An Open Letter to Aryn Coyle from the Mother of a Transgender Daughter

In case you missed it, there’s a recent story being covered by multiple outlets regarding a 9th grader in Pennsylvania who addressed her school board regarding the district’s policy of allowing young men and women to use the locker room facilities of the gender they identify with.  Attempting to use several angles to justify her case, from religion to comfort level to her own feelings of being discriminated against, Sigourney Coyle seemed to place her own identification of another person over their own identification of themselves. “I am a woman, and I identify as a woman, and you can’t make me change in front of someone who I don’t identify with, who is physically male.”  So in essence, she feels she needs to approve of the gender identity of those around her, and agree with how everyone else has identified themselves, before she’ll be willing to change her clothes near them (in a locker room that has private stalls for those who want to use them, mind you).

Anyway, before I lose my mind over this, I wanted to share something with you.  I was approached by a friend of mine who has an 11 year old transgender daughter.  She was looking for an avenue to share her thoughts with Sigourney Coyle’s mother, Aryn Coyle, who has been equally, if not more, vocal about this issue.  Rather than post on Aryn’s Facebook page and get blocked, bullied, threatened, or worse (and avoid backlash aimed at her child), she asked me to publish this anonymously for her.  I think it’s an important read and I urge my readers to please share it so it finds its way to its intended audience.

I am a wannabe watercolor painter, budding photographer, occasional writer, and public school teacher. I am the wife of a two-time war veteran who has served 16 years so far for our US Military. And I am a proud atheist and mother to three children, the oldest of whom is about to transition from male to female, which means my son of eleven years is about to become my transgender daughter. And I love, respect, and support my child.

I need not go further in introductions, for based on your public posts on Facebook, I see we have little in common when it comes to our views. I will however say that I am appalled by your position on the transgender issue that concerns today’s youth. And I ask you, do you feel that your daughter is any more at-risk in the locker room around a transgender student than she would be around a lesbian student? How about a pansexual student? Where does one draw the line? As a public school teacher — and a parent of a transgender daughter — I can honestly say the only problem with either of these aforementioned situations is outdated views like your own that are passed down as unfortunate ethnotheories from parent to child, generation after generation. Professionally and personally, I push for early education and awareness being taught to public school students at the elementary level, such as classroom lessons on diversity, proper terminology of sexual organs, and information about gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. I applaud libraries that carry books made for children that introduce gender as a wide spectrum and normalize lesbian and gay family structures — children’s books like Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, The Royal Heart, and I Am Jazz. And when my two younger children grow up, I have no problem telling them that some boys have vaginas and some girls have penises, and that some families contain two daddies or two mommies. I’ve a friend who I suspect grew up in a household where the mother was committed to both a man and another woman who all lived together in a polyamorous relationship—and that’s okay with me, if that was indeed the case. Henry David Thoreau said in Walden, “…if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours…” I simply interpret that as, “be as you may.”

I know that this letter will likely anger you, but that is not my objective here. I just thought it necessary to let you know that your actions are not applauded by all. Like Kim Davis, your beliefs are your business, but when your actions, like hers, insult a community of people (and serve as a reminder that the civil rights movement unfortunately still has far to go), now that warrants criticism in my book. On August 21 at 8:59am you posted on Facebook about your daughter, saying that having gym class over summer “…protects her from possible exposure to a biologically male student in the locker room.” You owe this poor transgender student who your daughter goes to school with an apology for publicly speaking of her with such ignorance! Biologically male?! The truth is that it’s ignorant stances like yours that contribute to the reasons why too many children and adults remain unaccepting, and the suicide rate within the transgender community is at 41 percent. And your news story (or your daughter’s rather) has left me wondering: how is it that my good Christian neighbor just three doors down who has accepted God into her heart and life, and whose child rides the bus with and is in the same grade as mine, is understanding and accepting of my child’s being transgender, but you speak as a Christian while openly siding with the opposition? I possess an in-depth knowledge of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and other religions.  However, I do not subscribe to notions of sin, forgiveness, and prayer. I also do not favor a belief system that all too many times breeds discrimination and hate. As an atheist, I, more often than not, respect others’ beliefs and choices, and I expect there to be a two-way street with no roadblock. The problem many religious folks have with transgender students using the locker rooms and bathrooms of their gender identity is just another reason why I strongly favor our nation becoming more secular.  Secularism breeds acceptance of those who may be different from you.  Religion places rules on everyone and everything.

