Allyship Recommendations: Pose
The series ‘Pose’ is nothing short of exemplary in portraying the highs and lows of those living in New York City’s underground ballroom culture.
Chronologically, the first season is set in 1987-88 when the US Government and others fail to address and tackle the AIDS epidemic. This epidemic saw thousands of LGBTQIA+ people, particularly people of colour, get sick and die from negligence and denial.
MJ Rodriguez portrays Blanca, the Mother of the House of Evangelista. The House's namesake comes from the very influential Canadian model, Linda Evangelista.
These themes are reiterated in the second season, but with an emphasis on the need for civil action. The characters learn to take part in sit-ins, boycotts and other protests, like those organised by Act Up! Their message was - and still is - simple. They wanted queer voices to be heard and respected and to not be erased by government or local society. This is all the more personal as some of the characters are now HIV+ or living with AIDS, and you see them navigate the highs and lows of their treatment.
All of this, of course, was playing out when Ballroom was really brought into the mainstream with Madonna's 1990 single, 'Vogue', despite Ballroom and voguing being around for much longer.
Dominique Jackson portrays Elektra, the Mother of the House of Wintour. Like Blanca's character, Elektra names her House after another influential and fiercely independent woman and LGBTQIA+ ally, Anna Wintour, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue.
The series revolves around the voguing competitions which are held in Ballroom between different 'Houses'. These Houses act as a powerful symbol as they shelter the queer people who were 'adopted' into them when their families wouldn't respect who they were. These Houses, some better than others, don't fail in teaching their children valuable life lessons.
Nonetheless, by being in Ballroom, these Houses can help those children live their best unapologetic lives.
Billy Porter portrays the always amazingly-dressed and very wise Pray Tell, who introduces and judges the different categories in Ballroom.
The success of ‘Pose’ and its much-needed call to action to say how things were, and still are for queer people of colour, is owned in part to the great diversity of its cast. The cast can directly relate to the ongoing discrimination, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia faced by LGTBQIA+ people because the majority of them identify as such. They understand the characters that they play by bringing their own lived experiences to them in a beautifully raw and moving way.
‘Pose’ is massively educational in acknowledging the leading role transgender women of colour particularly played in the gay rights movement, and rightfully stresses the need for that to be remembered. The show rightfully succeeds in repeating the message that you are never too young or old to follow your dreams and live your life in the exact way that you want to.
Therefore, it is a must watch for anyone who wants to learn, and continue to be, an effective, meaningful and compassionate ally for the LGBTQIA+ community.