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77 THREE From Home to House Ballroom Houses, Platonic Parents, and Overlapping Kinship We queers must make our own family Blood family tends to desert or oppress us Waters, Donald and I made a family. —Wayne Corbitt Crying Holy1 For the majority of people who entered the house scene when I did in the late eighties—­ and of course houses precede me—­ it is kind of an alternative social network for those who have been ostracized from their family or didn’t have people in their families or communities who could understand their sexual identity. — Tim’m T. West, former member of The House of Ninja in New York City2 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 Queens, Carlos, Ali, and Alvernian, and has had as many as thirteen active chapters across the country. In recent years, the anniversary ball has been held in Philadelphia and New York City. Yet this year, since the house was expanding throughout the Midwest, Duchess, a Butch Queen and the housemother of the Detroit chapter, had convinced Father Alvernian to hold the anniversary ball in Detroit. Hence, on June 21, 2003, 78 butch queens up in pumps The Legendary House of Prestige’s thirteenth anniversary ball was held in Detroit for the first time at the Tom Phillip Post Lodge. On this anniversary “overall ball” occasion, members from most of the thirteen chapters came together to commemorate the founding of our house. I am at the Tom Phillip Post Lodge, which is located on Gratiot Avenue just east of downtown. This is a “spotty” part of town. While on the way to the ball venue, I noticed signs of urban blight on some blocks or streets but also signs of gentrification on others. “The Post,” as we call it, is Black owned and Ballroom friendly. As I had been instructed, I arrive early to help decorate. I find myself waiting outside the front entrance in my car with a seventeen-­ year-­ old “wanna-­ be” Ballroom kid. We are the only people there. Since the Detroit chapter is expecting Prestige and other Ballroom members from all over the country, we want to represent the Detroit Ballroom scene in “fierce” fashion. Typically, during the house’s anniversary weekend, the members go out to the dance club together the night before the ball to hand out flyers, to show off the house’s national members to the locals, and to socialize and enjoy a good time together. Some houses hold cookouts, as well as other preball activities, which explains why Duchess, told everyone, including those who had come from as far away as Buffalo, to get to the hall at two in the afternoon so that we could prepare it for the evening’s festivities. He figured this would give people time to sleep in since we all had hung out together until very late the previous night. This is my debut ball as a member of The Legendary House of Prestige , as well as a member of the overall Ballroom scene, so I am extremely anxious. And the waiting is irritating, to say the least, because not only do I have to help decorate, but I also have to return home before the ball to cut my hair, shave, shower, and put on my suit to walk in the Grand House March. So, yes, I am nervous waiting in the car even though I will not be competing and my housemother and siblings have been telling me that I have nothing to worry about. Still, this will be my first time walking, and during that one-­ minute strut down the walkway, perfect image and presentation are essential, whether one is competing or not. Such are my thoughts as my coincidental companion and I ponder our fates as we wait for others to arrive. I have already attended balls, so I realize, unlike the young man next to me, that one needs certain attributes to belong to the Ballroom community. One needs pa- From Home to House 79 tience, for example, because nothing seems to begin or end on time. One experiences a range of emotions, such as the anxiety...


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