Channel 4’s Born in the Wrong Body series – which gives young transgender people and their families the chance to show what life is like for them – starts with My Transgender Kid, a film about two very different seven-year-olds who have one big thing in common: they both identify as a gender they weren’t born with.
Paddy is remarkably articulate and clear when discussing her gender identity. When an off-camera film-maker asks her if she’s always “wanted to be a girl”, her reply is firm: “Actually, I don’t want to be a girl, I am a girl.” George is less vocal but no less determined.
Though the programme is ultimately a positive one, both families are upfront about the difficulties of raising a transgender child. Teasing by George’s peers meant he was forced to move schools; when his mum asks him how that made him feel, he draws a picture of a broken heart. Paddy is yet to even dress as a girl at school, in case her peers react negatively; their parents admit that their own worries may be affecting their daughter.
But that’s the main virtue of all three of the Born in the Wrong Body films: honesty. In the second programme, three young trans men lay bare the physical and mental toll of transitioning. They make video diaries of their worries and fears, and share images of their surgery; in a world first, one man, Billy, even agrees to have his operation filmed.
And they do this because they know that to share their experiences is to help others: for young trans people struggling to feel understood, and unsure what their future looks like, such frank testimony is vital.
Because the thread that unites all three films is that acceptance is everything; for all of the young people featured, the happiness they feel when they are able to inhabit a body that finally feels like it belongs to them is emphatic – even more so when they can share that happiness with their friends and loved ones.
In this, too, parents of transgender children can find reassurance. Paddy and George’s parents’ constant fear is that they are allowing their child to make a decision that they may regret in the future, or that will cause them hurt and suffering now. But they realise that their role is simple: to love, support and listen to their children when they’re trying to tell them who they are. As Paddy’s mum Lorna says, “All [trans children] want is to be loved for themselves, and accepted for themselves.”
My Transgender Kid is on on Tuesday 6th October at 10pm on Channel 4. Born in the Wrong Body continues at the same time next week with Girls to Men