While Transparent is rooted in Carrie Soloway’s journey, the episode gave Our Lady J the opportunity to share some of her story, adding another layer of authenticity to the transgender experience seen onscreen. And when it came to season three’s “If I Were a Bell,” a flashback episode inspired by Carrie’s story about crossdressing in her family’s bunker as a kid, Our Lady J was tasked with writing it. “You’re the only person who can write this because you’re the only person who grew up trans. So tell your story,” she recalls Soloway telling her at the time. And so that’s what she set out to do.
With more confidence as a writer, Our Lady J secluded herself in Joshua Tree, California, where she set out to channel her “painful past” into 30 minutes of TV. While a 12-year-old Maura’s crossdressing served as the arc of the episode, from the moment she’s in a baseball field daydreaming about dancing in a dress to when she gets caught during an air raid drill, it’s peppered with Our Lady J’s childhood experiences, including the scene where Maura throws a rock at her sister’s head in a moment of retaliation. “I did that at school; I threw a rock at my bully. It felt amazing but it was horrible,” she says, ashamed of her actions as a kid.
The hardest part of writing the episode was showcasing all “the complexities of growing up in a society that doesn’t understand you,” Our Lady J says, while also making sure the story told the truth from all perspectives. “What did it look like from the family perspective?” she says of the Pfeffermans’ past going back to 1930s Germany, where Maura’s transgender aunt died.