Campaigners have accused the makers of a new ITV drama of creating little more than an ‘advert’ for activists who support children changing gender.
Butterfly, a three-part series that begins tonight, examines the emotional turmoil of estranged parents Vicky and Stephen as they seek to support Max, their 11-year-old son who identifies as a girl.
Butterfly’s Bafta award-winning writer Tony Marchant and actress Anna Friel, who plays Vicky, have lavished praise on Mermaids, a charity that supports transgender children and their families.
In particular, they have paid tribute to chief executive Susie Green, who was a consultant on the programme. Mermaids has attracted controversy for calling for an end to the NHS age limit of 16 for prescribing sex-change hormones which can lead to infertility.
Transgender Trend, a group which is alarmed by the growing number of children changing gender, claims that Butterfly’s producers failed to seek their expertise and have created a ‘one-sided narrative’.
Spokesman Stephanie Davies-Arai told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It appears the programme-makers have made an advert for trans activist groups like Mermaids, which would have the world believe that children denied drugs to change sex will self-harm or even commit suicide, despite there being no official figures to back this.
‘ITV made no effort to speak to any of the hundreds of parents in my group who believe they are doing the right thing by not validating their child’s desire to be the opposite sex.
‘If they had done this, they may have discovered that many of these children suffer from other mental health conditions such as autism.
‘They may have discovered that, often in the case of girls, they develop a disdain for their own bodies during puberty – perhaps in response to the insane pressures young women are now under to have the perfect body. So the fear these parents have is their child is mistakenly believing they have been born in the wrong body when actually they have a very different problem.’
Lily Maynard, who has personal experience of the issues raised in Butterfly, watched a preview of the opening episode with ‘growing discomfort’. Mrs Maynard allowed her then 15-year-old daughter to dress how she wished, but stopped her from taking cross-sex hormones at that age.
‘I was struck by the programme’s acceptance of sexist stereotypes,’ she said. ‘No one ever suggests that he might not need “fixing” and that the fault lies with the gender stereotypes valued by everyone around him.’
The Mail on Sunday revealed earlier this year that a third of children referred to Britain’s only NHS gender identity service for under-18s have signs of autism. Among the general population, one in 100 is autistic.
A preview of the drama describes how Vicky allows Max, played by Callum Booth-Ford, to dress in girls’ clothing and supports a desire to be female, while trying to ensure the child’s mental health is ‘kept intact at all cost’. But Stephen struggles to cope with views ‘he doesn’t understand’ and Max’s grandmother represents ‘generational ignorance’ because she believes that Max is going through ‘a silly phase’.
The Red Production Company, which made Butterfly, said it consulted widely with experts, children and families about their experiences.
Ms Green said: ‘Mermaids has never claimed that children denied cross-sex hormones may self-harm.’
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.