Tonight, ITV will be airing its new ground-breaking drama Butterfly.
This three-part series focuses on the lives of a family with a trans child and their transitioning process. For trans young people and their loved ones, this is an amazing opportunity to see themselves reflected on mainstream TV.
Even though Butterfly only tells one family’s fictional story, it will resonate deeply with so many others because it reflects what they’ve gone through. For perhaps the first time, they will see their story told on-screen, which is so important for minority communities. Many LGBT young people say watching LGBT shows and/or movies helps them to embrace their identity as an LGBT person.
As Courtney, 15, learning at a Scottish secondary school said in Stonewall’s 2017 School Report: ‘Seeing TV shows or reading books with LGBT representation makes a huge difference. It makes me feel safe and just reminds me that I’m not alone.’
Part of what makes Butterfly so powerful is that it directly addresses some of the difficulties faced by some trans children and their families, including self-harm and suicide. The mental health and wellbeing of trans young people is something research shows us consistently to be a problem. Shockingly, our research found that more than two in five trans young people (45 per cent) have tried to take their own life, while nine in ten (92 per cent) have thought about taking their own life. A further four in five trans young people (84 per cent) have deliberately harmed themselves at some point. The reality is that not all trans young people are getting the support they need.
The mental health and wellbeing of trans young people is something research shows us consistently to be a problem.
This must change. We must see these figures decrease. We must increase understanding and acceptance so that many more trans people – of all ages – are free to be themselves and live healthy and happy lives.
How the media represents LGBT people is a crucial part of making the world a more accepting place. Amidst the wider hostility and misinformation directed towards trans communities, a show like Butterfly may very well become a lifeline that many people cling on to. For others, it will hopefully enable people to gain a better understanding of what life can be like for trans young people and their families.
A show like Butterfly may very well become a lifeline that many people cling on to.
All children, trans or not, should have the space and time to explore who they are, and have the support to do so. Where this happens, it allows them to be happy, healthy and included.
At such a vital time for trans equality, the world needs to hear the stories and voices of diverse trans people. If we’re to change the way people think and feel about trans people, we need more shows like Butterfly – programmes that depict a variety of lived experiences. Butterfly is a positive step towards creating a world where every person sees themselves in what they watch and read and feels confident that their identity is valid.