In 2013, I was ‘highly commended’ for the Trans Comedy Award, an initiative put together in conjunction with BBC Writersroom in order to improve the representation of transgender people on TV.
When I saw the initiative advertised, I was over the moon; I’d just graduated from an MA in Writing for Television. I’d been working with the trans community for years, having set up Trans* Youth Glasgow, a youth project for transgender young people. I was passionate about seeing our stories, queer stories on TV.
This was my moment.
And I started writing the script I thought the judges would want to see.
It was about a trans woman – her age fluctuated, from her late teens to her mid-fifties – coming out and going out as a woman for the first time.
All of the cliches of trans representation were present and correct; there she is, on page one, looking in the mirror as she applies her make-up; on page two, she’s putting on her sparkly dress. By the end of the script, she’d copped off for the first time with someone who turned out to be a transphobe.
I’d put a lot of time and effort into writing something I wouldn’t – didn’t – want to watch, and something I wasn’t proud of.
With eight days to go before the end of the competition, I scrapped my original ideas and started working on something else.
I pulled my logline – a young transman starts his final year of school, socialising as a boy for the first time – out of thin air and started writing something that I was interested in.
Everything that’s in the script – the wee guy being ‘outed’ in assembly; being turned down for the school football team before he even tries out; using his trans status as a way to get served in a pub – is drawn from real life examples of the kids I’d worked with and supported to come out in school.
When I read it back, I realised there was a lot of my own stuff – about masculinity, about identity, about my relationships with my family – in there, too.
It’s one of the most personal things I’ve ever written, and one of the things I’m most proud of.
One of the drawbacks of writing scripts can be how long it takes to get a project off the ground; that you can write something and it can take years before it even gets in front of the right people, if it ever does.
Real Life Experience is the little script that could. It’s done the rounds a few times, and been ‘almost there’ almost every time it’s been submitted for something. Having had my work commended by Sophie Clarke-Jervoise, Kate Rowland and Jon Plowman – whose name comes up in the credits for all of my favourite British comedies – was already a huge achievement for me.
I’d love to find out what you think – give me a shout if you want to read the rest!
Last week, I attended the first screening of High Heels Aren’t Compulsory, a film made by Lock Up Your Daughters based on a script that had initially been submitted for the Trans Comedy Award. The film was incredible, and it was really inspiring to find out where it had come from – and where it was going. The Daughters are intending to submit it to film festivals over the summer, so I hope you get to see it soon!