I hadn’t heard of this show until today, actually; perhaps ironically, it was only the vitriol being spouted about it online that brought it to my attention.
Just a Girl is a radio program which began airing on BBC Radio 4 in early September and concluded recently; it’s now been put on the CBBC website in an omnibus format, accompanied by some images to aid the narrative. The entire piece is just over half an hour long, and has also been put onto YouTube.
It follows the story of Amy, an eleven year old girl just starting secondary school, and going through the sort of thing any child might face – making new friends, dealing with bullies, and arguing with her parents. But, as the program blurb puts it, Amy also “has a secret and she’s scared that it will come out at her new school.” Said secret is that Amy is transgender, and going through the process of transitioning; she was assigned male at birth, and used to go by the name Ben. The radio program acts as a series of diary instalments from Amy as she deals with the various issues life throws at her.
First and foremost, I really would recommend giving it a watch if you haven’t already – it honestly is a very good program. Just a Girl is astonishingly sweet and heartwarming, and it’s a very well written coming of age story; it does a great job of capturing those complicated and idiosyncratic feelings of starting a new school, and I really think that a lot of CBBC’s core audience would be able to relate to it. Further, it quite deftly handles the matter of transgender issues, and does so in a way that’s well pitched towards young children. Indeed, if any parents or teachers are reading this article, I think that Just a Girl would be a brilliant resource to show to children as a springboard to discuss trans issues, either at home or in school.
I’ve written before about how vital it is for television to be diverse, and by extension representative and inclusive; nowhere is this more crucial than in children’s television, however. Detractors of this lovely program have argued that it might lead to confusion, but I’d posit that it’s more likely to lead to understanding and acceptance – in depicting people who are transgender in children’s media, it helps to normalise it, both giving cisgender children a greater understanding of the matter and making sure transgender children know that they belong. At a young age when things can be confusing is when it’s most important for children to see themselves represented in the media.
And that’s part of why I think it deserves to become a full television series – alongside the fact that’s it’s clearly of a very high quality, that is. Not to diminish the show by dint of it being on the radio, of course, but right now Just a Girl has a fairly limited audience – not a great many children are going to see it in its current form, and that’s a real shame. A television series can reach a much wider audience, and I genuinely think sharing this story more would do a lot of good.
The BBC have made a really positive step with this show, and the online resources that accompany it are similarly fantastic. Hopefully, though, they won’t stop there – and we might be able to see Just a Girl as a staple of tea-time television, rather than just an online-only gem.
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