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'Pose' stars speak out against Emmy snubs of Black trans actors

Billy Porter, a cisgender male, was the only actor to be nominated from the hit FX show, which features the largest transgender cast in a scripted series.
Angelica Ross; Indya Moore
Angelica Ross; Indya MooreGetty Images

Indya Moore and Angelica Ross, two of the stars of "Pose" — FX's groundbreaking show about New York City's Black and Latinx LGBTQ ballroom scene in the 1980s — are speaking out against the Emmys for overlooking the show's Black transgender cast in its list of 2020 nominees.

"Something abt trans ppl not being honored on a show abt trans ppl who created a culture to honor ourselves bc the world doesn't," tweeted Moore, who plays Angel Evangelista, a transgender sex worker pursuing a career as a fashion model. "Let's call it cognitive cissonance."

Moore, who is transgender and nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, was named one of the 100 most influential people by Time magazine in 2019, and is as known for acting, modeling, directing and social activism.

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"But also, look at the weak ass promotion. Most of us have never been on any talk shows except MJ, here and there," Moore added in a separate tweet, responding to a fan who claimed that the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which bestows the Emmy Awards, only votes for "names they know."

"And they still ignored her work," Moore said of her co-star MJ Rodriguez, who plays Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista on "Pose." "'They' Dont trust us on live TV. Esp. Me lol."

Though "Pose" has been routinely hailed by critics, specifically for featuring the largest transgender cast in a scripted series and for hiring the first trans woman of color, Janet Mock, as a director on a television series, no transgender actors have been nominated for an Emmy Award since the show aired in 2018. In fact, "Pose" only received one Emmy nod Tuesday, with Billy Porter's nomination in the outstanding lead actor in a drama series category for his role as Pray Tell, an emcee in the ballroom scene. Last year, Porter became the first out gay Black man to win this category in the award's history.

Angelica Ross, who played Candy Ferocity on the show — a Black trans woman who was murdered in a motel room in the second season in what many described as a "shocking" storyline — retweeted Moore and spoke candidly on Instagram Live on Tuesday about the snubs.

"I want you to know from the jump that these tears are not about an award or a nomination,” Ross said. "Ultimately, I need y’all to understand that I’m so tired — those of you who know me know I’m not just working on screen or behind screen but I’m working around the clock to get our society to value trans lives and Black trans lives."

Beyond acting, Ross founded and remains CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises, an organization that aids transgender people seeking employment in the tech industry.

As Black trans individuals, both Moore and Ross said they have routinely faced discrimination. In a past interview with the New York Post, Moore talked about leaving home at 14 years old after not getting acceptance initially from family members. Moore also grappled with transphobia while living in numerous foster homes.

“People were so cruel because of the way I existed,” Moore told the outlet. “They may have known I was assigned male at birth, and they didn’t understand why I didn’t exist like I was."

Ross, too, has been open about the lack of acceptance she received from her family and her struggles with suicide ideation, writing in an essay that after one attempt, she realized she "didn't want to die."

"To be a trans woman of color and even live to see 34 is a gift," Ross wrote. "The biggest change in my life, though, is that I’m no longer fighting for just survival. Now, I’m fighting for so much more."

Transgender women of color face disproportionate levels of violence. The Human Rights Campaign tracked at least 27 deaths of transgender or gender-nonconforming people in the U.S. last year due to violence. The majority of the deaths tracked were of Black transgender women.

With "Pose," many trans viewers have said they see themselves reflected on television for the first time. Though the show doesn't shy away from the difficulties of being transgender and occurs against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, it also emphasizes the beauty of owning your identity and that trans people, like anyone else, can find joy, love and community.

For these reasons, many posted on social media calling out the Emmys for snubbing the show.

"You should have been nominated with us," tweeted Laverne Cox, who was nominated in the outstanding actress in a short form comedy or drama category for her work in "Orange is the New Black." "Love u @angelicaross."

“You’re telling me that a cis actor is the only one worth nominating or elevating on a show that centers the Black trans experience? Y’all playing in our faces yet again,” the writer and trans activist Raquel Willis wrote. “The disparity of support for cis gay men and trans women can’t be ignored, especially at this moment.”

Willis added that this "disparity" extends beyond award shows and can be seen in every area of society, including the media and workplaces.

“Respecting and honoring the experiences of cis gay men is not the same as respecting and honoring the experiences of trans women (or trans people, in general) despite what too many cis people think," Willis wrote.

FX announced in June that it was renewing "Pose" for a third season. According to GLAAD's most recent "Where We Are on TV" report, there were 38 regular and recurring transgender characters on broadcast, cable and streaming platforms during the 2019-2020 season, up from 26 the prior season.

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