Set amid the New York Drag Ball culture of the late 1980s, Pose, from FX, provides historical perspective to our current cultural interest in the lives of people who don't conform to typical gender norms.
Television producer Ryan Murphy populated the show with transgender performers—both in front of the camera and behind the scenes as writers. The first eight-episode season tells a fictionalized story of the foundation of a "house" of young transgender women and gay men attempting to compete and win balls, a scene popularized by the 1991 documentary Paris Is Burning.
The show is a family drama, albeit one where the "family" is a group of people who choose to come together and help each other survive New York City during the AIDS crisis. The gay men struggle with attraction and affection at a time when sex had potentially deadly consequences. The transgender women deal with heterosexual men who are attracted to and eroticize them but cannot seem to treat them like real people. It sounds like a harsh life, but Pose also manages to winningly portray the joy its characters find in performance.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Pose".