Even though the media has been a bit more positive concerning mental illness and stigma, we still have a long way to go. The same way that racism has not yet been completely wiped out, prejudice still exists. Maybe it always will but I am trying to get this subject out into the open in order for people to see more articles about mental illness, to learn more about it and thus be more understanding. The bottom line seems to be that most people are afraid of the unknown.
The following story was aired on ABC Television and brings home the aspect of prejudice:
Coy Mathis, born a male triplet, has behaved like a girl since she was 18 months old. When her brother Max was consumed with dinosaurs, she was playing with Barbie dolls. By 4, she was explaining to her mother that something was wrong with her body. Since being enrolled at Eagle Elementary School in Colorado, the 6-year-old has been presented as a female and wears girl’s clothing. Her classmates and teachers have used female pronouns when referring to her and she uses the girls’ bathroom.
But, in December, school officials told her parents that she can no longer use the female facilities and ordered her to use the boys’ or the nurses’ bathroom. “We want Coy to have the same educational opportunities as every other Colorado student,” said her mother. “Her school should not be singling her out for mistreatment just because she is transgender.”
Coy’s parents, together with the help of the Transgender Legal and Defense Education Fund, have filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division on Coy’s behalf, alleging that the school has violated her rights. Since Christmas vacation, Coy has been schooled at home.
We want Coy back at school and we are hopeful that we can resolve this quickly for the child’s sake. But the parents received a letter from the school’s lawyer saying: “The district’s decision took into account not only Coy but the 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.”
While co-studens and teachers do not notice that Coy has male genitals, the school said it feared that as the child developed, parents and students would become uncomfortable and the issue could be far more psychologically damaging and disruptive if it arises at an age when students deal with social issues,” the letter said.
Across the country, schools are paying more attention to transgender issues but there is little uniformity. Some Colorado schools have detailed policies according to a report on Coy’s case. The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination against transgender students in public schools.
A report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force paints a bleak picture of life as a transgender person in the United States. The 2011 survey, Injustice At Every Turn, found that discrimination is pervasive in nearly every system and institution.
Transgender youth are at disproportionate risk for depression, suicide, substance abuse, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, according to the Family Acceptance Project at the San Francisco State University. Coy’s parents worry that the school’s policy is setting their child up for stigma and bullying. This family has a set of triplets plus two other children. Their father is a former marine who was honorably discharged with injuries. Their mother is a certified nurse assistant and takes care of Lily, one of the other triplets who became severely disabled after getting a viral infection after birth. She needs to be fed through an IV and is quadriplegic.
Coy’s parents want her to return to school to be with her friends but are afraid to send her back until they have been assured that the school wll treat her fairly. She is only 6 years old and her parents do not want one of their daughter’s earliest experiences to be that the community is telling her she’s not good enough.