Butterfly

Episode 3 Statement

At the close of the three-part ITV drama, Butterfly, it’s been wonderful witnessing the positive responses from people all around the globe, from all backgrounds and ages. People have started to talk about trans children in a different way, as Butterfly has helped the public understand their experiences.

The conversation was widened by Emma Watson posting on her social media channels in support of trans kids. This prompted transgender children to draw pictures of thanks for her, which Emma responded to, sharing the drawings to millions of her followers.

It is small acts like this that show us that there is greater support, willingness to learn and acceptance of transgender children and their families than ever before.

Tonight’s episode included dramatic twists and tensions between family members and the authorities. Family division is common, often in the initial stages of a child coming out as transgender. While trans kids are revealing their gender identity, family members also go through their own journey of discovery, learning how to best support their child, often becoming some of their biggest supporters and advocates.

While Butterfly is centred around Maxine, we have seen the journey of Maxine’s dad Stephen, move from ignorance, denial and anger, to finally doing all he can to support his trans daughter. Maxine’s grandmother, played by Alison Steadman, also recognises that the most important thing for a child to be is happy – despite initially rejecting the idea of having a transgender granddaughter.

Family support is essential, as studies confirm that transgender children that are supported by family and friends have the most positive outcomes. 

Looking back over the drama, Butterfly has proven itself to be a ‘game changer’, providing a window into the lives of transgender children and showing some of the hurdles that they and their families have to overcome - family acceptance, issues in school, accessing timely healthcare. We hope Butterfly opens the door for further realistic representations of transgender young people on TVs in living rooms up and down the UK.

And remember, if you were moved by Maxine’s story – know that you have the power to change trans children’s lives. Supporting your pupil, your patient, your child’s friend, your colleague as they raise their trans child – these small acts of kindness and love make trans children feel more accepted and happy.

We can’t wait to see the positive change that Butterfly will continue to bring.

For more information about Mermaids and to keep in touch with what we do, please follow our social media accounts on Facebook  and Twitter.

Episode 2 Statement

We’re thrilled that the first episode of the new ITV drama Butterfly received such a positive response following its premiere last week. There have been some amazing reviews, including this Radio Times piece.

We hope there will be similar reception to the brilliant second episode, which delves deeper into the need to love and support a trans child, and the challenges families with trans children face.

At Mermaids, we work with many families and hear many different stories. Butterfly is one fictional family’s story - it’s not the story of every trans child in the UK, but the story that Tony Marchant has told.

It’s important to remember that the referral and treatment process might have been sped-up or shortened to fit into the limited time that TV schedules allow. Unlike the fictitious “Ferrybank” clinic, the NHS service has a much longer time-scale, with waiting times of over 18 months for initial appointment with The Tavistock and Portman Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) clinic (see here). In this service, children are rigorously assessed before having access to any developmentally-appropriate or age-specified medical intervention. Mermaids, as standard, recommends NHS services whilst recognising the strain the service is under due to increasing demand.

Private treatment, albeit quicker, would require more evidence than shown and would need significant financial input, which is out of reach for many families.

What we’re taking away from Butterfly this week is Maxine’s family supporting her with great love and care, despite the difficulties they come up against. Vicky moves mountains to support Maxine, something that we’re sure many parents - whether you have trans children or not - will understand.

For more positive stories from families with trans children, check out our Twitter page. We’re looking forward to the final episode next Sunday at 9pm.

Episode 1 Statement

We can’t wait to see the next episode of Butterfly on ITV Sunday at 9pm, a 3-part series that for the very first time on primetime TV will give people across the UK a window into the lives of a family with a transgender child.

Paris Lees told the BBC that "This may be a drama but it really reflects these people's lives and others need to know what these families are going through".

We are incredibly proud to have consulted on the programme. We also want to highlight that while the series draws from the real life experiences of many families, it is also a fictional drama, and ITV has used dramatic license to tell a complex story in the space of 3 episodes, particularly in relation to the succession of events and timeframes.

We love that the family is portrayed in a three dimensional way, as a family like any other who love each other and are trying to come to terms with the fact that their child is trans.

We also welcome that Butterfly hasn’t shied away from some of the thorny issues that transgender children and their families face, including self harm and suicide. At one point Anna Friel’s character Vicky says that “it’s better to have a daughter, than a dead son”, highlighting the high instances of attempted suicide in transgender children.

Unfortunately, many families are currently dealing with this issue and Mermaids CEO, Susie Green, has talked openly about spending 3 years on suicide watch when her trans daughter was growing up.  

This is also evidenced by a multitude of studies in the UK, including the Stonewall School Report 2017 and the LGBT Youth Scotland Report.

International evidence shows a similar picture, as reported in this recent GayStar News article.

But of course, as families with trans children know, our kids are also just like any other - funny, bubbly, shy, naughty, kind and, most importantly of all, happy when given the love and support they need to be who they are.

We all need to look at ways to support trans children, which is why Butterfly is so important in raising awareness of some of the challenges they face.

If you or anyone you know is affected by the issues faced in the drama, you can contact us for support. If you are in immediate need, you can also find the contact details for Samaritans here.

What is Butterfly?

Butterfly is a heartfelt and sensitive drama about the complex relationship between separated parents, Vicky (Anna Friel) and Stephen (Emmett J. Scanlan), and their division in opinion over how to support their youngest child, Max (Callum Booth-Ford).

From a young age, Max has identified as a girl but has tried to suppress these feelings in an attempt to earn Stephen’s approval. When Max’s feelings become increasingly distressing, Stephen seizes the opportunity to return to live at the family home, hoping to encourage male bonding and prove himself to Vicky.

What unfolds is the greatest challenge and test of love and understanding imaginable. The social transitioning of Max to Maxine is initially thwarted because of the clear division of opinion between Vicky and Stephen.   

Despite puberty looming over her, as Maxine grows in confidence she becomes increasingly certain that she’s in the right skin – will this be enough to get everyone else on board? Both parents want to protect Maxine but are completely split on the best way to do that.

Stephen is still clinging to the idea that it’s still a passing ‘phase’ and doesn’t want to take such a leap with the ensuing emotional upheaval, if it isn’t ultimately going to be followed through. Whilst for Vicky, it’s about making sure that Maxine’s mental health is kept intact at all costs.

Butterfly embraces the story of a three-generational family and exposes the truly extraordinary demands made by everyone in the family. Across three episodes viewers will see how they all prosper or fall as the string of challenges unfold over time.