In the previous episode, the Pfeffermans each escaped. In this episode they learned that no matter where you go, “you” are still there. To be fully formed, at least three of them had a lot of growth to go through. The song, “If you must go,” which the episode closed with might have been a better title, but clearly at this point the producers are happy with one-word titles.
I just need a change
A stoned Ali was with her father and Maura was coming out to her. Ali observed, “I see you like I’ve never seen you before.” Clearly there was nothing like a good high to finally see your parent as she is. Then Ali was with Sarah in Ali’s apartment. A highly embarrassed Ali confessed she was basically making out with Dad. And adds it was so weird: “him/her?” I called her “Moppa,” a combination of Mom and Poppa. Later, after an adventure with Sarah and Maura at the mall, a fresh haircut and a bath, she and Josh were at Ali’s apartment. “I just need a change,” said Ali. Josh and Ali began to dance to “If You Must Go.”
The door that holds me
Josh was in bed with Syd, Ali’s best friend. Later while they were talking, Syd announced that she had a cabinet full of Pfefferman secrets. Such as: "Ali sold your mom’s Valium so she and Ali would have money while in high school." More importantly, Syd knew about Rita, the Pfefferman babysitter, and Josh. (I think I misidentified her as a housekeeper earlier, when she was the older woman whose solace Josh sought.) A cheery Josh replied, “every 15 year old boy’s wet dream.” Syd pointed out Rita was 25 at the time. Josh asked if his parents knew about their relationship. Syd: “Sure, everybody knew.” Josh explained they were in love. In his final appearance in the episode, Josh sat in his car watching the once pregnant woman who had gotten him fired while “The Door That Holds You” played.
You are like a tiny hummingbird with big tits
Sarah waited anxiously outside Tammy and Barb’s house. Tammy came out with the garbage and rushed over to Sarah. Sarah asked if Tammy had told Barb. Tammy replied it had not come up at therapy, but she would at the next session. Sarah pled that she had dumped her whole life and “do you love me?” At one point Tammy said the obvious, “We were fucking and people say things.” Tammy proclaimed her love for Sarah and Sarah replied, “Then tell her!”
I am Daphne Sparkles
It was 1994 and “Mr. Stephen Baker” checked into a hotel. He was paying in cash, so no need for a credit card, but that drew the usual desk clerk response. “We need a credit card in case you use the mini-bar…” Mort and his new friend Mark were in the room getting dressed. They both announced that no one had ever seen them before as they presented themselves to each other.
“I am Marcy.”
Followed by, “I am Daphne Sparkles.”
Really, you sounded like a stripper. “You need a more elegant name,” said Marcy. At that moment, Maura was born. Next, Maura was in her new apartment and Davina was clipping extensions into Maura’s hair, who was sitting legs wide open in a masculine slump. Davina said, “Your male privilege is leaking,” as she pushed Maura’s knees closed. Davina then urged Maura to adopt a more feminine walk. “Breath in, be in it.” Maura tried, failed and said, “This is ridiculous.”
Cucumber water and make-up
During her stupor, Ali had invited Maura to brunch, so now it was time for Sarah and Ali to join her for lunch. Before leaving Ali’s, Sarah observed that outing a transperson was like stripping them naked and making them eat by themselves. The threesome went to brunch and then a department store. In the store they were invited to a makeover at a cosmetic counter. Despite Sarah’s and Ali’s clear disinterest, Maura wanted to do it. The cucumber water that they were given to sip thrilled Maura. Sarah, much as a safari guide might, told Maura, in this world, the makeover is free, but they expect you to buy things. The innocent Maura decided she needed to buy many of the products.
Your dad is a pervert!
They then went to the women’s room where Maura froze momentarily before going in as Sarah urged. Then Sarah said, “Dad if you have to go…” Two teenage girls looked at each other, “Dad?” They told their mom, “See that person, we think he is a man.” Sarah responded, “this is my father and he is a woman.” He had every right to be in here. Mom wheeled around, “you are traumatizing young women. Your father is a pervert!” As the three Pfefferman women turned to leave, Sarah returned fire, “and you’re a fucking cunt.” Outside the women’s room, Ali plaintively asked, “why did he have to do this now?” Sarah responded, “why did he wait so long.” Clearly one Pfefferman child was supportive.
You’re not the only ones here
Maura was next seen exiting a porta-potty at a construction site and returned to Shangri-La. The cooktop wouldn’t work and then she went out on her balcony and was greeted by a loud party on the adjoining balcony. Surprise, young gay guys will party. There was a wall separating the two balconies. Maura trying to be as old lady like as she could, tapped on the wall. “Boys, Boys. Turn down the music a little please. You are not the only ones here.” Obviously her request was not audible.
She then lost it and Mort, the straight man, reappeared with a vengeance. Banging on the wall with a sandal, a male voice yelled, “Turn it down mother fuckers! Turn it down you faggots!” Followed by “Oh, Jesus Christ and there’s no smoking.” Dejected Maura sat down, and one more time said, “You’re not alone.”
But, she felt alone in her Shangri-La. She had had a rough day being a woman. A transwoman, Davina, had criticized her for not being womanly enough; then the fun of the make-up counter where a friendly gay clerk had sold her stuff; to the horror of rejection by ciswomen in the restroom; to the roar of a gay party next door and the harsh reality that her Shangri-La in the LGBT community seemed to ignore her; and finally maybe she really was alone.
At the risk of making too much out of a TV show, there were a lot of real transwoman experiences packed into Maura’s day. I've found that most salespeople are happy to sell you feminine things, especially if they were on commission, so long as other customer’s did not complain. Then the clerk has to choose sides.
Also, there is a feeling among some transwomen that they're being put down by other transwomen because they are “not trans enough,” i.e. you do not pass for a woman, as well as I do; therefore, you were not trans enough. Thanks Davina. I knew you were trying to help, but it only left Maura to conclude her efforts were “ridiculous.”
Not to mention how the ciswoman responded to the dreaded restroom taboos of gender.
Last, but not least, there is the experience of feeling, that in the LGBT community, the T is silent and not supported. I think much of this can be attributed to gay men trying to distance themselves from appearing feminine during “the Village People years” and after. As well, I think some lesbians, the fierce feminist essentialists, rejected transwomen because they were not equipped with all of the correct plumbing and experiences.
From the T side, part of that was a product of the route the individual traveled. If they found a home in the community as gay, lesbian, or trans it was not usually a problem because they knew they are queer. If, on the other hand, they only lived as straight family men and mostly cross-dressed with similar males, then an attachment to the queer community is harder to realize. That was Maura’s route, as will be revealed in subsequent episodes. Mort/Maura did not feel or identify as queer. Plus, thanks to male privilege, Mort was used to being first in line everywhere. But at the same time, Maura lamented that the gays next door needed to know they were not alone, that she as a transperson was part of the community. She also dreamed of being over the rainbow.
TRANSPARENT recap: "Rollin'" (season 1 episode 3)
TRANSPARENT recap: "Moppa" (season 1 episode 4)
TRANSPARENT recap: "Wedge" (season 1 episode 5)