Ryan Jamaal Swain, Star of "Pose," Shares his Coming Out Experience
15 Oct 2021
A breakout star of FX’s Golden Globe-nominated series, Pose, Ryan Jamaal Swain is a triple-threat actor, dancer, and singer who was named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list for his LGBTQIA+ activism. Recently, APB sat down with Ryan to discuss his coming out experience and what Pride means to him. Take a look at the Q&A below.
How do you celebrate Pride?
I celebrate Pride with remembrance and community building. Thinking back on those that came before to pave the way for not only LGBTQIA+ folk but also for all of humanity. Learning, activating, and sharing the resilience of so many trans, queer, and co-conspirators through action and true equity. I celebrate pride by demanding respect for both myself and also my community members. I take joy in uplifting the youth and elders through community engagement, service, forums, and moderated conversations. The idea is that Pride is a culmination of the resilience of a people who were told that they were not deserving of basic tenets of life: love and respect, but because they never backed away from that fight for true humanity, they demanded and revel in taking up and owning their authenticity. I look forward to speaking on this to so many because it really is a basic lesson of loving kindness and true unity.
Share why you celebrate and why events like Pride and National Coming Out Day are important for mainstream culture?
There is a term, “symbolic annihilation”, used in sociology, which is the idea that if you don’t see yourself represented, visibly and confidently, you will think that you are by result not important, no wanted, not necessary.
And that can’t be farther from the truth.
Pride, National Coming Out Day are necessary for the youth and the communities at large, to see themselves fully, deeply, and respectfully represented. Starring in “Pose” and having that true relationship with confronting my deepest traumas through storytelling and community building reinforced the importance of “being seen”. And no one wants more than to know that someone sees and values them. Absolutely everyone wants that to feel that, to be a part of that. I know I do. And it's been incredible to see the result of how powerful having someone like you, being proud of their truth. Been the biggest joy of my life.
Like many in the LGBTQIA+ community, your story is one of intersectionality. How does your experience as a Black, gay man differ from say someone who is white and is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community?
Easy. I have multiple communal intersections that historically have been demonized, discriminated against, battered physically and mentally, and placed as an inferior across subculture whereas the latter has not. I still feel, even in the community (LGBTQIA, Americana) that there are hard conversations that must be had in order for us to fully be a haven of healing and safety. Before I open my mouth, no one sees my sexual orientation, they see a Black man, who has been contorted to be everything possible in the eyes of someone who isn’t that, oftentimes, well most times, seen in a derogatory way. I have a question for everyone: Why does it take broad and often times grandiose gestures for people to wake up to the inequities and discrimination of black people? Really answer that for me, because if we take out the idea of race, we would see that these are human indecencies happening to just people. Why do the intersections of race differentiate that? My being of Black, Queer, Multicultural, Multiracial and all of the intersections that I represent are my powers but they often are at the result of great pain. Happy to speak to anyone on how they can show up more fully for those communities so we can get to a coalition of multi humans. That's a world I want to see, to be apart of.
After working on three seasons of Pose, you must have a lot of new perspective when it comes to the transgender experience and the struggles transgender folx, especially BIPOC transgender folx face. How can we elevate our trans brothers and sisters during October, June and beyond?
You will just have to book me to speak for that type of information. Yes, but I can grant something: it costs you nothing to be kind to anyone. Provide true equity, and accountability for those humans that are just as American as you baby. That’s it plain and simple. We all bleed, we all laugh, we all are deserving of basic tenets of life. No one should have power to determine that for anyone else, and I mean no one.