“They were always the dead prostitute or a punch line,” she tells PEOPLE.
But as a transgender woman, Richards and the team behind the new Web series Her Story are working to change that as part of what Richards feels is an amplification “of trans people speaking in their own voices.”
“The visibility and representation [of the trans community] has become a beacon of hope and possibility for a generation who didn’t have that prior,” says Richards.
The result was Her Story, a series that delves into the lives of trans and lesbian women living in Los Angeles. Richards says it is “unique” because it is written by, directed by and starring trans people – and PEOPLE has the exclusive debut of the series’ trailer.
Richards, who co-wrote the series, and director Sydney Freeland feel they have created a series that will feel “authentic” to trans people, but they also hope the universal themes of the show will engage non-trans people as well.
“We’ve had an ongoing conversation about how we can accentuate the humanity of these characters. That’s what will make it relatable to members outside the LGBT community,” says Freeland, who is also transgender – a fact Richards and the team behind the show did not know when they approached Freeland to direct the series.
Richards – who has been featured on the premiere season of I Am Cait – is optimistic that the recent attention paid to the transgender community will result in positive change and is grateful for what she calls the “accidents” that have brought the community to where it is today.
“I think about two of the bigger historical accidents that created this moment: One of them was that [Caitlyn Jenner] was who she already was, which is a member of one of the most visible families in the world. That is an accident that we never could have planned for. We could never strategize for that,” she says. “And I think of Jill. Her parent is trans. That’s what inspired Transparent. She is telling an emotional, true story, and the opportunity came along just as she was in the place where she could be a showrunner and put the show together.”
“I often think about what my life would have been like had something like this moment happened when I was young,” she continues. “I was 36 years old when I came out as trans. I probably would have come out as a kid if I knew it was possible to have a whole, happy life. Now, a generation is growing up seeing that it can be.”
Her Story is slated to be released in fall 2015. Details on the series’s distribution will be announced at a later date. The trailer was directed by Sydney Freeland and edited by Mari Walker and featured music by Bora Bora and Mina Caputo.