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Trans TV writer talks up 'Pose'

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Our Lady J
Our Lady J  

Our Lady J, a transgender woman, is excited about "Pose," a new trans-themed TV musical drama that premieres Sunday, June 3, and on which she serves as a writer and producer.

A classically trained pianist, Our Lady J, as she is known, has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

"Getting to Carnegie Hall was a challenge, but I ended up leaving the music industry because of an even greater challenge - transphobia," she told the Bay Area Reporter in a phone interview May 27. "I found television to be more accepting of identities that challenge the system."

She found out how transphobic the music industry could be when she moved to Los Angeles.

"I was told that no one wants to hear a 'tranny' sing sad songs," she recalled. "I'm glad that way of speaking is no longer tolerated."

Our Lady J's path changed when she met Jill Soloway, creator of Amazon's award-winning series "Transparent." The show is a comedy-drama about a parent of three who comes out as transgender in her late 60s. Our Lady J worked on the series as a writer, producer, and story editor. No longer with "Transparent," she is very excited to be part of "Pose."

"'Pose' is the TV program we have all been waiting for," she said. "It's the first time that transgender characters have been at the center of a story, rather than transness being an object used to further the storylines of cis characters."

"Pose" is set in New York City's ballroom scene, a queer subculture in which young LGBT people of color compete for dance and costume trophies at events known as balls.

"The series is set in Harlem's ballroom community in 1987," said Our Lady J. "It's about a community of individuals who create their own family, due to being rejected by their families of origin. That's at the center of the storylines. But it's also about everything that was happening in New York City at the time, such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the rise of the luxury Trump-era universe."

Our Lady J credits producer Ryan Murphy ("Glee," "Feud," "Versace") for putting transgender people at the front and center of "Pose."

"I'm so thrilled to be part of this," she said. "Ryan Murphy has been amazing in hiring transgender people to work in front of and behind the camera."

Our Lady J is also excited to be coming to San Francisco to participate in the Pride parade as a celebrity grand marshal.

"It's all I ever wanted - a ticker tape parade with a million queers screaming," she said. "It's an incredible honor. As abundant as my career has been, I've had my dark days so I'm humbled and truly grateful. I'm thrilled to be back in San Francisco and with my community. San Francisco has been a huge part of my success in my career, so it's great to be back and to be embraced in this role."

In addition to her appearance in the parade, Lady J will be making a brief return to music, performing on the main stage during the post-parade festivities. "I'll be dusting off the piano," she said. "Playing piano and singing - I'm doing original music."

Lady J would like to see more transgender people enjoy the kind of success that she has. Her advice to the community is simple. "Find community and support," she said. "That's the most important thing you can do. Ability can be there but support is often missing - embrace the support."

She also hopes that people will look to the future. "What you are doing is not just for yourself, but for future generations," she said.

"Pose" premieres June 3 on FX. Episodes can also be viewed online. For more information, visit http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/pose for more information.

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