My son’s a girl

Anna Friel plays the mum of a trans­gen­der child in a mov­ing drama

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What would you do if your 11-year-old child felt they’d been born in the wrong body? This gen­der dilemma is at the heart of

ITV’s emo­tional three-part drama But­ter­fly, which sees Anna Friel play Vicky Duffy, whose young son, Max, has de­cided to iden­tify as fe­male.

Vicky has let Max dress as a girl at home, but, as he starts se­nior school and pu­berty beck­ons, the pain he feels at hav­ing to sup­press his feel­ings and con­form be­comes hard to bear and he an­nounces he wants to live as a girl, Max­ine.

‘I found Vicky re­lat­able,’ says Anna. ‘At one point she blames her­self. The hard­est thing for par­ents is say­ing hello to a new child and good­bye to an­other. But she sees her child is in agony.’

While Vicky bat­tles to work out what’s best, her strait­laced mother, Bar­bara (Alison Stead­man), strug­gles to un­der­stand her grand­child. Vicky is also at log­ger­heads with es­tranged hus­band Stephen (for­mer Hol­lyoaks star Em­mett J Scan­lan), who thinks it’s just a ‘phase’.

Re­search

Anna felt a huge sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity about tack­ling the is­sue of gen­der vari­ance and met a range of chil­dren and fam­i­lies at trans­gen­der sup­port char­ity Mer­maids.

‘When I heard about the level of bul­ly­ing these chil­dren re­ceived, even from the par­ents of other chil­dren, I was flab­ber­gasted,’ she says. ‘I came away with em­pa­thy, com­pas­sion and re­spect for their brav­ery. I felt so touched be­cause they said, “Thank you for telling our story.”’

Dif­fi­cul­ties… Gran Bar­bara and dad Stephen find it hard to un­der­stand Sup­port­ive…Vicky and Max/Max­ine

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