When Queers Get Political
This past week I got a chance to attend “A Ball.” These are events are are tagged as being apolitical by individuals in and outside of the LGBTQ community. I choose to look past the stereotypes of the Ballroom Scene and find potential for political action in this gay subculture. The creation of a Ballroom Scene House by a community health organization in New York and the creation of an Organization called GenderJust in Chicago both are prime examples of the Ball being turned into a political and education support system for queer youth of color. In the midst of a presidential election, Kony-mania, and nice weather, it becomes far too easy to forget about those who are most marginalized. Often these communities must advocate for themselves.
One of the most dynamic and original features of the Ball event was the original dance style that was created in the Ballroom Scene. The style of dance is called “Vouging.” Vouging is increasingly becoming more of a respected artistic manifestation of modern dance. In 2010 a group called Vouge Evolution was featured on MTV Best Dance Crew. When an individual contends that they vogue, it means they compose 5 different associations into a fluid and rhythmic style of movement. These five movements are known as the Cat Walk, the Dip, Hand Placements, the Duck Walk, and Spins. This style of dance represents an expressive style of that can lead to politics.
In 2001, a community health organization called Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) for community education used the Ballroom Scene as an avenue for political engagement. Kenyon Farrow writes about how this community organization fought the outbreak of HIV/AIDS by starting The House of Latex and held the first Latex Ball. This project brought together queer people of color in and outside of the Ballroom Scene to stress the importance of education, safe sex, and community strength. In every instance of the Ballroom Scene participating in a traditional form of political action, it is by way of a community organization. The House of Latex has the potential of showing activist and community members how to transform a non-traditional undeclared kind of non-conformity, deviance, and political resistance into more traditional forms of political resistance. GenderJust is an organization that takes traditional political action a step further than GMHC’s creation of a Ballroom House.
GenderJust, founded in 2007, works at the intersection of queerness and organizing. Although, they are not directly integrated with the Ballroom Scene, many of their members have participated in the Ballroom Scene, either through the House system or the actual Balls. They approach their activism with the framework of intersectionality, and are a “grassroots organization of LGBTQA young people of color and grassroots folks developing leadership and building power through organizing. The goals of Genderjust are to hold LGBTQA communities accountable around race, class, gender, age, religion, disability…and to move LGBTQ struggles forward by organizing through a racial, economic, and gender justice framework.” If anyone is looking for a traditional form of political resistance among queer youth of color, it can be found most potently in the forums, protest and movement building of Genderjust.
The everyday non-declared, non-traditional acts of non-conformity and deviance in the Ballroom Scene can be considered political resistance. Those who participate in non-conformity intrinsically due to their multiple identities— queer people of color who experience secondary marginalization–must resist the larger communities that oppress them. There is substantial proof to connect the Ballroom Scene to even some of the most traditional acts of politics, like organizing, petition signing, and protesting. So for all those who seem to think queer people of color are apolitical, look no further than the intersection between community organizing and the ballroom scene.