Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Zackary Drucker from TRANSPARENT Interview

With all the talk of transgender bathrooms at Target and the North Carolina bathroom law, there has never been a more appropriate time to release our long-awaited interview with Zackary Drucker, co-producer of Transparent. This is the first show to tackle the hot topic of transgender living in today's world. Political by nature, this show is the best look at transpeople to-date, and will soon have its third season released on Amazon Prime


Disclaimer: Transparent is my favorite show and this interview was a huge privilege. Zackary and I were friends and allies through the Acceptance Coalition at both of our high schools. This pretty much makes her "my friend that made it big in Hollywood." Watch the quick trailer to understand the magic that is Transparent.

Who are you and what's your job? 

My name is Zackary Drucker and I’m a full-time human. I’m a co-producer on the Amazon show Transparent, and I’m an artist who has shown my work in various museums around the world, including the Whitney Museum, the Hammer Museum, and MoMA PS1. I was friends as a teenager with a person named Billy Prusinowski, who asked me to do this interview.

Where are you from originally? 

Syracuse, New York.

What places have you moved to and lived in before coming to LA? 

The week I graduated high school, I hot-tailed it to New York City! I got my BFA at the School of Visual Arts, and I moved to Los Angeles, to get an MFA at Cal Arts and I’ve been in Los Angeles ever since.

Why did you decide to keep your name? 

Well, for a lot of reasons. I had already started building a name an an artist and I didn't want to start over. I considered changing my name and when I realized that I didn't want to, that I'd only be doing it to make everyone around me more comfortable, I decided that it was the epitome of a bad decision. Gandhi said "be the change you wish to see in the world" and the world I decided to live in is one in which a woman is named "Zackary." We trans people have learned to modify ourselves to set other people at ease but at the cost of our sense of self, our histories, and often at the expense of our bank accounts. Any expectation to conform to social norms has always been a good motivator for me reject social norms. These are all personal choices I'm speaking to, I totally support everyone's right to change their names and modify their bodies. I think the goal for all of us should be to optimize our comfort in our bodies, we're the only ones who have to live in us. 

What is your affiliation with the TV show Transparent? 

I started on Transparent as a transgender consultant when creator Jill Soloway was developing the pilot. I came on as a full-time employee for season 1 as an associate producer, and now I’m a co-producer. There’s a big team behind Transparent, but I would say that I, specifically, manage the politics of transgender representation, initiatives with the community, working with actors, cast, and crew, and bringing as many trans people onto the production as possible, both in front of, and behind, the camera.

Tell us about a scene from Transparent that you contributed to that holds a special place in your heart.

In season one, there's a flashback episode that dives into the main character Maura’s history and traces her path as a young parent to three children, into finding her gender non-conforming community. Camp Camelia is a fictional retreat for crossdressers based on many similar communities and safe spaces, and I provided research and visual references that helped create that world. It means a lot that I was able to help showcase the community strength that existed back when trans people were barely visible.

The show seems "very LA." Though not identifying as trans, the three kids have pretty insane lives. Are Josh, Sara, and Allie's lives realistic for someone in LA in 2016? 

YES. The Pfefferman family is fictional, but I think that they're absolutely representative of this place and moment in time.

Do you feel you are THE forefront of trans-education in 2016?

I consider myself an active participant and a witness to an incredible cultural shift that’s beginning to embrace gender diversity. I think that I’m doing my part, along with a lot of other amazing comrades.

Me doing an interview about trans-issues makes me feel like Macklemore singing about #blacklivesmatter. Does someone like me have any right to write about an issue like this (which you've truly lived and I haven't)? 

Thank you for writing about this and about me. This is a big conversation that involves everyone - gender is something that everyone has their own relationship to. Trans people are oftem a more visible representation of something that virtually everybody experiences, as illuminated by decades of feminism, and this is something that men are still catching up to by acknowledging that masculinity is as much a construct as femininity. The thing that has created a shift towards acceptance of trans people is that cisgender* (non-trans) allies have started to have these conversations, and then that we are all speaking to different communities. I think that white people certainly need to be having conversations about racism. It takes all of us to move culture forward.

How political is the show? Will you endorse Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump in this election year? Do you think any of them will begin to address any of the issues facing the trans-community? 

I’m definitely rooting for Trump, because I love a bully just as much as any other Fox-News-watching couch warrior. Kidding! The show is very political, much more so behind the scenes. Jill Soloway has had an incredible gift of bringing a lot of brilliant people together to create Transparent, and it is created very much with a feminist model of sharing inequality. We take our social responsibilities very seriously and with a lot of laughter. The show is a comedy, it’s hilarious. It’s proof that we can examine ourselves without exploiting each other’s difference.

I have a video of us at a Lost Horizon punk show from February 2000. You had big hair, lots of glitter, and definitely stood out. How did you identify back then and how has that changed since? 

I, as a teenager, identified as a genderfuck, and that’s probably the word I used for it at the time. Looking back, I would say genderfluid or gender non-conforming, but those words didn't exist at the time. I wore a dress to my prom and didn’t believe that I had to subscribe to the binary. Really, I wouldn’t have had the choice. I always emphasize that I identify as a human, because sometimes when we start parsing out our identities and get more and more specific, it becomes showy. I also identify as trans, as a trans woman, and as a woman, and I don’t have much of a preference or allegiance in any of those categories.

People like me who knew you from school days are so proud that you've made it big and stuck to your guns. What would you like to say to your allies from Acceptance Coalition that are now watching your show and still following the example you set in being an activist?

I don’t know how many people who knew me back then are watching the show or know that I’m involved in it, but I love that you know. And to all our comrades of yesterday, I’d like to say: I love you, and thank you very much - we survived!

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