Goodbye, Maura Pfefferman

| Nov 27, 2017

Tambor in character.

The title of this post doesn’t have the same ring that “Goodbye, Norma Jean” did . . . but it resonates with me right now. Does it with you?

As I connect with more and more trans sisters, I find many of us have role models who we’ve used for inspiration, and courage, and to pattern our journeys after.  Maybe it’s someone you know. Maybe it’s someone famous like Jan Morris or Renee Richards. I know one woman who told me she gained the courage to take the big step after Caitlyn Jenner came out.

My heroine? Maura Pfefferman.

Because I was living in denial for so long, I had avoided watching Amazon’s series Transparent until quite recently. Then I binged on all four seasons in about ten days. I watched Mort Pfefferman, a sixty-eight year old college professor come out as transgender to his ex-wife and three dysfunctional adult children. I laughed and cried through the four seasons and was eagerly waiting for the arrival of season five, so I could find out what’s next for Maura in her journey.

So I was sad to see that Jeffrey Tambor, who plays Maura, is exiting the series, one of the wave of prominent men revealed in recent weeks to be a sexual predator.

I know the selection of a cisgender actor to play a transgender woman raised some protests in the trans community. But I appreciated the depth that Tambor, the writers and producers brought to the character of Maura. My heart broke watching young Maura lost in thought in a Little League outfield while a ball dropped beside her. And who hasn’t known the feeling of bargaining with God when Maura’s third child was struggling for life in the hours after her birth, and the promise Maura made to put away her female self?

She did, for decades, but as I think all of us learn sooner or later, our feminine selves, our true selves, can’t be denied forever.
Although Tambor is cis, I was also pleased to see the series feature several trans actors in supporting roles. I believe Transparent has helped to humanize transgender people and bring trans issues to an audience that might not have explored them in this kind of depth before.

This is why I’m doubly sad that Tambor turned out to be one more prominent male who was an entitled jerk. Now Maura’s story stops abruptly; it will be interesting to see how she’s written out of the show.

Her legacy will remain, though. I’ll always be grateful for a 68-year-old fictional trans woman helped show me that 58 in not too old to finally step out of the closet.

Who is your heroine/role model?

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Category: Body & Soul

About Claire H.: Claire H. was born and grew up in a large city on the left coast and has spent most of her adult years in a beautiful small coastal community where she's now an elected official in local government after spending many years as a newspaper and radio reporter. In her space time she loves reading, writing fiction (her first novel was published by a regional press a couple of years ago), watching classic Hollywood movies, and walking.

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  1. Babs says:

    That Tambour turned out to be a “jerk” is so disappointing and beyond words. I had met him with some of the cast and creators of Transparent at the White House at a transgender Awareness/TDOR program. He spoke as a great ally and helped to educate the public! I told him that I was the Trans-grandparent and he gave me a big hug! Everything that we accomplished under the Obama Administration is under attack!