Disclaimer: All personal observation. This article contains NSFW words.
This is me at a ballroom last July. It was the after party of the queer graduation ceremony held by a bunch of NGOs, and the way queer people organise a party is to do a "ball" in a ballroom.
You see, the ballroom I am talking about is not your regular, posh, fancy and upper-class rooms you will find in a Four Seasons - we are talking about the wet, dark basement hidden in the worst neighbourhood in Brooklyn, or some small studios buried in the industrial buildings in Hong Kong, high above in the clouds.
The culture of ballroom starts as a shelter, or I should say a surrogate family, primarily for Black and Latino queer youth at the time. It is a dance family for those kicked out of their schools and houses for being who they really are. The emotions we are going through are not the best you want to experience.
Detestation, disgust, hatred, and a lot more brutal attacks and accusations.
Indeed, we use verbal and non-verbal form of language to deal with all the emotions, and we form this unique culture around the feelings and defences.
Voguing as a dance started as an imitation of the poses in the Vogue magazine, hence the name. The old way of vogue is all about the best pose you can do using your body, and the very message conveyed is "I am the model, the spotlight is on me, and I love my body". It carries this meaning to this day - the most popular form now, vogue fem, is still about expressing the beauty of your body without any hesitation and any respect of the modern standard of "appropriate display". In ballrooms, we will even hold a category named "Sex Siren", in which you will try your best to serve your sex appeal to the judge and the audience.
Vogue is a universal language since we focus on expressing your feelings, your emotion and your bodily language. We tell a story with our arms and hands, and this is truly a language without border and could be deeply embedded in your life. This is how I walk in my dorm now. Try your best to visualise that.
Dancing apart, we are also trying to create a relatively safe and loving environment for all the members in this community, and sometimes, I'll touch on that later, we could possibly carry over some features of our language outside this culture.
Let's start with something simple. As a shelter for queer people, away from the toxic patriarchal world, how do we address people? We adapted the military habit of derisively addressing everybody as if they were women and calling one another girls. (sidenote: pronouns are still a thing) To show more love and care - since the hate outside is enough, we equally recognise everyone as our "sweetie", "honey", "darling", "your majesty", even if two only got to know each other for 5 minutes. Most importantly, we always "love you".
Another feature we adopted in our use of English is like, we are reclaiming some of the curse-ish words, or bad words according to some standard out there. For a start, "queer" could be used as a criticism to show the lack of obedience or inability to follow the social norm, yet we are using it proudly to name ourselves. Some other words we use proudly are as follows:
bitch, cunt, slut, whore, pussy, ass, boob, dick, etc.
Before I wrap it up, a small question: imagine you are a DJ at a queer party, and you want people hanging out in the balcony to come back inside the bar. What do you say to nicely ask them to move?
I still have to come up with a metaphor. I actually talked about this with my friends the other day, and thanks to them and Lady Gaga, I figured it out that I am a sour candy. I am a bitch, a slutty cunt, I don't like social norms, and I am fucking queer. I taste sour, but deeply inside, I try to love myself, and love you all. Thanks.