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Former Mills professor writes for Amazon hit “Transparent”


 Award winning poet and author Ali Liebegott left her teaching position in 2014 to write for Amazon Prime show, “Transparent.” (COURTESY OF ALI LIEBEGOTT)
Award winning poet and author Ali Liebegott left her teaching position in 2014 to write for Amazon Prime show, “Transparent.” (COURTESY OF ALI LIEBEGOTT)

After being asked to write for Amazon Prime’s number one TV show “Transparent,” award-winning writer and poet Ali Liebegott left her teaching position at Mills to explore the world of Hollywood.

Before writing for “Transparent,” a TV show that explores the relationships within a family after the father comes out as transgender, Leibegott was writing books and teaching at Mills. In 2006 Liebegott won a Lambda Literary Award in the category of Lesbian Debut Fiction for her novel, “The Beautifully Worthless,” and the following year she won the Ferro-Gumley Award for LGBT literature for the “IHOP Papers.” 

Jill Soloway, the creator of “Transparent,” is an Emmy-nominated American comedian, and playwright, who won the Sundance best director award for the film she wrote and directed “Afternoon Delight.” When she asked Liebegott to consider writing a sample script for “Transparent,” Liebegott was thrilled.  At the time the pilot had just been accepted by Amazon Prime. Liebegott found writing the script surprisingly rewarding.

“I really enjoyed it; a lot of the things that I really enjoy about writing novels are also in script writing,” Liebegott said. “I felt that it was going to be something that was really exciting for me.” 

When Soloway accepted her script,  Liebegott was teaching creative writing at Mills College and working at a grocery store and living “hand to mouth.” She was also tired of the gentrification that had taken over San Francisco with the tech boom. According to Liebegott, the time was right to try something new. 

“The last couple of years living in SF wasn’t easy. Things aligned in a new way to try something different,” Liebegott said.

While she enjoyed teaching, Liebegott never felt like it was her calling. During her time at Mills, Liebegott wished she could be creating more. She never felt like she knew how to teach people to creatively write; instead, she found herself offering suggestions that had helped her and hoping that they might do some good for her students.

“Throughout my teaching career, I wondered  how to be a professor,” Liebegott said.” I always wanted to be kind to people, and to share books that were meaningful and to share a philosophy on the world, but a far as telling someone what to write … it was always a little existential for me.”  

Students at Mills who were able to take a class with Liebegott remember her as being loose with her grading because trying to grade creative work was difficult, and  trying to teach her students how to be sincere, and most importantly, being faithful to their work.

“One of the things I remember being interesting about Ali is that she didn’t really put much emphasis on academias as far as writing went. She wanted us to be honest and authentic,” Junior Chloe Horsma said.

Although Mills had asked her to teach two more classes in the Spring of 2014, Liebegott declined, packed her life up and moved to Los Angeles.

While Liebgott does prefer the pronoun she/her, she identifies as gender neutral and felt that because of her experience being marginalized for her gender identity, she could help contribute to a show that explores gender. 

In September of 2014, Liebegott wrote about her experiences writing for ‘Transparent’ in a Quartz article. 

“As a butch who is constantly misgendered and regendered throughout the day by strangers,” Liebegott wrote, “I have some crossover with a trans experience especially when it comes to using public restrooms, navigating airports, getting wanded by security detail on entering a sporting event — so I felt like I could use my experience to add to the conversation.” 

Although Jill Soloway, the creator of “Transparent,” is not trans herself, she became personally invested in the trans community after her father came out to her as transgender. In her piece in Quartz, Liebegott says that Soloway told the writers for “Transparent” to think about what they had never seen on TV before and create that.

Liebegott was thrilled when first approached by “Transparent” creator Jill Soloway, and hopes to continue working in the film industry. (COURTESY OF ALI LIEBEGOTT)
Liebegott was thrilled when first approached by “Transparent” creator Jill Soloway, and hopes to continue working in the film industry. (COURTESY OF ALI LIEBEGOTT)

“It isn’t a show that spoon feeds the definition of trans to the audience. Instead, we present a spectrum of trans characters to choose from: a butch, a transman, two transwomen, and Maura, a transwoman at the beginning of her transition who may or may not “medically” transition,”  Liebegott wrote in Quartz.

Liebegott hopes to keep working in the film and TV industry while continuing to pursue her own writing work. She enjoys the community that writing for TV creates and finds being on a team rewarding in comparison to working alone. 

“When you work in TV, there are so many levels of collaboration,” Liebegott said. “People have considered every little tiny aspect of everything. It is kind of awesome to be working alongside so many people with this bigger vision.”

When she is not writing for “Transparent,” Liebegott is working to get the sequel to her first book published, exploring LA and walking in parks with her dog. She took a stand-up comedy class and can be found at open mics performing a routine of her dog, complete with a full dog costume. She hopes to learn how to do clay miniatures in the coming year. According to Liebegott, “Paddington” is the movie of the year and made her cry so hard she could barely drive home, and baseball season can not come soon enough.