Introducing Queerty’s Lamar Dawson, who will pen a regular column called “The Broken Hearts Club,” exploring how gay men navigate dating, family, friendships, and self-acceptance through a pop culture lens. The column name is an homage to Greg Berlanti‘s 2000 film by the same name, a loving look at a group of gay friends in Los Angeles.
In its first season, FX’s groundbreaking drama Pose captured and presented something that’s seldom seen in mainstream media—black same-sex love. The season has ended, but for me and my friends’ images of the relationship live on in our hearts and minds.
In between fierce ballroom competitions, harsh reminders of the AIDS crisis, and quotable shade throwing performed by the largest cast of trans actors ever, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals’ work is also revolutionary for giving queer black viewers a chance to finally see themselves in joy and in love with other queer black people.
In Pose’s second episode, Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) and Ricky (Dyllon Burnside) go on a date.
Let’s just pause right there. When was the last time you saw two black gay guys on a date in mainstream film or TV? Someone let me know because I can’t think of an example. Noah’s Arc a decade ago?
Anyway, the gay black boys go on a date and nothing exciting happens, but the simple fact that it’s even happening is exciting. They are clumsy and nervous and sweet and awkward, but most importantly, they are carefree. And then they go to the ballet together! I didn’t know we could do that until I was in my mid-20s! They fight and make up, have sex for the first time, and even work through an HIV scare. OMG! It’s just like real life. But a gay black kid wouldn’t know to find a relationship with someone who looks like them was even possible if his only representation of queer love comes from media.
In a recent New York Times article, digital editor Jamal Jordan discusses this in a piece called, “Queer Love in Color.”
“As a child, I thought all gay people were white,” Jordan writes. “I spent most of my teenage years believing that love between two black men wasn’t even possible. How can you believe in something you’ve never seen?”
Up until now we’ve really only seen black queer characters’ romantic lives tied to their proximity to a white gay lead, such as Taye Diggs’ James on Will & Grace back in the day or more recently, Keiynan Lonsdale’s Bram in Love, Simon who even asks Simon when the two finally meet after weeks of communicating anonymously, “Are you disappointed that it’s me?”
(Sidebar: I always imagine an alternate ending where Simon actually says: “Yes. I’m not racist, but I’m just not into black guys. Sorry. Just a preference.”)
And last year Star Trek made history with characters, Lt. Stamets (played by Anthony Rapp) and Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), locking lips for the first time in the show’s history. Cruz is Latino, but it’s another example of queer people of color finding love, but with a white guy.
Each week, I watch Pose with my entourage of gay black male friends. In this same circle, we discuss our challenges dating in the gay community and the trauma and torture of sifting through racist responses on dating apps and requests to fulfill fantasies of being with a black guy. And then we see Ricky and Damon and think maybe we can have a love story like theirs—even with its imperfections and HIV scares. At least it’s ours!
Listen, I’m all about two people loving (or just lusting) each other regardless of their race (Lord knows I have), but it’s also vital for LGBTQ people of color to see themselves through positive, multi-dimensional characters in love reflected back on screen—and Pos is leading that charge. And now that the show has been renewed for a sophomore season, we can look forward to seeing two black gay guys trying to figure out what it means to have intimate feelings for one another beyond “Sup? Looking?”
Hopefully, I learn a thing or two, too.
Lamar Dawson is a pop culture junkie living in New York City.
I find Pose unwatchable, but this is the one area where it succeeds. Having lived through the era and milieu it depicts, the show’s false steps make it hard to sit through. But the black gay love story it shows is excellent. Of course Noah’s Arc got there first, and was a series that showed a number of black & blatino gay romances, and the movie based on the series showed one of the first black gay marriages in a feature film. There should be many more. For anyone who wants to see real, contemporary ballroom culture and black and latinx queer people in the ballroom life, check out My House on VICELAND.
Wow! I would have never guessed you had that many miles on your ol’ odometer. lol lol
Excellent critique of their relationship and the lack of black same-sex relationships on television.
I hate that Insecure didn’t delve deeper into the black guy who had been with men. I would like to see more of this on television, too, without black men being demonized. I’m glad the “down low” malarkey is pretty much a thing of the past.
@Zambos271 Totally agree.
What about Empire? Jamal has dated black men there.
The authors alternate ending to “Love Simon” was that perfect mix of funny, sad, and shocking that happens when you really nail a possible uncomfortable truth. That would have been brutal!
Loving Pose and so glad I got renewed.
I should add that on Empire, Jamal Lyons, played by Jussee Smollett, has been shown not only on dates and in relationships with other black men and Latino guys–his boyfriends on the show have included characters played by Terrell Carter, Eka Darville, Tobias Truvillion, Juan Antonio, Rafael de la Fuente–but Empire is probably the only prime-time network TV show on today (and perhaps in a long time other than Noah’s Arc–which had multiple black gay characters dating each other, as well as Latino guys, black trans women, etc.) featuring two black men having sex with each other. Maybe the author doesn’t know about Empire, but if not, he should check it out.
I haven’t watched Pose but I do like that exploration of other races is happening there. I do feel like it’s something that is rarely seen, particularly with two black man (as opposed to mixed race relationships).
Except, of course, that these characters are dancers and fringe dwellers, and therefore not “real” black men. So I’m a bit inclined to think the taboo still hasn’t been broken.
I have not watched “Pose”, and have heard that it is a good show. Maybe at some point I may watch it. I will say that I can see the author’s point of view. Almost everything seems to be about white or light skinned gay guys their lives, loves, and inter actions, and we (people of color) are just bit players. You find this in the news, magazines, tv, and other media outlets, even on this website. With that said, I will say things are changing; the internet has opened up more opportunities for “men of color” and showing their relationships. You can see yourself in their lives and in their love lives. “Pose” and “Empire” are shows that are on main stream tv, and they help to represent another facet of our lives. It is a start. Hopefully we will see more images of our lives in all media.
I tried to watch Pose with a millennial friend who loves it. I thought it was like a saturday morning live action cartoon and found the writing and much of the acting one step above amateur drag. It sugar coats all the real pain and challenges of being a person of color and gay during the AIDS era.
That said, I think it’s great the show is on for young gays and kids. It would be great if there were more shows about blacks and latinos and other minorities, gay and straight, that were accurate depictions of life as it is.
But then, again, I don’t turn to Hollywood for validation.
I love this, but I can’t stand Ryan Murphy.
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