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Looking at Real Trans Media in Her Story Episode Five

Continuing TMS' discussion on Her Story.

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Welcome to episode five of Her Story, the Internet-based series that deals with LGBT community intersectionality and dating while trans. You can watch Her Story over at the official website, http://www.herstoryshow.com. Please note, trigger warning for domestic abuse, violence, verbal abuse. TMS discussed earlier episodes here.

Episode five opens on Penny’s band with Violet and Allie hanging around at the back. Penny, in her ever-so-subtle and understated way, pushes Violet and Allie together. Just as they dance nose to nose, Violet’s phone vibrates, and she’s instructed to come home to Mark AT ONCE. This leads us to the most troubling scene in Her Story as Mark and Violet argue, and he calls her a whore before striking her. Penny sees Allie alone and asks what’s going on, Allie explains about Violet getting a text and having to dash out, and Penny realizes what’s happening and sends Allie after Violet.

Violet buzzes Allie in, thinking she’s Penny, and we see a dazed Violet with a bruised face and split lip. Allie sets about looking after her at once; it’s a tender act. Allie pushes for Violet to call the police, and Violet refuses. This is understandable, at least to me. The prospect of any police interaction scares me, and Violet goes on to explain why. Mark hit her once when they were in public, and an onlooker reported to the police. When they arrived, they checked Mark and Violet’s IDs, and like many trans people, Violet’s ID didn’t match her presented gender. The police didn’t bother with Mark hitting Violet and instead they turned on her, mocking and laughing at her. They asked if Violet was trying to trick him, and theyn they left, saying, “Well, shouldn’t be dressed like that, sir.”

According a NCAVP survey, “Transgender people of color were 6 times more likely to experience physical violence from the police compared to White cisgender survivors and victims.” Trans people in general were 7 times as likely “to experience physical violence when interacting with the police” than cisgender victims and survivors. A FORGE report states that, “Fifteen percent of transgender individuals report being sexually assaulted while in police custody or jail, which more than doubles (32 percent) for African-American transgender people. Five to nine percent of transgender survivors were sexually assaulted by police officers. Another 10 percent were assaulted by health care professionals.”

The statistics show that when you’re trans and interacting with the police, you’re not always going to have a positive outcome, so sometimes, it’s just not worth taking that risk. Before I finally managed to change my driver’s license, I was terrified of getting stopped by the police at a road check. Now, the possibility is down to just scary. A shocking 72% of all homicide victims in the LGBT spectrum are trans women. 67% of those are TWoC. Those are only the victims we know of, as many trans women are misgendered by the police, media, or family after death. The NCAVP found that only 7% of hate crimes against trans people are labelled as such by the police; no one actually knows just how bad things are with any accuracy.

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After Violet refuses to bring in the police, she asks Allie to stay the night. She agrees, bless her cotton socks. It’s revealed that Paige sponsored Violet to come to L.A., with Mark promising to let her live with him as his own personal prostitute as long as she got clean.

Yes, those tropes again.

In modern media, as we’ve recently seen in the 2016 X-Files mini-series, trans women are frequently shown as addicts and prostitutes. Yes, of course, some of us are addicted and are prostitutes. Nothing is wrong with the latter as long as you want to be doing it. Trans women are also CEOs, doctors, IT professionals, clerks, and a million other jobs. We’re not all addicted or prostitutes.

It would be great if the media could move past these tropes that cling to trans representation even as we finally make headway against the concept that “trans women are a joke.” We can’t hope to make progress against this when both cis and trans productions keep making characters addicts or prostitutes. Jen Richards is the co-writer and co-producer on Her Story, and she’s trans, and yet the trope is present. Tangerine, the most highly acclaimed movie featuring a trans woman in 2015, was also about trans prostitutes.

I’d like to think that as we start to get more trans representation in the media, we’ll get to see trans people not as addicts or prostitutes. I’m glad that Her Story is a series that has more than one (gasp!) trans character, so that it has some balance in its representation. We have the wonderful Paige, who is composed, clever, and a force to be reckoned with. She’s neither addicted nor a prostitute, and she shows a bright gem for the future of trans representation. Seriously, if I ever run into Angelica Ross I’ll politely ask to hug the heck out of her.

Trans representation will improve as the volume of trans characters seen in the media goes up. The pressure to get representation perfect is tough for everyone. I know for a fact that some comic creators are avoiding being the first to do trans characters, as the pressure to get them right is so high. Once we’ve got a few more characters, the pressure to do it perfectly will drop, and then we’ll get more characters. Her Story does dip into negative transgender tropes, that’s true, but it also shows that we can be so much more and that’s wonderful. If you’re developing trans characters, do please get in touch with me; I can help when it comes to positive representation.

Join me next time for episode six, the last episode of Her Story.

Marcy (@marcyjcook) is an immigrant trans woman and writer. This includes Transcanuck.com, a website dedicated to informing and helping trans Canadians. She also has a nerd job, too many cats, is a part time volunteer sex educator and has an ongoing sordid love affair with Lego. Those last two are not related … probably.

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