I'm convinced that Ryan Murphy will never make something that I don't like. "Pose," his newest TV show, just premiered on June 3rd and I already know I'm hooked. His tribute to Ball culture, alongside the seamless integration of the 1980s' social and literary scenes, allows the show to flow like a queer mix of "Sex and the City" and "America's Next Top Model," with more glam, dancing, and better modeling skills, of course.
Aside from the breathtaking visuals and electrifying splashes of music and art, I found myself most enraptured by Murphy's emphasis on community and finding a home among other "outsiders." The raw depiction of alienation and confusion did much to highlight the harsh reality of young queer people, who glaringly stick out in a society that aims to make them invisible. In fact, I continued to ruminate over this theme long after I turned off the TV.
Ball culture, established in the 1920s in New York City, was one of the many ways in which members of the LGBT community worked together to defy social norms and create their own spaces where they were free to be themselves. If we take a look back in history, we see this isn't the only instance: literary clubs like "The Violet Quill" and festivals like Dinah Shore Weekend are other examples of LGBT members celebrating themselves and culture amidst a discriminatory and intolerant society.
It's quite inspiring, actually, how throughout history they've been able to take each shitty experience and gross perpetuation of gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination, and use them to create something beautiful and truly unique. Not only did they cultivate and exemplify their own culture, they've made contributions to and influenced the "global" culture.
The majority of the slang words we use today ("realness," "spilling tea," "work," "hunty," and who could forget about "yass, queen!"?) were coined by drag queens, while much of the trends in fashion and makeup were first introduced (or made famous by) queer people. Their influence is truly fascinating, as they're not accepted by society, but have somehow managed to create culture that others indulge in and idolize. They have a way of prospering and adding flair to whatever it is they do, even amongst all of the obstacles that are set in place.
Perhaps they're born with it, or perhaps it is the result of being cast out and turned away, left with no other option but to glorify, appreciate, and accept yourself because the vast majority of other people won't. You'd be surprised at the wonderful things people can create and inspire out of their pain and trauma. And you'd also be surprised at how far a sense of community and understanding can take people.
Marginalized people are survival experts. They come into this world already targeted and spend their whole lives learning how to overcome. It's a hard and unfair game, but with the support from each other, we make it work. It's easy to look at an eccentric, effeminate gay man or a transgender woman and see a caricature, to dismiss them based on a system of heteronormativity and outdated gender norms. But what you should see are survivors, people who dare to be themselves in a world that discourages otherwise.