On the Science of Changing Sex

Butterfly Effect

Posted in Film Review by Kay Brown on October 28, 2018

butterflyThere’s a new television show, Butterfly, a three-part mini-series on ITV in the UK written by Tony Marchant who had previously written different for girls.  Where different for girls is about an androphilic transwoman in her twenties and the complicated romance she has with an old friend from her school days, Butterfly is about an eleven year old transgirl.  Sadly, Butterfly is not available in the US at this time.  (Don’t ask me how I’ve been able to watch it here in the States… just accept that I can.)

While the writing is excellent for both, the casting is execrable; both have ‘transface’ of the worst sort.  In different, a straight man plays an androphilic transwoman and comes across as a straight man playing the stereotype of an androphilic transwoman.  In Butterfly, a gender typical boy plays the part of a gender atypical and dysphoric MTF transkid and comes across as a gender typical boy playing the part of a transgirl.  Quite frankly, the subtle mannerisms and motor movements are wrong, wrong WRONG!  And the non-subtle mannerisms feel forced.  Different for girls would have been better if an actual androphilic transwoman, and there were plenty available, played the part, but ‘transface’ was the order of the day, according to the producers at the time, so that the audience was constantly reminded that this was a transwoman… because an actual young androphilic transwoman would have been too much like a non-transwoman, in both looks and mannerisms.  Finding and casting an actual transgirl would not have been likely, but Butterfly would have been better if an eleven year old girl had been cast as the transgirl, then the mannerisms would have felt right and natural.  Because of the miscasting, it left unfulfilled the opportunity for an even deeper, intuitive, understanding of the essence of being a transkid.

Mr. Marchant must have researched what transkids are actually like and the issues they face at that age because just minutes into the show I had to hit pause.  I needed a break… as too many of the issues recalling childhood memories hit home in too quick a succession to be emotionally processed and released.  One sees the denial and wishful thinking on the part of Maxine’s parents regarding her gender atypicality and dysphoria, convinced that puberty will soon put an end to it.  Then, when she comes home from the first day at a new school, we find that she has avoided using the bathroom all day.  Wow, did Marchant learn of this from talking to the parents of transkids?  Or did he read my Advice to Parents essay where I previously wrote about this very issue?  It may seem trivial to non-transkids… but using a public restroom before social transition is… I don’t have the words in common with non-transkids that can express it… but humiliating and terrifying admixed comes closest.  Because transkids won’t use what is to them the ‘wrong’ restroom and are forbidden to use the ‘right’ one… they will refuse to visit any until home which may, and all to often does, cause ‘accidents’.

Although in denial, Maxine’s mother allows Maxine to own and wear feminine clothing, jewelry, and make-up in the privacy of her bedroom, but insists that “Max” present as a gender typical boy in public.  This too is something I’ve written about in my advice essay… as destructive to transkids self-esteem and mental health, as children can’t truly control, turn on and off at will, their gender atypicality, and attempting to deny being gender atypical is soul sucking fatiguing.  Placing such a burden on a child is just plain cruel and abusive… something will give… and in Maxine’s case, it does.

In one scene, Maxine’s father asks her about what she wants to grow up to be.  There follows a painful pause where she clearly has to suppress what she was really wanting to say to come up with an acceptable gender typical ambition which wouldn’t upset her father, “You know… an astronaut.”  This shows that transkids have to be hypervigilant under these conditions, living under constant stress and pressure to dissimulate.  In a pair of flashbacks, we see what happens when Maxine fails to live up to her father’s expectations for gender atypicality.  In one instance he strikes her across the face because she is dressed in a pink top and skirt, listening to music and dancing in a ‘feminine’ manner.  In another, Maxine tries to share her growing discomfort with her genitalia, wishing it would “fall off” and her father recoils in horror, anger, disgust, and denial.

Although he treats her with disdain and denial, and only seeks to “fix” her, Maxine desperately wants her father’s love and respect.  Yet, she can’t go on trying to pretend that she isn’t gender dysphoric and begs her family to help her transition in the final scene in the first part.

In the next episode we see Maxine parents trying to come to grips with what being a transkid means and what gatekeeping hoops they will have to jump to obtain help for Maxine.  Mum grows more sympathetic faster than Maxine’s father, who tries to both protect her from ‘phobic bullies and at the same time continue to push her to grow up to be a gay man instead of a transwoman.  Given the multiple stressors on Maxine and the re-opening rift between her parents, the gatekeepers push for denying medical intervention for Maxine calling their decision “Waitful Watching”… a policy that is correctly perceived as devastating as Maxine will soon experience an unwanted masculinizing puberty the effects of which are irreversible.

In the third and final episode Maxine’s mother attempts to end run around the extremely restrictive UK medical system by going to the US where she believes they have a more enlightened attitude.  This only brings on more trouble… as one can imagine.

The rift between parents widens and in fairytale fashion closes such that a happy ending of a united family that supports Maxine in her social transition and introduction of puberty blockers.

The Story Not Told

TransSupportBut lets talk about the rest of the transkids… in real life, most transkids do NOT get such help.  Most don’t have supportive parents.  Our society grants parental rights that allow them to make medical and other decisions for their children.  Parents are the first, and most often least sympathetic, “gate keepers”.  This means that transphobic bias against medical intervention is common.  Further, many parents are emotionally and even physically abusive to their gender atypical children, both gay and trans.  This leads to runaway and throwaway youth who end up on the street, turning to survival sex and high risk behaviors.

Even if teens are not pushed out onto the streets, the transphobic attitudes often lead to estrangement to one or both parents as their child nears or passes the age of majority… parents who then vociferously complain on “gender critical” fora falsely claiming “transgender ideology” poisoned their child’s mind and ruined the relationship.  If only their child had listened to them and just been normal.

Many of these parents then complain and accuse medical caregivers of “fast-tracking” their now legally of age young adult children into medical interventions that they “shouldn’t”.

 

Further Reading

Advice to Parents of Transkids

Further External Reading

https://amp.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/03/tavistock-centre-gender-identity-clinic-accused-fast-tracking-young-adults

Advertisements
Tagged with:

Comments Off on Butterfly Effect