Queerly Ever After #43: DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS (1996)

Queerly Ever After is a bi-monthly column where I take a look at LGBT+ films that gave their characters a romantic happily-ever-after. There will be spoilers. Also, don’t forget to buy your Queerly Ever After merch right here.

In Different For Girls, former school friends Paul Prentice (Rupert Graves) and Kim Foyle (Steven Mackintosh) reconnect after 18 years when the taxi Kim is riding in collides with Prentice’s motorbike. Kim almost immediately recognizes Prentice, and quickly runs away, hoping he doesn’t recognize her. But, Prentice does eventually recognize her as his school friend, from his years at an all-boys school. In the almost two decades since they last spoke, Kim, who was always confused about her identity when they were in school, has transitioned to finally be her true self. Prentice, while at first caught aback, is thrilled to see his former best friend again and wants nothing more than to catch up. He convinces her to get drinks with him after work.

Queerly Ever After #43: DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS (1996)
source: First Look International

Drinks go terribly. Since they left school their lives have diverged greatly. Kim, who was always the target of bigoted bullies in school, has put her past life behind her. She has no contact with anyone she grew up with and, unfortunately, her parents have also stopped talking to her. The only person from her past she still talks to is her sister Jean (Saskia Reeves), with whom she is very close. She leads a successful, albeit solitary, life writing greeting cards. Prentice, who has always been a rabble-rouser, never really got his life together. He works as a courier as he tries to pay off the debt on his motorbike. He’s brash and crass and fighting against his reemerging feelings. See, when they were in school, Prentice was constantly saving Kim from their peers’ bullying, however, his willingness to start fights led to both he and Kim getting in trouble. From the few flashbacks we see, it becomes apparent that, even as teens, Prentice was always in love with Kim, even if he couldn’t understand, or admit it.

As I said, Prentice is brash, and a bit of a macho man, as he and Kim get drinks, he becomes ever more uncomfortable with being out with her. Whether that is because they are perceived as on a date by others at the bar, or because his own feelings for her are resurfacing, or both, he reverts to childish and rude behavior, leading Kim to walk out on him. A repentant Prentice asks Kim to give him a second chance and given their past closeness, she does. As the two continue to spend time with each other, they grow closer, though neither is sure what to do with their feelings.

Queerly Ever After #43: DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS (1996)
source: First Look International

On their second outing, Prentice takes Kim to a punk concert like they used to do when they were teens. There, Kim admits that she never actually liked going to these concerts, she liked the music, but not the rowdy crowds that the concerts attracted. She just wanted to spend time with Prentice. After another man at the concert insults Kim, Prentice picks a fight with the guy, his old desire to constantly protect Kim still very apparent. Prentice and Kim escape from the concert and retreat to Prentice’s apartment, which is a dump, where they continue to reminisce and dance together to a punk record.

Gender Presentation

As Kim spends more time with Prentice, she starts to come out of her shell. The movie actually does a very good job delving into the issues Kim has faced to become herself. During one scene when Prentice teaches her how to ride his motorbike, he comments that she shouldn’t be wearing a skirt. She tells him that in order to be approved for gender reassignment surgery she had to spend years going to a therapist, once she showed up at the therapist’s office wearing jeans and he told her she must not have been serious about her gender identity. Comments like this, and the other things she had to go through, have led her to constantly hide behind floral and ultra-feminine clothing.

Prentice, emboldens her to reclaim her sexuality. He helps her see that her presentation as a woman can be whatever she wants. She is no less a woman if she wears leather and rides a motorbike than if she wears a floral dress. And she makes Prentice want to get his act together to be the man that she deserves, though it takes him a while to realize that.

Once a Knight, Always a Knight

At about the halfway point, the movie takes a bit of a turn towards the melodramatic. During a dinner at Kim’s apartment, the conversation becomes heated and Prentice, aroused and confused, storms out. He ends up being arrested for exposing himself in the courtyard of Kim’s building. Unfortunately, the police escalate the situation and when Kim intervenes, she gets arrested as well for obstruction. In the police van on the way to the station, one of the officers begins to make derogatory comments towards Kim. Kim, who has never had any legal trouble and would rather not start anything, tries to ignore the officer, but when he tries to slide his hand up her skirt, Prentice pushes him away, leading to the cop physically accosting Prentice, who then gets charged with assaulting an officer as well as indecent exposure.

Queerly Ever After #43: DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS (1996)
source: First Look International

At the station, the cops threaten Kim with sending her to a male prison if she acts as a witness for Prentice, who now faces real jail time. Kim takes shelter in her sister and brother-in-law’s home as she ponders her next steps. Jean for that matter, has never been a fan of Prentice since she has always seen him as impulsive, immature, and reckless. And while all of that is definitely true, that’s never been what attracted Kim to him; sure, he has a raw, almost manic, sex appeal that certainly helps, but it’s the person underneath the exterior, the one who has always been there to protect Kim, even when protecting her made the other boys at school taunt him as well. Realizing all this, Kim decides to face the police and act as a witness in Prentice’s trial. Now, no longer faced with jail time, Kim and Prentice officially get together and the ending scene implies they do live happily ever after.

In Conclusion: Different For Girls

This movie came out in a time when trans representation, especially positive representation, on-screen was rare. Movies were still being made where trans characters were portrayed as deceitful pretenders. Here, Kim is portrayed sympathetically as a woman who has had to go through a lot to get to where she is. While others may question her gender identity, the movie is firmly on her side. What could have been really interesting to explore more in-depth is Prentice’s hinted-at feelings for Kim when they were younger. Kim is a straight woman, the movie is sure of that, she has always been in love with Prentice. But what about him? While he certainly considers himself straight, from flashbacks we see, it would appear that even when he believed Kim to be a boy, his feelings for her were still there. Is it actually the case that no matter what, Prentice was always going to love Kim?

Different For Girls came out on September 12, 2007 in the USA and April 10, 1998 in the UK. For all other release dates, see here.

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