John M. Becker

'Transparent' Creator Causes Controversy on Facebook

Filed By John M. Becker | February 01, 2015 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Bruce Jenner, Facebook, graphic, Jenny Boylan, Jill Soloway, meme, Monica Helms, offensive, oops, Parker Molloy, Transparent

Jill Soloway -- the creator, writer, and director of the Golden Globe Award-winning trans-themed show Transparent -- caused a social media controversy Thursday when she posted an image that seemed to mock Bruce Jenner, whose gender identity has been the subject of widespread media speculation.

Underneath the image, Soloway wrote: "I couldn't not. Someone sent it to me. Tell me it's wrong and I'll take it down."


The response was swift. Dozens of people weighed in to let Soloway know exactly why it was wrong, including many trans people and allies. Author, GLAAD board co-chair, and Transparent consultant Jenny Boylan wrote: "A thing that ridicules Jenner as a Trans person seems like a thing I wouldn't want to be associated with. I'd take it down if it was me. Jenner as a Trans person does not deserve to be ridiculed."

Uproar over Soloway's post intensified once the news hit the blogosphere. She removed the image later that evening, and the following day, she posted an apology to her Facebook timeline. It reads:

Yesterday I saw an internet meme of the TRANSPARENT poster with the faces of Bruce Jenner and family photoshopped in to replace the Pfeffermans. It was not something we created, but as a long-time Kardashian fan and reality show obsessive, I impetuously regressed to a naïve, teenage self. It wasn't until after I'd posted it on my Facebook page inviting debate that I saw it the way everyone else did: as a cruel mockery of the journey Bruce Jenner may or may not be undertaking. I took down the image immediately. Bruce Jenner has not said he is transitioning; his identity is his to share and no one else's to determine. The well-being of the trans community is of utmost importance to me. As a cis woman I will never know what it is like to be trans. I acknowledge the hurt and pain of the trans community and welcome their feedback. I made a mistake; it was horrible judgment. My complacency is checked and it won't happen again. Please accept my apology.

Response to Soloway's apology post was mixed -- some commenters seem to have decided to write Soloway off entirely, but many others took a more forgiving view. Monica Helms, a trans woman and the creator of the transgender pride flag, wrote:

Your apology is accepted by myself. We are a community that has surrounded ourselves by a massive amount of egg shells and landmines. Interacting with us can sometimes be hazardous to your emotional health. You learned from your mistake this time, which is better than most. As you move forward, be prepared to step in the wrong place yet again. It is SOP (standard operating procedure) when spending time with trans people, even for other trans people.

In an email to Slate's J. Bryan Lowder, essayist and trans woman Parker Molloy said she was disappointed with Soloway for posting the image but hopeful that she would learn from the experience and do better in the future. "I do still believe [Soloway is] on our side," Molloy wrote. "I do believe she means well."

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