COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Experts who work with trans and gender queer adolescents said on Thursday the school's decision on which bathroom a transgender student can use can have long-term psychological consequences.
Six-year-old Coy Mathis identified as a girl starting at 18 months. Mathis' parents pulled their children from Eagleside Elementary school after the school said Mathis would not be able to use the girls' bathroom anymore. Its new rules would require Mathis the boys' bathroom or the staff bathroom.
Erica Laue is a child therapist who works with trans and gender queer adolescents. She said if the school insists that Mathis use the boy's bathroom, it can lead to bullying, followed by low self-confidence and even addiction problems.
Laue said transgender children facing a crisis like this can feel excluded and ostracized by the school community and society. Laue applauded Mathis' parents for their response to the situation. She said it can be tricky to fight for a child's rights without letting the child be exploited.
"Holding a child up in the news media as a point of a story can be really exploitative," said Laue. "But times but at the same time, we are facing a cultural crisis where we have a whole bunch of children who are trans or gender queer that don't understand why it is that they're not being validated."
The executive director of Inside/Out Youth Services said the bathroom issue continues to be a point of contention for the transgender community. She said schools must legally accommodate and respect the needs to transgender students.
The executive director said it's a good thing the issue of which bathroom Mathis can use is being raised at such a young age. She said this will give the school a chance to figure out the appropriate way to handle the issue and the community can move forward.
Jason Marsden is the executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. According to its website, the foundation works to "replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance." Marsden and the foundation work with the LGBT community.
Marsden commented on the long-term impact the bathroom issue on a transgender child.
"Teasing, bullying, ostracization from a social group can definitely be a concern. And then, those things happening to someone who is 5, 6, 7 years old can be very damaging to future psychological development.
Marsden pointed out a similar case involving a transgender student and a school in Boulder, Colo., several years ago. He said he's seen cases like this around the U.S. He said eventually, this issue will be resolved and the community will move forward.