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‘Pose’ co-creator Steven Canals developing new LGBTQ series

'81 Words' will tell the story of activists Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings, who fought to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness.

By Thomas Stichbury

Pose co-creator Steven Canals has taken inspiration from a milestone moment in the fight for gay rights for his next TV hit.

Moving away from the world of ballroom, his new show 81 Words will document the historic efforts by a group of medical professionals to change the definition of homosexuality.

Up until 1974, the American Psychiatric Association classified being gay as a mental illness in the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The official logline for the limited series – co-written and executive-produced by Canals – says it will tell “the true story of gay activists Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings, who risked their career and reputation to conspire with the GAYPA – a clandestine group of closeted psychiatrists – and challenge the [APA’s] definition of homosexuality.”

Taking to his Instagram, Bronx-born Canals, 39, added: “In the 1950s & 60s LGBT people were seen as sexually deviant & diagnosed as mentally ill by the medical establishment. And then Frank Kameny & Barbara Gittings came along & challenged the establishment!

“Excited to be developing a limited series about their significant (and oft overlooked) contribution to the fight for LGBT liberation.”

Showing her support, Pose director, producer and writer Janet Mock wrote: “AND THATS THAT ON THAT‼️‼️‼️”

Based on reporter Alix Spiegel’s ‘81 Words’ episode on radio’s This American Life, back in 2002, the show is set to air on FX.

Casting is still to be announced, but the project is part of Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning Canals’ creative deal with 20th Century Fox Television.

Series three of Pose is one of many productions that has been shut down as a result of the coronavirus.