During the February 27 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Brooke Baldwin led a panel discussion about Coy Mathis, a 6-year-old Colorado transgender girl who is suing her school district for the right to use female restrooms at her elementary school.
Everyone on the panel expressed support for Mathis' position except for Dr. James Sears, co-host of the CBS show The Doctors. Sears, who is a pediatrician and television personality, warned that Mathis might walk around the girls' bathroom with her penis exposed, like “most boys” allegedly do at that age:
SEARS: I have three kids, a daughter and two boys, and as when my daughter was that age, I would have been very uncomfortable if there was a boy with a penis walking around their bathroom. And you say that the stalls are private. You know, at that age, most boys especially will use the bathroom then leave their pants down while they walk to the sink to wash their hands and then pull it up. So it's going to be very uncomfortable for the other girls seeing a penis in their bathroom.
JENNIFER HUTT: She's a girl.
SEARS: She has a penis, though.
The other panelists were understandably confused and outraged at Sears' explanation and insistence on describing Mathis as a boy.
The “bathroom panic” argument is a popular conservative response to attempts to protect transgender people from discrimination, especially when it comes to public accommodations. It's also completely baseless.
Moreover, forcing Mathis, who identifies and presents herself as female, to use the boys' restroom would likely add to the extreme harassment that many transgender students like Coy already face in school. As Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, recently stated:
“By forcing Coy to use a different bathroom than all the other girls, Coy's school is targeting her for stigma, bullying and harassment... Coy's school has the opportunity to turn this around and teach Coy's classmates a valuable lesson about friendship, respect and basic fairness.”
As a pediatrician with a wide television audience, Sears should have known better than to contribute to stigmatizing transgender youth and hyping misinformed anxieties about letting children like Mathis use the bathrooms in which they feel comfortable.