As methods of consuming TV shows become less conventional, so do the stories depicted on them.
Already, such platforms as Amazon and Netflix have championed shows that feature transgender characters prominently, and on Friday, AOL Originals will unveil the first four episodes of its new original seriesTrue Trans. The documentary-style show chronicles the transition ofLaura Jane Grace, the 33-year-old singer of punk group Against Me!, and also features sit-down interviews with other people about their individual journeys through gender identity. The episodes, which run about 10 minutes in length, will each focus on a theme such as self-realization and coming out.
"I hope I did a good job in getting people to talk who represented a wide variety of backgrounds, coming from different places, to really show that [with] gender, people's definition just varies so much and there is no right or wrong thing," Grace tells TVGuide.com. "When it comes down to it, everyone should just be able to be happy. Everyone deserves that — to live their life comfortably as who they are, without discrimination or taking anyone else's bulls---. So, that's just what I hope people get from it."
Grace admits she was unfamiliar with AOL Originals when the company approached her with the idea for True Trans.. nut it seemed like the right time for such a series. "It just feels like you're part of something," Grace says. "It feels, personally, really validating. You have those moments where you look back to, like, the 13- or 14-year-old you, and how scared you felt about rejection and if people would find out the way you really felt. To then be in a situation where you're out and trying to be the person you want to be and then seeing, like, Laverne Cox on thecover of Time magazine and stuff like that, it's surreal. It's like a dream."
Last year, Orange Is the New Black shattered the glass ceiling of depictions of sexuality and gender fluidity, with characters that included a transgender hairstylist (Cox), lesbians of all "types," and others who refused to label their sexuality. (Though other shows have certainly depicted these storylines, Orange is arguably the most popular and "mainstream" to have done so.)
In September, Amazon debuted Transparent, its original series starringJeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman, who's transitioning from male to female late in life. And on Oct. 17, MTV and Logo TV will premiereLaverne Cox Presents: The T Word, a one-hour documentary which will explore the lives of transgender youths.
"Every young person struggles to define their identity, but for transgender people that struggle is magnified," MTV and Logo TV President Stephen Friedman said in a statement. "The T Word shows how challenging it can be — and how inspiring it is when people discover themselves and truly live their authentic lives."
On True Trans, Grace speaks with a variety of trans people of all ages and background about their own experience. With Against Me! routinely playing upwards of 200 shows a year, she connected with people around the country via social media to arrange meetings throughout the band's tour.
Grace describes the experience of being a documentary subject herself as "really intense." "You're waking up every morning on tour and the second you wake up, there's a five-person camera crew following you around and you're wearing a wire, or someone's holding a boom over your head," she says. "I knew going into it that it was going to be intense like that, and I accepted that. I was fine with it. But I didn't want to bother anyone else in my band or anything like that. I don't mind being uncomfortable [but] I just always feel bad when I make other people uncomfortable."
Her bandmates — guitarist James Bowman, bassist Inge Johansson and drummer Atom Willard — were fine with it, Grace says. (Former members Andrew Seward and Jay Weinberg left the group in the wake of Grace's coming out.)
After Friday's initial four episodes, additional installments of True Transwill be unveiled periodically, following Grace both on- and off-stage as she navigates her transition.
"I wish when I was 14 years old I had someone who could come to me and tell me, like, 'It's going to be OK. There's nothing wrong with you' or whatever," Grace says. "Not that I've necessarily had a bad life or anything like that, but I could have gotten that out of the way and saved being unhappy on tour for a lot of years. I've gotten to go to a lot of places. Unfortunately, a lot of them I didn't enjoy myself while I was there. ... I just hope that people watch with an open mind."
The first four episodes of True Trans will be available Friday via AOL On. Watch a trailer for the series below: