Live… Work… POSE! When I first started watching ‘Pose’ I did not know what to expect. All I knew was that it was created by Ryan Murphy. I figured since I was such a fan of his other shows, such as ‘Glee’ and ‘American Horror Story,’ I would check out his latest project. So, I went to Netflix, grabbed some snacks, and got ready for the Pilot episode. The description of the show read “In 1987 New York, LGBTQ ball fixture Blanca starts her own house, soon becoming mother to a gifted dancer and a sex worker in love with a yuppie client.” I had no idea what any of this meant, but I was excited to find out.
After watching Episode 1, I discovered that the show was about ballroom culture and what the world looked like for the LGBTQ+ community during the late 1980’s. ‘Pose’ depicts ballroom culture during the late 80s in New York. The show introduces characters like Blanca Evangelista (played by Mj Rodriguez) and Elektra Abundance (played by Dominique Jackson) who represent house mothers. These house mothers take in Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ youth who have been outcasted and disowned by society and their own biological parents. Each house competes in ballroom competitions, which allows them to have a sense of family and acceptance while also expressing themselves. However, this show also focuses on the struggles and hardships faced by this community in the late 80s.
‘Pose’ gives us a look at what life was like for LGBTQ+ people during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. One character, Pray Tell (played by Billy Porter), is shown visiting his lover, Costas, who is dying of AIDS. Throughout the show, multiple characters are diagnosed with HIV and they have to learn how to live with the disease and have conversations about it. This show never shys away from emotion and heartache. Every character is affected by HIV/AIDS in some way. It does a great job of showing how devastating this disease can be and how big its impact was on the LGBTQ community, especially during the late 80s.
My favorite part about this show though, was that the transgender characters were actually played by transgender actresses. ‘Pose’ has made history by having the largest ever transgender cast for a scripted show… and it’s about damn time! Hollywood has refused to hire trans actors for far too long. Cisgender actresses such as Scarlett Johannson have received lots of backlash for being cast in roles in which they play transgender characters. THIS is extremely problematic. Someone who has not lived the experience of being transgender CANNOT depict what that is like through acting…. PERIOD. Cisgender people have the privilege of being cast in a multitude of different roles while transgender people are usually limited to playing trans characters. However, cisgender actors are STILL hired to play these roles.
By not allowing a transgender person to portray their own experiences, not only is an identity being erased, but it also prevents trans actors from recieving work opportunities in the very competitive industry. By allowing a cisgender person to represent a transgender person’s life and experiences, viewers have an unrealistic sense of what it means to identify as transgender. Laverne Cox explained this problem best when she said “In this cultural environment, when we see representations of cis people playing us over and over again, that reinforces the idea that trans women are not really women and trans men are not really men and nonbinary people don’t exist.”
‘Pose’ is more than just a show. It is a history lesson. It is emotional. But most importantly, it is a platform for the Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ community to finally tell their OWN stories.