Apart from the fact that both Nya and Xristina are now actively dating guys — Joe and Rico, respectively — episode 5 of Transcendent is essentially connective tissue bridging two more interesting episodes. (If you want further proof, wait until the “on the next episode of” for a teaser of Big Freedia’s performance at Pride).
[jump] It opens with Bambiana doing hair and gossiping with a client. It’s an occupation I don’t remember her referencing before, which means that virtually all the ladies of AsiaSF work two jobs. No one goes into the performing arts to make oodles of cash, I guess, but considering how much money it takes to maintain their appearances, dancing there is starting to look like a real hamster wheel. Bambi also elaborates on how she’s the only one in her family who can’t manage her finances, a point hammered home by her immigrant mother in episode 4. (It doesn’t stop her from contemplating bottom surgery, or for tearfully offering to get her ailing mom an expensive-sounding surgical procedure.)
As L.A. has more or less disappeared since being told she failed her first audition at the club, the other ladies and their dates go to an opening at City Art gallery on Valencia Street. Xristina brings Rico, protesting that they’re not dating — which Bambiana immediately calls out as bullshit and sings the wedding march in true “sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G” style. Nya and Joe share an awkward pre-kiss moment before finally locking lips on the sidewalk. It’s the first time anybody’s made out on screen.
Then it’s back to suffering for beauty. Taking her friend Shai as moral support, Bambi goes for a “sculpting” session, a five-minute process of freezing body fat so that it dissolves and gives her more of an hourglass figure. (“Make me look like this ho,” she says to the technician, pointing to the much slimmer Shai.) The machine loos like a giant icepack in a napkin, sitting on her lap.
Nya converses with Bionka and Xristina about the merits of going stealth and keeping one’s trans status under wraps on first dates. (Xristina never discloses at the start.) It’s a fascinating topic, but the discussion is far too short. Equally interesting is a scene with Nya’s roommate, Vi, and Vi’s fiancé Scott, who’s a big, burly beardo in a baseball cap. They’re sufficiently at ease with each other on the couch that it makes Nya’s awkwardness with dorky Joe look like a poor match.
The only true moment of tension arises at a rehearsal, to which an unaplogetic Xristina is late. She raises everyone’s ire by pouring herself a drink at the bar before settling in. “I don’t understand why [Xristina’s] late, cause she’s the one who needs rehearsal the most,” Bionka says. Ouch.
But Xristina is late because it takes her “three buses” to get there. Bionka visits her possibly-windowless warehouse, which she shares with six other people — who, out of economic necessity, she is clearly loath to badmouth on camera. While they’re talking, Rico walks into the hallway in a towel, belying any claim Xristina made that they weren’t having sex. “Xristina is not on Planet Earth,” Bionka says, leaving.
Things conclude with Bambiana’s visit to a kindly psychotherapist, with whom she discusses the size of her future vagina, and, in a moment of vunerability, confesses that when she looks in the mirror, she still sees a boy. Deep down, she’s still afraid people are going to call her “bro.”
Bambiana on sculpting: “The first five minutes it’s really painful. It’s like a big d-ck.” Shai says it looks like a hickey, but it’s more like a massive spider bite.
Scott, on dating a transwoman: “My attraction never changed, but I had all these outside things that were really pressuring me, and they freaked me out a little bit. I wasn’t ashamed and I wasn’t afraid to bring her out in public. I was more worried about our safety than anything else, because it was quite a while ago.”
Xristina, on living in near-squalor: “This is my reality right now.”
Bambiana, on bottom surgery: “I’m going to need a very deep vagina.”
Transcendent airs Wednesdays at 11:30p/10:30c on Fuse.