I am thankful that my child and I reside in a progressive state where transgender students have access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity and public school teachers are encouraged by state education policy to honor and respect whatever name, gender, and pronouns that transgender students choose identify as. My state’s Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Guidance Document should be a beacon of light for other states, like Texas wherein a kindergarten girl has recently been denied access to the girls’ bathroom due to her being transgender. I have had an outpouring of support for my daughter, with two close friends taking her shopping for back-to-school clothes — girls’ clothes — for the first time ever. I’ve got neighbors in my community dropping off hand-me-downs for her. Yesterday when I texted her two friends’ mothers to let them know, I received positive messages of support back. And when I let the middle school principal know, I was reassured everything would be okay and that my child and I would indeed be supported. My child is neither mutant nor monster and deserves to be respected whether she wishes to use the girls’ locker room or not. “I am a woman, and I identify as a woman, and you can’t make me change in front of someone who I don’t identify with…” said your daughter. Well, this would be my child’s sentiments exactly if someone were to tell her that she must change in the boys’ locker room. What your daughter identifies someone else’s gender to be is immaterial.  Your daughter identifies as a woman so she should use the women’s locker room.  Mine does as well, so she should too.  If your daughter doesn’t want to see a trans female with her clothes off, then she should keep her wandering eyes to herself and face her own locker while she changes. Her ignorance is her problem, not everyone else’s.  Asking transgender students to use bathrooms or locker rooms with students who don’t identity as the same gender as them is just ludicrous. My heart goes out to the teachers in Pearland, Texas who have to stand by and watch ignorance prevail as little boys and that one little girl may end up sharing the same bathroom.

Transgender Equality flagSo, Aryn, you can sit there and think that your actions resemble that of some kind of hero and that your daughter is one to be admired because she “stood up for student rights” as you boasted yesterday on your Facebook page, but you are mistaken. It is I who goes forth acting with ethics in-mind and supporting justice for all regardless of sexual orientation and sexual identity. This society is changing, and although you reside in a state that was dubbed a “Holy Experiment” where religious freedom was forever intended, the times are changing and, fortunately, secular values are growing and science-based knowledge is gaining momentum. An acquaintance of mine helped launch a Young Skeptics club for students in a small public school district in Western New York. More high schools have LGBTQ peer support groups nowadays and students are seeing courses on gender, such as in California and New York — courses like LGBTQ Studies and Gender Studies. Informative, modern, research and evidence-based books, such as Dr. Diane Ehrensaft’s Gender Born Gender Made, are being read and deeply reflected upon resulting in less close-minded, bigoted judgments being aired and shared. Judgments that happen to be a good reminder for me that being transgender isn’t my daughter’s problem, but a problem for people like you. Contrary to what your daughter told the East Penn School Board this past Monday night, the only “bodily privacy” rights that are violated are transgender students’ privacy rights when something as private as whether or not one’s genitalia corresponds with his/her/their gender identity. Students shouldn’t be expected to announce to the entire student body that they are transgender. I believe that one day, whether or not a person is transgender won’t matter as much. And that is how privacy should be respected, as a result of acceptance rather than a product of fear.

If I had the chance to stand up in front of my transgender daughter’s sixth grade class and speak to her peers, I would assure them that they have nothing to fear. She is a friendly, creative girl who likes to play soccer, read fantasy books, and fill notebooks with story after story. Not that her sexual orientation matters, but like many other girls, she is fond of boys — not outright (middle school students are often in denial of “crushes”) — so if she were to be in a locker room with a group of other girls, she’d probably be engaging in “girl talk” like any other.

