AGLIFF review – ‘Growing Up Coy’

The Mathis family, "Growing Up Coy"
                                                          The Mathis family, “Growing Up Coy”

Controversy over the rights of transgender Americans to use the bathroom has somehow recently become a hot-button political issue. From the North Carolina law to our own state Attorney General Ken Paxton, who seems determined to waste a lot of state money to wage war against trans kids in Texas schools, this is something that a lot of people have been talking about.

Before the spotlight was shining on the topic in 2016, there was a 6-year-old transgender child in a conservative Colorado town three years ago who was told that she couldn’t use the girls’ bathroom anymore. That child was Coy Mathis, born as a boy in a set of triplets. Her parents, Jeremy and Kathryn, fought for their child despite all of the odds against them.

Director Eric Juhola launches his documentary about the family’s fight six weeks before it really began. As they discuss their options with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), it becomes clear that once they file legal action against the school district there will be no turning back. The risks to their family after being thrust into the spotlight were obvious concerns. After all, Jeremy and Kathryn have four other children, including one with cerebral palsy.

“You question yourself all the time,” says Kathryn regarding the decision to allow Coy to live as a girl. It started around 18 or 19 months of age. A refusal to wear boy’s clothes, wanting to grow long hair, favoring pink dresses and tiaras at home. Ultimately, they chose their child’s happiness over perceived social norms.

This well-constructed documentary shows the relentless schedule that had to be maintained to take legal action. Invasive news crews and reporters setting up in the living room was a daily occurance for what seems like an extended period of time. In fighting for one child, were they disrupting the lives of their other kids? It’s a tough call to make as the entire experience seemed to have both positive and negative impact on the family. When asked about where to draw the line in terms of coverage, Kathryn simply states, “We don’t want her to look back and see that we didn’t stand up for her.”

The sacrifices that the Mathis family made did lead to a watershed ruling on civil rights in Colorado and as multiple states have introduced anti-transgender legislation this year alone, it’s clear that the fight is far from over. 

“Growing Up Coy” screened today in the Documentary Competition and does not yet have U.S. theatrical distribution. The winning title in the Documentary category will show again on Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. at the Alamo South Lamar. 

Author: Matt Shiverdecker

Matt spent over 12 years as on-air host and Music Director at He is a freelance contributor to the Austin American-Statesman.

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