This Saturday, January 16, 2016, hundreds of Femme Queens, Butches, and Butch Queens in drag from Pittsburgh and the tri-state area will converge on the August Wilson Center. They will vogue, “walk,” and dance for a night of friendly competition and to raise awareness about HIV/STI prevention among one of the most at-risk communities. This event, the 3rd annual Galaxy Ball, is co-organized by True T Entertainment (TTE) of Pittsburgh’s historic House Ball scene and The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force (PATF).
The Galaxy Ball is for lovers of live performance art, ballroom culture, and hyper queer night life
“The Galaxy Ball is for lovers of live performance art and ballroom culture,” True T co-founder Duane Binion (ballroom name: Naheen Cavallerio) says. “It’s for folks who enjoy hyper queer night life, or who are in need of free and confidential HIV/STI testing. This event is encouraged for people 18 and over; those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult due to adult language and some competition categories containing mature content.”
Ball culture, also known as “the house system” and “the ballroom community,” is an underground LGBTQ subculture in which people “walk” (i.e., compete) for trophies and prizes. Some participants also dance and compete in drag genres, trying to pass as a gender and social class. Groups within ball culture are called “houses,” with house members identifying in six categories: Butch Queens, Femme Queens, Butch Queens up in Drag, Butches, Women, Men and House Parents.
Ballroom culture has existed for over half a century and has a large presence in Pittsburgh within the African American LGBTQ community. Since its emergence in Harlem during the 1950’s and 1960’s, the culture has grown prominent in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, and Philadelphia, and has migrated to cities in Canada, Japan and the UK. “We want to bring attention to our longstanding, vibrant underground community,” Bunion says. “Too often, it only seems to get attention when those outside our community take from our culture and make it mainstream.” Think Madonna’s Vogue…
“The goal of Galaxy Ball in Pittsburgh is to bring our community members together,” True T co-founder John Easter (ballroom name: Dez) says. “Some attendees will travel from coast to coast to join us on this one special night–a night to dress up, be yourself, get tested, and perform for a chance to be recognized for your talents and win cash prizes.”
Read more about the Voodoo Ball in this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper: “Pittsburgh’s Galaxy Ball takes center stage“, by 1839’s Founding Editor Deesha Philyaw.