When it comes to a show like FX’s Pose, the category is… hard to define.
Among other things, the Ryan Murphy-produced drama is at once a glossy tribute to New York City’s 1980s ball culture, an unflinching portrayal of the challenges facing transgender people of color, a harrowing look at the dawn of the AIDS crisis, and an overall exploration of modern sexuality.
But in its purest form, Pose is simply a drama that reinforces the impact of family on one’s life. It reminds us that family can be our strength or our strife, the wind in our wings or the rips in our sails. For the characters on Pose — most of whom identify as gay or transgender and have been rejected by their biological parents — it’s about finding hope beyond your given circumstances, connecting with others like you and forging a chosen family built on a foundation of love and acceptance.
There’s also a refreshing authenticity to Pose, which boasts more transgender series regulars than any other scripted television show in history. In an interview leading up to the show’s premiere, actress Indya Moore eloquently described Pose as a show about family that “explores that dynamic through the most marginalized group of individuals that most people think are incapable of having family.”
And yet the families formed in the world of Pose show more love and loyalty than any of the biological nightmares from which these characters have escaped. Just look at Damon (played by Ryan Jamaal Swain), a scared 18-year-old boy from Pennsylvania whose father beat him for being gay and shamed him for his love of dance. When he moves to New York City in the pilot, he has nothing but the clothes on his back and the rhythm in his blood. But finds a new mother in Blanca (MJ Rodriguez), who not only puts a roof over his head but works every day to keep him focused on his priorities, eventually getting him into a prestigious dance academy.
When Damon recalls dressing up as one of the wise men in his church Nativity pageant, only to be laughed at by his father, Blanca replies without hesitation, “In this house, you can be the King of Arabia and wear golden robes every day of the year.” And the look of pride on Blanca’s face as she dresses up to watch Damon’s first performance is proof enough: She is his mother.
That same love extends to all of Blanca’s chosen children, with whom she enjoys family meals, shares personal experiences and has difficult conversations — like any family should. Her children’s happiness, success and safety are all that matter to her, and she doesn’t back down when times get tough. She also leads by example, taking a stand for transgender people and showing her children that they deserve the world, even if the world doesn’t think they deserve anything.
Watching this show in 2018, a crucial time when so much remains at stake for LGBT people, Pose serves as an important reminder that their community has always fought the good fight. It may not be over, but with love, unity and representation, change is possible.
New episodes of Pose air Sundays at 9/8c on FX. Are you watching? Drop a comment with your thoughts below.