Did you use a washroom today? Was it a public one? Did you have to think about it? Media coverage regarding trans issues can often come across as a slew of one-dimensional concerns over human rights and who’s going to pay for it. While this is an important part of the conversation, it leaves much to be desired in the quest to broaden the definition of normalcy. AJ Ripley–human, family member, sibling, friend, nerd, PhD student, writer, performance artist, bicyclist–is adding Web Series creator to their long list of non-binary descriptors. Their new series, Babes, is all about normal people living in the city of Fredericton, the main character of which just happens to be trans.
“The intent with the series isn’t to provide a crash course about trans lives- it’s actually the opposite,” says Ripley. “The series is for queer, trans, non-binary people and allies to see a character who happens to be trans* living their life. For AJ, being a non-binary, trans person is a part of their identity, but it’s not the only part. They are new to the community so any learning is a reflection of where they’re at in their own understanding. The series is about friendship above all else. It’s about failure. It’s about not having your shit together by the time the world tells you that you should.”
The series follows the quasi-fictionalized real-life experiences of AJ, and their artist roommate Sybil, but the purpose is far from autobiographical. AJ’s character experiences life: dealing with landlords, dating, university, and more dating. Which is all straightforward, if a bit caricatured, but with the twist of being trans in an a sometimes challenging CIS-nomative society. “Honestly, very little is me. The character is a writer getting a PhD. Those things are also true of me. The character is non-binary and trans, also true in my case. The experiences in the episodes (especially season two) are way more exciting than my life ever was! As in most stories, the characters are cobbled together from people I know. Although I did once have a very unprofessional experience with a sexual health nurse. She did not talk about elephants, but she did eat a yogurt and banana while revealing my test results.”
“The thing about AJ is that they are approaching a crossroads. They recently had their heart properly smashed for the first time and this makes them question how much of their sexual appetite is actually just a distraction mechanism or them fulfilling the myth about themselves. To be honest, AJ doesn’t really like who they are, which in turn makes them an unlikeable character.”
The director, Victoria Clowater, says that the series is as much about support as it is about exposure, if not more so. It’s not introducing lifestyle for its intended audience, but shows that there is more to life than just the kick off and stereotyped landmarks. It’s a work of solidarity. “As a queer person, there were maybe six months in my life where coming out stories were something I was interested in watching, but that didn’t last long. I think we’re all hungry for queer representation on-screen that goes beyond that. There’s a lot more to our lives than coming out. But a lot of content gets hung up on the coming out narrative to the exclusion of all other queer representation. We are doing our part to change the narrative and tell stories that show new dimensions of queer lives on-screen.”
“We plan to keep on telling this story as long as we can. Season two’s scripts are in development, and we will be filming part of that this summer with more to be done at the end of the year. We plan to build on the groundwork we laid in season one in order to deliver some hilarious storylines. It’s hard to build a world in 26 minutes, and so we would like to deliver more episodes in the second season. As long as people want to see more, and as long as we are able to deliver, we will keep going.”
Season one already has six episodes being released one a week, with season two on its way. For more information check out their twitter.