Janet Mock on Why the Depiction of Trans Women in ‘Pose’ Is Groundbreaking, Even for 2018
Activist and author Janet Mock just penned an op-ed explaining how she got involved with Ryan Murphy’s Pose, the groundbreaking series that comes out June 3 on FX. Casting five trans actresses of color as series regulars, the show has already been hailed for its diverse cast. But while the Janet Mock op-ed praises the casting decision as a big deal for diversity and inclusion in Hollywood, what’s more radically groundbreaking, Mock says, is the way the show portrays these women.
“Our leading ladies cannot be defined solely by their trans-ness,” Mock — who writes, produces and directs on the series — explains. “They are, like all of us, whole beings. Their trans-ness may not the sole focus of our story, but it’s also not sidelined. They grapple with their gender, just as they grapple with their bodies, their loves, their families and their dreams. Their narratives are not limited by their transitions and rarely do we meditate on their origin stories. Instead we center on what it is like living, struggling and striving in a world not built for them to thrive.”
In the Janet Mock op-ed, Mock cites that many narratives involving trans women, especially trans women of color, depict these women as victims, having to rely on the goodness of allies in order to survive. In Pose, it’s different. When a gay teen finds himself homeless after being kicked out of his home, he turns to a transgender woman for help, who shelters and saves him from the dangerous streets of 1980s New York City.
In Mock’s world, these women aren’t only surviving, they’re thriving too.
“Our characters are the center of their own stories rather than plot devices, serving as martyrs who teach non-trans protagonists a lesson about authenticity and self-assuredness,” Mock continues. “No, in the world I am writing, these women are the heroines I have always been waiting for. They are tethered to one another. They support and challenge one another. They love on and dance and laugh and yes, shade one another. This is what sisterhood, family and resilience looks like.”
Sharing new narratives of these women has the capacity to break down barriers and create empathy among audience members who may only be accustomed to seeing the stereotypical depictions of transwoman in the media: as sex-workers or drug addicts.
By having Mock and other trans activists heavily involved with the creation of Pose, Ryan Murphy has ensured a narrative that casts these stereotypes to the side in order to make way for more evolved and genuine storylines.
All we know is, we can’t wait to watch.