First Day – Trans children on TV

actf_support_materials_First_Day_Teaching_Toolkit_AC

Australian TV (ABC) has now released for global download the children’s TV programme “First Day”.

“First Day (2017) follows main character Hannah as she finishes primary school and begins her secondary schooling. Hannah experiences all the excitement and fear associated with this transition, but her first day of high school is even more significant: it’s the first day she will wear a girl’s uniform to school and go by her chosen name, rather than the boy’s name she was given at birth”.

The download costs £6  ($11 AUS) and is a 17 minute programme.

It is a children’s show, perhaps aimed at ages 6 – 13.

It is the first children’s tv show I’ve seen with a trans girl played by a trans girl.

This authenticity shines through the show, with a beautiful, moving, authentic performance from the fantastic Evie MacDonald. She was 12 years old at the time of filming.

It starts with the main character Hannah, on her last day at her junior school, where she is still being called a boy and wearing boy’s uniform. She meets with the head of a new secondary school (there’s a discussion over bathroom use with the head initially requiring her to use the sick bay bathroom).

It shows her being bullied by a group of mean girls at her junior school.

It shows her having fun over the summer with her brother, enjoying playing football in her back garden, enjoying the bike she gets for Christmas, and shopping for her new girls school uniform. It shows her worries as the new girl, starting a new school where she doesn’t know anyone.

She starts her new school with her girl’s name and uniform, and meets a new group of friends who welcome her in with kindness.

Then her bully from junior school transfers to the school. Calls her by her old name.

It shows her worry and fear, wondering what will happen next.

It shows her finding the courage to stick up for herself, and to offer kindness and friendship to her old bully, who is herself having some problems.

It is a gentle, kind, positive and child friendly programme that any child could watch and enjoy.

First Day (2017) is one of four films in the ‘International Day of the Girl Collection’ – a compilation of short films that explore pivotal and challenging moments in the lives of 12-year old girls.

ABC has also produced a school’s pack to accompany the First Day show, with specific teaching resources aimed at year 6 and 7 (aimed at last year of primary and first year of secondary – ages 10 and 11).

This wonderful teaching toolkit explores the themes of transition, identity, values, friendship, diversity, resilience and inclusivity

“The ACTF has developed the First Day Teaching Toolkit to support Year 6 and 7 teachers and students who are using this important film in the classroom. The resource explores key themes from First Day, and helps students to prepare for, process, and reflect on their own transitions to secondary school. The learning tasks encourage inclusive behaviours in the classroom, and reminds students that we are all more alike than we are different.”

The short (21 pages) and beautifully produced toolkit shows how (in some ways) Australia is leaps and bounds ahead of the UK in the way we support and care for trans kids in our media, in our schools, in our society.

Butterfly was the first UK tv drama about a trans kid, and has taken us here in the UK some important steps forward in considering trans children in our families and in our world. But, Butterfly showed the trans kid as the problem, it showed how hard it is for cis people to love and support a trans kid, it showed a parent’s perspective. We did not get to understand or really empathise with the trans child, and although the young cis boy in the main role made a great attempt, it did not bring an authentic portrayal of a trans girl.

First Days gets a lot right. It shows the experience from the perspective of the trans girl. She is not shown as a problem, as a difficulty. Instead we join the ride with her, empathising with her as we walk in her shoes, in challenges we have all faced, bringing in universal themes of how it feels to be different, how it feels to be the new kid, how it feels to worry about how you will be perceived, how you will be treated. Wondering where you fit in and whether you will find friends.

It reminds me of the authenticity of the trans girl in the award winning US short film “The Real Thing“. Another amazing young actress to watch out for : Sophie Giannamore

Having a trans girl in the main role means that the whole show is seeped in the authenticity that you just do not see when cis kids are cast to play trans kids. Maybe this would change if you have cis kids who know and are friends with trans kids – but at the moment the cis portrayals come across as (inaccurate) guess work.

Also a shout out to the wonderful Aussie mum of a trans kid Jo Hirst for her support to the show (see here for our review of her brilliant children’s book).

UK schools and educators would be well placed to bring this resource and this moving, gentle and authentic programme about a trans child starting senior school, into their teaching.

And UK (or any) media considering programmes featuring trans kids need to involve trans kids, parents of trans kids, trans writers, directors, producers in their shows. Far too much content does not accurately represent trans lives – There are tons of interesting, nuanced, moving stories to be told – stories that are more authentic are more believable, more moving – are better!

So buy First Day! Let’s have more of this please ABC! & Let’s have it shown on BBC

Support young trans acting talent like Evie MacDonald – I can’t wait to see she does next!

 

One thought on “First Day – Trans children on TV

  1. Thanks for your review, which encouraged me to buy the short.

    Evie MacDonald is indeed brilliant as Hannah and definitely sets a precedent (as far as I’m aware) for trans children playing trans roles.

    I’ve always thought adult trans roles should go to trans actors, but when Butterfly came out, I was mildly convinced by those who said that it might be traumatic for a trans child to play a transitioning character. But on reflection, isn’t that like saying adolescent children shouldn’t play adolescent roles because they’re going through puberty? And yet they seem to manage OK.

    Coming back to ITV’s Butterfly for a moment, though, I have to say that while I did empathise with the mother (though not at all with the father), I most closely related to the trans girl at the centre of the drama – despite a cis boy playing the role. Nevertheless, Evie’s naturalness definitely shone through in the ABC drama.

    Like

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