Before debuting in 2018, TV had never really shown Black and brown trans Americans how “Pose” had; centered in and leading their own story where their identities are respected, and their characterizations carefully crafted to illustrate their vulnerability, grace, and depth. Never had the crushing conditions of racism, colorism, transphobia, and classism been illustrated quite so equally alongside the joy and resilience of Black LGBTQ identity, history, and culture.
So when Television Academy CEO Frank Scherma acknowledged 2020 as “a year, unlike any other in recent memory” during the Emmy nominations ceremony, it felt like it was finally time for the trans talent of “Pose.”
Amid a global health crisis and a historical fight for social justice, Scherma swore that “It is our duty to use this medium [for] change,” and “the responsibility of television to… amplify the voices that must be heard and tell the stories that must be told.” Shortly after, a record number of Black actors were nominated for the most prestigious TV awards of the year.
Among them was talent from “Pose,” which chronicles the lives of Black and brown gay and trans New Yorkers, the ball scene, and the AIDS epidemic over several decades. Frustratingly, it didn’t include Rodriguez or her Black and brown costars Jackson, Moore, Ross, and Hailie Sahar.
The FX show received five nominations, with the series’ only individual acting honor going to star Billy Porter for lead actor in a drama series
It’s a category he made history in last year as its first openly gay winner. Yet, for all the full-bodied dramatic prowess the Tony and Grammy honoree brings to the story of Pray Tell, his gay cis male character is one sliver of the predominantly Black “Pose” ensemble.
It’s a large cast that hasn’t just bucked industry precedent by featuring a single trans actor in a one-off or even recurring role. It’s earned its groundbreaking label because of the five Black and brown trans actresses and nonbinary actors occupying leading and supporting roles.
Their leading and supporting performances as Blanca, Elektra, Angel, Candy, and Lulu mark the largest number of transgender actors on a scripted show in series regular roles in the history of television. In short, the show’s trans and nonbinary talent don’t just appear on the show. They are the show.
The full story was published at Insider on Sept. 19, 2020.