As I graduated high school, I was getting ready to come out as transgender and begin my transition. I looked to the internet and entertainment to learn and understand what I was going through and I found “Transparent” on Amazon Prime. “Transparent” follows a dysfunctional family as they navigate the news that their father, Mort, is a trans woman: Maura. This show was not at all what I was looking for or expecting but it did some amazing things that helped me as I prepped for coming out. Here are the top five things it did for me. (Disclaimer: While these things were great for me, I’m not representative of the whole trans community)
1. Showed Variance of Acceptance
When Mort comes out as Maura to her family, everyone reacts differently. Her eldest daughter is completely accepting and respects Maura by not outing her to any of her siblings. When it comes to her son, he isn’t hateful or transphobic but he has a hard time embracing the idea with open arms. Before this show, I’d only ever thought of the extreme ends of the scale. Complete acceptance or complete hatred. “Transparent”, instead, showed the sliding scale that acceptance comes on, which ended up closer to how my coming out happened.
2. Limited Transphobia
You can’t really give an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be transgender without including but transphobia, but this can get exhausting and triggering to watch. “Transparent” did a great job of including transphobia to tell the story without it feeling like a bombardment. It also shows the wide range of transphobia that exists. There is blatant transphobia with the classic bathroom problem we as trans folk so often encounter. But, it also includes examples of transphobia that are more subtle but still harmful. Later in the show, Maura’s father apologizes for not being around because he believes that if he’d been around maybe Maura would know how to be a man. Maura’s father loves, respects and accepts Maura and meant well by this comment, but trans women are born women.
3. Cast Trans Actors as Trans Characters
Jeffrey Tambor does play Maura, but besides him, all the trans characters in the show are played by trans people. This is something that is so important for our community. For representation to be real and legitimate, it needs to represent the community whose story is being told. Obviously “Transparent” didn’t do a perfect job, but they did much better than many productions have done in the past and still are doing today. In the future, hopefully, trans actors will be seen as just actors. Until then, seeing them playing roles like this is a great step forward.
The story revolves around a trans woman and her family so themes of identity are huge within the show. The show does an amazing job of addressing how identity is complex and fluid. Maura is not the only one who explores her identity but they all do. Collectively, they explore how religion, body, and race make up who we are.
5. Privilege and Pain
Maura lived most of her life presenting as a man and that privilege allowed her into spaces that she otherwise would’ve been kept out of. There are many times where this is pointed out to her. In one scene Maura says “I was in too much pain to experience this privilege you think I had” and quickly a woman responds, “Your pain and privilege are separate. Both can exist.” “Transparent” addresses complex topics like this and sometimes pushes me to look at myself and my world differently.
If you like good TV, please watch “Transparent.” It is beautifully filmed and the music is perfectly selected. This show helped me feel seen and prepped me for my transition. The characters are complex and not like the traditional family you’re used to seeing on screen. They are real and oftentimes, dark.