TRANSPARENT Evening at the DGA
Being a member of the illustrious Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS), I get four-five invitations per week to screenings with live panel discussions featuring famous people I’ve never heard of. Bonoboville keeps me pretty busy and very happy, so I hardly ever go to these glittering Hollywood events. However, when an invitation to a Transparent special event arrived in my inbox, I just had to go.
One reason was that Luzer Twersky, one of my favorite people, winner of several “Best Actor” awards for his fantastic portrayal of a Hasidic cuckold in “Félix & Meira,” winner of the SUZY Award for “Best Pick-Up Artist” (2014) and “Funniest Former Fundamentalist” (2015), as well as former Bonoboville chauffeur/artist-in-residence. He’s only in a few scenes for a few seconds, but he makes the most of those seconds, giving a powerful performance as a playful member of the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Institute of Weimar Berlin who eventually (spoiler alert!) gets carted away by Nazi book-burners. Being a Weimar fan since I read Voluptuous Panic (which inspired me to produce Weimar Love: Hot Sex in Pre-Nazi Berlin), I became trans-fixed by Transparent.
Most of the hit Amazon series doesn’t take place in Weimar Berlin, but in transitioning 21st century America with a focus on a Jewish “dysfunctional” extended family in LA, of which Mort-who-transitions-to-Maura is the “trans parent.” The entire series (at least the part that I saw) is brilliantly written, acted and filmed, reeking of authenticity, complexity, tragedy and hilarity. It handles the very tricky, often bewildering subject of *transitioning* in terms of sexuality, spirituality, gender, desire, family and community with great artistry, disarming tenderness, a sense of history (including those Weimar flashbacks) and a skilled feel for the beats of comedy.
Transparent Talk: When PC is Positively Confusing
I couldn’t believe how easy it was to watch a few episodes on Amazon (but then I can’t believe how easy it is to drop a few Franklins without blinking on Amazon). I should have watched from the beginning of Season 1 to get the story, but I was just looking for scenes with Luzer, and they were all in Season 2. Even so, I did become quite transfixed by Transparent, sucked into the character’s dramas and stories. The fairly frequent nude scenes—some of which overflow with beautiful naked women communing ecosexually with nature and each other—didn’t hurt either.
Also, many of Transparent’s topics go to the heart of my profession as a sex therapist, where I have been helping trans people handle various issues for over two decades. As a talk show host, I’ve had many trans performers as guests on my show over the last 25 years, harkening back to the days when saying “trannie” or even “shemale” was not an insult, or at least I wasn’t aware that it was. Now I understand it’s more respectful to say “trans,” though that just doesn’t feel like a noun to me. Sigh. I have made and continue to make many an inadvertent trans faux pas.
No doubt I’ve still got a lot to learn about this in order to better help my clients and draw out my guests, as well as go with the flow of the times which are becoming more gender-fluid for all and, I believe, more bonoboësque. Of course, bonobos don’t get gender-reassignment surgery, take hormones, wear the clothing of the so-called “opposite” sex (they don’t wear clothes at all) or do other defining things trans humans use to express themselves, so their “trans” wouldn’t be the same as ours. But bonobo gals are as aggressive as males in other species, and bonobo guys are sweet and loving as ladyboys. Everyone is (for want of a better word) bisexual. Certainly there is great gender and sexual fluidity in wild Bonoboville.
With all this in mind, with Luzer at my side, and with Mar (who has his own personal connections to the material and to one of the stars, Judith Light, a wonderful actress and two-time Emmy and Tony award-winner who plays Maura’s loving and neurotic ex-wife, Shellie Pfefferman, and a real-life LGBT activist), I went to the DGA (Directors Guild of America) Theater, excited to see more Transparent episodes on the big screen and meet the cast and creator of this amazing show which has turned Middle America and the wide world of Amazon onto the “trans” revolution, live and in person.
Photos above and below: Mar
The DGA was swarming with nattily attired Hollywood humanity. But we wiggled and air-kissed our way through the crowds and got to meet another one of my favorite Transparent actresses, Amy Landecker who plays Sarah, Maura’s hot-mess sexpot daughter, as well as the Transparent creator/writer/director/genius herself, Jill Soloway. Actually Jill shouted out my name before I even recognized her, which sounded like the archangel Gabriel transporting me to heaven, but that’s probably because Luzer stage-whispered “That’s Dr. Suzy” into her ear.
I did get a little mentally transposed when I breezily waltzed into the “Transparent Gender-Neutral Restroom” only to find myself face-to-urinals with four guys pissing merrily into their porcelain latrines. I know I should have just averted my gaze, found a stall and gone in to do my business. However, in this moment of transparent truth, I flushed as pink as my hot pink bra, turned tail and staggered over to another “Transparent Gender-Neutral Restroom” where the comforting presence of stalls encasing toilets with seats down, mirrors and other reassuring powder-room-like touches made me feel comfortable enough to take a pee. Of course, it shouldn’t make a difference who’s in a public bathroom, as long as they’re respectful. But if we’re going to go with these Transparent Gender-Neutral restrooms—and for the most part, I think that we should—let’s can the urinals. Though we used to have them in our own gender-neutral lavatories our old Downtown Bonoboville (aka the Speakeasy), and they can be kind of fun at sex parties.
Norman Lear Helps Us Transition
Opening the show was the brilliant and resilient 93-year-old Norman Lear whose groundbreaking sitcom, “All in the Family,” featured some of the first trans characters and LGBT themes on TV. Then we watched a couple of amazing Transparent episodes (Kina Hora and Man on the Land, in both of which our Luzer makes a short but stellar appearance), before the cast came out for a panel discussion mostly about acting and the creative process, but with a dash of revolutionary politics. The times, they are a’transitioning….
Alexandra Billings, a trans actress who plays the trans “guide” for Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) spoke most personally and eloquently of this revolution that goes by many names, one of which is the Bonobo Way, and how it is moving us to a place of greater gender and sexual fluidity and acceptance of diversity. Hopefully, we’ll get there before the backlash beats us down. The bonobos and great art works like Transparent can show us the way and, wherever the tide takes us, make it a very interesting ride.
© May 6, 2016. Susan Block, Ph.D., a.k.a. “Dr. Suzy,” is a world renowned LA sex therapist, author of The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure and horny housewife, occasionally seen on HBO and other channels. For speaking engagements, call 310-568-0066.