Wherein Maxine finally gets to live her truth at school.
What happened last week? Eleven-year-old Maxine officially came out as trans to her parents (with the help of her sister Lily), after years of trying to conform to her dad Stephen’s idea of the perfect son. Her mother Vicky was mostly supportive, seemingly just concerned about protecting Maxine, but Stephen is worried about what people might think.
Trigger warnings: Self-harm, Transphobia
The episode starts with Maxine in the bath, looking over her body, the wound on her wrist still healing from her previous act of self-harm; an uneasy foreshadowing with a painful payoff.
Maxine’s parents attend the Mermaids support group and are welcomed by a bubbly manager, Alice, who notes that “the dads don’t always come”. Stephen tries to leave, but Vicky begs him to stay. She then asks Alice for advice, and is told to “listen” to Maxine.
Outside, Vicky tells Stephen that she feels more positive about Maxine’s situation now, saying the group made her feel like everything would be alright. Stephen doesn’t share her optimism and deadnames Maxine when explaining that he’s trying to be a better dad – I mean, seriously, dude?
When Maxine gets home from school, she’s wearing the “boys uniform”, which is odd, considering how the last episode ended. She’s been harassed again by Toilet Boys – honestly, I’m not even willing to learn their names – and Stephen tries to convince her to talk to him.
She says that she wishes she had a superhuman punch that could send kids flying and he gently squeezes her arm.
In the next scene, Stephen approaches Toilet Boys on the playground and makes it very clear that they should leave Maxine alone or Stephen will “reach down [their] throats and rip out their hearts”. Toilet Boys whine that he can’t hit them because they’re just kids, so Stephen says that he’d tell the police that he was acting to stop a hate crime.
After Toilet Boys run off, Maxine hugs her dad and looks so happy that he stood up for her, it’s almost heartbreaking. Then Vicky, who saw the incident from inside the school where she works, reprimands Stephen for threatening Toilet Boys, but he says that he just wants to make life easier for Maxine and who can fault him for that?
Something needs to change.
Later, following an uncomfortable family gathering where it’s made clear that she is still not being allowed to express her gender identity, Maxine locks herself in the bathroom. By the time her family realizes (and kicks down the door), she is holding a piece of glass and threatening to cut off her penis because it’s “disgusting” and puberty is only making it more apparent.
Vicky drags Maxine out of the bath and wraps a towel around her, promising to get her help. Stephen agrees, calling Maxine “son”, and she rightly snaps at him to call her “Maxine”.
The next day, after what cannot have been an easy sleep for anyone, Vicky goes to Maxine’s room and removes any masculine clothing, which seems like a real turning point.
The family has a meeting at school with a patronizing teacher called Sheila, who asks Maxine if she knows that this isn’t just a case of swapping one colour pencil case for another and points out that this “choice” will affect her for the rest of her life. Yeah, thanks for that insight…
Luckily, Vicky is taking no prisoners and snaps that she wants “a happy daughter, not a dead son”. Although, Maxine does rightly point out that Vicky should stop using male pronouns to describe her. While Stephen notes that he wants Maxine – he actually uses her name! – to have the freedom to express herself.
Sheila keeps pressing the idea that this might be a phase, even saying that if Maxine changes her mind she would have to change schools and the family might have to move. Thankfully, Maxine gets right to the point, with a quick “I’m not going to change my mind though”, while Stephen admits that Maxine looks “right” in feminine clothes.
Finally, Sheila backs down and agrees to send a letter home over half-term explaining that Maxine will be coming back to school using female pronouns and, of course, the name Maxine.
Living her truth.
After the school break, we see Maxine getting ready for school and getting help with her hair and (very subtle, in keeping with the school dress code) makeup from Lily and Vicky. At school drop off, Stephen and Vicky hug Maxine and warn Lily to look out for her sister, as students start to stare and, in some cases, laugh.
In class, Maxine checks her phone to find supportive texts from some classmates, but she soon gets some vile messages that I’m definitely not repeating here. The class’ stares and comments only increase after a teacher greets her as “Maxine” and a fellow student (Molly) hands her a flower that apparently stands for “grace, happiness, and gentleness”.
When one boy calls Maxine the T-word, Molly gives him the other flower, saying that he needs more grace and the teacher sends him out of the class. (Decent people: 2, Transphobes: 0.) After school, Maxine and Molly have a heart-to-heart about their self-harm, where Molly implies that she has an eating disorder, before bonding over their shared love of Years and Years.
Over the weekend, Vicky takes Lily and Maxine to visit Barbara, who doesn’t even say hello before laying into Vicky about allowing Maxine to dress as a girl. Maxine shouts that Barbara shouldn’t be mean to Vicky and Barbara (predictably) loses her shit and says that Maxine is “no grandson of mine”, to which Maxine responds that she knows. And, yeah, she’s your granddaughter, Barbs, get used to it.
Maxine’s treatment (or lack thereof).
Stephen and Vicky take Maxine to the gender clinic to discuss puberty blockers, where Maxine discusses her fears about her voice deepening or her penis getting “more wrong”, and the specialists recommend therapy. I will let you know that this therapy session was hard to watch, with both parents reverting to misgendering and misnaming Maxine, Stephen comparing Maxine’s coming out to her having cancer, and Maxine admitting that she doesn’t want her family to hate her.
The gender clinic turns down the request for puberty blockers, saying that they don’t think this case is “urgent”, which begs the question: how many times does a pre-teen have to hurt themselves before their case is considered urgent? Something that Vicky brings up, blaming Stephen for not getting on board.
Vicky goes back to the support group and Alice mentions that she took her trans daughter to the US for treatment. Vicky takes this idea and runs with it – getting money from Barbara under the pretence of a small business loan – and flies to American with Maxine, without telling Stephen.
Will Maxine get her treatment? How will Stephen react to the fact that his wife and daughter have flown to the US? And will Vicky be in trouble with the police? Find out next week.