Amazon’s “Transparent” Tackles Trans Issues

The ten episode first season of “Transparent,” Amazon’s latest runaway original series, follows a chronicle of events set into place after Maura Pfefferman, previously Papa Pfefferman, lets her kids know she is actually a woman. If that feels like a spoiler, reread the title of the series. And though the coming-out process is the fulcrum on which the series pivots, the show is hardly solely about being trans* despite all the pomp and thinkpieces.

Sure the show has a straight, cis man performing trans* as respectfully as he is able, and several scenes shot semi-circle in an LGBTQ support group (a jaunt to crossdressing camp and a Maura’s First Hormone Pill plot), but these moments are rendered just as normal and familiar as the family dinner or the ecstasy-ish trip. This is the show’s best and most promising quality.

We, the viewers, learn about a family consisting of Jeffrey Tambor as the patriarch turned matriarch (she even lights the Shabbat candles), Judith Light as mom, Amy Landecker as the eldest, Jay Duplass as the sole son and the bush-bearing Gaby Hoffmann whose feathered nether makes another appearance in this series (see “Girls”) as the baby sister.

And in this family, as in many others, each member is incredibly selfish in his or her own right. The children squabble over the house as Maura tries to announce her gender, they leave her talent show sans warning, ditch the kid sister on the day of her (albeit canceled) bat mitzvah and ignore a missing, ill stepfather before considering just pulling the plug. In fact, the whole series is set up to reveal that the family was dysfunctional long before Morton became Maura and the revelation is just another in a long line of secrets.

One would think that the self-centeredness of an entire clan would serve to detract from a theme of identity and sexuality, but instead each character, already pretty into themselves, takes the occasion of their father’s transition to examine their own. Without giving away too much, each member of the Pfefferman family begins to uncover secrets of their own and begins transitioning into truer versions of themselves, just like their father.

The result is story about the fluidity of identity—familial and individual, sexual and otherwise—that does indeed flow with the rapidity of a binge-watched syndicated series though its quality and message are top notch. The show is touching, compassionate and wildly addicting. Also, the soundtrack, as you might have heard, is incredible.

Shows covering trans* issues are great but shows covering trans* issues that leave you incapacitated to do the housework you told yourself you were going to do while watching? Those shows are magical.

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