September 30, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

The Category Is… L.A. Realness

“Pose” may have brought New York’s legendary ball scene to life. For LGBTQ+ Angelenos, vogue balls are just as vibrant a part of L.A. history.

When filmmaker Jennie Livingston released her iconic documentary “Paris is Burning” in 1991, viewers saw scenes of tragedy, community and a specific brand of glamour that can only come from going “mopping” for the best couture. Livingston’s film, which took a close look at the New York City ball scene of the 1980s, centered on a group of mostly black and latinx queer people who were down and out, having been cast to the absolute fringes of society by the dominant (white, straight, upper class) elite, but still conspired to mimic their oppressors on the dance floor, all in the name of opulence.

Today, the legend of the ball scene has come vividly to life in Ryan Murphy and Steven Canals’ series “Pose,” which just ended its first season. But while “Pose” shone a fictional light on the world Livingston chose to immortalize years ago in New York, it is important to remember that NYC isn’t the only ball scene in town. In fact, when it comes to LGBTQ+ community shaking things up on the floor, L.A. has had its fair share of balls.

The most notable scene (in any case, the one that’s still going strong) happens at the Standard Hotel in Downtown L.A. each month. The Banjee Ball offers downtowners a chance to strut and pose on the runway, waiting to receive approval, or a harsh read from the judges.

An L.A. Times article about Banjee Ball noted of the ball’s participants that: “Most are black or Latino, and they “walk,” or compete, at events known as balls. Many belong to cliques known as “houses.” Led by a mother or father figure, houses serve as families for their members, some of whom have cut ties with their biological kin.”

Like in the world of “Pose” and “Paris,” houses still stand strong today, offering a family structure to young queer and trans individuals who don’t have any other place to go. Even more importantly, L.A.’s ball scene has been tied to specific community causes in recent years, such as the giant push for most PrEP exposure and West Hollywood’s recent HIV Zero initiative, which has focused on getting and keeping its residents HIV-free.

With outreach communities like Reach L.A., which helps Black and Latinx LGBTQ+, and the LGBT Center in Hollywood getting involved in the ball scene in recent years, events like the Banjee Ball have become even more crucial to young people. In 2015, Brian Toynes, program manager of sexual health and education at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, told the Advocate that “many attendees at the ball come from poorer neighborhoods, have no health insurance, and also no knowledge of PrEP.” An event called the House of Latex Ball that’s been around for years in New York City combines HIV/AIDS awareness with the fun and excitement of ball culture. In recent years, the LGBT Center has tried to find ways to integrate these aims in the same way. According to the Advocate, however, the divide between the crowd at DTLA’s Banjee Ball, started by Isla Cheadle in 2013, and queer scenes in Boyle Heights and WeHo is telling, and fraught.

“The problem is that we’re a very segregated city,” Jeffrey Rodriguez, program manager of sexual health education at the L.A. LGBT Center, told the Pride L.A. in 2015. “You have south L.A. You have east L.A. You have west L.A. We’ve got all these different parts of the city, and who actually lives in those parts? West Hollywood is predominantly white. South L.A. is predominantly black.”

With 25 percent of gay and bisexual men of color at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS by the age of 25, things need to change, and fast. Will the ball scene be the thing to unite L.A.’s divided queer communities? We’ll have to wait and see.

Related Posts

WeHo Bar Gold Coast Closing Permanently

September 27, 2020

September 27, 2020

Gold Coast, one of the oldest gay bars in West Hollywood, is closing permanently after 39 years.  The Gold Coast...

“The Mismatch Game” Hosted By Dennis Hensley Is Going To Zoom

September 23, 2020

September 23, 2020

With COVID restrictions affecting several businesses and theater spaces throughout the Los Angeles area many have had to make adjustments. ...

Rage Nightclub Permanently Closing

September 10, 2020

September 10, 2020

After 37 years Rage nightclub located at the northwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente in West Hollywood...

Date Night In Times Of COVID

August 23, 2020

August 23, 2020

As things to do in times of COVID-19 dwindle down to staying in your home and watching a specific streaming...

WeHo Bar Flaming Saddles Closes Permanently

August 20, 2020

August 20, 2020

Flaming Saddles, the West Hollywood gay country western bar, has closed permanently.  Owners Jacqui Squatriglia and Chris Barnes, who also...

North Hollywood Gay Latino Bar ‘Cobra’ Closed for Business

June 12, 2020

June 12, 2020

Instead adopts virtual entertainment method By Toi Creel The effect of COVID -19 has not only taken a toll on...

MIKA, Lil Nas X and More at GLAAD Awards

March 6, 2020

March 6, 2020

GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today announced that recording artist and...

“Pose” Actress and Transgender Rights Advocate Angelica Ross Among the Honorees Truth Awards

March 3, 2020

March 3, 2020

The Annual Awards Show to Honor and Recognize LGBTQ + African Americans and Their Allies By Staff Writer Better Brothers...

Los Angeles Premiere of Latinx LGBTQ Film at Outfest Fusion

February 26, 2020

February 26, 2020

“Acuitzeramo” screening March 9 By Staff Writer Outfest Fusion presents the Los Angeles premiere of Cabaldana Alchemy’s short film “Acuitzeramo”...

Douglas: What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting

February 26, 2020

February 26, 2020

By Chole Marie Rivera The theater is dark and light casts a purple glow on the outline of a cartoon...

Q&A: Being Openly Gay at LA Opera

February 3, 2020

February 3, 2020

The scene: Eurydice always imagined that her wedding day would be a day she’d never forget. But after a tragic...

USC One Archives to Host Screening of Film on Black Trans Woman to Honor Black History Month

February 1, 2020

February 1, 2020

Meet Mary Jones, a black transgender woman born in New York in 1803. Described as a “man-monster” in the press. ...

Trans Flag Emoji Unveiled for More Cyber-Inclusion

January 31, 2020

January 31, 2020

Transgender texters, rejoice! For there is finally an emoji there for you!  Unicode Consortium, the company that sets industry standard...

HRC to Honor Dan Levy, Janelle Monáe at Award Ceremony in DTLA

January 27, 2020

January 27, 2020

Award Season is upon us, and the LGBTQ+ Community is not immune. HRC announced today that actor Dan Levy will...

HEALTH FEATURE: Need a Podiatrist?

January 26, 2020

January 26, 2020

Dr. Steven L. Rosenberg treating foot injuries with traditional, regenerative and homeopathic medicine.  By Staff Writer If you suffer from...