On Loving-Hating-Loving 'Pose'
I can’t remember how I started watching ‘Pose’.
I know I found it on Fx during the first season and watched the first episode. I was hooked. I’ve watched it through both seasons, angry when the first was over and it seemed to take so long for the second to begin.
I haven’t had cable for a while and since I was pulling in the purse strings, I had gotten rid of live channel streaming as well. With that, I’d lost my ability to watch ‘Pose’ whenever I felt like it. I ended up purchasing the second season from a different provider and will likely do so for the third.
There better be a third.
I love-hate-love ‘Pose’.
So, here’s the thing.
If you don’t know the show or haven’t clicked the photo above to visit and learn about it, here’s a spoiler. It’s a glimpse into New York’s ball culture and the connection to the trans community of color as well.
If you’d like a bit more history, check out films like Paris is Burning.
I love the show because it provided me with an education about diversity that I didn’t have in my toolbox and that was humbling. As someone who teaches, consults, and trains on topics related to multiculturalism and diversity in all its many forms, I cried when I watched Paris is Burning and subsequently ‘Pose’ as well; of course I knew there were trans people of color, but the experiences of being ‘othered’ by the ‘majority’ trans community and many of the other aspects highlighted by ‘Paris’ broke me. How did I not know? How did I not figure it out? Why was I not having these conversations in my classes?
Yeah, all of that.
But soon I got over myself and realized that, just like the students I have the honor of working with, I too have things to learn. I’ve shared links to ‘Pose’ and ‘Paris’ in class. I’ve reflected on the trans people I’ve encountered in my life and realized that the one person who made an indelible mark on my experiences was a transitioning young person of color. I struggle to provide a pronoun, since it was their experience of moving from male to female that caused an emotional break. That was how we met, when I was working as a counselor for a transitional program for people who had been in-patient, where now in ‘half-way housing’, and who would soon be in their own homes or with family again. This person, fortunately, had a wonderful mom who supported them. I got to meet her; she was afraid for what had happened to her child (who had tried to commit suicide after being so badly treated) and as an immigrant (I believe they were from India or that region) was unsure what was going on. She just knew she loved her child, even though she didn’t understand the penchant for bras and feminine wear. Once we got past the defensiveness — how could a person not be defensive when dealing with a professional who may be just like ‘everyone else’ — this young person was an absolute delight. That smile was infectious, though rare. The pain beneath it is something I can’t forget, even though it’s been nearly 25 years.
I hate the show because it makes me cry. I laugh as I write that. Season 1 Episode 6, titled ‘Love is the Message’, likely was a major culprit. Two of the main characters, Blanca and Pray Tell, sang and when I say they sang … whew.
I was standing in the middle of my front room, tears streaming down my face, as I waved and yelled at the TV.
It was that serious.
But the occasions for tears and laughter have woven throughout both seasons. I’ve been angry (Elektra …), I’ve been sad (Candy …), and I’ve been full of joy (Papi and Angel …).
There is a reality of life and love in the show that I haven’t seen elsewhere.
But let’s address what might be an elephant in the room for some. It may seem strange that I would like the show. After all, I am a Christ-follower and people who claim such a faith practice aren’t often known to be big supporters of the LGBTQ+ community.
Here’s the thing.
Christ didn’t stay away from people who were different than him. Christ went everywhere and called his followers to do the same.
I’ve asked the question to fellow Christ-followers who turn up their noses at the gay community and asked this: If a gay person says that Christ died for their sins, would you try to keep them out of your church? Would you say they weren’t a Christ-follower?
I haven’t gotten an answer to that question.
My learnings have been that ‘we all fall short of the glory of God’ and that no behavior is seen as better or worse by the Lord. By that I mean my tearing someone down with my words — killing them verbally — is no less damning than if I’d stuck a knife in their back. Cursing is no worse than snatching a purse from Nordstrom’s.
In other words, it’s above my pay grade on this planet to judge another human being.
My job is to love. My job is to be open to others. And once we’ve developed a relationship of some sort to live out the great commission by asking the question: Do you know where you’ll spend eternity?
Let’s not get it twisted. That’s not about trying to convince someone into a religion because religion is a human construct that consists often of impossible (and dare I say incorrect!) rules and regulations. It’s there, just above … this is about relationships. Having a relationship with the Creator means I can have a relationship with anyone, whether that person is sitting in the next seat on Sunday, asks me for change in front of the market, or is in a class I teach.
This is about being able to see how one person can care for another on shows like ‘Pose’, where the depiction of lifestyle — how family is who you choose to be with and take care of, rather than just the people who share a blood line — may on a surface glance be different than anything I’ve ever lived but is very much like what I’ve lived: my pack (or family) has more people in in who share no blood, who grew up in different places and circumstances, but who I would lay down everything for in a heartbeat.
Which is why I love-hate-love every single second of ‘Pose’.
And there you have it.