By Charlotte Molloy
TW: attempted suicide
Last night ITV aired the first part of Butterfly, a groundbreaking drama about 11-year old Maxine (formerly Max, assigned male at birth) and her struggles as a transgender child.
In my opinion it was a nothing short of phenomenal. It was a wonderful, sensitive portrayal of what it feels like to be a trans child and it’s a long overdue wakeup call for society to do more for and be more empathetic toward trans children.
And most decent people would agree with me.
They instead choose to think that its all made up by the parents to corrupt the minds of innocents and is actually part of some transsexual agenda conspiracy….
Now this doesn’t just make me angry because I’m an insufferable lefty liberal, immigrant, atheist.
This makes me angry because I have lived the same life as Maxine and know how absolutely true to life and important Butterfly is.
I grew up in the uber Catholic, rural west of Ireland in the early 2000s where I was made to feel deeply ashamed for being different, and had to hide who I really was from everyone.
At the age of twelve, after being relentlessly bullied at school for years, my primary school decided that I should probably see a counsellor. It was one of the lowest points of my life. I was in a very dark place.
I was assigned to this lovely girl who for the purposes of this article I will call Aoife. Aoife was quite young and I was one of her first patients. She was always friendly, always made me laugh, and crucially, always brought cake.
She spoke to me like I mattered and made me feel special, which was something that it felt like nobody else in my world at the time was doing. In my mind she was the only friend I had.
I came to trust Aoife so much that, a couple of sessions in, I decided to tell her my deepest darkest secret.
I nervously croaked “I think I am supposed to be a girl not a boy.”
Once the floodgates were open I just splurged out everything about how I felt.
I was so relieved and excited to be finally opening up to a friend about this that I had not noticed that Aoife’s face had dropped from her usual cheerful friendly expression to sheer anger and disgust.
She sternly told me to never repeat what I had just said to her. She said that if I told other people about how I felt, I would be locked up in a mental hospital for a very long time.
In a snap, Aoife was back to her normal cheery self. The conversation was over, and we would never speak of it again. She might have gone back to normal in a flash, but I certainly did not.
I had just told the only person in the world my most sensitive truth about how I felt about my body, and she had outright rejected me. In my twelve-year-old mind, that was the end of the line.
When I got home I went to my room. I tugged the string out of my hoody and tied one end around the coat hook on the back of my bedroom door.
The other end I tied around my neck.
I bent my legs, leaned forward, and desperately hoped that the string would suffocate me.
Fortunately, thanks to being twelve and not realising that a hoody string would be too weak for this, I am still here now, and the worst injury I got that day was a nasty nose bleed.
For the next seven years until I began transitioning at nineteen, I had to pretend that I was fine and that I was a perfectly normal happy boy.
No matter how hard I tried, however, I could not convince myself – and unfortunately made a couple more attempts at ending my life along the way. Thankfully, none were successful.
Speaking from personal experience, if I had lived in a world where the people around me accepted me for who I was and was encouraged and allowed to live as a girl if that is what made me happy I would not have tried to kill myself at the age of twelve.
Nor would 45% of transgender children in the UK be attempting to kill themselves, or 84% frequently engaging in self harm (Stonewall Schools Report 2017). This is the current reality of being a transgender child, people!
Butterfly is a long overdue wakeup call for society. We need to do more to create a caring environment so that in future trans kids will be able to have a happy peaceful childhood and not be crushed to the point where they feel they need to try and hang themselves with the strings of a hoody.
If a child in your care comes to you and tells you that they are actually not a boy and would like to live as a girl (or vice versa) let them and support them! Who are they hurting?
That’s right, absolutely nobody!
Don’t be like Aoife and all the people I grew up around – be like Maxine’s absolute queen of a sister and saint of a Mum! If they trust you enough to come to you with this, you clearly mean the world to them and your support and care could quite literally save their life.
Butterfly isn’t woolly liberal propaganda to corrupt the minds of the innocent. It’s a very accurate representation of what being a transgender child is like and it needs to be taken seriously. The shame, the isolation, the repression, the longing, and feeling like the only way out is death. A trans childhood doesn’t need to be gruelling torture that you either spend the rest of your life recovering from or don’t make it out alive at all.
Pay attention, people!