PRAY TELL as portrayed by Billy Porter, DAMON as portrayed by Ryan Jamaal Swain, RICKY as portrayed by Dyllon Burnside and others in Pose (2018- )
Pose is unique among shows about Black gay men in that it shows them in relationship to other members of the LGBTQ community, particularly transwomen. This is an important and very real intersection, and the show plausibly explores this against the backdrop of the underground ballroom community. In addition, in Pose we see Black gay men who truly live on the margins -- those that are impoverished, shunned by their families and raised on the streets. These are important stories, and they deserve to be told, in detail and without exception. Helmed by Ryan Murphy, the show was able to take this community from the underbelly of NYC into TVs all across America. There are many Black gay men on the series in major and minor roles and the runaway star is Billy Porter. Like Tarell McCraney and Titus Burgess, he had a solid career and following in theater before this "breakthrough" project. If you didn't already know, Billy Porter is a major talent, but also a very clearly gay man. By that, I mean it would be a hard sell to buy him as the leading heterosexual man by traditional standards of masculinity and gender expression. But does that mean he can't tell compelling stories about Black gay men, where he would be very believable, and bring first-person point of view and depth? That Billy Porter only reached nationwide audiences in 2018 makes plain what it means to 1.) have limited roles for Black gay men and 2.) cast straight Black men in the few roles that do come along. Billy is fortunate to finally get his just due, but there are many actors who have not yet been so lucky. Hopefully this is just the beginning of more and different opportunities for Black gay men who can't or won't pass for straight to be able to share their gifts on major stages.