“No matter who you love, how you identify or express yourself as -
you are safe and welcome to join The Rebel Army”.
This year we are focusing on an important part of Pride history, Ballroom culture and Drag houses.
Houses are an alternative family for people who may have been rejected from their own because of their identity or expression. These houses are created to be safe spaces, and this is where the term ‘Choose Your Family’ is inspired from. They mimic a family structure and have a leader of the group known as ‘Mother’. Mother of the house offers support, instruction and mentoring when it comes to all things fashion, make up, lip synching and walking.
This message resonates with us because whoever you are, whoever you love, how or who you express or identify as… you are a REBEL and you are welcome in our family. #1Rebel1Family
Originating in the US, Ballroom culture is an underground LGBTQ+ subculture where people spectate, perform spoken word, vogue (ie. dance) and walk (ie. compete) in multiple drag categories for trophies and the glory of being crowned 1st place. It hit its peak in the 1980's shortly after the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York but the reality is its origins start way further back.
The categories that are walked in are created to imitate other genders and social classes and offer its attendees an escape from the often harsh realities many of the LGBTQ+ community face.
In the late nineteenth century members of the LGBTQ+ community would organise masquerade balls referred to and known as ‘drags’. These were organised as a rebellion of the law that at that time banned people from wearing clothes of the opposite gender. Although these balls were integrated, racism was still prevalent and racial segregation in society was almost universal. There were no black judges and black performers rarely won prizes. As the ballroom scene and culture evolved into the 20th century, the discrimination against people of colour seemingly did not.
The discrimination continued and eventually led to Black and Latinx attendees to form their own balls. Black queens Crystal Labeija and Lottie initiated their very own drag ball named 'House of Labeija’. This is what kickstarted the ballroom scene in New York.
That is where we were and this is where we are. 2019.
"It is important to understand that we fight today to ensure we keep our rights. We also fight because there is more to be done."
It is important to understand that we fight today to ensure we keep our rights. We also fight because there is more to be done. It is easy to get comfortable and enjoy the super liberal London bubble, especially when Whitney Houston is always on shuffle and rainbow flags fill the high streets. However there are so many numbers, stats and percentages that remind me (and hopefully you) that we cannot get complacent.
"Almost 50% LGBTQ+ pupils are bullied for being for their identity or expression in Britain's schools and 20% of students have been taught about safe sex in relation to same-sex relationships"
"The average life expectancy for trans women of colour is 35 years"
"In the world today, 72 countries continue to criminalise same-sex relationships, 14 of those countries impose the death penalty for homosexuality"
Agreed, we’ve got a lot done in fifty years. However Pride is running the risk (if not already) of becoming a corporate event. I am equally elated and uncomfortable to see support in mainstream media not knowing for sure whether or not it’s just being used for corporate gain and profit.
The twelve year old me feels delight and an overwhelming sense of freedom whereas the 28 year old me is suspicious and concerned. A company may paint their logo in rainbow colours and print on their office window pane that they are supporting the LGBTQ+ community but what contribution or tangible support are they actually giving? Using our colours and flag as a way to attract business and not giving back anything in return is the definition of exploitation. Putting a sticker in a window for one month of the year isn’t enough. It’s up there with prayers and good thoughts. Action is what was needed 50 years ago and action is still needed today.
"Express yourself, party and have a great time this Saturday. However, remember there are 364 other days of the year where members of our community are victims of physical violence, bullying and prejudice."
Go out and walk those streets serving any category your heart desires on Saturday. Express yourself, party and have a great time. It is a celebration of everything and everyone that has come before this. Once Saturday is over however, remember there are 364 other days of the year where members of our community are victims of physical violence, bullying and prejudice. Clearly we are still in need of further societal evolution so that we can accept and recognise the existence of people of all expressions and identities. We are the same as anyone, with the same complicated human emotions, domestic issues and day to day stresses but our lives are under a genuine threat.
The fight for equality began way before marriage was legalised, before Stonewall, before the 20th century and that fight isn’t over. We must not get complacent and we must continue this fight so that you and I and the LGBTQ+ community and the world can continue to be fierce. Yass? Yass.
We want to spend Pride doing what we do best - sweating it out with our Rebel Family side-by-side, celebrating each and everyone of you. Check out the schedule for the Pride sessions across all clubs + epic Pride Rides on Friday - and of course a pardyy.
Help us support the akt charity, who help LGBTQ+ young people that are homeless or living in a hostile environment, and keep an eye out for their badges on our retail items - we'll be donating all profits to them.
Find the schedule here: https://www.1rebel.co.uk/
Now you’ve spent your precious time reading this blog, here’s what you should go and…
WATCH: Paris Is Burning
1990 American documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it.
An American drama television series about the African-American and Latino gay and gender-nonconforming ballroom culture scene in New York City in the 1980s and (in the second season) early 1990s.
READ: We Are Everywhere (Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation)
Have pride in history. A rich and sweeping photographic history of the Queer Liberation Movement, from the creators and curators of the massively popular Instagram account @lgbt_history, released in time for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.