As you probably know and took advantage of, the first season of Transparent went up for free on Amazon this past Saturday. I’ve been hankering to watch this show since the day I heard about it. However, when you’re 23-years old, it is quite financially unrealistic to subscribe to Amazon AND keep up with a Netflix subscription, a Spotify subscription, a sushi addiction, and an enslavement to Topshop.
When I found out Transparent would be streaming for free, one-day only, I cleared my plans and gathered all my friends: my pink fuzzy blanket, my Miley Cyrus sweatshirt that I’m not allowed to wear to work, Gatorade, pot, and Thai takeout. Luckily, the show is a half-hour format, though I had previously thought it to be a one-hour show—yes, I was actually ready to commit to 10 straight hours of binge-watching. After watching all 10 episodes with zero breaks, I had but one takeaway from Transparent:
It broke my heart.
Fitting In; Getting Out
*SPOILERS AHEAD OBVIOUSLY*
For me, the most tragic moment of the series was the scene when Maura Pfefferman is at Camp Camellia and her peers, who she thought were transgender women like herself, reveal that they are cross-dressers: male-identifiers who dress up as women almost as a joke, a satire of femininity. This was a big moment for Maura: she felt like she had finally found her tribe, her people; a safe community she could be earnestly herself in…
And then there it was right in front of her: her newfound friends making a toast to being men, bashing a transgender woman who used to frequent Camp Camellia and referring to her as a full time cross-dresser. They made it crystal clear that in their eyes, taking Estrogen pills and being a female-identified transgender woman was crazy-town. Maura was snapped right back to her agonizing reality of loneliness. As a person who has a transgender family member, it smashed my heart to smithereens to see this “I don’t fit in anywhere” look on Maura’s face.
We have to stop doing this to people. We have to stop alienating our peers and treating them like they aren’t “normal.” Transparent is a call to arms, an eye into the world of a person who is forced to feel shameful for what we tell them is abnormal. It’s about time someone, (Lord & Savior Jill Soloway) shed some light on this horrible thing our society does to the LGBT community.
Maura Pfefferman may be an intangible television character, but she is real. In this world, our world, it took Maura 60-something years to feel like she could finally become the person she always was and always wanted to be. How fucked is that? Think about this: our stupid fucking-fuck society tells LGBT people to hide, to be scared, to feel abnormal, to feel shame for what feels completely normal and wholeheartedly right for them.
Punchlines & Punching Bags
A woman said something to me recently that really resonated. She said it’s fucked up that people use “LESBIAN!” or “GAY!” as a punch line, and even more fucked up that we react defensively, countering, “YOU’RE A LESBIAN” with, “NO I’M NOT!” She said, what if someone said to you, “YOU HAVE BROWN EYES.” Would you take offense to that? I said no, but after thinking about it, it’s not what was said, it was the tone.
If someone taunts you, aggressively pursues getting a reaction out of you and repeats, “YOU HAVE BROWN EYES. YOU HAVE BROWN EYES,” in a tone that suggests their intent is a derogatory one, and this happens over and over again for days, months, years, decades, etc… Eventually, you would feel like you needed to stick up for yourself, warranting a, “NO I DON’T!”
So why do we treat people like that? Why do LGBT words get appropriated as triggers or jokes? How many of us, gay or straight, have gotten called “lesbian,” “gay” or “faggot,” as a joke? Even if it’s “in good humor,” it’s still being used as a punch line, and no one wants to be the person who supposedly justifies a laugh.
With that being said, I want to talk about the character Ali, the youngest daughter of the Pfefferman tribe. Ali has a heart-wrenching conversation with her best friend Syd toward the end of the series. Syd admits to Ali that since 8th grade, she has had confusing feelings for Ali, like feelings-feelings, and asked if Ali felt the same way.
The shock and pause this question elicited from Ali’s character was what made it so painful to watch. You saw it all over her face: it was like she didn’t know. Maybe she hadn’t thought about it until right now. Society tells her she’s supposed to date men, so maybe she was just doing her job. Could you blame her?
Do As You’re Told
As identified in the show, Ali’s character is a low-femme woman, as in, she has a stereotypically boyish hairstyle and wears clothes associated more so with masculinity than femininity. Toward the beginning of the series, I found myself wondering if she was a lesbian based on the LGBT stereotypes our society has drilled into our brains. Then I thought: being a low-femme woman doesn’t define her sexuality. In fact, the two are fundamentally disconnected; just as gender identity and sexuality are two separate monsters.
However, as the series went on, I started to feel really sad for Ali. During a flashback, we see her as a young, troubled 13-year old. She chases after a much older boy, attempting to seduce him or get him to “try something” with her. I couldn’t help but think that this behavior sprouts from how our dystopian society tells young girls to act: “be sexy, get the man, look good for the man, your beauty is your power; your beauty is your best quality.” Young women can be negatively affected by these garbage pressures even as young as 13-years old. It’s dark.
So how is anyone expected to live under these conditions when peers, parents, teachers, co-workers, classmates and politicians tell us being gay isn’t normal, in some cases, being told that it’s not even real?In fact, identifying with a sexuality other than straight and identifying with a gender other than cisgender is so unsubstantiated in the eyes of America that gay couples cannot even get married in most states. They can’t hold hands freely in most places. A transgender person can’t enter their identified restroom free from ridicule, or worse. But we go on, supporting this.
De-Norming “The Norm”
How is anyone supposed to feel safe? This shouldn’t be the “norm.” If we’re going to have one, then “the norm” should be acceptance. When you bring a child into this world, you have to understand that there is a chance that your offspring is going to be gay or transgender. If we can’t accept this and continue to love our children no matter who they turn out to be, we should all stop having kids.
I want to tell you, “be brave, come out.” But is it brave? Isn’t there justified fear involved? How cowardly of everyone else to sit there and watch you struggle and “come out,” when straight people don’t have to do anything like that. They just get to be.
If you’re reading any of this and wholeheartedly disagree, you feel like you can’t understand LGBT people or you think I’m wrong, I kindly urge you to watchTransparent. If you get through all 10 episodes and you feel nothing—you’re a fucking robot.
Nobody should have to feel like they need to hide themselves. Nobody should have to deal with this gargantuan societal pressure, because you know what happens when you can’t take it anymore? You either come out, or you die. Do you realize how disturbingly polarized that is? Do you feel badly? You should, because if we can’t come to terms with loving our people, how do we expect anyone to come out of this place alive?