What Is Butterfly?
Have you been tuning into Butterfly?
Wow, it is pretty powerful, hard-hitting stuff.
Transgender people desperately lack authentic representation in the media. Have you noticed?
Well, Butterfly is ITV’s landmark new drama.
It tells the fictional story of separated parents Vicky (Anna Friel) and Stephen (Emmett J. Scanlan) and portrays the struggles they experience as a family supporting their 11 year old transgender child, Max/Maxine, who from a young age has identified as a girl. As puberty looms over her Maxine decides she wants to live as a female, becoming increasingly distressed by the body she was assigned at birth.
In this 3-part series, written by Bafta-winner Tony Marchant, we witness the opposing ideas that Vicky and Stephen have on how to support Maxine; whether to transition, or not.
A quick aside. Do you remember Anna Friel in Brookside? She made history with the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss to be broadcasted on British television. And now, Anna hopes that her new drama can help change perceptions about transgender children in the same way her lesbian kiss did for all-female couples.
What I Love About Butterfly
Here are some of the messages that Butterfly is highlighting:
- Transgender representation is vitally important. ITV have recognised this. Woo hoo!
- Butterfly is educating and informing the masses about transgender issues. Changing attitudes. Changing perceptions. Changing behaviours. Brilliant.
- Recognition of the trauma associated with going through the ‘wrong’ puberty. In Maxine’s case having a deep voice, a penis (that she stated was ‘becoming more wrong to me’ in her Gender Identity Clinic appointment) and wanting to stop her body from changing further. In conversations with my trans clients, the vast majority state that going through the wrong puberty caused them intense trauma and has had a lasting impact on their mental health.
- Maxine thought that by mutilating herself, cutting herself – she could stop her body changing and it would make her feel different. For those that have self-harmed, you will know that this is only temporary. Gender dysphoria causes extreme distress. The Stonewall School Report 2017 highlighted that 48% of transgender people under 26 years old have attempted suicide and 59% have considered doing so. More than four in five trans young people have self-harmed. The way this has been portrayed so far has been powerful, raw and hard-hitting.
- Being transgender isn’t a choice. You wouldn’t choose to live your life in a way that risked you facing daily abuse, discrimination and prejudice. You wouldn’t choose to undergo gender reassignment surgery and the years of anxiety and distress that arises whilst you await your surgery. Coming out as transgender, transitioning and worrying about ‘passing’ everyday, that isn’t a choice.
- A flavour of what a transgender individual experiences: dealing with gender dysphoria, confusion, distress, turmoil, trauma of going through the ‘wrong’ puberty, isolation, keeping a secret and pretending to be someone else – so they can be accepted. This is all being put across to the audience in a gentle and sensitive way.
- Family. Maxine says “I don’t want them to not love me because of it.” There is the deep worry of being accepted and loved as a trans individual and not being disowned or cast out of the family. The shame, secrecy, frustration, anger, anxiety that is felt is intense for a child.
- Parents. Parents also have to transition, along with their trans child. They go through their own struggles and inner turmoil as they come to terms with their child being trans and the implications this has on them as a child and for their future. We have expectations for our children: marriage, kids, successful career etc. Much of this can be compromised for trans individuals – through lack of education on what being transgender means, discrimination, unconscious bias and prejudice. Butterfly brilliantly portrays what a family goes through: losing a son/daughter, comparing being transgender to an illness and seeking treatment for it and going through a phase that they will grow out of.
- Community. Trying to fit in but not doing so. Trying to please others. Trying to adhere to societal norms for boy/girls. Trying to navigate the school playground, the bullies, the tormentors, the teachers and the misunderstandings they have about being transgender. The anxiety of using the toilets at school. Attempting to hide feeling different and trying to fit into gender stereotypes in terms of activities and expression. Yet all the while desperately wanting to be Maxine. Authentic and real. Desperately wanting to be themselves. Something that every child, every adult should be able to do.
- Gender identity versus sexual orientation. The idea that trans people aren’t really trans, but just gay. The confusion between these and how that is expressed in reality. The idea that being gay is more acceptable in society than being transgender.
