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Janet Mock looking like the snack she is, at the Pose Premiere

Since I was old enough to recognize the difference between gay and straight; I’ve always been draw to the other side. I never knew why. In fact, I thought it came from my favorite cousin, Anthony. He is gay. He knew how to do hair. He loved to sign and dance. But, most of all, he was comfortable in his skin. He excluded confidence, that was something I always admired.

When I was in middle school, my cousin, moved in to stay with us. We stayed up talking late at night, we did dances, we sang and did musicals in the middle of the living room. As he went throughout high school, he joined the dance team and ballroom club. Soon he went from traditional dance to these different dances. He would spend hours practicing these squats, hand movements and sprawling out on the floor. I had no idea what he was doing or why. I just knew it looked fun and I would attempt to mimicked him.

I had no idea what he was doing or what he was preparing for, then one night, he knocked on my window. It was my cousin but it wasn’t my cousin. He was dressed in dragged. He was dressed as Cache. Still, naïve, I didn’t know much about Cache’s world. All I knew was that this was something that he did and I didn’t care. He had friends that he called brothers and sister. Even talked about houses, but until now, it went over my head.

When I was in college, I was obsessed with watching voguing clips. I would find these clips from balls. I thought these people were being extra as fuck, in the best way possible, and no one cared. In fact, they hyped them up and asked them to go harder. They were at a place where they can be their full over the top shelf and people celebrated them for it. I was jealous. I was envious. I felt like these were my people, I wanted to be apart.

Even though, I have admired the lifestyle, the dances and balls from a distance. I still knew nothing about what it truly meant, until now. When I watched the first episode of Pose, I felt my heart skip a beat. I felt this spark, this levy break inside of me. But I didn’t understand why. I’ve cried at each episode, feeling as though they were telling my own story. It wasn’t until Stan said these words, “You’re who you are, even though the price you pay for it is being alienated from the rest of the world. I’m the one playing dress-up. Is it so wrong to want to be with one of the few people who isn’t?” See, Janet, what I realized was that my fascination, my hunger, my thirst to learn and be in this world, was because it’s something I lost.

I’ve recently lost my Grand Mother. As with any major death, I got the chance to spend a lot of time with my family. Death makes most people think about the past and where they will be in the future. So, when one of my cousins approached me and said, “Am, do you remember when you told me,” Mimicking my movements. “I’m dressed in the finest JC Penny, top of the line!” I laughed but I couldn’t remember. Later, that night, as I stood in the mirror, thinking about her memory. I started to cry.

Real tears! Where was that confident little girl? What happened to that outspokenness? What happened to my dramatic over the top personality? It had been hushed, shamed, embarrassed away, until it was a distance memory. It took for me to see others living out loud to wonder why aren’t I doing the same? Janet, this show may have been written by and for your community. But, as a straight woman (with bisexual curiosities), I want you to know this show is universal.

This show is for anyone who’s tired of living on the sidelines. Anyone who needs the courage, to live out loud. For anyone living out loud and on outskirts; and everybody in-between. At the heart of this shows, it shows that you can create your own family. But you have to have the courage to march beat of your own drum; and trust that your tribe will come!

-Honest Am

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