Vogue Is Not For You: Deciding Whom We Give Our Art To

When visibility reveals itself to be exploitation, we don't have to condone it.

When visibility reveals itself to be apolitical exploitation, we don’t have to condone it.

I began voguing as a sixteen year old high school student.

Still struggling with what it meant to be gay and Black, learning of the ballroom scene both relieved me and ignited within me whole new passions. It had never occurred to me that I could be openly queer without sacrificing my Blackness. It had never occurred to me that whole communities, whole traditions, whole histories existed that were Black, queer, Brown, femme, trans, poor, working all at once. My original interest in vogue, therefore, grew from the deep desire to be all parts of myself authentically and simultaneously.

Learning to vogue was learning that the embodied knowledge of my multiple oppressed identities had always informed one another. Once I understood this within my own body, I learned to see it in my family, my community and the larger social structures that governed my life.

At least once a week, someone sends me an article or video of voguing appearing on a European runway, in an upscale art gallery, or a new music video by a pop artist, and asks me what I think. The inquiry always revolves around the ethical use of vogue: Were the dancers named and given credit? Did the artist properly compensate the voguers she worked with? Who is in the audience consuming the dance form? Ultimately, the question is, can voguing be appropriately appropriated?

My answer is always the same: No, it can’t. Appropriation is always a form of coercion, and that coercion is born out of white supremacy. Here is what I mean:

There is a deep history of white supremacy in the ballroom scene. Much of it was controversially documented in the cult classic Paris Is Burning. The film’s thesis is ultimately that trans/queer people of color are doomed to their own depraved outsiderness, and while their yearning for acceptance by the mainstream is futile, it is, at least, flashy. While the movie itself is a white supremacist document (and its conclusions about the ballroom scene tainted by its white cis director), its very existence uncovers something real: There is a real issue of our community finding its value in its consumption by other, more privileged communities.

Vogue is blowing up in new ways in European dance studios, in suburban recreational centers, in movies and music videos. As has long been the case, voguers often don’t see themselves as successful, don’t feel they can be taken seriously as dancers until they are able to teach, perform or be featured on one of these platforms. The internalized message is clear: Voguing at a ball is the starting point, but voguing for the elite is the mark of success.

This mentality results in the disinvestment in poor and working queer communities for the sake of teaching vogue in spaces that never created or shaped it, but that are fascinated by it, and have the resources to consume it. Instead of expert voguers taking pride in passing on their knowledge to the young oppressed people most in need of it, new generations of our community are abandoned for the notoriety of white, wealthy, straight, cis patronage. Opportunities for mentorship, empowerment and intergenerational solidarity are lost, and the alternative only serves to further make the plight of our communities invisible—obscuring homelessness, poverty, state violence and police brutality behind the glossy sheen of commercial spectacle.

And yes, even when artists of color appropriate our art form, white supremacy is still at play. Beyonce, Kelly Rowland, Jennifer Lopez, Lil Mama, and FKA Twigs have as much to do with our exploitation as Madonna, Lady Gaga and Jennie Livingston. For philosophy aside, our cultural cameos in these (corporate) artists’ work have done nothing—do nothing—to illuminate our histories of struggle, nor to combat the structures that generate our need for resistance in the first place. Cis people, straight people, wealthy people, even those who share some of our other oppressed identities, still desecrate our art and our community when they objectify our aesthetic, without taking on accountability for the ways they benefit from the violence we face at the hands of the systems that are cutting their checks.

Because there is such a long and well-documented history of the appropriation of vogue, it is one I do my best to take a hard line in discontinuing. I will not teach voguing to professional dancers, to companies who want to use it to make choreography. I will not teach it in white spaces, in wealthy spaces, in spaces that are not queer-controlled and affirming. My conviction for taking this stance is this:

Voguing belongs to queer people of color—specifically trans, poor, working, sex-working, homeless and young queer people of color. We created it, we need to be the ones dancing it, and we need to be the ones protecting it. In a society that is constantly limiting our access to housing, education, land and resources of all types, it is laughable that the privileged find such discomfort in our limiting their access to our bodies, traditions and genius. Anyone who objects to being told they can’t vogue needs to first ask themselves how they are impacted by the systems that result in the daily deaths of queer people of color, and what they are doing to combat our institutional disenfranchisement.

