about

This video segment is from Amazon Studios produced television seriesTransparent, a show about a family’s experiences when the middle-aged family patriarch reveals that he is transgender. The scene is from season one (2014) and shows the difficulties and discrimination that transgender people face when going to gender segregated public bathrooms. The scene starts at a shopping mall with daughters Sarah and Ali and transgender character Maura pausing in front of the bathroom entrances before heading inside. Maura is a bit hesitant, but Sarah encourages him to go inside while Ali follows warily behind them. While waiting in line, Sarah refers to their father as “dad,” and Ali goes ahead to use the restroom. As Sarah and Maura wait, two teenage girls and their mother see and relate to Maura as a man and are angered and offended that a man is in the woman’s restroom. She starts asking Maura to leave, saying, “Sir, can you hear me? Because this is a ladies’ restroom and clearly that is a man.” Sarah steps to her dad’s defense, and says, “This is my father, and he’s a woman. He has every right to be in this bathroom,” and the woman argues back, saying, “No, he does not. You know what? I’m calling security. There are young women in here that you are traumatizing.” The argument escalates and the woman says, “your father is a pervert!” Ali is shown listening from the bathroom stall, and eventually comes out, asking, “Dad, don’t you need to go pee?,” and Sarah and Maura both say no, wanting to just leave. The scene ends with the three of them in the parking lot, with the daughters asking their father, “are you ok?” and she responds, “I will be,” as she walks to her car to leave. The daughters are then standing there talking to each other, and Ali says, “God, why is he doing this now?” and Sarah responds, “Why, why did he wait so long?””

discussion

How does this scene show the kinds of difficulties and discrimination transgender people face in everyday spaces? Why are public bathrooms a particularly difficult space to negotiate?

Why are bathrooms separated by gender? What do people think would happen if bathrooms were not separated by gender? Does this logic assume heterosexuality? How would it look different if LGBTQ perspectives were taken into account?

What other spaces are separated by gender? How do you know? What happens if you cross those boundaries?

How does this scene show how gender is a social construct? What evidence did the teenage girls and mother use to identify Maura as a man? What is the relationship between our physical appearances – such as height, build, hair length, etc. – and the gender that people presume us to be?

Why did the woman accuse Maura of being a “pervert?” What stereotypes are being referenced, and why are they problematic?

If the woman had called security and they had come to the scene, what do you think would have happened?

How does this scene show how Maura is handling the transition, and how the two daughters are relating to the transition differently? 

What can be done as a bystander in situations like this? Should others have stepped in? Why or why not? If yes, how?