Bisexual Matilda star candidly recounts childhood struggle with OCD to explain why we should all listen to trans kids

Mara Wilson at an awards ceremony

Mara Wilson, the former child star from Matilda, has opened up about her childhood mental health problems to show that trans kids are capable of making their own choices.

In an interview with the trans charity Mermaids, the bisexual actress and LGBT+ advocate was asked about the move by the UK equalities minister Liz Truss to remove healthcare options for transgender children.

Wilson explained her view that children should be able to make decisions about their own bodies, recalling how she was perfectly capable of advocating for herself at the age of 12.

“I mean, the way that I see it, when I was 12 years old, I knew that I had a mental illness,” she said. “I knew that I was suffering terribly from anxiety and depression, and I read some books about obsessive compulsive disorder and immediately thought, ‘This is it, this is what I have, and I want help for it.’

“So I went to my school counsellor and said, ‘I think that I have this, I want to get treatment.’ And they sent me to a therapist and said, ‘Do you want to go on medication?’ And I said I want to do what would help me, and I did. And I advocated for myself at 12.

“I don’t know if every child can do that, I but I knew at 12 and at 13 years old that that was the best move for me. I would’ve been suicidal if  hadn’t done that. I knew what the issue was.”
She noted that it’s not an exact parallel because being transgender is an identity, not a mental illness, but added: “I do think a lot of people know from a very young age that they are different, or that they are special, that they are affected in a certain way.”

Health minister rejects calls for national inquiry into transgender healthcare

(Anatoliy Cherkasov/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty)

Mara Wilson acknowledged the concerns about putting children on medication, but recalled a doctor saying to her once: “I wish they would just think about what helps.”

“And that’s kind of how I feel as well,” she said.

“If children are able to know that this is not the body they want to be in or this is not the identity that they are – I really wish people would just listen to children more in general, honestly.”

The star also discussed the differences in opposition to trans rights between the UK and the US, admitting that she was “baffled” by British transphobia.

“Personally I see a lot of it from public figures in the UK, [whereas] in the US… it’s generally a religious thing, but it’s a very specific thing, it’s a religious thing that is tied in with a lot of conservative religious political power. And it’s a lot of scare tactics,” she said.

She continued: “I don’t quite understand why I see it in the UK among prominent writers and musicians and people like that. I don’t understand it and a lot of seems to be like, ‘This is coming from knowledge and reason and rationalism,’ and it’s just like – well, what about compassion? What about understanding?”

Wilson concluded the interview with a message to cis people on how to be a good trans ally, stressing that it begins with the simple act of listening.

“The most important thing is to listen to trans people to listen to non-binary people, to try to understand them and have compassion for them,” she advised.

“Even if you don’t understand it right away, there’s a lot of things you don’t understand that you still have compassion and kindness for, and that’s just the way that it is. It’s not about being ‘politically correct’, it’s just being polite, and kind, and those are things that more people should be.”

Host and Mermaids head of policy and legal, Lui Asquith, said: “Interviewing Mara Wilson was a dream for me and an empowering moment for young trans and gender-diverse people in the UK suffering the dual anxiety of isolation compounded by the worry created by recent statements from Liz Truss MP.

“Hearing Mara talk so honestly and with such kindness towards our families was a real moment of sunshine at a difficult time.”