Sunday, March 1, 2020

Word of the Year 2020: Build 3: "House"

A family. Dia de los Muertos, Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.

On Build thus far

Word of the Year 2020: Build 1
Word of the Year 2020: Build 2

Sometimes we must build a new family.

This was the case with a friend of mine, whose story inspired a poem I included in Build 2.

The idea of "family of choice" versus "family of origin" is not new, of course. As one familiar (ha, get it?) with 12-step culture, this is a common theme. I have at least one Irish ancestor whose blood-name we don't know because, as the story goes, he fled his abusive family of origin and was taken in by another family, whose surname he adopted.

Recently, I met a young dancer, "Zoe," whose moves I admire. We both attend a weekly blues fusion dance event here in Tucson. I asked Zoe about her dance history, and she cited some typical school-based experiences, such as color guard, etc. and then rolled off "femme" and pole. The pole I caught, but femme dance was new to me.

When I looked up "femme" dancing, it took me on a path back in time to the origins of vogue dancing, back to "house" and "ballroom." Where the human foundation of ballroom troupes is the "house." A dance "house" has a mother and father and children. A house is a family of choice for, the most part, young gay kids who were not welcome (or believed they were not welcome) at home. A house is a built family.

I'll defer to a house and ballroom alumnus, Ronald Murray, as he explains the culture that includes a built family. His TED talk here:

"When populations are overlooked they develop their own systems." 

From the December 2019 Philadelphia Inquirer series, 30 Years of Philly Ballroom:
"The houses of Philadelphia ballroom are black LGBTQ chosen families, people who aren’t related by blood, but who commit to support each other and compete against other chosen families at balls.
Within the culture, participants take responsibility for youths as if they were their own. This happens both under the house system and individually, through tight one-on-one mentorship. Ballroom veterans explain that the bonds closely mirror those of a biological family, down to steering children to pursue college and telling them off when they’ve gone astray."

I like the promises of built families.

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