I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s queer Girl Friday for everything LGBTQIA+ on TV! FX’s “Pose” has continued to delight me this week, digging deeper for a second episode tackling deprivation, white gay gatekeeping and blatant prejudice in the LGBTQIA+ community. “Access” is the titular buzzword of this week’s episode, with several members of House Evangelista fighting to gain entry into places closed to them. Here’s a recap of the episode, just in case you missed it.
“Access” kicks things off on the ballroom floor, where House Abundance and House Evangelista square off in another battle for dominance. Blanca steals the show–and the grand prize– in a feathery magenta gown that screams “Pretty in Pink” while Elektra Abundance is read for her “coffin” couture (ouch). Elektra is infuriated by her loss and confronts Blanca outside the ballroom, where Blanca proceeds to read her with a line courtesy of IHOP’s Tutti Frutti something-something pancake special, something so specific I have a feeling one of “Pose’s” writers is a little too into breakfast food.
Meanwhile, Damon has been struck by Cupid’s cologne-drenched arrow in the form of Ricky, an experienced cutie with eyes for the teenaged dancer. The pair go for a slice and a stroll, as Ricky calls it, holding handing at the pier and sharing a first kiss in a nearby abandoned warehouse (it was cuter than it sounds, ok?). While Ricky wants to go further with Damon, the younger man refuses, unsure about what “further” means. The dancer returns home to spills the details of his first kiss to Blanca, sparking a birds, bees and condoms talk that every baby gay needs but so few get. It’s clear that Damon has struggled with access to sex education, as his father’s abusive homophobia prevented him from asking relevant questions about sex, which Blanca finally answers for him.
Career-wise, doors are also beginning to open for the young dancer, who’s invited to his first ballet and falls more in love with dance. He stands Ricky up in order to go, which causes a lover’s quarrel. Ricky, who usually keeps to one night stands, sees a kind of starpower in Damon, something he’s still searching for while still struggling to survive on the streets. The young lovers call a truce with a night at the ballet, where the pair hold hands and are generally adorable.
And what’s Angel been up to? Stan, stressed by a wave of bills and his boring, cookie-cutter life, seeks out Angel in a peep show in pre-Disneyified Times Square. Horrified, Stan entreats Angel to go on a date with him, where he struggles with an awkwardly held jealousy and Angel’s reminder that he’s done nothing to ask “keep” her. Stan then asks what it would cost to “keep” her, despite having yelled at his wife about the price of a dishwasher mere hours ago. Throughout the negotiations, Stan expresses a goal to give Angel dreams and “aspirations,” an idea that Angel laughs at, seeing aspirations as simple words only corporeal behind the pretty gates of suburbia. For someone whose basic needs are in constant jeopardy, an apartment, spending cash and a fridge full of groceries are the extent of “dreams.”
For her part, Angel is wary of the businessman, who hasn’t asked for so much as a roll in bed but now wants to keep her. In a fairly deep revelation for a Trump executive named Stan, he labels himself a nobody, someone who pretends to be something they’re not, while Angel is decidedly herself, cost whatever it may, and he deeply admires her for that. At their core, their problems mirror one another, as Angel searches for basic safety while Stan searches for a basic personality. Still, he does manage to get himself a raise, managing to buy an apartment for Angel and a dishwasher for his wife. Hooray?
Blanca and Elektra continue to butt heads in the weeks after Elektra’s loss, with the matriarch of House Abundance marching into Blanca’s place of work and demanding a rematch over a nail touch-up. But Blanca has her sights set on providing a better world for her children, leading her on a new crusade: the right to a damn drink anywhere she pleases. Just after her winning moment on the dance floor, the tables turn on the queen of House Evangelista. Blanca meets an old friend from House Abundance in a gay bar, where patrons hurl transphobic insults at the pair and the bartender refuses to serve them. Blanca, insulted, asks to speak to the manager of the bar, who reveals that the bar serves only its target clientele: gay men, preferably white and under 35. Everyone else, including (and especially) trans women of color, are shown the door.
The kind of literal gatekeeping– as clique-ishly racist as it gets– infuriates Blanca, who visits the bar every night, determined to make the world a more accepting place for her drag children. She orders several Manhattans only to be refused, thrown out and eventually arrested for her protests. The gay patrons in the bar cheer as she’s led away in handcuffs, in an image that reminded me of the gross Grindr profiles and ever-present racism rampant in the queer world, whether it be 1987 or 2018. This is a fight that Blanca doesn’t win, as the episode ends with her outside the bar, looking in.
Blanca is soon distracted by Elektra, who’s so hungry for a rematch that she posts Blanca’s bail. Elektra is in fine form as she flirts with policemen and easily walks through a space Blanca couldn’t talk herself out of; here too, is a comment on access, as Elektra’s romantic and sexual prowess opens all doors to her. Elektra’s ability to catch and keep sugar daddies gives her the money and power to waltz into a straight space and dominate it, a way of empowerment that denotes Elektra’s years of experience. This experience becomes Blanca’s demise at the next ball, where Elektra reclaims her throne as the queen of the ball. Will Blanca ever unseat her fellow queen?