Candy Abundance, the twiggy queen with the Whitney Houston haircut, has a problem: She doesn’t think she’s curvaceous enough. I have a problem too and it’s that no one thinks that Candy Abundance is curvaceous enough. It starts with both Pray Tell and Elektra, who tell her that she’s not voluptuous enough to walk in the “Luscious Femme Body Queen” category. Pray Tell says that it’s not the “face” category that she usually wins and she needs an ass and titties to compete here. I like that the ball scene has categories for every type of person so that they can feel special and accomplished, but Candy didn’t even feel inadequate until Pray Tell and a whole ballroom full of queens made fun of her when she tried to compete with the girls whose milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard.
This whole episode, Candy is searching for acceptance by being bigger and whines to everyone who will listen that her life is hard because she’s ugly and she can’t pass. Every time she opens up to someone — Angel and Elektra mostly — they tell her that they have their own pains too. I think that’s the right way to counsel her, but at no point does anyone say, “But you are beautiful and you can pass. You don’t need hips because you have face girl and that is the category that everyone really wants to win.”
While the ball scene is the only outlet that many of these people have for expressing themselves and feeling valuable, it also seems to be building on Candy’s insecurities until she ends up in some busted basement getting injections from someone who gets their silicone stock from Honduras and has a face that looks like a Kim Jong-un Halloween mask left out in the sun. Sadly, this is something that is all too real even today: Just last year, an unlicensed practitioner was sentenced to ten years in prison for killing a trans woman by injecting her with Fix-a-Flat.
I wanted to tell Candy and Angel, who end up in this shady situation, to run and save themselves. That they should know better than to trust someone who says, “You have to move it around before it hardens,” before injecting them. But neither of them have the means or access to afford to do this right and to get the bodies that they envision for themselves. Naturally, it doesn’t end well for Candy, whose backside ends up looking like a half-dozen eggs lined up in the refrigerator.
Angel ends up getting the same injections too, but her path there is a lot more circuitous and doesn’t initially seem to make much sense. She was talking to Stan and he mentions that his wife is curvy, especially after she had the kids. Angel, somehow, thinks that means she needs to be curvy too. After doing some consultation with a seemingly more legitimate black-market doctor, she decides her body is good just the way it is.
Then, one night, Stan can’t get hard while they’re playing around. She thinks it’s because she’s not beautiful enough. She decides that Stan has to tell her “his story” about why he wants her and came to the pier looking specifically for a trans woman to hire. He tells her repeatedly that he just wants her, but when she presses him, getting more and more hysterical, he finally tells her the first time he went into a porn store he saw a magazine called She Males (ah, the pre-enlightened ‘80s) and that really turned him on.
Angel twists that into thinking that Stan sees her as nothing but a pornographic fantasy. There’s nothing he can say to defend himself, and even he is flummoxed as to why Angel has seemingly turned on him and kicked him out of the apartment. That is what leads a depressed Angel to seek solace on the other side of a needle.
Just like Stan, Angel’s freak-out seemed completely illogical to me, but the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense. Here is a person who has never felt comfortable in her body and has always been told by society that she’s ugly and a freak. It’s going to take a whole lot more than the love of one good man to override all of that negative messaging that has been hardwired into her brain. She’s not reacting to Stan so much as she’s reacting to everything that’s ever happened in her whole life.
Things end a lot better for Elektra, particularly because we find out that she’s been having sex with a gold-plated, card-carrying zaddy Christopher Meloni for the better part of a decade. I think that the first spontaneous orgasm I ever had was while watching his gay shower scenes on Oz. Then, he was a danger to tight shirtsleeves everywhere during his eternal stint on Law & Order: SVU. Now, here he is, looking as damn fine as ever and causing not quite a spontaneous orgasm, but a stirring in the pants.
He plays Elektra’s sugar daddy, but when she breaks the news to him that she wants to have her gender-confirmation surgery, he says that he wants no part of that. He says he doesn’t know why he likes her dick in the room while they’re getting it on, but he does, so if she doesn’t keep it, then he will stop supporting her. Elektra vacillates a few times since she’s always had a man by her side to help her in life. Eventually, she decides that no man is worth robbing her of the freedom of, as a woman who has had the procedure says, “looking down between your legs and seeing nothing there.”
It is all a whole lot for one episode. I am once again going to raise my complaint that these episodes are overstuffed and drag on way too long. There is also a subplot about Damon getting sick and Blanca and the rest of the crew worrying that he contracted HIV by having unprotected sex with former sex worker Ricky. Blanca convinces Pray Tell to take all the kids down to the clinic and get their tests so they at least know their status. They then have to wait two weeks for their test results. Two weeks? Can you imagine? When I go to get my test every three months (PrEP, it’s a hell of a drug), I only have to wait a day and still that is the longest day of each quarter while all the ways that I could have gotten infected (even under the chemical shield of PrEP) go racing through my mind. Imagine 14 days of that? Horrible.
It turns out that everyone is negative except for Pray Tell, who has contracted the virus and lies to everyone except Blanca about it. While this show definitely has its fair share of flaws, this is what is so good about it. It perfectly encapsulates both the joy and the pain of this stage of the LGBT civil rights movement. Just as everyone is living under the threat of a plague, advancements in surgery and rights are also starting to come along slowly but steadily. It’s good news for some and bad news for some, but everyone would be a lot better off if we told everyone — particularly Candy — that they’re beautiful just the way they are.