Jahn Westbrook

by jahn westbrook

There is something witty and plucky about HerStory’s contemporary honesty that draws you in. Streaming on the small screen, it is the perfect medium to embrace this intimate story about four women circumnavigating conflicted and complicated LGBT relationships.

We are invited to join the friendships of Violet(Jen Richards), Allie(Laura Zak), Paige(Angelica Ross), and Lisa(Caroline Whitney Smith). We first meet Violet while she is waitressing. Here she can be confident and empowered, the antithesis of her personal life. The servitude metaphor is an ideal expression for her life, and illustrates how compartmentalized many transgender women feel about their lives.

There is a wonderfully subtle moment where Violet compares her past life and her present life. It is executed with such tact and intelligence. I felt Violet’s anguish and frustration, questioning who was she? Who is she? Is she better off now? I wanted to hug her and say ‘I understand’. Questioning her sexuality and comparing her physical attributes to cisgender females causes additional confusion for Violet.


Equality between cisgender and transgender females it not easily assumed. We transfemales spend much energy protecting ourselves, for fear of any repercussion. Secrecy is a skill transfemales excel at. Only when we feel comfortable inviting someone to share our past, can we start to have a healthy future. That happens upon Violet, through Allie.

Allie is a reporter, eager to get her front page story. She is a caring and compassionate lesbian, not afraid to admit when she is in unfamiliar territory. She is the pert compliment to Violet. Allie makes faux pas after faux pas talking to Violet, for her transgender women story. Their dialog is beautiful and intimate and honest. As their budding relationship grows, Allie is exposed to Violet’s indignity, living as a kept woman. Allie’s compunction is to right this wrong, but Violet tells her that she stays with Mark, because “he doesn’t laugh at me.”


We all have baggage, be it an addiction, abusive relationship, or messy divorce. However, transfemales have an undeniable, gender divergent, past. Paige, Violet’s close friend, and more, is fiercely independent and brash. Her life was tough, being kicked out of her home by her mother at the young age of 14, because she is transgender. Paige is protective of herself, and keeps mostly reticent about her past. This conflicts with her passion to find someone to share her life.

Paige’s history primes her for success as an attorney for LAMBDA. She happens to be fighting for a pre-transition, transgender female denied the right to stay at a woman’s shelter. Here, the closed minded view of what defines gender, by those disingenuous people, in whom we depend upon to be open minded and compassionate, is debated.

Lisa is the catalyst for excavating the schism between lesbians and transfemales, among the LGBT community. Her cynical and obnoxious behavior digs to the core this separation between lesbian rights and transfemale rights, as seen through certain members of the LGBT community. Lisa insolently defends the woman’s shelter’s decision and goes so far as to brashly suggest a separate transgender women shelter, emphasis on transgender women, as a resolution to their homeless issue.

Secondary characters, Mark(Josh Wingate) and James(Christian Ochoa) pepper the male dynamic in abrasive and endearing ways, respectively. Mark is castigating and abusive with Violet. Clearly he takes his male entitlement seriously, lording over Violet and controlling her life. Violet’s history, and past embarrassment, inhibit her from standing up for herself.

James, quixotic paramour of Paige, is genuinely attracted to her. When he discovers she is a transfemale, instead of leaving the relationship, he divulges an embarrassing secret of his own. This is a wonderful reversal of stereotype, handled with affection and delicacy.


Lately, there has been more news and discussion about transgender people, their rights and their lives. HerStory is an important addition to this mosaic. As Allie states: “It’s less that the world has changed for transpeople and simply that we’re seeing them as people; as our brothers and sisters, our parents, our children, our colleagues, and even our friends.”

There is nothing about this show that feels contrived or pedantic. All the characters are so relatable and dynamic. Their dialog has a rich density to it, like this exchange between Paige and Allie:


This is all just really new terrain to me


I know girl, but you know, it being new to you doesn’t make it any less old to me.

This 6-episode, 1st season of HerStory was co-written by Jen Richards and Laura Zak. That it is co-written by and starring transgender actresses, resonates so empathetically with me. Sydney Freeland so skillfully directs this piece, capturing the right balance with each character and scene. Beautifully shot by Bérénice Eveno, her cinematography uses the frame to pull us into the story. And Bryan Darling’s editing effectively, keeps the story moving.

HerStory is Violet’s story…is Allie’s story…is Lisa’s story…is Paige’s story…is my story…is our story.

Please visit HerStoryShow for the full 1st season, cast and crew bios and additional information.

You can also stream the 1st season on YouTube


mir, irini, peace, amn,



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