I currently work at a drop-in center for homeless trans and queer youth. Voguing is part of our everyday routine. Every day I watch young queer people use it to resolve disputes, lift their spirits when they’re feeling defeated, affirm their bodies, build their confidence and shape themselves as artists, teachers and leaders in their community. There is nothing more powerful to witness, and no better use of the form I can think of.

I am blessed to be able to co-teach voguing workshops at this same drop-in center. The guidelines that ground the philosophy and values of our workshops, and which we try our hardest to incorporate into every new session, are these:

We have knowledge – Our lived experiences as Black, Brown, poor, working, homeless, immigrant, sex-working, trans and queer people have taught us skills, given us knowledge that no one else can claim, no matter how much they study or read about us.

We have the right to share our knowledge with each other – Our wisdom is real and valid, and we are the deserving recipients of each other’s learned knowledge. The truths we posses don’t become valuable when those from outside our community take an interest in them. They are valuable because they come from us!

Our needs change – The conditions we need to share our knowledge—like the conditions we need to live full lives—change as we change. Our learning space, our communities and our movements need the flexibility to change as we do. We are the ones who will determine when, where and how those changes occur.

We are experts – We are the voices that need to be heard, and we are the ones most in need of hearing them. No one understands queerness, transness, homelessness more deeply than we do. No one is better prepared to teach us how to survive than we are. No one can come up with a more vivid vision for the future of our community than we can.

Our history is now – We are agents of change! We are the shapers of our community’s future! This realization teaches us to build our communities on trust, generosity and affirmation, and to act with the knowledge that future generations of our people depend on us!

The point of all this is that voguing is a tool we created, not merely for expression, but for organizing, empowering, surviving the daily violence of a white supremacist society. This tool will never mean the same thing, can never serve the same purpose for those who do not share our same need for survival.

The benign belief that crossing boundaries always promotes diversity, that sharing space and culture results in sharing privileges and resources, needs to be finally debunked. For this same soft rhetoric is destroying Black and Brown communities, forcing people out onto the street and filling up prisons. The truth is that when the powerful cross boarders, the flow tends to be unilateral. When the wealthy lay hands on our culture, the outcome is our displacement, not our inclusion. The endpoint is the depoliticizing of our most sacred sources of resistance, which only benefits those who seek to quell our demands for change.

The best way to support our community, to show us love, is to give us room to affirm ourselves and each other, and to share our wisdom with those who really need it. It is to fight alongside us the systems that deny us our basic rights and resources—heterosexism, transphobia, prisons, policing, gentrification—not robbing us further in the name of visibility and tolerance.

Special thanks to NIC Kay.

54 responses to “Vogue Is Not For You: Deciding Whom We Give Our Art To

  1. reflecting, feeling seen, crying on the airplane. all love power and liberation to you xo

  2. “Cis people, straight people, wealthy people, even those who share some of our other oppressed identities, still desecrate our art and our community when they objectify our aesthetic, without taking on accountability for the ways they benefit from the violence we face at the hands of the systems that are cutting their checks.”

    amazing! Call ins, this way please.


  3. Let me get this straight. “Vogue”, which just copied the name from Vogue magazine and is based on the poses of the model in the magazine, is not for white people. VOGUE is not for white people? Who appropriated what here?

    • Vogue has a complex history of borrowed iconography from multiple cultures–as does the ballroom scene itself. This is another piece of the conversation that needs investigating, and that our community needs to interrogate. However, vogue often gets described as having roots in high fashion when, more accurately, it is an expression of Black, queer femininity that has borrowed from many sources, was created originally by incarcerated people in Riker’s Island Prison, was shaped by homeless youth and sex workers, and continues to evolve in those some spaces, now in cities around the country. These are the form’s true roots.

      The question I am hoping to get at is what does sharing really look like in a society that shares so little with the communities that generated this art form? Before we have conversations about how people of privilege take part in our art, I think we need to have conversations about how oppressed people become full and valued members of our society.

      • “vogue often gets described as having roots in high fashion”

        where? when? please elaborate.

  4. Really interesting piece, thanks. I’d love to read your thoughts on how the appropriation of ballroom culture/vogue dancing compares with other [previously/currently appropriated] art forms which were also born of the struggles of groups of disenfranchised youth-of-color (the most glaring comparison would be to Hip Hop, but examples abound).