My daughter is different from yours in many ways, but being a girl is not one of them.


Proud Mother of a Transgender Daughter


Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the head writer and editor for SecularVoices, co-founder of Young Skeptics, and author of Understanding an Atheist. He is known for local and national secular activism and has spoken at conferences and events such as Reason Rally 2016 and the Ark Encounter Protest and Rally.

View all posts by Kevin Davis →

63 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Aryn Coyle from the Mother of a Transgender Daughter

  1. For me the question of progress in transgender rights is a simple one: bit by bit people are seeing that they have nothing to fear from transpeople. A lot of people create their own fears, but more and more they’re being outnumbered by those who see no reason to look for something that doesn’t exist.

    1. I can’t believe there are so many idiots in the world. There is no such thing as transgender. There are unfortunately many sad and abused children whose parents need counseling. If your little boy wants to put on dress when playing at home when he’s 3 or 4 that doesn’t make him transgender. If you could get inside these families you will find that most of the the parents of these poor kids are people who have severe emotional issues and are transferring them on to their kids and there are kids who find the only way to get attention from their parents is to have a strong enough issue. I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe.

      1. Dear Linda, if this is what you believe about transgender people, then you are indeed living in an alternate universe. On this earth, transgender people have always existed in all times and in all cultures. And yet, there are plenty of people like you who are still trying to convince themselves that there’s no such thing. If you insist on using the word “idiots”, this is where it would be applicable. And saying that transgender people come from families with emotional issues is simply one excuse people use, even though it has no basis in reality, to justify their hostility to transpeople.

        If you ever decide to actually learn something about transpeople, there is now available of world of information about us. If you choose not to learn, that’s up to you. But just because you yourself know nothing about the issue doesn’t make those who do idiots. In fact, when reading your post, I asked myself, Is it still possible these days for people to believe stuff like that? She must be living in some other world. You’re a type, Linda, and sad to say, you’ve got plenty of company: you know nothing, yet you question the intelligence of others.

      2. Hi, Linda! I’ve decided to have a second go here. Let me explain the situation to you.

        We transpeople, despite your assertion, have been around forever. And for a long, long time now, we have been bullied and harassed, beaten up and sometimes killed, subjected (like gay people) to extreme psychological and physical abuse in an attempt to “cure” us, we’ve been denied the basic civil rights that all other citizens enjoy–in short, we have been driven underground, and our lives have been erased. There are millions of transpeople out there, many of them, especially young ones, who are hurting very badly, and it’s people like you who are hurting them.

        These days what we’re telling people is that this is no longer acceptable. We’re going to have the same right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that everybody else has. Inevitably, we have run into opposition–from people like you. There are plenty of people out there–people like you–who dislike us enough to want to continue to deny us the freedom they want for themselves. They don’t actually know anything about us. They just dislike us enough to be quite content with continuing to treat transpeople as we’ve always been treated.

        This is only to be expected. This is the real world, not that alternate universe that you live in. In this world, no matter what you’re doing, you’re going to run into opposition. So we transpeople simply have to accept the reality of life: some people–people like you–are going to oppose our right to live free and happy.

        So if we’re going to have opposition, it doesn’t hurt us if that opposition insists on making itself look like complete idiots–by claiming, e.g., that we don’t even exist. So, Linda, I would encourage you, I would urge you, I would plead with you to carry on. Keep getting on forums insisting “There is no such thing as transgender.” Shout it from the rooftops.

        The reason that we transpeople are making progress these days is that there are lots of good people in this world who see no reason to try and hurt people who aren’t hurting them. They believe in everybody’s right to live and to try to live happily. And when they see what the opposition is, they’re not encouraged to join you. If you insist on making yourself look like an idiot, please do.

        The alternative would be to actually try and learn some things about transgender people and try and decide whether there is any good reason to deny us our civil rights. But if you can’t be bothered, if you insist on remaining in the opposition, please feel free to continue making yourself look like an idiot. It’s in that way that you support our cause.

