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'Transparent' Screening at Outfest Met with Debate on Trans Issues

A screening of Amazon Productions’ new series Transparent became tense when audience members, as well as panelists and actors on the defense, debated several issues surrounding the portrayal of transgender characters in media. The event was part of this year’s Outfest film festival.

The series features Jeffrey Tambor as a father of three adult children and follows the Los Angeles family as Tambor’s character Mora comes out as transgender. The show features Gaby Hoffmann, Jay Duplass and Amy Landecker as Jeffrey’s children. Jill Solloway, series creator, also sat for the discussion. Solloway has written for Six Feet Under and directed the 2013 film Afternoon Delight

The two other cast members in attendance were Melora Hardin and Carrie Brownstein. Trans artists and show consultants Rhys Ernst and Zachary Drucker rounded out the panel. Transparent will be available for streaming in full on Amazon Instant Video in September. The pilot screened had been reworked since debuting on the same platform earlier this year.

Before turning to the audience for questions, host Ari Karpel asked Tambor his thoughts about playing a transgender character. Pausing frequently, Tambor replied, “There aren’t too many footsteps for me to follow. This is an inward journey to my own feminine side.” Karpel noted the actor’s painted fingernails, to which Tambor mentioned, “This is not a one-two-three kick, and I need a reminder of Mora. This is around-the-clock.” Tambor became emotional, something he noted. “It looks like I’m tearing up.”

Recently, members and allies of the trans community have taken issue with cisgender persons (those who identify with the sex assigned to them at birth) portraying transgender characters. The loudest protests were directed at Jared Leto’s Oscar-winning turn as Rayon in The Dallas Buyer’s Club.

When the host asked if she expected controversy, Solloway defended casting Tambor. “Mora is coming out late in life. A lot of people in that situation do not physically transition. At this point in the story, it’s possible to have a cis male play the character.” She added, “Jeff was in my head before the issue became politicized to me. I didn’t see a controversy.”