Tuesday, March 25, 2008

House Ball 101

The video below is a nice visual introduction to the house ball scene. A little history and description of this community, published in wiretap magazine - a subgroup of alternet - can be found here.

I got interested in this community initially because they are a hard to reach demographic that is being targeted by HIV advocacy groups in the city, including FACES, POCC and GMHC. But they are interesting for many more reasons than that.

As the video shows, houses serve both as family structures for homeless teenagers (sometimes ex-comminicated by their parents for being gay), and sometimes as gateways to risky lifestyles (drugs, unsafe sex, prostitution). The video features "icons" of the house ball community, in other words, people who have been involved for many years, who run very positive houses (houses are not physical locations, but social networks, sometimes compared to fraternities or gangs). These icons talk about going to school and avoiding drugs and practicing safe sex. Yet people have told me that not every house mother or father sets such a positive example, which is why HIV advocacy groups are interested in targeting this community.

It has been estimated that total membership in all the various houses nationally is in the thousands, and it continues to grow. One member of the House of Ebony I have been talking to claims that he has recently been flooded with calls from people at colleges and universities who are interested in writing about the scene. A recent ball at a club on Houston street was covered by chanel thirteen. And people have told me that Patricia Field (long time edgy NYC fashion designer, designed for Sex in the City) has started a house that performs at balls. Is this all part of a trend? Is the culture generated by the house ball scene edging into the mainstream?

house ball 101