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"Max (Moira) Sweeney"

Daniela Sea


Moira emerged in the first episode of the third season as Jenny's new friend. Showtime labels Moira as ambiguous, though she is very butch (The L Word on Showtime – The L Word Official Site). She of course is white, but contrary to the rest of the cast, Moira is on the other end of the gender spectrum and is also labeled as lower-class (this is implausible as she was a computer programmer just prior to leaving with Jenny). Moira is harassed and not hired for a job because of her sex; she returns to the same company as Max and he is hired right away. Sadly, Max's employment is also gendered (since she is butch and then male), as the world of computer programming is a male-dominated profession.

(The L Word on Showtime – Get the Newest L Word Downloads and more)

At first many were thrilled to see this new character emerge, but the deeper they dive into what Moira is, the more problematic this character becomes. It seems Chaiken is trying to cover all her bases at once. There was much disappointment when Ivan (see the characters section on supporting characters) vanished in the beginning of season two, and there has of course been much criticism of the lipstick-identified lesbians that are The L Word. Moira seemed to be the answer to all this criticism. They have taken butch to the extreme, which would be fine, except that it is to the point where she is no longer a woman. She is becoming he, Max. Normally this would not be a problem, but Moira/Max is at first shunned by the other lesbians, both for her gender-identity and her class. Then she is labeled as gender confused.

Max (now male identified) begins to contemplate taking black-market hormones in episode 306, in and of itself a problem within trans communities, which the show does little to address at the time. In the episode following Max's decision to take hormones (episode 307), he is taking his first televised t-shot (testosterone), though they make it clear in the conversation that this is his second shot. Then, in episode 308, Max is trying to schedule SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery). The entire transition process has been hugely simplified. Though the show implies some time lapse with this story (there is some inconsistency here throughout the show, with one character's story in an episode implying a month while another's in the same episode seems to imply only a day), it still appears as though you can decide one day to have a sex change, and then suddenly you are a man. In fact, the time between the episode where Max takes his first shot and the last episode is only about two weeks, at which point Max has grown a mustache and beard. On the contrary, one would have to first be diagnosed as having GID (Gender Identity Disorder) before getting any treatment (surgery or hormones). Then one would have to live as the opposite sex for a year before being allowed to take hormones. Most likely one would then wait another six to twelve months for surgery(ies), so that these hormones can have time to kick-in. It takes at least six months (most often closer to a year) for an FTM (Female to Male) to start developing the smallest bit of peach fuzz, while Max has this after his first t-shot (testosterone). And all of this would not be done with one trip to a doctor, but rather many physical, as well as psychological (for the GID diagnosis), medical visits.

Max approximately six weeks after his first t-shot with a nice set of facial hair. Screenshot from episode 311, "Lest We Forget," aired on 19 March 2006.

I applaud The L Word's addressing of this issue, and especially in adding a transgender person as a main character on a cable television show, which had never been done before. In addition, there are a few accuracies amidst the fallacies about transitioning. For instance, the expense of surgery and the effects of hormone shots (rage and increased sex-drive in the case of testosterone may happen right after a shot is taken) are somewhat accurately portrayed, though not really explained. I worry, though, that this storyline will greatly simplify an extremely complicated process, as well as make it seem okay to take black market hormones. There is a scene in the fourth season, which may be an attempt to address some of the criticism of Max's initial transformation in season 3, especially in regards to the dangers of the hormones, but little is done while the transformation is taking place.

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When Max's season 3 image is compared to those of the rest of the cast, this one image can lead to an interesting analysis. Rather than putting Max into an expensive suit to match the high fashion of the other characters, he is put into an old t-shirt and hat for his individual image. He is actually wearing something different, a worn white fish-net tank top with a hole in the middle, in the group photo (directly above), while the other characters are all in more flashy, upper-class outfits. Both images represent his class and gender identity as different from those of the other characters. He seems out of place amongst the lingerie-clad women surrounding him. In the season 4 image, his class status has moved up and he seems to actually be a part of the group, rather than an outsider.


Rhizomes 14, Spring 2007. Contact tina krauss: admin [at]