As I sit here writing this sentence, there is a cool, hollow feeling in my chest. I feel like I have personally lost someone close to me. Fortunately I am not mourning the loss of someone I know. I am mourning the loss of fictional character, Candy Ferocity, from the FX series, Pose. I am mourning Candy’s death because Candy represents those of us who have been told that we’re expendable, that we don’t matter. Candy’s very existence is a defiant act of self-love in a world that constantly tries to use us against ourselves.
Candy’s death had such an emotional impact on me because Candy fought for everything she had. As a deeply melanated, trans, femme and loud woman who unapologetically took up space, Candy wasn’t afforded the basic rights or amenities so many of us take for granted. As intelligent and driven as Candy was, she could have worked a corporate job or ran her own legal business, but because of trans phobia and racism, Candy had limited opportunities in obtaining employment, housing, and social protection.
Like many trans women past and present, Candy had to put herself in danger to be able to make a living. Candy, as co-mother of the House of Ferocity, had to most of the bills because her ‘children’ didn’t have jobs. Black and brown trans people face obstacles in having the basics of the “American Dream-” employment and housing. In fact, these groups are 3 timesmore likely to face unemployment than non-trans people. So often, the people society deems as “bottom feeders” have the most responsibilities on their shoulders because they get little-to-no help. When life is so painful and burdensome, authentically being one’s self – regardless of the cost - is the only way one makes it through.
At Candy’s funeral, Pray Tell confesses to Candy’s spirit that he was mean to her in life because she embodied everything he tried to hide about himself: Queer, feminine and black. After his meeting with the ball counsel, we see Pray Tell pump out his chest, as he’s walking down the street, so as to appear more masculine than he genuinely is. I am happy that Pray Tell confronted his own self-hatred, the self-hate that kept him from taking the AZT medication that could save his life.
Often times we make those on the fringes of the mainstream these canonic hero figures because of everything they have overcome. And great story telling doesn’t always have to go there. The genius of Pose is how they use very simple and universal themes to connect us to people mainstream society says have no value.
A big, connective theme of Poseis to love yourself. Self love allows us to choose friends, business associates, and romantic partners that align with our values. As children, we’re taught how to count and follow rules, but never to how to love ourselves and why it’s so important.
Lack of self-love is why Blanca settled for temporary relationships with men who didn’t value her health, as they did not use condoms during sex. Lack of self -love keeps us in a job that has long outlived its purpose in our lives. And lack of self-love is what makes adults choose dangerous situations that shorten their lives. My biggest gripe about this episode is that all those people gave Candy her 10s afterher death, but not in life when she needed it the most. Candy’s parents refused to be apart of her life all because they disagreed with her gender expression. I love that self-acceptance and self-love were major themes in season two. Those two things seem the simplest, but they are the hardest to obtain.
You don’t have to be apart of the LGBQ+ community to connect to these characters. Like Blanca said, the ball scene isn’t about trophies, it’s about family. Family, in my experience, is rarely about who shares your bloodline. Family is about shared values and reciprocated love and energy. Your true family can be anyone and they can come from anywhere. In fact, we need to see ourselves in people like Candy. She’s our sister, our friend. Candy is us. And we have to fight for anyone the system tries to destroy, because that could very well be us one day.