- Transitioning. It is a gruelling process to go through: gender identity clinics, long waiting lists, lots of questions, lots of people involved, decisions to be made. It is a long process with waiting times up to 3 years to get an appointment. You don’t transition on a whim.
- The Watch and Wait Approach. Arggghhh!
What I Want To See In Butterfly
- Maxine’s conversations with her mum and sister – worries, concerns (pre and during transition)
- The school’s intervention and support
- Passing. Passing is where a transperson is regarded, at a glance, to be a cisgender man or cisgender woman. Passing is a really big source of anxiety for the transgender community. I would love to see more on this and the implication it causes.
What Needs To Be Addressed
Training for schools: school teachers, lunchtime staff, support assistants, the leadership team. Everyone.
More and more children are talking about being gender non-conforming, being non-binary, not identifying as a boy or girl or not feeling like they are the sex they were assigned at birth.
And the staff don’t know how to deal with that. What to say. How to support them.
Training for NHS and private healthcare providers: GPs, nurses, mental health teams, hospital staff etc.
Individuals are presenting with issues related to being transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming.
Awareness is needed on what to look out for, the challenges they are facing, the strategies they are using to function in society and the mental health concerns to be aware of.
It’s not enough to THINK you know…
How many times have I heard people say to me ‘my colleague is transitioning and I have no idea what to say to them’ or ‘I want to transition but don’t know how to tell my organisation/team. I think it will be easier for me to leave my job and find another when I have transitioned.”
Far too many to count.
There are 4 things to implement in an organisation:
- HR team: awareness training, inclusion training and working with you to support a trans person in work
- The trans persons immediate team – working out how to transition together
- Support for the trans individual – to ensure they are safe and happy at work
- Training for the whole organisation – to ensure the organisation is inclusive for all
My Signature Training
Focusing on how to support your Transgender, Non-Binary and Gender Fluid Employees in the workplace – before, during and after ‘coming out’.
- LGBT+ definitions and exploration of key terms
- Strategies that LGBT+ individuals develop to function in the workplace
- The biggest challenges Trans, Non-Binary and Gender Fluid individuals face in the workplace
- How to support Trans, Non-Binary and Gender Fluid individuals in the workplace
I detail the elements you need to consider and practical strategies you can implement in the workplace as an:
Delivered by me: an LGBT+ person that works with trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals every day.
Update Your Training Programme
Got a training programme that needs updating to include transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming information?
I work with:
- Schools, colleges and universities
- Health care providers: NHS and private
- Emergency services
- Airports and airlines
- Private sector organisations
To update their existing training programmes that are designed and built to be robust and relevant for at least 10 years, written bespoke to the organisations needs.
To discuss working with me on your training needs contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- It is YOUR responsibility to educate yourself about how to support transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals. Take action today if you are unsure how to support trans individuals.
- Butterfly is a powerful insight into what it is to be transgender. If you haven’t watched the first 2 episodes, get it on catch up. Tune in for the last episode on Sunday 28th October at 9pm on ITV.
About Gina Battye
Gina is a world-renowned LGBT+ and Gender Identity Coach and Inclusion Consultant for Fortune 500 companies and leading global organisations.
Specialising in transgender and non-binary in the workplace, Gina is called upon worldwide to deliver her insights, training and consultancy, by leading global organisations and Fortune 500 companies. Gina works with senior leaders, executives, HR teams, Diversity and Inclusion teams, as well as with individuals.
Previous clients include GE, AstraZeneca, Bank Of America, BBC, ITV, Yorkshire Water, Coop, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, Experian, Vodafone, HBOS Plc.
Gina is available to work with you and your teams on:
- Gender Identity: transgender and non-binary in the workplace
- Bringing All Of Who You Are To Work
- Inclusion Strategy
- Getting Your Organisation Ready For Generation Z
For more information visit https://www.ginabattye.com/business
Please email email@example.com to discuss your requirements.