Her Story at the Hackney Show Room

The Fringe! festival, launched in 2011, is a festival all about Queer film & Arts. This year it ran over the course of five days in November, hosting events in different venues across London. This was my first time going to Fringe! and I went to the Hackney Show Room where they were screening a web series called Her Story, directed by Sydney Freeland, which is a story that follows the lives of two transgender women in Los Angeles ( Violet and Paige) as they go through friendships, dating life and work life. We all sat down in a small but inviting room with tinsel covered walls and colourful lights. Before the screening there was a panel discussion about trans representation, led by Victoria Gigante, Mijke Drift, Kuchenga Shenje and Kay Fi’ain, where the audience could also interact and ask questions. This was very informative and inviting, and it really helped put ideas into perspective before we saw the film.

They talked about the importance of exploring non-binary genders on screen and the need to see trans films that aren’t all about trauma, because being trans is about more than that. This really transpired in ‘Her Story’, which was very different from the mainstream films about trans people I had seen before (such as Boys Don’t Cry or The Danish Girl). This raises the issue of cis people directing films about trans people: can you really give trans people the dignity they deserve if you are cis? For instance, in mainstream movies, if there are trans characters they are always played by cis actors, which is problematic. Her Story tackles the subject of transphobia within the LGBTQ+ community (in this case the Lesbian community). In the series, Allie, who is a cis lesbian woman, is writing an article about trans women and meets Violet. When she later tells her friends about this, they react with extremely transphobic comments, using the word ‘tranny’ and saying that she wouldn’t want to lose her ‘lesbian gold star’ by dating a transgender woman. This was an unexpected twist for me and I think people that aren’t part of the LGBTQ+ community often don’t realise that being in that community doesn’t mean you can’t still have oppressive views towards its’ other members.

Because the series was made by lesbian and trans women themselves, I found that it was really refreshing and sincere. James and Paige’s relationship was one of my favourite things about the show. James is unaware that she is transgender and Paige struggles with feeling the need to tell him but at the same time wanting to enjoy their relationship without worrying about his reaction. I think the show is brilliant because it tells an honest story about the dating lives of trans women in a positive way, which is not centred around the idea of suffering. It addresses transgender issues without stereotyping them, and it doesn’t ‘otherise’ transgender people in a way that alienates them from society. There needs to be more shows like Her Story on mainstream TV.

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