The Ballroom Scene: Family Life
A week before I returned to University of Chicago for my second year of college, I encountered what I like to call “an incident.” My brother, on this particular day followed his normal pattern of entering the basement room of my mother’s house in a drunken state. His drinking problem is one thing, but his homophobia mixed with intoxication is not a good combination. My brother chose to make comments about my friend and I, as we passed him on the way to my room.
“Why are these fucking fags in my house!?! Maybe if I bash their heads in they will stop coming! I hate these gay ass niggas, its nasty, and they’re nasty!!” (My brothers actual words)
He went on for 30 minutes in a nearby room, yelling every homophobic obscenity his slurred vocabulary could muster.
This is unfortunately what I have to deal with in my interactions with some of my family members.
For many individuals in the ballroom scene, stories like this become the status quo. My friend (that was with me when my brother’s drunk tangent occurred) explained that similar situations happened in his family and he had a scar on his arm to show for it. This same friend is also in the ballroom scene.
I have observed how inside of the ballroom scene, people create their own families. This is most likely because many of the biological families that these individuals grew up with, rejected their lifestyle. But this “Family Life” that is created within the ballroom scene’s “House” system is fascinating.
People in the ballroom scene have what they call “gay mothers, gay fathers, gay brothers, gay sisters, gay aunts, gay uncles, gay grandparents.” Most of these individuals under every category are male or transgender. Some of these “gay families” live together and function as an actual family would. I have seen people in this scene as young as thirteen.
This system initially reminded me of what happened in history with sects of the black church. Many individuals will have “church mothers”, and call each other “sister” and “brother.” Like “Houses” in the ballroom scene, a greater community of people connects them. They all have a meeting place and a goal. Some would call this comparison sacrilegious, but I believe it to be significant. The entities that are oppressed the most have a tendency of using that oppression to bring the members in those bodies even closer together. This interwoven characteristic of oppressed groups is a beautiful thing, even with the drama that can occur in both the church and the ballroom scene. Regardless of the gossiping church mothers or the gossiping “gay mothers” both of these connected bodies serve a noteworthy purpose for those groups who have been oppressed. In spite of ministers that become hypocrites and ballroom legends that normalize narcissistic attitudes, “Family Life” is what allows people to fight oppression with others who are similarly oppressed. In the good parts and the bad parts, this non-biological “Family Life” allows a person to be comfortable in his or her own skin. Sharing a burden of marginalization is always easier when you don’t have to do it alone.