Posing for Pride: A Look into LGBTQ+ Representation


Table Of Contents


Acknowledging the Beginnings 

As Pride month approaches, it is important to acknowledge just how Pride came to be. We wouldn’t have a Pride month to celebrate had it not been for the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black transgender woman, threw the first rocks during the Stonewall Riots and is the reason we are able to celebrate our freedom of love today. 

The FX hit series Pose challenges stereotypical gender and race representations around transgender and POC identity, all while ultimately reflecting a diverse writer's room. In this blog, Hollywood Branded explores how the centralization of Afro-Latinx and Black transgender women in Pose reframes the transgender experience of the 1980s - in a much more nuanced and praised manifestation than other media inclusions of transgender identity. 


Why it Matters

Historically, transgender identity has been misunderstood and misrepresented in media, and the stigma and discrimination that transgender individuals face can be directly correlated to harmful media representations. Oftentimes the focus is directed toward the trauma that marginalized communities endure, and while it is crucial to acknowledge those hardships, it is just as important to humanize and celebrate underrepresented identities. Pose illuminates the queer experience in conjunction with the rich history of ballroom culture and fashion, allowing for a more rounded, realistic portrayal of queer and POC identity that does not put the members of the community in a box. 

indya moore as angel voguing in an icicle tiara on pose PHOTO COURTESY OF SARAH SHATZ-FX

Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz | FX

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Diversity Within

Pose has the largest transgender cast of any commercial, scripted television show, and the diversity within the creative process is unprecedented for a primetime T.V. show. While the director, Ryan Murphy, is a white gay man, the showrunner, Steven Canals, identifies as queer and Afro-Puerto Rican, which is particularly rare. Additionally, Janet Mock and Our Lady J, writers who also worked on the script, identify as transgender.

The way media messages translate into real life is extremely salient and conclusively shapes our reality. When non-POC or non-queer identified individuals are given the final say on the decisions surrounding the representation of those identities, the media messages can be skewed.

ImBilly Porter Pride POSE Image Source- Getty - Roy Rochlin

Photo Credit: Roy Rochlin | Getty Images 

On & Off the Screen

The representation of transgender identity is just as important off-screen as it is on-screen. Throughout the history of televised media, cisgender actors have often played the roles of transgender characters, which ultimately invalidates the existence of transgender identity. This misrepresentation disproportionately occurs with cisgender men playing the roles of transgender women, such as Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club, Chris Sarandon in Dog Day Afternoon, and Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl. All of these cisgender male actors went on to receive awards for their performances as women, arriving at the award shows in a male-presenting fashion, accepting awards for the roles of women, as men. Again, this reinforces the idea that transgender women are men “pretending” to be women, and that message is the reason so many transgender women face prejudice and discrimination in the real world. To be transgender is not to be equated with a performance or disguise, but rather an expression of identity.

In recent years, Pose has made history. M.J. Rodriguez, who plays Blanca, became the first transgender woman to win an Emmy for Best Female Actress, and Billy Porter, who plays Pray Tell, became the first openly gay Black man to win an Emmy in the lead acting category. The inclusion of underrepresented identities without accuracy and thoughtfulness is not representation at all, and Pose effectively upholds respect for the transgender and queer community both on and off the screen. 

MJ Rodriguez POSE photo by Kerry Hallihan

Photo Credit: Kerry Hallihan

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Reinforcing the Narrative

Pose teaches us that the celebration of queer, Latinx, and Black identity should happen not only on the screen but in the real world as well. The diversity of contributors within the writers’ room influences the accuracy in the representation of the media and the impact it has on the public, which ultimately reflects the socio-political structures of the entertainment industry. It is important to recognize the struggles faced by marginalized communities and represent them accurately, but it is equally important to celebrate and honor those communities. Even through the struggle, there is an inherent joy that comes with being queer, transgender, and POC, and Pose reinforces that narrative. As we go on to celebrate Pride next month, it is just as important to celebrate each other and the experiences that come with our identities. 

POSE Pride New York City Grand Marshalls Image Source- Getty - Gotham

Photo Credit: Gotham | Getty Images

Want to learn more about Pride?

We're just as excited for Pride month as you are! Check out our related blogs to learn more about Pop Culture's interaction with Pride.

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