The first episode of Pose leaves you readily wanting to know what’s going to happen next. A homeless kid from Pennsylvania (Damon) gets into a prestigious dance school and finds a home. Blanca, his newfound mother, has dreams of her own. And then there’s the looming presence of the power dynamics of wealth, class, race and sexual identity.
In the second episode, the stakes are higher, and there’s more worth fighting for to gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies that take agency when dreams become a reality. Blanca wants to feel accepted as a transgender woman with hopes of creating social change for all, and Damon runs into a serendipitous love affair. Beneath these main points, a storyline between a sex worker and a white collar job employee surfaces: He’s a white man thriving in Donald Trump’s New York City takeover (Stan), and she’s a poor transgender woman (Angel).
Through their experiences so far, here are four lessons we’ve learned from Sunday night’s (June 10) episode of Pose.
The teaching of sex-ed: After meeting at a ball, Damon and his newfound love interest Ricky (Dyllon Burnside) begin to explore the next step of their romance: sex. That same night, Ricky takes Damon on a date to Christopher Street Pier, a well-known enclave for NYC’s LGBT youth. After a brief conversation, Ricky attempts to have sex with Damon; his efforts get rejected. After Damon gets home the next morning, Blanca is furious with him for staying out late. She questions if he had sex with Ricky, and later explained to him the different roles gay men play in intercourse. There’s the top – the one who is penetrating the other anally, and the bottom – the one on the receiving end. She also mentions the importance of condoms. Damon is oblivious to this new and necessary information and becomes overwhelmed with emotion before expressing his gratitude to Blanca.
The stark marginalization of trans women within the LGBT community: In an episode titled “Access,” Blanca’s plight with getting inside an establishment that is ruled by white gay men is difficult to witness. She attempts various times to sit down and have a drink at Boy Lounge where on one occasion, she gets physically dragged out by the owner, and in another scene, she gets arrested. When she was being detained, the only black gay man in the venue shunned her. Because Blanca is a transgender woman, the mostly white gay men at the bar want nothing to do with her. This highlights the discrimination many trans people face from people who are part of their same community. In this case, her sexual identity played more of a deciding factor than her race did. Oftentimes, both are equally a factor.
The notion of fragile identity politics: After Stan (Evan Peters), who works at Trump Towers, learns that Angel (Indya Moore), a sex worker, is a transgender woman, his feelings for Angel overpower any negative notion he may have had and offered her an apartment and an allowance to be his girlfriend. While Angel agrees, there’s more to this offer than just that — Stan seems like he doesn’t really know (or fits in) with his identity as a cis-white middle-class man who’s married with children. His desires seem to conflict with what his identity is supposed to represent in society.
“I can buy things I can’t afford, which means they are never really mine. I don’t live. I don’t believe. I accumulate. I am a brand. A middle-class white guy,” he tells Angel. “But you are who you are even though the price you pay for it is being disinvited from the rest of the world. I am the one playing dress up. Is it wrong to want to be with one of the few people in the world who isn’t? To have one person in my life who I know is real?”
The significance of status in the ballroom scene: Blanca’s release from jail was spearheaded by her arch nemesis Elektra, but the latter’s intentions behind this seemingly goodhearted gesture were far from gentle. Elektra bailed out Blanca because she solely wanted a rematch for a trophy at a ball competition. That’s how serious the ballroom scene is to her — it provides a space of pure acceptance in a world that constantly disapproves of people like her. While Blanca wants to gain power outside of the ballroom scene, Elektra wants to keep her power within — even if that’s the only vehicle of strength she thinks can protect her from the world.