After last week’s episode took a trip to Detroit for the Valentine’s-timed Fuck Love Ball, My House went all in on the subject of romantic relationships in the ballroom community. Whether it’s dating within the scene itself or dating outside, the relationships are increasingly complex.
“It’s a lot of stuff in the ballroom scene,” says a guy that Alex Mugler is dating. “It’s filled with a lot of BS, so if you don’t have a strong mind, it will suck you in.” These comments, in particular, were a bit of a reference to comments from last week’s episode. In that episode, someone else said that dating within the small ballroom community means not only that everyone knows everyone else’s business but speculation and outside input can run rampant.
It’s a bit of a timely discussion. In this weekend’s episode of Pose, Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) encounters this same thing. After meeting Ricky (Dyllon Burnside) and making pizza date plans with him, one of his house members, Lil Papi, warns that Ricky is a “hit it and quit it type.” The suggestion likely helped color Damon’s decision to blow off the date for a professional engagement.
But it’s more than just that: queer people of color worry about all the common queer-related fears like HIV, STDs, being the victims of violence and just being taken advantage of. Damon hesitates when Ricky goes to kiss him in public and Ricky reassures him that they are “amongst our people;” they are presumably safe from bashing. Even Precious Ebony, back on My House, says that she has issues with relationships, worrying about if they are being used.
“I don’t always still feel comfortable with men,” Ebony says. Not only do they fear the person could be lying about their HIV status but that they could be using them for money and other auxiliary benefits. While these fears may be felt with others, they are no doubt exacerbated in these communities, as being amongst the most marginalized populations can lead one to be preemptively skeptical.
In a real, salon-style conversation between women, the discussion becomes more complex. Without pausing to consider the “correct” way of discussing these issues (at one point, trans men are contrasted from “real men,” in a microaggression likely due to a slip of the tongue), cis and trans women discuss not only their dating preferences but their experiences. They explain how sometimes it has less to do with how you want to date and more to do with who will date you. And even then, it’s sometimes about how society will view it.
“To society, you’re gay,” one says. In particular, she was referencing how society many times views cis men who date trans women as gay, invalidating the trans woman’s identity.
The conversation continues, with the group digging into the struggles of trans women.
“I think that’s an excuse for not having a job,” one of the women says when trans women who do sex work are brought up. In her view, all trans women can find employment, some just don’t and choose to rely on sex work. Others rebuff her while some agree. It’s a real discussion as opposed to a direct edict and brings to mind another quote from Pose.
“Did you not see me back there with that policeman?” Elektra says to Blanca at the start of a read. “I can gain access to any bar, country club or department store in this city. Your struggle is not my struggle!”
And the line holds true. All trans people do not have the same struggles. Whether you pass or are clockable, the way your trans identity intersects with the other communities the world oppresses (people of color, women, people of size, etc) can give trans folks vastly different experiences walking through this world. None of those experiences are invalid and all of those narratives deserve to be told.
It’s exciting that now they are.