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Butch Queens Up in Pumps

Gender, Performance, and Ballroom Culture in Detroit

Marlon M. Bailey

Publication Year: 2013

Butch Queens Up in Pumps examines Ballroom culture, in which inner-city LGBT individuals dress, dance, and vogue to compete for prizes and trophies. Participants are affiliated with a house, an alternative family structure typically named after haute couture designers and providing support to this diverse community. Marlon M. Bailey’s rich first-person performance ethnography of the Ballroom scene in Detroit examines Ballroom as a queer cultural formation that upsets dominant notions of gender, sexuality, kinship, and community.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Triangulations: Lesbian/Gay/Queer Theate


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7

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Preface: Courageously Queer

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pp. vii-xiv

I first learned the meaning of queer family as a teenager in the 1980s at Cass Technical High School in Detroit. My friends and I—five men and three women, all queer in the full sense of the term—called ourselves “The Family.” Most of us attended Cass Tech, and we always hung out together—as a family—whether it was at a high school event or going...


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pp. xv-xvi

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One. Introduction: Performing Gender, Creating Kinship, Forging Community

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pp. 1-28

The House of Supreme International Ball

I attended my first ball on a snowy evening in January 2001 while home for the holidays. Since leaving for graduate school in California a year and a half earlier, my visits to Detroit had been infrequent. On a previous trip to visit friends and family, I had met several members of The House of Ford, who informed me of an upcoming ball that I should attend if I...

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Two. "Ain't Nothing Like a Butch Queen" The Gender System in Ballroom Culture

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pp. 29-76

Ain’t Nothing Like a Butch Queen (Baby)

It is a chilly November afternoon, the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend of 2003, as I arrive at the Best Western Robert Trent Hotel in downtown Newark, New Jersey, at about 2:15 p.m. for a national meeting of The Legendary House of Prestige. The meeting is scheduled for 3:00 p.m., with a ball hosted by the house to be held late Sunday night at The Warehouse...

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Three. From House to House: Ballroom Houses, Platonic Parents, and Overlapping Kinship

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pp. 77-123

The House of Prestige Domination Ball: Waiting

Each year, The Legendary House of Prestige holds a national anniversary ball. This gathering is like a family reunion. An anniversary or “Overall Ball” brings together people from the various house chapters to celebrate the year in which their house was founded. The Legendary House of Prestige was founded in June 1990 in Philadelphia by three Butch...

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Four. "It's Gonna Get Severe Up in Here": Ball Events, Ritualized Performance, and Black Queer Space

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pp. 124-181

The House of Ford Ball

The members of The House of Ford are very excited about their ball at the Detroit Masonic Temple. Located on Temple Avenue between Cass and Second Avenues in the Cass Corridor area, near downtown, the Detroit Masonic Temple is a massive fourteen-story building with over 1037 rooms/units, including a 4404-seat Masonic Temple Theatre and...

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Five. "They Want Us Sick": Ballroom Culture and the Politics of HIV/AIDS

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pp. 182-220

What’s Your Intervention?

After three days of driving from Oakland, California, my ex-partner and I arrived in Detroit in January 2003. Fortunately, a buddy of mine from college who is now a Detroit police officer allowed me to stay with him and his girlfriend, free of charge, for the duration of this eight-month stint of fieldwork. This was perfect because not only was I low on funds...

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Epilogue: The Future of Ballroom Culture

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pp. 221-228

It is a beautiful spring day in late April 2012, as I enter a medium-sized ballroom on the lower level of the Renaissance Washington, DC, Downtown Hotel. Seated at tables throughout the room are prominent members of the Ballroom community representing nearly twenty houses from across the United States, and one from Toronto. Several representatives...


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pp. 229-252


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pp. 253-254


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pp. 255-264


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pp. 265-280

E-ISBN-13: 9780472029372
E-ISBN-10: 0472029371
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472051960
Print-ISBN-10: 0472071963

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 21 B/W photographs
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Triangulations: Lesbian/Gay/Queer Theate
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 859154777
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Butch Queens Up in Pumps

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Gay and lesbian dance parties -- Michigan -- Detroit.
  • Female impersonators -- Michigan -- Detroit.
  • Gay culture -- Michigan -- Detroit.
  • African American gays -- Michigan -- Detroit.
  • Sexual minorities -- Michigan -- Detroit.
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