The realistic lesbian drama of Syd and Ali in “Transparent” Season 2

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Caution: Mild spoilers ahead.

There’s a conversation in Season 2 of Transparent that encapsulates how well the writers of the show grasp two women in a relationship. Well, there’s certainly more than one, but one in Episode 8 particularly stood out. Syd (Carrie Brownstein) and Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) are on a hike where they get into a heated discussion about their future together. Having made the transition from friends to lovers and the immediate U-haul of Ali into Syd’s loft, the two are at odds over their endgame. Ali, a notoriously unfaithful person who has a hard time making commitments to anyone or anything, is not necessarily interested in forever. Syd, on the other hand, is looking for a partner who she can depend on. What begins as a conversation about polyamory ends up being about their different perceptions of love and the negotiations you have to make, or don’t.

“It’s not about other people at all. It’s about me and you,” Ali says. “It’s about how incredible this is and how amazing you are and how much I love being with you, and how being with you, I become myself and I want to keep doing that and expanding and getting closer and closer to that. And I know that I will just start shutting down if we have to make some commitment to next year or next month—”

“A month?” Syd interrupts. “Is that hard for you to think about? A whole month with me? Or a week? Or tomorrow? Like a day? That’d be hard? What’s gonna happen in an hour? Are we going to be going out in an hour or is that too hard? It’s just like so locked in—you’re so locked in by me.”

Ali says of course tomorrow, but why burden themselves with expectation?

“Because this isn’t a burden. This is not a burden for me,” Syd says. “I cant do this way. I cant do this version. That’s not who I am and you know that.”

Part of Ali’s idea of queerness is that it comes with the inherent freedom to redefine everything, including what it means to be loved, or in love, or giving and receiving love. Syd, meanwhile, is wondering how she’s created such a monster.

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Ali’s newfound queerness is a large part of Season 2, and Syd is her entrypoint into that world. It’s a different one from her sister Sarah, who is involved with Tammy at the beginning of the season but struggles with her own sexual identity (and identity in general) throughout the rest. Syd’s life is steeped in queer—she spends her nights bowling with lesbian friends and at womyn’s moon celebrations around campfires. 

“Ali is submerged in the world of very sexy, very hip lesbians,” Gaby said.”She’s exploring her identity and she’s trying something out. I think this [look] would be called—like, I’m making this up—but hipster queer. Queer hipster. I’m definitely in the queer world. I think [Ali’s] like, ‘I’m doing it. I’m trying it. I’m going full-throttle.'”

This season Ali will also be exploring academia, following in her Moppa’s footsteps, as Maura used to be a professor before retiring.

“[Ali’s] starting to figure out who she is, really, and what she wants, and she’s very excited by what she’s discovering,” Gaby said. And in how that relates to monogamy? “She wants to be able to make a lot of discoveries.”

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