parents.


    • Ashley

      June 24, 2013 at 11:42 PM Reply

      Zoe…where did you get this? CNN? or from a blogger’s hate site?

      • zoebrain

        July 1, 2013 at 11:38 PM Reply

        CNN commentary.

        • Ashley

          July 4, 2013 at 12:52 AM Reply

          Thank you, trying to learn all the mean tricks people do.

  • Ashley

    June 25, 2013 at 12:32 AM Reply

    There are NO risks for coming out as Trans*.
    A risk implies balancing a reward after an action has been taken.
    A Trans* person ‘gets off the fence’ and decides to finally do something about his/her life.
    There is no risk.

    Plenty of bad things happen because of evil people; its not a ‘Trans*’ thing.
    The people who are ‘on the fence’ are willing to face those evils because of their desire
    to be ‘whole’ or at least fight the evils in their sight so they can live a better life.

    The risk is staying ‘on the fence’ when you KNOW who you are and want to commit
    suicide because you can’t be a prisoner any longer. Not fighting back is what
    puts you at risk to ‘off yourself’ and is the ‘internal drive’ to get off the fence. It is not
    a reward.

    Compare this to a woman in the L.A. fires in the 80’s. A woman
    jumped off a 23 story building to avoid smoke, fire, falling debris. She did not do it for
    a risk / reward. It was her only desperate option to avoid CERTAIN death had she
    remained where she was.

    Every bone was broken if I recall correctly. She lived. I would not ask her to do it again
    as if it were just another task to put off lightly. It was a brutal force of events that drove
    her to a terrible choice to jump to LIVE. Trans* are the same way. Their ‘building’ that
    they are jumping from, is the ‘fence’. They are forced into a decision. It is also ‘ do or

    Others tell you that you can not have what they have in life. It is a re run of black civil
    rights where you have to drink out of the other water fountain.

    That is fundamental…where ‘getting off the fence’ is NOT a reward.
    We have every expectation that we are going to be attacked in the bathroom
    or at a public area. We have every expectation that at night it will get worse because
    people think they are invincible when the sun is not out or because of heavy drinking.

    We are stuck with ‘Kill ourselves and not get off the fence’ or ‘Fight the world and
    maybe they will kill us’. Some of us have to get lucky and beat the numbers.

  • Ashley

    June 25, 2013 at 12:45 AM Reply

    Claps hands for Coy. My heart is out for you.
    To think that this girl is aware of her situation but will have a better use of her awareness
    early in life; thrills me. We were following her situation here at the house and I am
    past tears for this girl.

    Now to tell people in Norwood why ‘boys will be boys’ does not including sodomizing
    a 13 year old boy.

    I bring this up because the same behavior is the reason why civil infractions of ANY
    era against ANY group of people are tolerated to do bigotry. A waitress compared
    the victim as being a ‘wuss’ and implied it is okay to be bullied because thats how to
    learn to be stronger. So she thinks it’s okay for women to be bullied the same way?

    • Dara Hoffman-Fox

      June 25, 2013 at 5:26 PM Reply

      Am touched to hear your reaction about Coy – I’m thinking it makes it all worthwhile for her parents to know that so many others feel the same as you…

  • […] much as it feels like progress is being made, all it takes is a story like the ruling in favor of Coy Mathis to remind us just how much fear, anger, and hatred still remains when it comes to something as […]

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