“Her Story” follows a cisgender lesbian and a trans woman finding love

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Maybe you’ve seen Laverne Cox’s tweet about Her Story, or maybe you’ve heard that Transparent’s Jill Soloway inspired trans writer Jen Richards (I Am Cait) and her writing partner Laura Zak (Hashtag) to put pen to paper and write their story. Or perhaps you caught the trailer’s exclusive premiere on People.com, drumming up interest on the internet for as wide a range of an audience as People reaches. Buzz is growing for the show, and Her Story is fundraising to finish in post-production so that it can debut for free online this fall.

Her Story is a love story about what happens when we fall for the unexpected because it is wrapped tightly in the unknown. In some of the greatest love stories, two protagonists will trek to other countries and travel many miles to fall in love with each other; But in Her Story, we trek to the other’s experience while staying where we are; namely–one who is lives as a trans woman and thinks she loves exclusively men, and one who is a cisgender lesbian who is forced to redefine her definition of what it means to fall in love with a woman. Two people happily on their way when suddenly, they fall for each other, causing them to question the very labels that they’ve allowed to define them.

The show spurs an interesting  discussion between lesbians and trans women about how we interact, how we love, and how we live in relationship to one another.

And what better way to answer these questions than to pair the very talented writer/actor/activist/trans woman Jen Richards with proficient writer/actor cisgender lesbian Laura Zak. Add this to the fact Her Story was made by an entire queer and trans person crew and cast, and you’ve got yourself a series for the community, by the community.

Yet still, there’s only so far this dialogue can go without trust. And that’s what makes this story unique, the trust that co-creator’s Jen and Laura share to ask each other the dumb questions, the safe questions,  real questions; they’ve allowed themselves to explore what it means to be humans in relationship with each other.

Better yet, Her Story, like all good art, seeks to have the conversation without emphasis on the conversation. It is an exploration of connecting through storytelling.

We sat down with the creators to talk about the story, how it contributes to our overall landscape of Hollywood, and why it’s necessary to just make good TV that’s reflective of who we are.

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AE: How did you start writing together?

Laura Zak: Jen and I met on the set of Hashtag in Chicago and Jen had a short cameo in Hashtag as a waitress who had chemistry with my character. In real life we actually did hit it off in that way, and started off a friendship at that point. Originally we were talking about doing a Hashtag spinoff but that got a little complicated with keeping the same characters so we decided to scratch that and create an entirely new world where our relationship was the center of the story line, which is a cis lesbian dating a trans woman. We kept that she was a waitress and that’s about it.

 

AE: And so, when you say that you guys hit it off off-screen are you saying that there was romantic chemistry there? Or just romantically creative chemistry?

LZ: I think we can each speak for ourselves but I think it was one of those connections that it was both, when you meet someone that you were just drawn to and you feel very connected with. I think the storyline came from that, what would this be to have like, two people fall for each other who are coming from these worlds? I think we were compelled towards working together.

 Jen Richards and Laura ZakA--FsxfRX-uLmEt5A_X9JLpZwdhHY-cSAgFypusBiQg

photo by Shadi Petosky

AE: So Laura, is your character’s arc, is she exploring what it would be like to be a lesbian dating a trans woman?

LZ: That’s part of it, she is someone who identifies as a lesbian and who has only ever dated cisgender women. And who sort of has framed her identity and defined herself by being a lesbian. So she’s not someone who has ever been close minded about trans women but it still was something that was foreign to her world, but when she meets Violet, the fact that it’s a trans woman is new for her but it’s something that brings out questions for her–especially because they’re both friends–the question of is it less lesbian to be drawn to a trans woman?

On the other side, there’s a trans character who has historically been attracted to men and women but is now dating this lesbian woman and her attraction to her is making her question her instinct to date men as a trans woman because she felt like dating men kind of confirmed her femininity. So they both challenge themselves in that way.

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