Print friendly version Transcript Now, how many times have you heard the saying girls will be girls and boys will be boys? Well our next story turns that adage on its head. In the US more young people are defining themselves as transgender, throwing up any number of complex questions. For example, what is the appropriate age to undergo a sex change operation?
As Jeannette Francis discovers, there is even controversy over which bathroom to use. Jeannette Francis Shopping with the Mathis family is a boisterous affair, it's little wonder - mum and dad have five children in tow including triplets.
It is so pretty. I love the polka-dots. Look dad I want these to hold my hair up - these match my boots dad. Coy is the eldest of the trio and gravitates towards all things pink and shiny. I got a dress that matches my boots and a headband that also matches my boots.
But Coy wasn't always wearing dresses. The 7-year-old was born a boy but lives as a girl. I would much rather have a good relationship with the daughter that I have than a poor relationship with the son that doesn't really exist. For Coy's doting parents Jeremy and Kathryn it's been an eye opening journey. This is not my size. She was two here, I think. That's just who she was.
It's who she has always been. Really as soon as she could talk she was showing us and telling us that she felt like a girl. And it wasn't until she was closer to two and a half and three that she started saying, you know, I don't want to be a girl, I am a girl. She was trying so hard to tell us how she felt and we were ignoring her.
So she started sinking to into a depression and started having a bunch of anxiety about going anywhere where people would know she was a boy. Coy's parents hoped it was a phase that would pass but as the years went by their son's insistence that he was a she grew stronger. She was constantly devastated because people didn't know who she really was. So we took her back to the various medical professionals and they all agreed she was transgender. I want to be when I grow up, a worker, a fire fighter and I want to be a cowboy - girl.
Coy was diagnosed with gender identity disorder - it's a condition characterised by overwhelming feelings of identification with the opposite sex, of being born into the wrong body. You can be anybody. You can be anything you want. For the past year Coy has been living openly as a girl after making what experts calling a social transition to the other gender. She went from being anxious and depressed and not wanting to go anywhere to almost overnight being thrilled with herself and wanting everybody to see her and who she was.
It was just this huge difference in her just because people were finally listening and knew that she was a girl. Born a boy, now identified as a girl, a six-year-old from Colorado now at the centre of a media frenzy in a lawsuit for being transgender They say the decision to ban Coy from the girls bathrooms at Eagleside Elementary was plain wrong.
The letter stated that Coy was born a male and at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his conditioned use of the girls rest room. Whatever, we can do the other ones tomorrow. Infuriated by the bathroom ban, Kathryn and Jeremy lodged a discrimination complaint with the state of Colorado and started home schooling their children. The case has become an unlikely rallying point for transgender rights.
I don't even see why the school thinks it's their responsibility to try to talk about Coy's body at all. It's completely inappropriate to me. They're not her doctors. They should not be talking about her body. It's a boy that was hoping he was a girl and he was a girl in the mirror and a boy outside. What is the name of the book? Be who you are. It says right here, "Be who you are. What does that mean? I'm a girl instead of a boy. What happened when you wanted to use the bathroom?
The girls one - they said I had to used doctor's rest room or the boy's rest room. Then what did you think about that? I thought it was mean. In Seattle Eli and Max are enjoying some retail therapy. I know but these are so awesome. Like most year-olds they like shopping and hanging out. At the bowling alley they barely draw a second glance and that's the way they like it. For them it's an affirmation of their gender journey. Now it's so much easier and everything is a lot better.
Eli was born a boy but lives as a girl and Max was born a girl but lives as a boy. I think part of the reason for people coming out younger is because there is more visibility. Like I talk to older transgender people sometimes who came out really late and a lot of times they said they came out that late because they didn't even know that trans was a thing or they could be trans. Both have been following the case of the Mathis family closely.
I think the parents are doing the right thing and the school has no right to take away her bathroom rights. Eli has first-hand experience of what Coy is going through. I couldn't use the rest rooms at my school for six years even after - I was in third grade and I was wearing dresses and lip gloss and they wouldn't let me use either bathroom.
So how long have you been living as a girl for? I have been living with a girl since I was 13 and so it has been four years now. This is my make-up counter. I have always really been into make-up.
Like many transgender kids Eli also learnt to mask the pain. Throughout her life she has faced prejudice, bullying and harassment.
In elementary and middle schools it was very difficult. I couldn't participate with the girls and I was always singled out and I didn't have very many friends then because of it. Eli has taken female hormones since the age of Three months ago she went under the knife, becoming one of the youngest people ever to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
Does it feel strange that you now don't have something that you had for 17 years, a part of your body? I was expecting to, but it just feels natural this way. I haven't seen you in ages. Eli hasn't seen her surgeon Marci Bowers since her operation. The breast has it come along a little bit? A pioneer in her field Marci herself was born as Mark. She is regarded as one of the leading transgender surgeons in the US. Are you see more transgender patients particularly young people and children?
What we are seeing more but because society is becoming more permissive and not pushing people into the closet or worse, into antisocial behaviour or chemical dependency or suicide.
Hi, Bella, how are you? These days Walt Heyer is a man's man and a deep skeptic, particularly when it comes to transgender surgery. Most of the people suffering from gender issues are suffering from psychological disorders that need treatment and not surgery.
So, you know, my life is just a testimony to the fact that you can't change somebody's gender with surgery. Throughout life Walt had felt uncomfortable in his own skin. He went on to get married and have a family but in his 40s realised he was living a lie. This is Laura, after the gender change. At 42 Walt underwent surgery and became Laura. Eight years later, depressed and despairing he changed back. In the process he lost his wife, became estranged from his children and was left with the results of an operation that was irreversible.
The way I betrayed my children by switching genders is reprehensible. It meant how selfish I was. Walt has been married to his second wife, Casey, for 17 years. What goes through your mind, Casey, when you see pictures of Walt looking so different?