Never before has a Network done more to accurately represent the lives of Transgender people. In the rare events where we have seen trans men and women in media, they’re always the same caricature of transness; Aching, pitiful, self-hating oddities whose entire existence centralizes solely on their gender status alone; Not the individual living the experience. In the few instances where we are provided a role in television or film, we’re either prostitutes catering to fetishists, locked in the throes of torment over our gender identity and we usually die.
Pose breaks that stigma by offering up a bevvy of characters whose transgender status is an undeniable aspect of their lives, but not the sum of their characters. It’s never the catalyst for their action or inaction, and not the singular driving force of the story. They don’t pretext every conversation and story arc with sensationalized angst over being just being transgender.
Wow, is that ever refreshing.
It’s a fact that over 47% of Americans do not know a trans person. If they do, they don’t know it. While we had a golden opportunity to let the world be the passenger on the journey of a Trans woman who witnessed her evolution, it was botched beyond redemption. Caitlyn Jenner had gone from a sidebar figure in a reality show to a full on, corset laden diva on the cover of Vanity Fair. She did high profile interviews and I was thrilled at the concept that middle America would witness this incredible, human journey and experience empathy, compassion, and maybe minds would change as a result. No one ever expected it to be the polarizing disaster that it became. Thankfully, POSE has succeeded in undoing some of that irreconcilable damage.
Credit must be given to Ryan Murphy, the series creator, who clearly proceeded with caution when designing a series from the perspective of women of color, from a specific culture who happened to be transgender. He didn’t package it with the intention of disarming viewers, nor did he cis-wash a tale that needed to be told by trans women of color. In his approach to crafting POSE, he enlisted the help of Janet Mock, herself a trans woman of color and notable media staple, by inviting her into the writers room. Her stamp of authenticity is not only pivotal to the success of POSE, but her inclusion in the series, behind the scenes, gave it a gravitas unlike any we’ve seen on network television. The result was introducing America to compelling characters who existed during a fascinating time in history and allowed them access to their humanity, rather than hyper focusing on their gender alone. We were given people, not cardboard cutouts of what Hollywood wants the world to believe transgender people are- 2 dimensional figures who exist in exceedingly limited space.
POSE has demonstrated that we don’t all walk through life as a gag, a punchline, a token or a tragedy waiting to happen. We are part of greater society, and most importantly, there is a place for us had we ever been allowed to occupy it on screen. What is paramount here, however, is that POSE has broken the toxic industry trend of enlisting cis only actors to play transgender roles. They employed trans actors and actresses to bring the story to life rather than just have a sidebar trans consultant as so many other features have done. You read that right. Films like “Dallas Buyers Club” hired a transgender coach to teach cis actor Jared Leto to portray a trans character on film.
I can only hope that POSE will stand as a testament to the formidable, although often overlooked, talents of gender diverse actors and actresses, writers and directors while continuing to allow us access to quality projects suited to those talents instead of viewing our gender identity as an inhibitor.
I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention that POSE is the first step on a long, long road in desensitizing middle America to our gender while simply encouraging them to accept us as the characters we embody for their entertainment.
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