Some cringe when they hear their high-pitched voices
Speaking out in individuality.
In a world invested in aping heterosexual-identities.
Causing downlow men to hide the truth from their family,
Causing feminine men to be ostracized within our community.
As mothers frown at the thought of tolerance
and fathers yell at their sons that its not natural.
So what makes you a man,
Accepting who you are,
Or hiding in the shadows?
Never before have I watched a movie so many times in one week. Leave it on the Floor, a new movie/musical about the culture of the ballroom scene is accurate, provocative, and accessible. This movie is both an honest depiction and necessary introduction into the lives of people in this culture and the various struggles that they experience.
I find that inside the Ballroom scene everything revolves around fun. The dancing, the traveling, and the whole the “scene” is geared towards amusement. You meet people from all around the country that share the same life style, and have familiarity with each other’s experiences. The Ballroom scene is a “young persons scene.” Most people involved are within the ages of sixteen and twenty-four. The only problem with living a young life that revolves around having fun is that in the 21st century its not easy making a living wage when you have no education and no occupation. Many “Ball Room Kids” that I have come in contact with dropped out of high school. Many of them run away from home and live with friends. In the midst of finding acceptance, the negative side to this “scene” is creating a gay culture of poverty. A well-known figure in the ballroom scene, Pepper Labeija, speaks to how he is the “mother” of the house of Labeija, and how he has kids in the house that he looks out for. He describes the Ballroom scene as a fantasy of being a superstar, being at the Oscars, or being a model on the runway. As Pepper Labeija goes into more detail about the scene, he explains that many times the “Ball” is all these young gay black men have. “They come to balls starving, don’t have a place to sleep at night, but they will steal something to get dressed up to come to a ball that night to live the fantasy.” He calls a family a “group of human beings with a mutual bond.” (Livingston, 1990)
While understanding the lack of financial stability within individuals in this subculture, to identify the actual downside to this culture, one must first explore the “attitude of the scene.” The attitude of the Ballroom scene can be compared to the one of Narcissus in Greek mythology. Willi Ninja explains how it is arrogant, vain, and each individual has to always look the best in the room, be the “baddest” and dress like a superstar. Each person is a part of a small community. People in the Ballroom scene call these communities “Houses.” For example, one is called the “House of Ebony” another is called the “House of Labeija.” Within these “Houses” they travel and compete with other “Houses” around the country. There is no corporate funding for any “House,” so the financial responsibility (along with sustaining this lofty superstar lifestyle) falls on each individual member in the “House.” Ninja goes on to explain that most people in the Ballroom scene “do not have jobs.” While this of course does not apply to everyone, this only enhances the cycle of poverty that remains a tragedy in black communities across the country.
Leave it on the Floor tackles many of these issues head on as it creates an engaging and significant space to learn from a culture that has become a haven for many black queer youth. This movie is a must watch!