  5. This article raises a very interesting question of where the line is drawn between the natural evolution of music and culture and what is cultural appropriation. Being a straight white male Dj who happens to play out ballroom music (as well as Baltimore and Jersey Club, Nola Bounce, Footwork, and many forms of House music) I find myself in a unique position, one in which I actively strive to educate unknowing audiences about cultural movements without bastardizing them in the process. I am a social worker with an undergraduate degree in music and social movements as well, so a large part of my life is dedicated to the disenfranchised and underprivileged. I have always been fascinated with unique pieces of culture especially within music.

    When I ply these genres out, I choose anthems and tracks from the original artists from their respective scenes rather than watered down copies. I do not play a set of just songs from a particular genre either or consider myself “that kind of” DJ. I do not attempt to produce tracks that will into a particular genre either (although i’ve made personal edits for playing purposes). I do not, I repeat DO NOT vogue. Not only would I look foolish but It would feel disingenuous. And while I play have played to predominantly LGBT crowds often enough, living in Las Vegas unfortunately means that most of what I try to do to spread the culture goes mostly overlooked.

    Unfortunately, culture appropriation is a sad reality which has forever plagued minority groups who strive to create something their own. When you consider that Macklemore has more won more Grammy Awards then all of the golden era hip hop artist combined, a sad picture is painted. An entire subgenre of EDM, “Trap Music” is based upon a term stolen from southern rap. In the last few years Twerk Music has evolved to a similar popular amongst mostly white EDM crowds who probably don’t know how much the genre owes to New Orleans Bounce music, if they know Bounce exists at all. Appropriation of the Ballroom scene is also nothing new.

    However, if we use Ballroom as an example, the knowledgeable knows how much the genre owes to House music, via the Masters of Work “Ha Song”, as well as Jersey Club and it’s predecessor Baltimore Club. The music itself would not be where it is today without a borrowing of sounds from other scenes and genres. Such is the evolution of all music. Night Slugs and sister label Fade 2 Mind have incorporated bass and grime in with the ballroom over the last five years and Labels like Trax Couture and Astral Plane recordings have further diversified the sounds incorporating Techno elements as well. However, there is big difference this, what I consider natural evolution and Madonna Vogueing with a bunch of muscle bound straight white males on prime time MTV. If new fans of Ballroom and other genres can educate themselves and pay respects to the original culture the music was produced from the then the genre can gain acclaim and further cement itself in history while evolving to move into the future. Or am I viewing this through a privileged lens? Is there a difference between respect and appropriation? Where is the line drawn?

    • Every point you made was asinine due to the fact that you ARE the institution radfag is railing against – every single culture vulture you listed is not advancing vogue (or any of the other cultures that exist to help disenfranchised youth) in any way.

    • Brock:

      STOP. This isn’t about you. Radfag isn’t even talking about the music, just the dance. If you want an informed perspective from the music aspect of the culture, please refer to an originator for guidance, not your own opinions. Please shut up and LISTEN to POC when they are talking to you.

  6. solid, moving and militant. thank you for your analysis, I have always had a deep respect for vogueing because it is a dance of struggle and resistance. I am from oakland, live and study dance in brazil and would like to translate your article to share with my comrades–all black, working poor and almost all queer. your work is too relevant and folks here have utmost respect for vogueing. much love and solidarity.

  7. Interesting piece, but to state that Madonna was voguing on Mtv with straight while males is just completely wrong. Madonna’s dancers are very diverse. She has been vogueing for a while, but when she first did it, it was with latino, Asian, and black dancers, mostly gay. Watch Truth or Dare for context. She later presented vogue, the song, with elements of vogueing, in a number of shows, always with diverse dancers, male and female, black, white, middle eastern, Indian, straight and gay. I guess you can talk of cultural appropriation when it comes to Madonna, but to claim that she is backed by white straight dudes is the opposite of reality.

  8. This gives me so much to think about. I would love to re post if at all possible. I teach Vogue and have been having a very hard time with where, who and why I teach it. I am black, two spirit and in a male identified body. There is no Vogue scene in Seattle (where I live, grew up in Detroit) and I miss that so much.

    So much for me to think about. Thank you for this..I have been feeling this for some time now.


  9. This is not the thesis of Paris Is Burning: “The film’s thesis is ultimately that trans/queer people of color are doomed to their own depraved outsiderness, and while their yearning for acceptance by the mainstream is futile, it is, at least, flashy.”

