On Hiding

It is possible that my husband and I recently began watching Transparent, an original series from Amazon. As the title of the show cleverly suggests, it is about a dad who is finally honest about who he is: he reveals to his three dysfunctional adult children that he is transgender. The show is essentially about the fallout from this radical (and – from the kids’ perspective – abrupt) announcement that Mort Pfefferman is actually Maura Pfefferman.

I suppose I shouldn’t recommend this show on my church’s blog. After all, Transparent is full of strong language and includes some pretty graphic scenes. You know – sin and stuff.

So… I won’t recommend it. That would be awkward, right?

But I wonder if the people who like it merely appreciate the creative cinematography. The default color palette is the gray spectrum – from the white hair of the mother, to the dove gray of the walls, to the charcoal clothing of the siblings. Yet there are sharp bursts of color here and there. Some of them are expected – the sign outside the LGBT center, the coral walls of Maura’s new apartment. Color pops up unexpectedly, too: on a t-shirt, over the heart of the daughter who loves her dad and wants desperately to understand who she is.

Or maybe the people who watch this show like the acting. Jeffrey Tambor’s performance is impressive. He is timid, courageous, giving, selfish, and, in a word, human. At times he might make his audience laugh out loud at his histrionics after taking a single hormone pill; a moment later that same audience might be fighting back tears at the deep pain of a life lived in secrecy and shame.

Perhaps – just going out on a limb here – there are Christian folks who watch this show because they love the LGBT people in their own lives. Maybe they have come to the point where they realize that all those black and white areas – so starkly defined in youth – have blended to a far less comforting gray. It could be that a lifetime of pulpit-sponsored finger-pointing and sin-sorting has left them rather ill prepared for the messy, beautiful adventure of actually loving their family. Their friends. Their neighbors.

And I suppose – if I just had to hazard a guess – that the show is about so much more than “those” people in “that” community. Life in deep, prolonged hiding from the people who love us is – must be – that gray monotone of isolation and despair. The truth alone provides the punctuation of color, the audacity of hope that can brighten the drabbest days.

It may or may not be the sort of show from which one has to take a break – not because it is graphic or superficially uncomfortable for our tender sensibilities – but because it hits far too close to home. It points with scalpel-like precision to the profoundest need of every human heart, gay or straight, male or female: the need to be known.

And loved anyway.
In spite of ourselves.
By sheer grace.

Doug Serven