Butterfly screenwriter Tony Marchant says ‘hysteria’ on trans issues ‘very reminiscent of Section 28’

Screenwriter Tony Marchant has compared the discourse around trans issue to the hostility demonstrated against gay people at the time of Section 28.

Marchant, whose new show Butterfly focuses on the transitioning of a 11-year-old child, spoke to the Huffington Post ahead of the show premiere on ITV on Sunday (October 14).

“I still can’t quite believe the level of hostility there is in society to trans people and some of the directions it comes from. It comes from radical feminists as well as the stronger right. There is a similar hysteria now to the trans community which is very reminiscent of Section 28,” Marchant told the publication, referring to the law enacted by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1988 which banned “promoting homosexuality” to minors.

The award-winning screenwriter worked in close contact with transgender children and their families to create a faithful portrayal of the issues they go through.

“I felt a strong responsibility to tell this story accurately and emphatically,” Marchant said at a panel discussion in Italy on Saturday (October 13), where he presented the series ahead of its release on the Italian FOXLife channel.

Marchant said he wanted to “debunk myths” around the process of transitioning. “In the UK […] transitioning is depicted as a simple process, like puberty-blocking hormones are handed out like candies. I wanted to debunk this myth, saying instead that it is a complex process,” he said, quoted in Italy’s news agency Ansa.

Butterfly star Emmett J. Scanlan shares a picture from the set in February (Photo: @scandalous_13 / Instagram)

Butterfly received overall positive feedback from the audience on social media, particularly from other transgender viewers who felt the show resonated with their own experiences.

“As a trans guy and going through my own journey watching things like this is genuinely so hard but I’m so glad it’s being shown in such a realistic way and I hope more people come to realise that trans people are just normal people that just want to live authentically,” one Twitter user by the name jase commented.

“Want to say a massive MASSIVE thank you to Anna Friel and ITV for tonight. Butterfly is our World Cup final. You are helping break down the equivalent of a television Berlin Wall. Trans people on TV! As reg people! Normal! Historic for trans people,” broadcaster India Willoughby wrote.

“Trans people desperately lack authentic representation in popular media, & ITV’s Butterfly is one of the few fictional shows that manages to portray the struggles and lives of trans people in an authentic manner,” said filmmaker and trans rights campaigner Fox Fisher.

Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Dawn Butler also enjoyed the show. “Just watched Butterfly very moving. So well written and acted. I know once I tweet this my timeline is going to be filled with abuse,” she wrote on Twitter, adding: “Let me be clear. Standing up for someone else’s rights does not diminish my rights as a African Caribbean woman. All rights matter.”