    It is your interpretation. Just like voguing is an interpretation of the standard of white beauty.

    Stopping cultural interplay is impossible. Influence is an unstoppable force. It is how you, a person who were not born voguing, were able to begin voguing.

  10. oh man, I’m Colombian, I’m a mix of white, native and black, thought my skin color is what I believe light caramel, for most people in the states I’m (white hispanic). This is a tough one. All the world, and specially in the united states, the scar of segregation is deeper. I’m an amateur dancer (no beginner, but amateur in french which means “lover”, or someone who doesn’t do it for money). I dance alone in my room most of the time, 2 or 3 or 4 hours. It all began with Michael Jackson, and I can say that though I align with your ideas, there is also a pleasure in dance that transcends all color barriers. I know that historically black people have had a terrible history. Even black people kill each other tribally by the thousands in Africa today. I can say it all derives from greed, for the yearning of power that corrupts all. It is the government and industrialist and institutions that have ran for ages whatever campaign necessary to enrich themselves. I cannot undo the past, adn I come from a country that is all about dancing. Cumbia (one of the many colombian musics and one of the most popular in all Latin America today), was a mix of natives and blacks who crossed mountains to gather and court each other, even when they didn’t share the same language. My background is different, and I wouldn’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t dance like and to Michael or James Brown. We all learn from something historically and copy it, and then twist it in those cases where visionaries push the evolution of an art form. Your enemy is not directly all white or rich people. There are people of all colors working hard to really support communities at a local level and art. I will never know more about being black, or gay or trans that you would know about being Colombian and it’s own harsh issues. The enemy are greedy institutions and the only real way I see out as a pragmatic solution, instead of an idealistic one, is to get back at them through talent, perseverance, wits and clarity of purpose. In the end people also want to make a decent living and money as part of survival will be a determining factor. Be a pragmatic leader. I share your feelings, but my left side of the brain knows too well that things have to be accomplished playing the game smartly. Good people know that we are all human and respect everyone to the best of their abilities. Every art form, from Van Gogh to break dance has been learned (copied) and also appropriated (by people who want to profit) and the only color really important for these people is green. Much love! I feel the problems that erode from this are more class and culturally biased than color in the end, which in turn is a consequence of our history, we need to unite people more than divide it. That is the real challenge, kill them with kindness. Sorry for extending this so much, as an artist, and dancer I get really caught by this article. Thanks!

  11. Although I think the ultimate mission here is to expose not just the shiny parts of the culture, but the in-depth and complex angles that make it as valuable as it is at its roots, the bitterness in this article misplaces many of the arguments.

    It seems bitter to state that Vogue is a culture only for helping gay, Black, queer, femme, trans, poor etc. people find themselves through an inherent social disadvantage in today’s world, and not for rich, White, or otherwise ‘culprits of appropriation’. It perpetuates the idea that Vogue culture will always be for an inherently and acceptably disadvantaged group of people, which will never actually see this group past those disadvantages, and thereby turning the whole thing around on itself. The fight for a security blanket that is said to allow room to breathe actually becomes a form of self-oppression and cripples the tool that was meant to be the smoking gun of change.

    The argument attacking the belief that crossing boundaries always promotes diversity by calling it benign is weak and empty. Cultural interplay won’t be stopped nor is there any good reason to try. The arts community needs to start researching, understanding, and teaching each other on a larger scale how to be more organized and business-oriented with the fruits of their inspiration, so that they can be more in control of fulfilling the grassroots intentions which birthed their movements, and not get upset when commercialization happens without them. We don’t come anywhere near starting this process or being productive enough to understand its depths by inappropriately tying in conversations about cultural appropriation, not giving credit, white supremacy, or otherwise diverting to accusations of theft that don’t ultimately serve the real purpose. And if you can educate, you have resources.

    Today’s world changes quickly and we can choose to keep up with it, regardless of whether we anticipated that things were going to happen on such a big scale so quickly, or act in self-preservation out of fear that we can’t keep up. That energy is much better spent researching ways to push the envelope on the quality of education and producing more educators and outreach to support those in the world who are actively participating in a genuine appreciation of a culture. At the very least, it’s much better than absolving oneself of a liability to work harder by trying to accuse an entire society of snatching it out of their hands ‘like they usually do with everything else’.

