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Strike a Pose

02 MAY 2021

The FX series ‘Pose’ begins its third & final season tonight but the fun is just beginning.

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New York City's Black, Latino and LGBTQ communities were among the strongest leaders of the civil rights movement in America, but it was Harlem’s gender-nonconforming drag ball scene in the 1980s that effectively shifted the politics of equality to the cheap seats.

Season One was met with critical acclaim and numerous award nominations; including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor Billy Porter. Porter also snagged the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and was the first openly gay black man to be either nominated or awarded an Emmy as a leading man. The second season premiered to further acclaim, and the third and final season is set to premiere on May 2, 2021.

Ryan Murphy has created award-winning television series that include “Glee,” “American Horror Story,” and “Hollywood,” but for Murphy it’s “Pose” that stands out. “I’m very proud of the legacy of the show, which in many ways is more important than the show itself,” Murphy said, at the season’s final premier at the Lincoln Center. “It’s one of the things that I’m the most proud that I’ve ever done.”

If “Pose” told the story of Harlem’s underground ball culture in the 1980’s, its final season sets forth in 1994 as the AIDS epidemic is taking its toll on the community. In addition to its inclusivity with actors of color and the LBGTQ community, “’Pose” also features the largest cast of transgender actors as series regulars, including Mj Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Hailie Sahar and Indya Moore.

The Transgender Movement

Since we live in the heads of those who remember us, sometimes we can lose control of our lives and become who they want us to be. The portrayals of transgender people in the media reflect societal attitudes about transgender identity and have varied and evolved with public perception and understanding.

Media representation hints at the standards and significance of the American society. Yet their depictions represent a minuscule spectrum of the transgender group, essentially conveying “they” and “them” as interlopers to the American culture. However, the United States reached a "Transgender Tipping Point,” in 2014 according to Time Magazine, when media visibility of transgender people reached a level higher than ever seen before. Research confirms that viewing multiple transgender TV characters and stories improves viewers' attitudes toward transgender people and policies, but altogether belies how vast and embedded the transgender demographic really is within America.

The Intersex Revolution

Before you were ever a boy or girl you were an “it.” “What is it,” was the first question women asked their obstetrician upon delivery, until, in 1956 after the advent of the Obstetric Ultrasound, they could see for themselves. While parents portend that a baby’s health is their primary concern, it is staggeringly only the second question they ask at a sonogram. Indeed, your sex was and remains the single most important factor of your identity.

One in every 1500 infants are born with ambiguous genitalia. Called androgynous, “Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a newborn has reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the standard definitions of male or female. For example, an infant might be born with the external genitalia of one sex, while having the reproductive anatomy of the other. Or, an infant may be born with genitals that are in-between the usual male and female types. A girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris or lack a vaginal opening, while a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or a scrotum that is divided like labia. In each and every case, the infant is born with Mosaic Genetics: where XX and XY chromosomes coexist in the same person.

Nature doesn’t prescribe sex. Humans do. Physicians, typically, take it upon themselves to decide how large a penis should be, or how small a clitoris is considered appropriate, and describe anything away from the norm as Intersex. Long and painful reconstructive surgeries are recommended for the infant that doesn’t fit neatly into one of the two socially acceptable categories leaving the child, adolescent, teenager and adult to wrestle with and reconcile that decision throughout their lifetime.

Moreover, Intersex isn’t just the plight of the newborn. More often it shows up in the teenager who fails to reach puberty, the adult seeking infertility treatment, and most commonly in the postmortem; where an autopsy reveals the characteristics of two sexes. Indeed, most people live and die with Intersex anatomy without anyone (including themselves) ever knowing it.

Intersex may be the new frontier and next battle of civil rights, though an individual’s sexual identity should not be decided by a parent or physician alone. Its a realization that should be reached through self-examination, the questioning of societal norms, and by debunking the myth that there are merely two genders when a kaleidoscope of variations actually exist. Perhaps one day we will no longer ask “what is it” but rather look for, honor and celebrate “Who it is ...”

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