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Opinion

Stop sexualizing transgender children

Tyanna Slobe

Correction: An error in editing resulted in Coy Mathis being referred to as a “transgendered” individual rather than a “transgender” individual. The Collegian regrets its error.

Public restrooms are the opposite of sexy. The words “public restroom” conjure images of unclean stalls and determined hand-washing. Sure, individual stalls offer some privacy that could technically be turned into sexy-zones by consenting adults, but in general there is nothing innately sexual about a public restroom.

Coy Mathis of Fountain, Colo. is a six-year-old girl who has been denied access to the girls’ bathroom at her school because she is transgender. Until this past winter break, Coy was allowed to use girls’ bathroom at Eagleside Elementary School. In December, however, her parents received a letter from the school stating that Coy would no longer be able to use the girls’ bathroom because she was “born a male” and “the future impact a boy with male genitals using a girls’ bathroom would have.”

The school district’s lawyer, W. Kelly Dude, has been quoted by the media claiming, “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.”

I have my own opinions about the transgender community, and while I have written many an article about the amazing trans people I know, those views are absolutely not what this article about.

Let me be explicit: this article is about the sexualization of children.

Sexualization means attributing sex or sexuality to someone. People’s assuming that Coy Mathis’ bathroom usage is going to have dangerous repercussions because of her body is an example of sexualization.

To claim that a child does not have the right to use a bathroom that appropriately matches their gender identity because of a supposed threat posed by their presumed genitalia is to effectively sexualize that child. It is to suggest that there is something sexual about this child’s body that is threatening. In fact, this claim goes beyond sexualizing a child and suggests that the child is a potential sexual predator because they are transgender — which is, of course, completely false.

Six-year-olds do not deserve to be sexualized. They deserve to be able to go to the bathroom without hassle. Making a child out to be a dangerous sexual being and focusing on a child’s body says a lot more about the adults who are doing so than it says about the child herself.

Walking into a men’s bathroom or a women’s bathroom is a public display of gender identity. I dress like a girl, act like a girl and am a girl. When I am in public I use the women’s bathroom. I, like Coy, would not feel comfortable walking into the men’s bathroom while dressing, acting and being a girl.

Both women and men’s public restrooms have private stalls. Even if a child’s genitals were relevant to their bathroom use — which is not the case — there would not be an issue. I have never seen a bathroom with a guard at the door who makes everyone pull down their pants as proof before entering. That would be utterly inappropriate, especially in an elementary school. However, any institution that makes a claim that bathroom usage is dependent on genitalia is doing exactly this; suggesting that there is some sort of need for policing people’s bodies.

The nature of a child’s genitals is not up for public scrutiny. Ever.

According to the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, 89 percent of transgender youth are bullied every year at school based on their gender identity. LGBT youth are four times more likely than their peers to attempt suicide.

These staggering statistics are largely due to institutions like the Fountain-Fort Carson school district and adults like Mr. Dude who sexualize children by seeing them only as bodies and not as people.

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act ensures protection for transgender youth by prohibiting discrimination. While there is no current statewide law about what this means for bathroom usage, some districts like Boulder Valley have explicitly stated that children should use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

A person’s rights do not depend on their body. Coy Mathis dresses like a girl, acts like a girl and is a girl. Making her perform according to boy gender by forcing her to use the boys’ bathroom because the treatment of her body is a very clear example of sexualization of a child from the Fountain-Fort Carson school district.

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About Tyanna Slobe

Tyanna is a senior English Language and Spanish double major and has worked at the Collegian since November 2012. She is interested in LGBTQ issues, Latin America, media studies, linguistics, immigration, Anthropology, zoning, and Sweden. She also blogs for a super-awesome feminist organization called SPARK. She can be reached at letters@collegian.com and @tyslobe