  12. I have never been involved in vogue, but find some of the arguments in this article to be applicable to my own musical and professional interests.

    This sentence is particularly interesting to me: “Cis people, straight people, wealthy people, even those who share some of our other oppressed identities, still desecrate our art and our community when they objectify our aesthetic, without taking on accountability for the ways they benefit from the violence we face at the hands of the systems that are cutting their checks.”

    Is it at all possible for people who share none/some/many of the identities specific to vogue to demonstrate “taking on accountability” in ways that render their participation as something other than desecration? If so, any concrete examples?


    • That’s a good, hard question, and don’t think I have any examples from the mainstream. On a smaller scale (which, frankly, is what I think matters more) I admire artists who are also activists, and who work to understand the political contexts behind and bound up within the art they make, be it dancing at club, a ball, on a stage, or anywhere. We all have identities that grant us privileges, just as we all have identities that are targeted for oppression. Artists and individuals who use their art to challenge systems they know are doing harm, and to disrupt that harm, instead of just trying to find a way into them, are the ones whom I respect the most. Accountability to me is first naming openly the structures that give you unjust privileges, than working at the behest of those experiencing oppression to do what they demand from their allies.

      Appropriation is not risky, and it’s not hard. Standing up to power, and using your privilege to absorb the violence usually visited on those with no privilege to protect them, is what makes one worthy of participation in our communities. That is my feeling.

  13. I disagree wholeheartedly with this article. If we are to unify as a HUMAN race, we need to come together, not further separate ourselves no matter what…

  14. Im interested in what you wrote about Paris is burning, being filmed with a cis supremacy point of view. What other films would you recommend that actually give the whole picture? If not the whole, a realer, fairer

    • Part of what makes Paris Is Burning such a complicated piece of documentation is that documentation of the ballroom is so rare. For all its problems, it also catches some beautiful moments and some gems of wisdom from ballroom ancestors. I think we can be grateful for this documentation and still critical of how it comes to us.

      How Do I Look? is a documentary by Wolfgang Busch–another cis, white queer director–that came out in 2006. While its production value is not a clean as Paris Is Burning, it was made conscientiously with the input of the featured ballroom scene members, and originally began as a project to address the gaps ballroom scene members felt were missing from Paris Is Burning. I think it’s worth checking out.

  15. “Cis people, straight people, wealthy people, even those who share some of our other oppressed identities, still desecrate our art and our community when they objectify our aesthetic, without taking on accountability for the ways they benefit from the violence we face at the hands of the systems that are cutting their checks.”

    Understanding that vogue and the community at the center of vogueing is intersectional, I do personally question how I personally fit into the seen most of the time. As a queer black man in a city trying to express and own his queerness and brown skin, I’ve always revered the vogue dancers I see at clubs now and watched on the internet as a teenager. But I was middle class, went to prep school, then to the ivy league where most of the idols and models of excellence placed in around me were a part of the white, corporate standard. I learned to vogue for a little while from some people, people I wanted to be around because they were the only people that looked like me and could understand anything I was going through (even if we didnt connect on 100% of all of our problems), but I was never really accepted into the community, I was still kind of the outsider looking in.

    I suppose my question is – what is the queer black youth who receives a world wind opportunity to succeed economically to do when faced with that option? How can we uplift our community out of poverty and cycles of physical oppression without removing ourselves from high risk and uncomfortable situations? and then is that person to cease vogueing and give it back? Or take it and show youth that they can succeed to a big screen and have their art form appreciated and have their livelihoods sustained by the art that they love that expresses who they are. Or is the point that once you gain a level of economic/corporate success, you lose the social capital you once had as you no longer embody the body in need of resistance from oppression?

    I agree that there are (POC) artists today who are not giving proper citations to the artists they borrowed from and a lot more could be done to legitimize dancers as people and not props – when vogueing youth see that on TV, it tell them that they do belong and that they are appreciated. I suppose I’m of the opinion that everyone deserves to be appreciated. I’d like to ask your opinion on the Prancing Elites? Not vogue but another dance form born of black queer communities that is now (though it is the people themselves) being represented by a white owned corporate monster channel. is it better these people have representation for youth like them who need a role model or should it remain underground for the most disenfrachised to remain disenfranchised?

    • You ask some really complicated and important questions.

