A mere 1.7 percent of the population defines itself as intersex. Even so, society is increasingly accepting of gender neutrality, albeit slowly. In the meantime, it still remains for these individuals to determine how to ingratiate themselves with a community that has a hard time accepting them.
Such a community might be an elementary school. In Colorado, a six-year-old named Coy defines herself as a girl, but she was born male and retains her male organs. Her school prohibits her from using the girls bathroom, requiring instead, according to The New York Times, that she use a gender-neutral restroom in the nurse’s office. Her parents are enraged, and the Times has reported that Coy’s case is at the heart of legal dispute likely to test Colorado’s anti-discrimination law which purportedly expands protections for transgender people.
The school’s concern is that as much as Coy maintains a female identity, preferring a wardrobe of dresses and sparkly boots, her male body parts will confuse and upset biologically female girls both now and later. They want to protect their young students’ uninformed sensibilities and avoid too much conflict with parents and the law.
But the school’s stance is hardly valid for a number of reasons. Its administration does not have the right to tell Coy her gender. What it should do is work to educate its students to be knowledgeable, if not accepting, of Coy’s gender identification despite her biological makeup. Undoubtedly it will be difficult for Coy to achieve social normalcy, and the school should work has hard as possible to increase its students’ vocabulary regarding the issue and make her feel welcome and respected.
According to the Times, some have called on Coy’s school and others to provide more gender-neutral restrooms. These will be a challenge to implement, no doubt, given the small population of intersex individuals and the ever-shrinking budget of public schools. Moreover, the concept of gender is not likely to be abolished anytime soon, so making more gender-neutral restrooms won’t be a top priority. Restructuring society for 1.7 percent is unfeasible, but helping this 1.7 percent feel accepted is completely possible. School districts should be attuned to the needs of transgender children, and Coy needs to identify with the female gender.