      3. “I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe.”

        You are. You’ve put yourself in one, and declared that it’s the real world where there are no trans people. Not sure why you’re so determined that this should be so. The reasons don’t really matter, since your clear willingness to make shit up about other people’s family lives has made it fully apparent that actual reality isn’t something that registers with you when you find yourself unhappy with it.

        Thankfully you’ve answered Voltaire’s prayer on the trans community’s behalf, and made at least one of their enemies ridiculous.

  2. I do like the vast majority of what was written and love the secularist parts. I strongly dislike the term “transgenderism” I’m unclear who actually wrote this letter, but here is what I would share with her:

    “Problematic: “transgenderism”
    Preferred: none

    This is not a term commonly used by transgender people. This is a term used by anti-transgender activists to dehumanize transgender people and reduce who they are to “a condition.” Refer to being transgender instead, or refer to the transgender community. You can also refer to the movement for transgender equality.”

  3. Friends of mine have a son (aged 8) who identifies as female. His anxieties about his situation emerged when he was having counselling for depression. The school head teacher and staff were very positive and supportive. The casually told the other children that T. was going to be a girl in future and they all accepted it. The only problem arose when one set of parents reported T’s parents to the Child Protection Service who were bound to investigate. Fortunately, the school gave full support, saying they were exemplary parents (they have three other boys who went to the same school.) It was very upsetting for T. who was settling into her new identity but the whole nonsense from the objecting parents was dismissed and she is now doing well at school and is a much happier child. Interestingly enough, whereas she was teased by some of the other children for being ‘effeminate’ beforehand her change, they are now totally accepting of her.

  4. One question is whether or not bathrooms and lockers have a designated gender or if they have a designated sex. Conforming to one gender or another doesn’t do anything to change your sex. A male, whether a man or a woman, is still a male. There’s an incorrect conflation between gender and sex here.

    But public services like schools have to accommodate everyone. So how do you do that? The only real option is single occupancy units.

    1. But how do you feasibly do that with pre-existing facilities? Money doesn’t grow on trees you know…

      Of course there is the option that I used when I participated in track & cross country in high school, and changed clothes on a bus that was half full of mostly heterosexual males…change clothing underneath a big t-shirt. It’s not hard at all.

  5. The sad part is the indoctrination by the mother bullying her own daughter to believe only her religious brainwashing.

  6. Does this school even have any trans students. Does this school have a gay straight alliance or LGBTQ+ club. Maybe someone in the know could post a link to any group that is activly fighting this nasty family and thier outdated beliefs. I dont have much but could donate some cash.

  7. Issues come up at international sporting events where people who have been raised since birth as women are considered men by the tests given according to the rules of the athletic organization. I wonder what would happen if a doctor told someone like Aryn Coyle that her daughter is actually her son by the rules of the athletic organization. Would she demand that the child she has considered her daughter since birth shower with the boys?

    1. You mean how would feel if she realized *that* her daughter changes in the same locker room as lesbian students. She’s not in front of them unless she puts herself there.

      1. The mother says her daughter would be changing in front of males if transgender girls are allowed into the locker rooms. Her mother makes it sound as if her daughter has to change in front of other girls. Chances are at this age, at least one is a lesbian.

      2. I seen posts from other students who went or are going to this school and says the locker rooms have private stalls and no one changes in front of anyone. In other words, mommy is lying.

  8. I am very sorry to see that ‘ScottysPearl’ comments are gone. If you are still following this in some form please know that most of us agree that you and your daughter deserve an apology from the recently banned poster who horrifically abused you. I was shocked by the abuse and said so. You may consider me disingenuous, but I would gladly accept a friend request from you on FB. I wish you, your daughter, and your entire family peace. Kim

      1. I believe that’s so. I don’t really blame her after that one poster’s violent rape remarks directed at her daughter. That was somehow supposed to expose Christian hypocrisy? I don’t agree with ScottysPearl, but she is not some latent sociopath like the one who attacked her.

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