A brand new web series debuted today and it seeks to reimagine how experiences of the transgender community are understood, shared and received both within the queer community and outside of it.
The series, called "Her Story," stars writer and advocate Jen Richards of Caitlyn Jenner's "I Am Cait" docu-series fame, alongside a slew of other talented performers. The show departs from the way that trans people have historically been portrayed in Hollywood and instead humanizes trans experiences by examining the authentic and emotional connections shared by group of transgender people.
"There has been a fifty-year run of defamation of trans characters in film and TV. They've mostly been portrayed as dead or dying sex workers, or punchlines," co-writer Laura Zak, who also plays "Allie" in the "Her Story," told The Huffington Post. "What is it like to be that woman, trying to find love and to navigate a world in which many men desire trans bodies, yet are also stigmatized by that desire -- a world in which existing as a trans woman is a life-threatening identity? What is her story?"
The Huffington Post spoke with Zak further this week about the launch of this web series and her goals for the show.
The Huffington Post: What's your vision for this project?
Laura Zak: As Jen and I were first getting to know one another, we were finding out how much we had in common, as well as learning so much about one another's perspectives. We became excited to explore what would happen if a trans woman who thinks she has to date men to feel like a woman, and a lesbian-identified woman who has only ever dated other cisgender women, developed feelings for one another. I'm deeply interested in exploring themes of self-imposed rules of identity. What happens when your life presents you with a person or situation that defies what you think you're "supposed" to do? We wanted to make the chemistry between these two characters so apparent to everyone around them, that the audience is implicated in rooting for them to overcome their internal obstacles and pursue their desires. The character of Paige is the third lead in the script: she is a successful, black, straight, trans woman who is trying to find the right moment to disclose to a charming man she's just met.
How are you trying to change or reframe the way that trans stories are told?
There has been a fifty-year run of defamation of trans characters in film and TV. They've mostly been portrayed as dead or dying sex workers, or punchlines. Time and again, we've seen the straight male protagonist hook up with a beautiful woman, only to find out she's trans. Or, it's more commonly phrased as "she's really a man." Then, the male character is repulsed, throws up, or is deeply shamed by his friends. The story moves on, the trans-gag complete. Jen and I were thinking about those small cameos by humiliated trans characters, and started talking about how we want to know those women's stories. What is it like to be that woman, trying to find love and to navigate a world in which many men desire trans bodies, yet are also stigmatized by that desire -- a world in which existing as a trans woman is a life-threatening identity. What is her story? We've also seen stories of trans people going through transition, but what happens after that? "Her Story" finds our characters immersed in their daily lives, long after transition.
What do you want people to take away from this web series?
We are in the unique position of potentially appealing to people within the communities we are representing, as well as people outside of the LGBTQ community. On one hand, the level of press and buzz around this series conveys how hungry and ready LGBTQ people are for authentic stories and representation, while on the other hand, those who don't have much experience around trans or queer people will be able to learn a lot, while also enjoying what is hopefully gripping story-telling. This is, at its heart, a universal story about two couples getting to know one another. The goal is that, by the final scene, the audience members will be invested in and relating to the characters, regardless of whether they recognized themselves in these characters from the start.
Check out the first episode of "Her Story" above or head here to learn more.
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