The Premiere of “Her Story” Brings Transgender to the Mainstream

Wednesday night usually goes of two ways with me: a lazy one in with Netflix and my best friend, or a regretful night out with cheap dollar shots. But when I received an invitation to an exclusive screening of Her Story, a new television show that presents an honest portrayal of dating for the transgender community, Wednesday night turned into something else entirely. I was fresh off the plane from Topeka, Kansas, and had just gotten somewhat used to the bustle of the greater Los Angeles area when I quickly found myself Uber-ing to West Hollywood for the premiere.

I felt like Cinderella: exceptionally out of place in a crowd of close friends and IMDB page owners, but excited for the opportunity, nonetheless.

The timeline for the event went something like this:

6:00pm: Triple checked the invitation to make sure that I would be on time. Checked it again to make sure that they had sent it to the right person. Stopped myself from nervously calling my boss and screaming, “WHAT DO I DO AT PREMIERES? I’M FROM KANSAS!!”

6:15pm: Took a stress nap.

6:35pm: Woke up, panicked about wardrobe, did some deep breathing exercises. Applied makeup and prayed to the beauty gods that my eyeliner wouldn’t smudge (it later smudged). Threw on a casual cute outfit in the hope that I wouldn’t be a) ridiculously overdressed, and b) ridiculously underdressed.

7:00 pm: Called an Uber, turned on my location services in case of kidnapping, and had a brief conversation on the importance of hydration with a driver who was very invested in his customer’s health. Nice guy.

7:28 pm: Arrived at the venue with two minutes to spare, tripped over the entrance, immediately fell into someone important looking. Classic Sara.

Overwhelming doesn’t even cover it. I was in uncomfortable shoes, alone, and staring into the sea of people who had known each other from the industry for years and years. I texted my friend that I was potentially the only person without an agent in the room and got a prompt, “Your life is like the Kim Kardashian game” response. I was ushered into the second row of the dimly lit room, and did what any intern would do at an important event: I eavesdropped.

“[Person A] had gotten an audition with [Person B] and it went terrible…”

“Yes, I’m looking for a new hairdresser. Do you have any recommendations?”

I eventually made small talk with the woman sitting next to me, who was kind enough to take all of my ramblings in her stride. The theater was jam-packed with supportive friends, LGTBQA+ activists, and film fanatics.

It was time to show the show.

I had only gotten a brief description of Her Story from the PR person and vaguely remembered the trailer. For the sake of not spoiling the show, here is a brief description of the premise: Violet (Jen Richards) is a transgender waitress in Los Angeles where she meets Allie (Laura Pak), a writer for Gay LA. The two immediately hit it off, and the show follows different plotlines for a variety of characters. It’s humorous, heartfelt, and it has some of the best TV writing I’ve ever come across.

It was real, and it was important.

It didn’t feel like a cookie-cutter script of already existing narratives. Her Story opened a plethora of doors that I didn’t even know were closed. The comedy felt natural and I found myself surprised at how light the series was at times. But like all good art forms, it made me uncomfortable.

I grew up in conservative Kansas, where the word “transgender” didn’t surface until Caitlyn Jenner. In one of my favorite lines of the series, Allie stated that she had always thought she was on the progressive side of things, but had never noticed the absence of the transgender community from her life. I felt the same. Even in my own campaign, Project Consent, we were lacking on representation on all fronts, despite calling ourselves supportive of all victims. Her Story is not something that you would find promoted on the streets of Topeka, Kansas, and for that reason alone, I loved it.

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Image courtesy of Sara Li

The premiere concluded to a standing ovation, followed by a quick Q&A with the cast and crew. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was starstruck; I had just spent the past hour watching these phenomenal actors and actresses on screen that I had entirely forgotten that I was sitting among them. All around me, you could see people visibly react to what they had just seen. For the first time that night, I was witness to the power of art.

I was one of the first one to approach Laura Zak, a feat considering that I was still trying to remember how to coherently pronounce words. For the life of me, I could not remember my actual assignment for my job because I was just too stunned that I was standing in front of someone who created something so touching and sensational. The entire cast was gracious, hilarious, and wonderful to chat with. I vaguely remember being too in awe of Angelica Ross to fully have a conversation with her, only to momentarily hate myself for not being able to muster up real words from the English dictionary.

A couple minutes later, I had spotted Gaby Dunn in the back and cautiously approached her (I’m not entirely sure why I was afraid, considering that we were familiar with one another, but I felt like Bambi nonetheless) to say hello. To summarize the entire night, she, with the casual confidence of someone who most definitely wasn’t from Kansas, proclaimed, “I think all of my queer friends are here!”

Later, as I called for my fourth Uber of the day, I sunk into the backseat and texted my friends that there was this new show that they HAD to watch. If audiences had the power to change the ways of mainstream media, I was excited to be part of that movement.

You can find all of Her Story’s information on their official website, herstoryshow.com/, and watch the premiere on January 19th!

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