Warning: Spoilers Ahead
Tales of the City is an American drama web television miniseries that premiered on June 7, 2019 on Netflix. It is based on the Tales of the City novel series by Armistead Maupin. The mini series focuses on relationships between people who live in Barbary Lane, San Francisco. Mary Ann Singleton returns to Barbary Lane after a 23-year absence for the 90th birthday of former landlady, Anna Madrigal. She tries to reconnect with Brian Hawkins, her ex-husband and Shawna, the daughter she left behind. There’s Michael who is in a relationship with Ben holding a secret of being HIV positive. In the first episode, we see Anna receiving mysterious letters threatening to expose a secret from her past. Following episodes transpire with the mission of putting an end to this blackmailing and of finding out the person behind it. The show also talks about the relationship between a transgender man Jake Rodriguez and his girlfriend Margot Park which reminded me about the fluidity of gender and the diversity of sexual orientation. This is the relationship I’ll be focusing on.
Jake and Margot’s relationship is about dealing with the changing of the body and mind that Jake has after his transition. His ambiguity begins when he realises that he might have a crush on men. Margot felt better when they were a lesbian couple but post-transition Jake was okay when they were referred to as a heterosexual couple in public. Jake wasn’t sure about his attraction towards men until he met a man in the bar. Jake realises that he wants to explore his sexuality with men that presents difficulties between Jake and Margot’s relationship.
During this period of Jake’s learning and finding himself, it becomes difficult for Margot to accept her partner has changed and she struggles with finding a place for herself in the self-exploration journey of Jake. In this situation, my question is, what can we do to support our partner if one day they tell us they want to explore their sexuality. What is the process of opening your mind through this?
In the series, Margot cannot accept that Jake wants to explore his relationship with a guy. She tells Jake she wants a monogamous relationship, open relationships are not for her. They break up. Jake gets into a relationship with a man and Margot starts a new relationship with another woman. The story of Jake and Margot reminds me yes, about how gender is fluid but also how it is not easy for people to accept this fact when it becomes a reality. Jake, once, identified as a ‘lesbian woman’ who was in relationship with a lesbian woman. Then he transitioned to be a man. Both his gender identity and sexuality changes. Some people call this relationship as gay trans but this doesn’t mean every transman will change their sexuality. Some transmen might want to have a relationship with women only.
The point I want to stress on is about the partners of trans people while they explore themselves, their sexuality. How can they support their partners? What happens when their partners want to explore their sexuality? How tough is this change, if at all? I have no answers, just a hope for fair relationships.
Tales of the City gives us a fairly good representation of the complexities dealt by Jake post-transition and Margot who is trying her best to be supportive. To see Jake being honest about his feelings towards men, his thoughts of exploration, felt good. It was equally good to see Margot’s honesty when she tells him she doesn’t want an open relationship. To see both of them base their relationship in honesty despite knowing it came with hurt felt nice. They both become friends eventually.
Their relationship reiterated the fact that honesty of our beings and wants might sometimes hurt our partner but it is the most important factor of our relationships. We learn how to love better and to let the past be. And well, it is always a process to understand what kind of love we want in life and how we take care of it once we have it.