      In many ways, the question of cultural appropriation is a metaphor for the larger structures and histories we as oppressed people are stuck in–dealing with the legacies of settler colonialism, slavery, and the modern behemoth of neoliberial capitalism. We have to discuss these things in this conversation.

      Something a lot of my friends have been pushing back on me about is how do we support ourselves as oppressed people without cultural appropriation. It’s a really valid question. We have so few means of supporting ourselves, they argue, we can’t be picky with the opportunities we accept. The problem is that we aren’t actually benefiting from the vast majority of these opportunities. Capitalism means that those with excess capital can use our lack as leverage. We are always at the will of the privileged if we let the opportunities they create for us exist as the only ones worth taking. What opportunities of our own already exist that we have not creatively identified? How do we create opportunities that harness the power and resources we already claim, rather than relying on our oppressors, who have no interest in setting us free, in exchanging our culture for our liberation?

      Ejeris Dixon is a Black, queer feminist I deeply admire. I think she puts it best: We need radical, longterm visions for our future, and we also need present, concrete solutions to meet our immediate needs. The problem comes when the two are not in harmony with one another. What small steps are we able to take in the present that, while they may not be perfect solutions, are still working towards a liberated future, not contributing to our subjection for the sake of getting the gig?

  16. This article was truly moving!!! I top work at a queer youth center and we have Vogue group on Fridays, which I facilitate. It’s so beautiful to watch young people show off their talents, creativity, and vision through vogue.

    On the flip side, I am also a professional director & choreographer. I co-choreographed the Bob Sinclar music video called “Feel The Vibe” which features NY and Philadelphia Voguers? But I made it very clear before I even signed on to the project what vogue was, is to us today, and what it’ll mean for future generations. I was beyond happy when I found out that all of the dancers were being cited :)

  17. I completely agree that people of privilege take Voguing without giving back. 100%. There’s a lot of systematic racism and homophobia against LGBT people of colour. 100%.

    People should not take other people doing it as validation, I agree 100%. And corporate artists—whether black or white—don’t illuminate the struggle. All true. And we need to illuminate that struggle. That’s the goal.

    But how does preventing others from Voguing illuminate that struggle? I see no possible way it could. Corporate artists Voguing doesn’t take it away from anyone. Instead, we fight about who should Vogue instead of working to illuminate the struggle.

    • I think part of how we illuminate struggle is stepping back to give those in struggle the opportunity to speak. Appropriation robs us of this opportunity, and corporate art converts our message into one that supports economic inequity instead of resisting it. Oppressed people need to be allowed to lead, to organize and speak on their own. This can only happen when our lives and perspectives are valued as much as our culture.

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  19. At the drop-in center where you work — where voguing is used to resolve disputes and lift spirits — do you disapprove when a young trans homeless sex worker born to immigrant parents, but who has white skin, participates?

    • No, I don’t. In fact, it’s something that happens a lot.

      What I am talking about is not one person deciding who the face of their creative tradition is. I am talking about a creative tradition being used in service of those in struggle. In the struggle I am speaking of—being trans, queer, street, sex working, of color—there are many individuals who share some but not all of these experiences. I, for example, am not trans and have never been homeless. Coming to vogue for me is about connecting with my ancestors in struggle, and empowering my oppressed identities, while simultaneously recognizing that not all of my experiences are oppressed ones. I see many white, cis and male youth do this with vogue everyday, too—finding where their experiences connect them to the form, while recognizing other ways in which they need to step back and let others shine who are oppressed in ways that they are not.

      Teaching vogue in a drop in center is, in my experience, still very different than teaching vogue at a private college or professional dance studio—though there may very well be individuals of oppressed identities in all of those spaces. It is still about community empowerment that, while recognizing that our communities are complex, still acknowledges that they are trans, queer, poor, working, Black and Brown at their core.

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  21. This is word perfect and I’m happy to see someone finally calling out Fka twigs since she’s getting more visible. I was recently shown a youtube post of her visiting vogue knights after attending the met gala(!!). Her and her hollywood bf – the epitome of white privilege – being served champagne and watching the dancers almost like they were performing just for them. It made me really uncomfortable. It was like ‘white patron earns cool points visiting seedy underworld’. Idk that image just seems to encapsulate much of what you’re saying. It made me cry.

