[A/N: I wrote this review when I still identified as a transgender woman. I am leaving it in its original form despite now identifying as nonbinary, because it was nevertheless extremely instrumental in me getting to where I am today.]
“Girl, you fuck men. I have never been convinced you like ’em.”
I watched this last night instead of sleeping. It was more edifying than the best night’s sleep possibly could’ve been. I meant to just watch the first episode of the webseries, to get my feet wet. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was not turning this thing off until I had soaked in every second of it. I might watch it in its entirety every time I have a bad day. I might watch it in its entirety every time I have a bad thought. It brought me so much unbridled joy (in spite of the fact that several parts of it tackle certainly difficult themes) that I really think it might be an antidote to anything and everything for a while. (I should probably use it sparingly lest that effect eventually wear off, but right now it’s difficult to imagine it ever wearing off.)
I nearly wept when I realized what this film was. Its Wikipedia page told me to expect the best experience I’ve ever had with a “transgender movie.” I mean, it was written by and starred two transgender women, and that’s an automatic win. But just seeing the way Violet and Paige were depicted in their first few scenes filled me with an intense combination of longing and fulfillment that I’m struggling to put into words. When I see other transgender women who are much farther along in their transition than I am, it’s hard not to feel a pang of envy, but I do not feel jealous. Because I simultaneously feel so intensely happy for them (and, hopefully, for future-me) and want nothing but good things for them.
It was when Violet and Allie began to fall for each other that I realized there was no way in hell I was choosing sleep over this movie. Little moments like Allie’s friend chasing her down to tell her to ignore the dumbass TERF in their group and also immediately picking up on her crush on Violet. Dismissing her insecurity with a casual, “Last time I checked, lesbian means loving women. So what’s the problem?” But what really did me in was Violet and Allie’s first date. They were just so happy and genuine with each other. Violet’s disbelief that Allie had never heard of having a “foodgasm,” Allie’s immediate declaration of “we’re going back!” to the ice cream place.
This is how easy it is to make a movie about transgender women that isn’t the fucking Danish Girl or Dallas Buyers Club or some other cisgender gaze bullshit pinning us to the screen like butterflies to be studied. Objectifying us, whether the intention is to titillate or pity or whatever the fuck, but always objectifying us.
All you need to do is show us being us, having a fucking life–as simple and unassuming as that life might be–and suddenly I’m hugging myself and crying and smiling at the same time. This isn’t hard, guys. Just throw some resources at trans women and let us tell stories about ourselves. And leave Jared Leto and Eddie Redmayne and their alarmingly punchable faces the fuck out of it.
Paige needed a lot more screentime, there’s no getting around that, but her “Naw, bitch, you need to understand” was the final nail in the coffin of a world where this wasn’t my favorite movie of all time. It might be rash, it might not fulfill some bullshit ideal of how the internet thinks I should evaluate movies. I cannot stress this enough: I. Do not. Care. I never thought I was going to have this experience watching a movie. I’m not sure I even entirely understood what it was I was missing, I’m not sure I could’ve explained with any kind of coherence that this was what I wanted. This was what was lacking. But now it’s not lacking, and my life is richer for it.
Her Story doesn’t aim to be an uncomplicatedly happy movie, and yet it makes me feel happy (and a shit ton of other things) more than any other movie ever has. I love myself. I love my fellow trans sisters. The only way this movie could’ve been even an iota better is if Vi started dating another trans woman, but her relationship with Allie is so excellent I’m not really counting that as a strike against it, I just want a movie that’s this sweet and this authentic where two trans women date each other. That is my new Holy Grail. (And I can even explain it coherently this time!)
I want to start HRT yesterday. I am going to do all of the little things I can to make myself look and feel the way I want to look and feel. Because I deserve it. And despite knowing that in the back of my mind all along, just seeing this godsdamn beautiful movie brought it to the forefront. And I don’t care how uncritical I’m being right now, this is why representation in movies matters.
To reiterate for probably like the third time, this is my new favorite movie and I do not care that the way I arrived at that is not remotely conventional. More movies by trans women. More movies for trans women. And please send me some where trans women kiss each other. Thank you and I love you all.