Look hard and you might spot Zackary Drucker in Transparent, the Amazon dramedy about Mort-who's-becoming-Maura. Drucker appears on screen as a support-group facilitator for only a few moments, but her behind-the-scenes influence was profound. Along with filmmaker Rhys Ernst, she advised series creator Jill Soloway on shaping storylines, developing Maura's backstory, bringing on trans actors and crew members and ensuring the on-set bathrooms were gender-neutral.
The show has brought mainstream visibility to the art-world star and her evolving career. “It's a 10-ring circus,” Drucker says of her hectic lecturing and performance schedule. She's finishing an experimental short and gearing up to shoot a narrative one before full-time production begins on the second season of Transparent.
Pouring tea in the Cypress Park home she bought two years ago, Drucker, 31, is a model of equanimity. She chose the neighborhood partly because her artist pals Karen Lofgren and Anna Sew Hoy live nearby. Hers is an impeccably decorated three-bedroom house. The matte turquoise office. The walk-in closet. The rock-and-cactus–studded back patio.
The most surprising element is what it lacks: a doormat with the word WELCOME emblazoned over Drucker's face. That cheeky objet d'art (captioned “For only $50 you can wipe your feet on my face for a lifetime”) was a last-minute addition to a 2011 exhibition featuring 25 deadpan glam images of Drucker shot by Amos Mac.
Drucker excels at displays of the intimate. She and Ernst were a couple, and they spent six years documenting both of their gender transitions (Drucker's from male to female, Ernst's from female to male). Diaristic, voyeuristic and composed with casual elegance, 46 photos and a short film from the collaboration made it into the Whitney Museum's 2014 Biennial. By the time an expanded version of the project debuted in L.A. last November, Ernst and Drucker were breaking up.
Raised by progressive, supportive parents in what she calls the “post-industrial wasteland” of Syracuse, New York, Drucker was a precocious self-inventor. “When I think of my childhood, I remember a pervasive feeling of boredom,” she says. “I think that's a tremendous advantage, actually, to be able to create a fantasy of what you want your life to look like.”
At age 14, around the time she devoured Kate Bornstein's Gender Outlaws, Drucker came out — if she had ever even been in the closet, she says. “There was no consciousness about trans people. Everybody assumed it was about my sexuality. I knew that I was drawn to men, but there was more to it than that.”
A week after graduating high school, she hightailed it to New York City, where a stint at the School of Visual Arts led to an MFA at CalArts. Although she'd assumed she would return to the East Coast, Drucker recently celebrated a decade in L.A. Even her parents now live here.
“I realized I had built a community here,” Drucker says. “After you transition, you spend a lot of time thinking about who's reading you as this or that. I think about that less and less, but as a trans person, Los Angeles is more respectful. I think people are happier here.”