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Monday, October 20, 2014

Clarity in Transparency: Delighting in the Small Once Again With Maura

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Clarity in Transparency: 
Delighting in the Small Once Again With Maura

 “That’s a pretty color,” Sarah says, swirling her toes in the water gently next to her father’s foot. “Thank you,” Maura replies softly, with happiness. “It’s called ‘Cherries on Fire’.”

     I’m in love with Transparent, a wonderful new 2014 Amazon Original Series featuring an incredible Jeffrey Tambor as a newly transitioned transgendered woman, Maura. Formerly known as a retired male Professor of political science with three children ranging from twenty-somethings to thirty-something, Maura has begun her transition in later life, and the dark, emotive comedy and drama that ensues have been totally captivating me (a person who rarely watches television).
     Why? Well, first and foremost, I find the writing and acting to be totally superb. Secondarily, like any other human connecting with an art form, Transparent hit me in the proverbial “feels”, and it has sparked so many wonderful thoughts inside of me about body image and how we, as humans, journey through life with such amazingly complex senses of self.
     The emotional stress and complexity of transitioning as a transgender person is something that I will never be able to fully understand, because it isn’t my personal journey—but that doesn’t mean I can’t be an ally for my dear transgender friends, and all of the wonderful people I know (and don’t know) who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum. In fact, I’ll soon be offering a very thought-provoking feature and interview from an incredibly eloquent friend on what it is like to transition as a transgender woman, and that experience has been so educational for me. It’s important for me to offer that perspective because it isn’t fair for me to speak for a group of people who can absolutely do it for themselves, and powerfully so.
     Still, whether you are a cisgender individual (someone who identifies with their biological gender) or a transgender individual (someone who feels a deep disconnect with their biological gender and identifies emotionally and otherwise with the opposing gender), you will certainly feel a thousand moments of uncertainty in your lifetime.
     Do I look fat?  
     Do I smell bad?
     Do people find me attractive?
     Do I have a silly sounding voice?
     Are people laughing at me when I walk out of the room?

     If you have had the easier road, like me, of identifying as cisgender, you may have been taking many everyday “luxuries” for granted.
     Think about it for a moment. Let it sink in. For a transgendered man, something as mundane as trimming a beard could become the most rejoiced act of self-care ever cherished (instead of a dreaded chore).  For a transgendered woman, carefully brushing out the tangles from long hair could be blissful, rather than an annoying. For an individual who simply desires, so wholly, to present to the world the physical identity they feel is their own but yet they do not possess, the simple form of the body and its grooming rituals could become a beautiful ceremony. Yet, it could be a beautiful ceremony for anyone of any gender—and why not?
     Concerning the subtle nuances of gender—everything from the assumed power of a male to the soft femininity of a woman; a confidant stance or a delicate gait—it is well know that our society pushes an unfathomable amount of gender appropriation on people every day. So many imposed ideals—“Wear this, not that”, or “Be sexy but not too sexy”, or “You’re not allowed to self-express that way”—create such an unrest among people that all humans (cisgendered and transgendered alike) experience turmoil at times in their lives, as they construct their “looking-glass selves”.    
     No matter our gender, or sexual orientations (two entirely separate entities), we can find moments of joy inside our bodies and senses of self. We just need to slow down—to Maura speed.
      “That’s a pretty color,” Sarah says, swirling her toes in the water gently next to her father’s foot. “Thank you,” Maura replies softly, with happiness. “It’s called ‘Cherries on Fire’.”
     This quote, from Transparent, is at the very end of the half-hour long episode six, “The Wilderness”.
     Maura is relaxing in the hot tub with her oldest daughter, Sarah, processing another difficult day that has been filled with plenty of transitional turmoil (and not just her own). As she takes a drag from her cigarette, she stares into the darkness, and I image she is reflecting on all of the minute victories and hefty barriers that she has already encountered in her transition to womanhood.
     Yet, right from episode one, Maura stops to take joy in so many small moments. A blouse that she is excited to wear, clip-in hair extensions, and the pretty toe-nail polish that her daughter has complimented her on in the shade of “Cherries on Fire”. She relishes these opportunities because the joy she feels in being able to finally express herself gives her an abundant amount of gratitude.
     What if anyone, at any time, could tap in to that kind of gratitude?
     What if you took a few moments today to appreciate a freckle, a slender finger, a boisterous laugh, a crisp collar, a perfectly plucked eyebrow, or a bit of sparkle on your ear? This is not limited to any gender or orientation. It’s about being present—taking joy in the small things that you can do for yourself each and every day. Even if you feel as though you can’t stand your body for one more moment. Even if your body isn’t the one you want to be in. Perhaps you can find one feature, or one accessory, or one self-care ritual that you can express gratitude and joy for. I know that moment is worth experiencing.
     I’m turning in for the night—in fact, looking forward to watching the next episode of Transparent—on my Amazon Prime account whilst relaxing in bed, but I’m going to be watching with a conscious mind, thinking of ways in which I can feel gratitude for this life I live, and this body that I’m living in.
     It’s a gift.

Additional Reading and Resources

Transparent Official Trailer from Amazon Studios

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