Rhys Ernst’s Docuseries We’ve Been Around

Image courtesy Matt Johnstone Publicity

Emmy award-nominated director and CalArts alum Rhys Ernst (Film/Video MFA 11), producer of Award-winning Amazon TV show Transparent, has produced a new docuseries called We’ve Been Around. The series of six short films, which uses archival footage, live action and animation, documents the lives of transgender pioneers whose stories are not included in mainstream history.

“With this series,” Ernst says in a press release, “I wanted to look towards my own trans history and forebearers to see where I came from and where we’re headed.”

The short films, each about five minutes long, tell the story of the following transgender trailblazers:

  • Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, co-founders of of trans group S.T.A.R., who were two of the participants in the Stonewall riots and fought for the inclusion of trans rights in the LGB movement;
  • 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, a pioneering transgender gay man and AIDS activist;
  • Albert Cashier, a transgender man who fought in the Civil War;
  • Lucy Hicks Anderson, a woman of color who thrived during Prohibition and stood her ground to protect her marriage rights after being exposed as a transgender woman; and
  • Leslie Feinberg and Riki Wilchins, trans activists who spearheaded a movement to protest the trans-exclusionary policy of a women’s music festival.

“The series couldn’t be more timely,” Ernst continues. “The issue of trans inclusion is now more relevant than ever with the fervor of anti-trans laws such as HB2 and several other bills popping up across the country. American culture and politics owe a huge, often overlooked debt to trailblazers who paved the way.”

Ernst concludes, “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.”

We’ve Been Around boasts a diverse team of narrators and production team members, including Transparent’s Alexandra Billings. The series is produced by Jelayne Miles, Jase Miles-Perez, Christine Beebe and CalArts alumna Giulia Caruso (Film/Video MFA 13).

Above: The first episode of ‘We’ve Been Around.’

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