The Ballroom Scene:The Downside of a Black Gay Subculture
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. However, this lifestyle of fun reminds me of the backbone of the hippie movement. When the good times are over, what are you left with?
The majority of hippies eventually grew up, got jobs, had families and blend into our “American Culture” (whatever that means) quite well. Just like the hippie movement, 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 trade.
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 mist of finding acceptance, the negative side to this “scene” is creating a gay culture of poverty and a lack of success.
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 reminds me of Narcissus in Greek mythology. It’s arrogant, vein, and each individual has to always look the best in the room, be the “baddest bitch,” and dress like a superstar. Each person is apart 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 Mizrahi.” Within these “Houses” they travel and compete with other “Houses” around the country. There is no corporate funding for any “House” that I have ever heard of. So the financial responsibility (along with sustaining this lofty superstar lifestyle) falls on each individual member in the “House.”
Most people that I have met in the ballroom scene do not have jobs. While this of course does not apply to everyone, there are three general avenues that I have found common for people in the ballroom scene to support their lifestyle.
All of these things are illegal in most, if not every part of the country. I been in stores and turned around to see a particular ballroom kid hiding shoes or clothes in their bag and walking out the store. Crafting is a term used in the ballroom scene. Its means to find someone’s social security number and steal their identity. I have friends that are victims to people who “craft.” They get phones, credit cards, and even buy cars with other people’s identities. I personally think escorting or prostituting is one of the most self-detrimental ways to make money in this “scene.” Especially with Aids/HIV still running rampant amongst the gay black community. I know some situations where individuals in the ballroom scene escort so they can get enough money to have a sex change.
When people are rejected by every status quo in society, this is the type of culture that inevitably will form. When students and teachers at school made fun of them, it was the beginning of this subculture. When ballroom kids had family that called them “faggots” and “sissies” the foundation to the ballroom scene was made. When they could not hide their sexuality behind the comfort masculinity, it became necessary for them to find a place of acceptance, a haven (No matter how internally detrimental it becomes to each individual).