the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: FX

Haven't seen 'Pose' yet? Here's what you need to know before the drop of Season Two

June 10, 2019

At the GLAAD Media Awards this year, one of the most powerful moments was when FX's drama, Pose, received the award Outstanding Drama Series. This is not the only award that this show has won or will win. Beyond their first GLAAD Award win, the show received multiple other nominations and awards. including several nominations at this year’s Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice Awards, Peabody Awards, and more. It is currently campaigning for Emmy Awards and right as it begins its second season.

Co-created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals, Pose made history by having the largest cast of trans peope, all of whom trans women of color, as well as several more roles for queer people of color. In addition to the cast, the creators specifically wanted trans inclusion on every level, from leading and recurring roles to producers, writers, crew members, and extras. Episode six was directed by author, producer, writer, and activist, Janet Mock. 

Pose is set in New York City in the late 1980s and 90s at the heart of the ballroom scene and the HIV and AIDS epidemic. The show tells the stories of the transgender and queer people of color who navigated this time period by developing an intriguing, entertaining, and emotional method of storytelling that engages audiences of all backgrounds. From colorful ballroom scenes to extravagant outfits and heartfelt conversations, Pose gives audiences the opportunity to better understand the lives of these people–not just on a surface level–but on an incredibly emotional one that emphasizes their humanity and community.

During the very first episode, we see Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) take in Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain), a teenager cast out of his home by his homophobic father and forced to sleep on a NYC park bench. In one of the most impactful scenes of the season, Blanca articulates to Damon and to the audience, the feelings and emotions of questioning gender identity and expression as a kid, navigating the process of coming out and, ultimately, experiencing loss. She tells Damon, “when you get rejected by your mother–your father–you’re always out there looking for someone to replace that love you’re missing.” This line is a reminder of an experience many queer people share; transcending not only generations, but also individual backgrounds and identities. It’s also a reminder for the audience, of the ways that chosen families have created–and continue to create–a support system, helping LGBTQ+ people (especially youth) survive in the face of rejection and indifference.

Between the music-filled ballroom scenes MC-ed by Pray Tell (Billy Porter), the shiny gold trophies, and the newly developing relationships for Damon and Angel (Indya Moore) respectively, Pose also brings to light how multiple forms of oppression and discrimination–from racism to misogyny to transphobia–affect the characters even within their own communities. For example, after Blanca is thrown out of a [white] gay bar in Lower Manhattan, Lulu (Hailie Sahar) explains to Blanca that “everybody needs someone to make them feel superior” with trans women of color constantly being placed at the very bottom of all social circles–even queer ones.

For the characters of Pose–and the real-life people who hold multiple maginalized identities–belonging to the LGBTQ+ community does not mean that they are automatically protected from oppression. Racism, sexism, classism, and so much more still exist within the LGBTQ+ community. Pose further develops the authenticity of the show by tackling this reality head-on, telling an important and necessary story to our community. In doing so, the show continues to emphasize how the ball competitions, the houses, and the community that surrounds them, provide people with a space that is affirming and validating in a way the rest of the world isn’t.

Accurate, realistic, and educational representation and visibility of queer and trans people of color is incredibly important. They allow people to see someone succeed with whom they can identify and learn from. Pose is broadcasting into the homes of people who think they don’t know a trans or gender-variant person and shows them these nuanced and exceptional characters that they become emotionally invested in.The show is helping to change the way that people view those who are different from them and to shift the dialogue toward understanding and acceptance. It’s a chance for audiences to see beyond gender identity and expression, to understand the challenges that LGBTQ+ people of color face, and to view a person as a whole and worthy.

Season two of Pose premieres Tuesday, June 11 on FX at 10pm. Season one is currently streaming on Netflix. 

Trey Shimizu is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and junior at SUNY Stony Brook University studying biology and studio art. Trey is a part of the EBoard for Stony Brook's Trans* Alliance and has worked at the university's LGBTQ* Center since its opening in March 2018.

the voice and vision of a new generation