'Transparent' producer Rhys Ernst premieres trans history docuseries

A new short documentary series by Emmy-nominated director Rhys Ernst (co-producer of Transparent) premieres today. The docuseries We’ve Been Around celebrates transgender people in history, and is launched in partnership with Focus Features, Time Inc., and The Advocate.

The series will premiere exclusively across three Time Inc. websites – People.com, EW.com, and Essence.com – as well as on Advocate.com today, Tuesday, March 1, at 2:00 PM ET. 

Ernst teamed up with producer Christine Beebe and a number of creative collaborators from the transgender community to research, produce, and create these important films.  From the narrators, to the composer, to the animator, the series was created with talent from the trans community. The team includes Transparent actress Alexandra Billings; historian and filmmaker Susan Stryker; and trans blogger and equality advocate Monica Roberts.

Ernst says about the films, “The trans movement may be making headlines, but our rich history is often overlooked.  Trans people have always existed, and have lived many different lives.  The central theme of We’ve Been Around is stated in the title.  We’ve been here, throughout time, often hidden in plain sight.  These stories show us just how important it is to share our histories.”

Having recently produced The Danish Girl, inspired by the lives of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, Focus Features supports diversity initiatives both in front of and behind the camera. Each episode of We’ve Been Around runs under six minutes in length, and you can watch them here:

  • S.T.A.R. (debuting on People.com and Advocate.com) profiles Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, participants in the Stonewall Riots of 1969, who shortly thereafter founded S.T.A.R. a group for trans people in New York City.
     
  • Little Axe (debuting on EW.com and Advocate.com) profiles trans man Wilmer Broadnax, a popular gospel singer known as “Little Axe,” and his brother Willie Broadnax, as they sang their way to success from the 1940s to the 1970s.
     
  • Lou Sullivan (debuting on EW.com and Advocate.com) recounts the life of Lou Sullivan, a pioneering transgender gay man and AIDS activist.
     
  • Albert Cashier (debuting on People.com and Advocate.com) tells the story of Albert Cashier, a transgender man who fought in the Civil War.
     
  • Lucy Hicks Anderson (debuting on Essence.com and Advocate.com) recounts the story of Lucy Hicks Anderson, a woman of color who thrived during Prohibition and stood her ground to protect her marriage rights after being outed as a transgender woman.

As transgender people become experienced filmmakers and writers in Hollywood, we are beginning to see more media projects created by trans people. After you watch the films released today, check out other compelling stories created by transgender people:

  • Her Story, created by Jen Richards and Angelica Ross, directed by Sydney Freeland
     
  • This is Me, Emmy-nominated short films created by Rhys Ernst and Zackary Drucker
     
  • Drunktown's Finest, written and directed by Sydney Freeland