Sharing the story of Coy Mathis and family - the true work of GLAAD
I am immensely proud of the work we do daily here at GLAAD – from the high profile stuff that everyone knows us for, like our campaign to make the Boy Scouts inclusive, or when a media figure or outlet does something that can cause harm and we have to call them out – to the stuff that only a handful of people even know that we do at all, like media training and pitching LGBT people and allies to local outlets, or working behind the scenes with journalists and reporters to connect them with the best stories to illustrate any given LGBT topic.
But none of our work inspires me as much as the work we do to share stories of family love and support. And it's been a long time since one of those stories has touched me as much as the story of Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis and their five kids, including 6-year-old transgender girl Coy.
I've been working – again, mostly behind the scenes – on this story for nearly two months. Securing media coverage, providing producers and journalists with resources they need to tell this story as accurately and educationally as possible, and working directly on interview preparation with both the Mathis family and Michael Silverman from Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) who is representing them in their Civil Rights case against Coy's elementary school, which won't let her use the correct bathroom.
Honestly, in this day of smartphones, there are maybe four or five telephone numbers total that I know off the top of my head, and two of them are my own. One of them is now Michael's. I've talked to him more in the last six weeks than some of my co-workers.
But back to the Mathises.
Anti-gay activists aren't right about much, but the one thing I can agree with them on is the importance of strong families. (Why they want to put limits on which families can grow strong, I'll probably never know, but that's another topic for another day.) Jeremy, Kathryn, Coy and the entire Mathis family have such strength and so much love for each other, it's impossible for anyone whose heart isn't two sizes too small to hear their story and not be inspired.
Standing backstage after their Katie episode, as Coy was sitting with her brother, laughing and playing 'Angry Birds,' Jeremy looked over at them, paused, then told me something to the effect of "I honestly don't get what the big deal is, we just want what's best for our kids."
I tried to explain how so many families of LGBT people don't actually want what's best for their kids. I tried to explain about family rejection, about the staggering rates of LGB and especially T youth homelessness, but these things just don't make sense to a family whose love and support for each other run so deep. And that love radiates through the TV screen, through their words on a webpage, through newsprint – you could fax this story and although it would be weird, that love would still shine through.
Reporters and producers tell me after speaking with the Mathises "They were amazing!" and all I can say is "I know, right?"
I am lucky to have played a role in sharing the Mathis family's story with the world. I also feel incredibly lucky to have met Chris and Devon and their amazing families through the Katie show.
These are the stories that will shape how our society welcomes and embraces the transgender community in the years to come. Coy, Chris and Devon are our future leaders – not just of the transgender community, not just of the LGBT community, but of all our communities.
It's their families that are giving them the strength they'll need to lead. And it's their examples that are right now, as we speak, leading other families to give their children that same strength, regardless of their gender identity.
Maybe our name isn't plastered all over this story, but this is what GLAAD's truly about. This is the work I'm most proud of.