Welcome back to my article series on LGBTQ+ representation in media! I’ve written four articles on LGBTQ+ representation and journeys in TV shows and movies, video games, and animation. In the process of planning those articles, I asked some of my friends for recommendations, and received a big selection! I’ve since seen a number of them, and I’ve been very happy with the increase in LGBTQ+ representation in media in recent years. What prompted me to write this fifth article were two TV shows that I saw after I’d written those four articles. These two series were so good that I just had to write another article, so that more people can enjoy them.
The first series is Her Story. There is a video game also called Her Story, which is a great game, but not quite what I’m referring to. Her Story, at least the one I’m talking about here, is a series that you can watch for free online. There is only one season (so far) with six episodes, and each episode is 10 minutes or less. So, you can watch the entire series in under an hour, and you totally should!
Her Story is set in Los Angeles, and tells the stories of transgender women in a manner that is real, raw, and emotional. The series focuses primarily on the character Violet, who is a trans woman working as a bartender. Violet meets a reporter, Allie, who is interested in writing a piece about transgender people. Allie is a lesbian, and she does not know much about transgender people but is very interested to learn more.
Through the six episodes, we are brought deeper into Violet’s life, and it is not as simple as it looks at first glance. For example, Violet doesn’t appear to be romantically interested in men, but she sleeps with men. Violet describes it to Allie: “When I’m with a man, I have no doubt about my womanhood. My body, next to theirs, is so obviously feminine.” Violet then describes that while she has been talking with Allie, some part of her mind has been noting how big her hands are, and worrying whether her voice is clocking her. “Clocking” refers to a transgender person being recognized as transgender, usually when they are trying to blend in with cisgender people.
As Allie and Violet get to know each other better, Allie learns that Violet is living with a man, and the relationship between Violet and Mark appears abusive. Violet later explains the complexity of her relationship with Mark, and how Mark helped Violet get clean from drugs. At one point in the series, Violet is hit on the face by Mark. Allie comes over, and suggests that Violet call the police. Violet refuses to do so, and upon further pressing by Allie, Violet says she can’t call the police because they’d laugh at her. Violet reveals that a witness once saw Mark hit her in public and called the police. However, when the police came, they saw her identification and laughed, and asked Mark if he knew Violet was “a guy”, and if Violet was trying to “trick” Mark. The police officers said they would be pissed too if they “found out”, put the blame on Violet for dressing as a woman, and left. This was a very emotional scene, and reflects some of the fears and injustices that transgender people face from law enforcement.
Another important character in Her Story is Paige, who is a lawyer at Lambda Legal. Paige is Violet’s sponsor at Narcotics Anonymous. Paige is representing a transgender woman who was refused entry into a women’s shelter, and Paige is a transgender woman herself. Paige does not hide that she is transgender, but neither does she bring it up if it doesn’t come up. Paige describes to Violet how dating men as a transgender woman is extremely difficult. Paige used to broadcast her whole history before her first date, but all it did was scare people away. This reflects the real difficulty and dilemma that transgender people face when dating. Paige eventually gets publicly outed by Allie’s friend Lisa, where “outing” refers to the act of revealing that someone else is LGBTQ+. Paige then has a sit-down conversation with James, the man she has been dating. Paige explains that she didn’t tell him earlier because she just wanted to be seen without complications. James draws a similarity to him having a gambling problem, and wondering if there would ever be a right time to bring that up either. The series does an excellent job with Paige and Mark’s relationship and their mutual reveals.
Lisa, who is Allie’s friend, works at a women’s shelter. Lisa does not see transgender women as women, uses transphobic terms, and says a number of transphobic things. She gets into an argument with Paige, and questions how Paige could defend a transgender woman. Paige walks off in anger, and Lisa asks Allie whether Paige is a lesbian like them. Allie tells Lisa that Paige is a transgender woman, and Lisa eventually uses that fact to publicly out Violet. Outing someone without their permission is never okay, and it can be potentially deadly. Her Story shows us how even an innocent outing can lead to disastrous consequences: Violet first outed Paige to Allie, as an example of a transgender woman that Allie has met without realizing. That piece of information eventually led to Paige’s public outing by Lisa, who used the information maliciously.
Besides Lisa, Her Story also shows some of Allie’s other lesbian friends, and they have a conversation about whether dating a transgender woman makes them less of a lesbian. The scenes serve to show the complex relationships between transgender people and other people in the LGBTQ+ community, and also demonstrates how not all cisgender women may accept that transgender women are women. Allie herself also goes through a journey, as she learns more about Violet and transgender women, and it is a learning experience that I hope that more cisgender women would also undertake, so as to increase the acceptance of transgender people in society.
All in all, Her Story is a wonderful series about the lives, struggles, and triumphs of contemporary transgender women. Violet and Paige help to illustrate the varied experiences of transgender people, the common struggles, and unique challenges. Allie and her friends help to illustrate a range of cisgender people, who may be supportive of transgender people but lack much information, to those who may not accept transgender people. Her Story was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Web Series, and won the Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Series in 2016, and a Special Recognition Award at the 28th GLAAD Media Awards in 2017. I highly recommend everyone to watch Her Story, since it is such a great show, and it is available online for free, so you can watch it right now!
We now transition from Her Story in Los Angeles, to a different series set in San Francisco. Tales of the City is a Netflix series set in contemporary San Francisco. It is based on a novel series of the same name. There have also been various miniseries based on the novel, but I’ll be focusing on the 2019 Netflix series. Tales of the City (the 2019 series) is set in San Francisco and focuses on the lives of queer people whose lives revolve around 28 Barbary Lane. The setting (location and characters) appealed to me, and the series is great.
Without spoiling too much of the story, I’ll just say that Tales of the City does a great job in portraying some of the triumphs and struggles that LGBTQ+ people face today. For example, Jake is a transgender man in a relationship with his lesbian girlfriend Margot. They navigate their sexualities and identities, and have to figure out whether they are still interested in each other as Jake transitions. Another couple at Barbary Lane is Michael and his boyfriend Ben. Michael is much older than Ben, and the series talks about their varied experiences. Michael is a long-term survivor of HIV, and had to live through watching many of his friends die from HIV. In one episode, Ben meets Michael’s ex-boyfriend and his friends for dinner. The group uses derogatory terms about transgender people, and Ben chides them for their use of such language. The tensions in that episode are realistic and illustrates the somewhat different experiences and perspectives LGBTQ+ people of different ages have.
Tales of the City is a wonderful series and has great representation of LGBTQ+ representation in the cast, writers and directors. The series goes into the lives of queer people, with great depth and care in the stories that are told. The series illustrates some of the perspectives and challenges that LGBTQ+ people face today.
These two series, Her Story and Tales of the City, are wonderful shows to watch. Besides having a great storyline, they tell realistic stories of contemporary queer people, and I highly recommend them!