Pose star Hailie Sahar is stepping into the heels of LGBT+ icon Sir Lady Java, a transgender trailblazer who took on the Los Angeles Police Department in the 1960s.
The pair worked closely with Sir Lady Java herself, who’s now 77 and determined to bring the story of her struggle to the screen.
“I feel it’s necessary to tell, because many of my brothers and sisters got killed in my time, so I don’t care who doesn’t like it – I’m gonna tell it,” she said.
Sir Lady Java was a staple of the Los Angeles nightclub scene in the 1950s and 60s, sharing the stage with the likes of Sammy Davis Jr, Redd Foxx, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor and James Brown.
Her career was thrown into jeopardy in 1967 when the LAPD enforced Rule Number 9, which banned any “impersonation by means of costume or dress a person of the opposite sex.” It effectively made crossdressing illegal and meant that any clubs that hosted trans women could be fined.
Department officials didn’t think anyone would challenge their harassment – but Sir Lady Java did.
“I was fighting for the right for a man to wear what they wanted to wear,” she recalled. “And I won.”
The trans pioneer joined forces with the ACLU, who took her fight all the way to the California Supreme Court. They argued that the law was unconstitutional and took away her income.
The courts ultimately quashed her legal challenge because only the club owners could file a claim, and none came forward to do so. But Sir Lady Java wasn’t done.
She continued challenging the police and the city with public rallies, protests, and pickets that received press coverage from Jet magazine and the LA Advocate. Rule Number 9 eventually was struck down after a separate dispute in 1969, meaning trans entertainers like her were free to perform on stage once more.
Sahar’s company Sahar Productions will executive produce the film, one of many uplifting LGBT+ stories she hopes to highlight with her newfound Pose fame.
“Now that people are paying attention to me I’m able to be a creator, to share stories that uplift the community,” she said. “I have the microphone, what am I going to say with it?”