It’s Pride, and trans guy Robert sees childhood best friend Pippa for the first time in six months at a Pride event.
Horrified that he is now a boy, who she previously ever only knew as Tia, Pippa calls him and his trans female friend Daisy ‘freaks’.
A row. Pippa pushes Daisy off a balcony, Robert is also injured, and they are taken to the Casualty department of Holby City hospital. While Pippa attempts to provide support, she insists on calling Robert by his dead name, calls his clothes a ‘costume’ and tries to talk him out of his transition.
She wonders if it is a ‘fetish’, whether ‘she’ is just a repressed lesbian and advised him to ‘not do anything too embarrassing before you grow out of it’.
Thankfully, this didn’t happen in real life but in BBC soap drama Casualty.
While largely praised for its tackling of trans issues, casting trans actors Misia Butler and Monica Jones to play trans characters, it was short. Others questioned whether the story was also giving the transphobic friend too much sympathy in the episode. Many agreed that if the storyline had been extended, it would have likely been stronger.
Misia Butler, a trans actor playing the role of Robert, spoke with Gay Star News about his involvement.
He said: ‘The experience was really great on the whole and the whole cast and crew were so lovely.
‘I think some of the crew thought I was a cisgender girl playing a trans guy so used she pronouns but I corrected them and they got it right after that. I found that as an actor the whole process was a lot less about me than I thought but I definitely didn’t feel like my voice wasn’t being heard.
‘I was allowed to change lines slightly to make them more correct like “I’m a guy now” to “I’m a guy”. I really liked the storyline and though I haven’t experienced transphobia like that from anyone it really touched me. The speech I make wasn’t hard to act because the words made me so emotional anyway.’
Casualty has occasionally referenced trans issues in the past – but there was disappointment some 13 years ago, when Rebecca Root, now star of BBC2’s trans romcom Boy meets Girl, was abruptly dropped from the show after having already completed extensive filming of a storyline that involved a trans woman who wanted a child with her male partner.
But while Rebecca might still be waiting for the Casualty producers to make amends, last Saturday’s show was an undoubted success. It clearly demonstrated the benefits of television working with the community, rather than writing about it from afar.
In August 2015, the BBC Casualty team, then at the very early stages of developing a storyline featuring a trans character approached Trans*Form Cymru.
Trans*Form Cymru is a project coordinated by Youth Cymru (a charity working with young people and youth workers across Wales), providing support for trans* young people (aged 11-25) and a safe space for them to meet, develop confidence and take part in activities. Young people from the group also deliver trans awareness training to youth workers, teachers and other professionals and have created a short video and piece of theatre as part of this.
They explained: ‘Some of the group then met with a researcher and script writer. They spoke about the importance of language / pronouns, the need to promote safe practice if any characters were shown binding, as part of a much broader conversation about gender identity and their own experiences.’
‘The young people particularly emphasised the importance of casting trans actors in the roles and the importance of positive representation in the media and the impact this can have on the wellbeing of trans young people.’
They added: ‘It was great to see that two trans actors went on to be cast in the roles!’