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  25. I am straight and non-queer. I feel alienated by this article but I understand validity of your points. I do question though, whether the ”supremacy” and the people you intend to exclude are not suffering from the forms of oppression which are suffered by your community. We still in a time when general populations are being brainwashed into believing in ”appropriate behavior” of the different genders. I think dance in general, vogue included, can be a form of release and discovery into the parts of ourselves that have been restricted by social construction. I am a dancer but I do not practice vogue. I can imagine myself feeling awkward in practicing vogue because it requires a level of self-knowledge and confidence that I not yet have. But it is my goal to investigate these areas of discomfort and analyze the insecurities I experience. However, would I be guilty of cultural appropriation and stealing in this case? If I find this practice to be helpful in my personal development and enriching in the human experience, am I still restricted from sharing it? I am deviating from your point of cultural appropriation but I think this perspective needs to be resolved before this form is made exclusive to a certain cultural and social group.

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  27. brilliant, personal article– I really appreciated reading it and felt that you were extremely articulate and came from a place of truth and knowledge. I really thank you for sharing this, because we really need writers and voices like yours, thanks.

    I wanted to ask an inherently ignorant question–when I was reading the ending I was touched by your hope and push for people to support communities and show love and give you all room to affirm yourselves and others– In this notion is there room to help your community, aid in telling your stories as a person outside of this community? And I know on a”basic” level NO, but I thought i would ask the boundaries for support with respect — Hope that makes sense and doesn’t seem argumentative. I mostly ask as someone who is very troubled by the history, present and future of documentary and film work– in approach and history and wanted your perceptive. thanks again for writing!

    • I am not a documentarian, so this is not my area of familiarity. I think documentation is crucial, and that poor, working, Black, Brown, etc. communities do not always have access to the tools, time and resources it takes to document their creativity. So I think your role is needed. I think there is a big difference, however, between documentation that is for the community–that meets the needs community member have outlined, fits with its goals and values, is created consensually, involves the featured community in the process of documenting and editing, etc.–and documentation that is for the consumption of others. Too often we are treated as entertainment for those outside of our own experience, and to add insult to injury, are rarely compensated properly for the entertainment we provide. Documentation is a beautifully skill and a necessary tool, I believe it’s a matter of the purpose it serves, the opportunities it creates, and who it centers as the visionaries.

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  30. WOW!!! This article is DEEP on so many different levels. It truly is the architect of my live. I, myself, grew up as one of the youth voguing in NYC in the Ballroom Community. It was, and still is an outlet for me. People must understand that Voguing lives far beyond entertainment, and appropriation is live in well in our Ballroom Community.
    With your permission, I would love to use this article as a reference(giving credit) to help inform and strengthen my dissertation on the use of vogue dance as a therapeutic framework to help address the pycho-sociocultural challenges among Queer Youth of Color….

  31. I’m so glad I found this article when I did.

    I’m an 18-year old white middle class genderqueer trans femme and as I make the transition into attending university and living independently, I’m terrified of the challenges I will face as a trans femme as I leave the comforts of a middle class and accepting family. As many trans people do, I carry a deep sense of isolation and loneliness that comes with belonging to such a small minority with thin and scarce community and culture around me. Queer and trans heritage is such a struggle to find and I have only just considered turning to vogue as a way of connecting with my trans ancestors and finding a sense of belonging and pride in my trans identity. My heart leaps at the thought of the voguing. It feels like the expression of authenticity that I’ve been seeking so desperately through my formative years.

    I am so grateful for this article because it has given me important insight into the ongoing mutilation of this art form which has been hidden from me in my position of privilege. The article has left me questioning whether or not I should vogue. I have no intention of supporting or reinforcing the commercialization of vogue or the racism/classism within the LGBTQIA+ community, but no matter how activist I am or how effective my allyship is, I continue to benefit from racist and classist systems while the resistance against such systems helped shape vogue.

    Is it appropriation for me to vogue? While I see so much of my personal struggle reflected in vogue, I appreciate how much of it reflects struggles I will never understand, struggles from whose exploitation I benefit. What is my place when it comes to this art form? Is it my job to stand witness to its development and do my best as an ally to protect it, or is it justified for me to claim it as part of my own identity while acknowledging and spreading awareness of the cultural significance it bears for poor, working, sex working, and homeless people of colour whose struggles I cannot represent?

    Again, thank you for such an important piece, and thank you for any time and emotional labour you may be willing to give to help me understand whether or not I should vogue.

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