Thursday 3rd September was an important day in the history of British television: the first sitcom to feature a transgender lead character – played by Rebecca Root, a trans woman herself – was shown on BBC2.
In the US, we saw Laverne Cox achieve similar success in Orange Is the New Black, showing how far we have come in recent times – and how the UK’s turn is long overdue.
A couple of months ago, I attended a small gathering at the BBC in Manchester to watch a few selected clips from the new BBC2 romantic comedy Boy Meets Girl, and hear from the writer Elliott Kerrigan and lead actress Rebecca Root.
After being shown a dozen short excerpts from the show, I felt huge love and affection for the characters I’d seen, along with similar hopes for my own romantic future. Those feelings returned even stronger last night watching the first episode. I myself transitioned from male to female – just like the main character Judy – and I know only too well the possible complexities that could lie ahead when it comes to romance.
But will they be as complex as I expect them to be? Boy Meet Girl gives me great hope for the future.
Before they’ve even ordered dinner on their first date, Judy tells Leo that she was “born with a penis”. Leo’s (Harry Hepple) response is utterly genuine and humble, almost like: and… so what? The waiter’s face was a picture as he stood next to their table waiting to take the order, as I’m sure viewers’ faces were – eagerly wanting to find out what happens next.
“So you were born in the wrong body” is the line that made my heart melt. To hear Leo ask that question means that – although he’ll never know how it feels – he understands. That is why this show is so important. Yes, it’s a romantic comedy, but it’s also about bringing another layer of acceptance and understanding into the public consciousness.
Judy’s response – “It’s like being in prison all your life and not knowing your release date” – resonated with me totally, and hopefully simplifies the feeling of being born in the wrong body so others can understand. The warmth and honesty from Judy, who is obviously expecting to be rejected by Leo, is heartwarming. You immediately feel for her and want her to win his heart, which I hope she does.
But this is a love story and all relationships have their complexities, and we are clearly about to be taken on an emotional roller coaster as they arise – not only from Judy and Leo themselves, but from their families.
Leo’s mum Pam, played by the wonderful Denise Welch, is very protective of her 26-year-old son Leo, and initially objects to him dating an older woman. It remains to be seen what her reaction will be when she finds out that the lady who Leo exclaims “could be the one” was born the opposite gender and can never give her grandchildren.
Trans storyline aside, this is a northern love story with some wonderful characters like Janine Duvitski’s Peggy – mother to Judy and her sister Jackie (Lizzie Roper), who has some brilliantly delivered lines. One of the many relatable laugh-out-loud moments for me was the awkward ‘first kiss’ – a situation we have all encountered, often with comedic repercussions.
As someone who will most definitely find herself in the same dating situation as Judy, it’s filled me with hope and left me eagerly waiting for next Thursday’s instalment.
Boy Meets Girl continues on Thursdays at 9.30pm on BBC2
Rebecca Root will be at Radio Times Festival later this month along with Kellie Maloney talking Transgender Trailblazers.