Ju­dith Light

Gay Times Magazine - - Contents - WORDS si­mon but­ton

With hates crimes against the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity on the rise,

Don­ald Trump’s plans to re­in­state a ban on trans­gen­der peo­ple in the mil­i­tary, and a re­cent Stonewall sur­vey re­veal­ing that nearly half of trans pupils at schools and col­leges in the UK have tried to kill them­selves be­cause of bul­ly­ing, Ju­dith Light feels Trans­par­ent’s re­turn to TV screens couldn’t be more timely.

“It was im­por­tant when it started and it’s be­come in­creas­ingly more im­por­tant,” says the ac­tress of a show which first aired in 2014 and launches its fourth sea­son on Ama­zon Video this month. “To shine a light on what’s hap­pen­ing in the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity is more nec­es­sary than ever. Trans­gen­der peo­ple are still be­ing vil­i­fied and shunned and dis­counted.”

There’s anger in Ju­dith’s voice when she’s asked about Trump’s latest salvo against the com­mu­nity. “It doesn’t make any sense. Trans­gen­der soldiers know what it is to fight. They know what real courage is. Talk about brav­ery and courage and stand­ing up in the face of dis­crim­i­na­tion and the law and re­li­gion and your fam­ily, stand­ing up and say­ing, ‘This is who I am.’”

On Trans­par­ent Ju­dith plays Shelly Pf­ef­fer­man, the slightly batty but very sup­port­ive ex-wife of Jef­frey Tam­bor’s

Maura. Like­wise Ju­dith, 68, has long been a sup­porter of gay rights. She’s on the boards of the Matthew Shep­ard and Point foun­da­tions (both of which help young LGBT+ peo­ple), has raised aware­ness through the Give A Damn cam­paign and even has a li­brary named af­ter her at the Los An­ge­les

Gay and Les­bian Cen­ter.

As far back as age 11, when New Jersey-born Ju­dith was at a per­form­ing arts camp, she re­calls be­ing around gay dancers and teach­ers “who made sure to look out for me and took me un­der their wing when I was so young”.

Later on, when she was in rep, she lost friends and col­leagues to AIDS. “No­body un­der­stood what was hap­pen­ing and I thought our coun­try, a coun­try that said

‘We are a coun­try of com­pas­sion’, was not re­spond­ing to my fam­ily. It be­gan to be very clear that there was so much ho­mo­pho­bia and I said, ‘Wait a minute, it’s ho­mo­pho­bia that’s stand­ing in the way of my friends and fam­ily be­ing helped and taken care of.’”

So Ju­dith, who had be­come a house­hold name thanks to her turns on the soap opera One Life to Live and on the long-run­ning sit­com Who’s The Boss?, got in­volved with the Pro­ject An­gel Food meals de­liv­ery ser­vice and vis­ited hos­pi­tals. “I watched the mag­nif­i­cence of the com­mu­nity and peo­ple com­ing to each oth­ers’ aid,” she re­calls. “I was blown away by the love and com­pas­sion and fe­roc­ity of peo­ple who weren’t be­hav­ing as vic­tims but say­ing ‘This is un­ten­able’. I saw the com­mu­nity rise up and I thought ‘I want to lend my voice to that.’”

It’s no won­der, then, that she said yes to Trans­par­ent. She’s justly proud of the show and teases that sea­son four will be the most po­lit­i­cal to date, al­though she’s not at lib­erty to say any­thing more be­yond the fact it will be ad­dress­ing the is­sues cur­rently faced by the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity in the US.

“Peo­ple so much en­joy binge-watch­ing it that they want to be sur­prised and if they know too much about it in ad­vance it spoils the ex­cite­ment,” she feels.

She de­scribes Shelly as a very lonely wo­man who is des­per­ate to con­nect but has no idea how to do it: “So of­ten she be­comes too much for her fam­ily and they push her away. But as we saw in sea­son two, when Maura came out, Shelly was the one per­son who had no ques­tion about be­ing there for her. She loves Maura. As I of­ten say, you don’t fall in love with the gen­der, you fall in love with the per­son and the soul of the per­son. She would hap­pily be in a re­la­tion­ship with Maura.”

When re­search­ing the role Ju­dith spoke to the wives of trans par­ents and also the wife of the show’s trans con­sul­tant Jen­nifer Boy­lan, as well as the spouses of trans board mem­bers on the Point Foun­da­tion. Some had been to­tally fine with it while oth­ers told their sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers, ‘I know you need to tran­si­tion but I can’t stay with you.’ In Maura and Shelly’s case, it’s Maura who wanted to move on. “But there was never a moment where they lost the love they had for each other and that’s still on­go­ing. Who knows what their re­la­tion­ship will evolve into?”

Hav­ing starred in the 1989 TV movie The Ryan White Story, Ju­dith re­calls the teenager – a haemophil­iac who con­tracted AIDS af­ter be­ing given in­fected blood – be­ing asked on a chat show how he felt when par­ents and teach­ers called for him to be barred from school. His re­ply of “I prob­a­bly would have been scared but I wouldn’t have been cruel” con­tin­ues to res­onate with her.

“It’s a clar­ion call to all of us,” she de­clares. “We are all hu­man be­ings. We all have fears. I think it’s in­cum­bent upon us to be kind and com­pas­sion­ate and if we don’t un­der­stand some­thing we need to get our­selves ed­u­cated on it. Fear of­ten comes from not be­ing ed­u­cated. If we put your­self in some­one else’s shoes we re­act dif­fer­ently.”

Thank good­ness there’s hu­man be­ings like Ju­dith Light in the world.

The fourth sea­son of Trans­par­ent is avail­able now on Ama­zon Prime Video

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.