Orange Is the New Black Creator Criticizes Transparent’s New ‘Trans-Affirmative Action’ Policy

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Photo: Anna Webber/2014 Getty Images

Transparent creator Jill Soloway and Orange Is the New Black’s Jenji Kohan kept butting heads on Saturday at the New Yorker Festival panel on LGBTQ TV, which was moderated by Emily Nussbaum. The two had philosophical differences over everything from the “male gaze” to sexual labels to Soloway’s “trans-affirmative action” policy. Soloway believes it's important to have a trans female writer for the second season of Transparent, and since she hasn’t been able to find one, she’s going to train one herself: The Transparent writing team is fielding short stories from trans female writers, five of whom they'll work with on spec scripts. That way, after hiring one of them, the other four will still end up with scripts they can shop afterward. “We’re actually going to be helping make trans women TV writers by teaching them how to write,” Soloway said.

Kohan, who is herself known for the diverse cast of OITNB, took issue with Soloway’s hiring process, saying, “I think great writers should write great shows, and I have trouble with, like, what you are in life shouldn’t automatically make you what you do in your art. It doesn’t necessarily translate.” Soloway countered with this:

No matter what we did, we were always going to be otherizing Maura in some way. And in the same way where I wouldn’t want a man to say, ‘I can have a writers’ room full of men and we can write women just fine.’ I can’t say that I can create a show about a trans woman and not have a trans woman writing for me. It’s absolutely necessary, and it’s gonna change the show.

The two also sparred over the male gaze: Soloway described trying to shoot sex scenes from a woman’s point of view (while editing Ali’s [Gaby Hoffmann] three-way, she was almost in tears arguing with a white male producer because “I couldn’t explain how I wanted to protect the character … to not be objectified.”) whereas Kohan simply said, “My first goal is just get it, and I’ll worry about who’s gazing later.”

And in case you were wondering, Kohan did address the news that one of her writers, Lauren Morelli, left her husband for Samira Wiley, who plays Poussey on the show. True to form, she put it bluntly:

I turned her gay. I made her gay. I felt there wasn’t enough balance in the room, so I have a magic wand and I make people gay. But, you know, I can turn her back. I can make people Hispanic. I can make them black.

So there you have it.