Amazon's new original series, "Transparent," will likely generate some important conversations about identity, but starting that discourse requires some knowledge of how we should talk about the transgender -- and larger LGBTQ -- community. The reality is that there is no "right" way, though there are most certainly wrong ones.
The series, which premiered its first 10 episodes on Friday, follows Mort's transition to Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) as she comes out to her family and learns to be comfortable with her identity.
HuffPost Entertainment spoke with Jeffrey Tambor, co-star Gaby Hoffmann and creator Jill Soloway earlier this month about the project. In order to better understand how to discuss topics of gender and sexuality in "Transparent," begin with a glossary (of sorts), along with the cast and creator's thoughts:
Transgender -- "Transgender" or "trans" should be used as an adjective. That means you need a noun for it to modify. Calling someone "a transgender" or "transgendered" would be incorrect usage. Correct sample sentence: "Maura is a trans woman."
Cisgender -- This refers to people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Sexual Orientation -- Someone's sexual orientation is completely separate from whether they identify as cis- or transgender. It should not be assumed that transitioning means anything about a person's sexuality.
Genderqueer -- Genderqueer refers to an identity that does not follow the male-female binary. It's an umbrella term that refers to a fluid spectrum outside of those labels. Gaby Hoffmann's character from "Transparent," Ali, is an example of a character who is questioning her identity and most closely aligns with this term. Soloway said:
Ali is on a journey about her gender. When I think about where everybody would be in five years, my gut feeling is Ali could potentially be identifying as genderqueer at the end of five seasons.
He vs. She -- Once Mort has come out as Maura, it makes most sense to use feminine pronouns. Although, the best way to decide how to refer to a person is to ask in a respectful way which pronouns they prefer.
Gender Neutral Pronouns or Non-Binary/Non-Gendered Pronouns -- "They" or "them" are gender neutral pronouns that you can use if you're not sure whether masculine or feminine ones are preferred. Some trans people prefer other pronouns like "ze," "hir," "v" or even "it." Again, respectfully asking someone what term they use and prefer you to use is the best course of action.
Transitioning -- "Transition" refers to the process, either medically or socially. It is not defined by surgery or any specific method. As Jill Soloway told HuffPost Entertainment about what she learned while making the show:
That a lot of people ask about surgery first. They want to know about Maura, when is she going to get “the” surgery, as if there’s "a" surgery or one surgery that matters. I learned that there are hundreds and hundreds of ways of being trans.
Surgery -- Surgery can be part of transitioning, but focusing on specific body parts loses sight of the reality of the trans experience. Or as Hoffmann so helpfully put it:
Everybody is so obsessed with other people’s pussies and dicks and what they do with theirs. I hope [the show] just torpedoes us further into the future where these kinds of questions aren’t necessary.
Plurality -- It's important to remember that "Transparent" as a television series is not meant to define a universal trans experience as a whole, but one experience in particular. As Soloway said:
It’s not meant to represent every trans person. It’s meant to represent somebody who’s very, very early in their transition. I really look forward to trans people watching the show and giving it a chance to all that is transparent.
The first full season of "Transparent" is now available on Amazon Prime.