Ballroom/Queer Slang

--Informant Info--
Nationality: United States of America
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/26/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece: 

The informant provided examples of ballroom slang which are all used in situations with positive connotations:

“the category is”

“fierce”

“werk

“that was a serve”
“boots”

“the house down”

“sissy that walk”

“work that pussy out”

“slay”

“queen”


“And like another slang trend is assigning everyone feminine pronouns, and even assigning feminine identify to inanimate objects. For example, like how we call our Roomba ‘miss Roomba’ or say, ‘oh that plant, she is everything.’” 

How did you get connected to this slang?

“Initially, through gay pop culture, like musical artists, friends, RuPaul’s Drag Race and Pose, documentaries and stuff.”

Do you use these words in your day-to-day life?

“Absolutely! I have to not use ‘miss’ or ‘she’ for everything because people don’t understand what I mean, and like my parents aren’t going to understand queer slang because they’re straight older people (laughs).”

Background/Context:

My informant is my roommate. She identifies as queer and sees herself in queer culture. These slang terms were recorded during a dinner conversation about queer media and culture.

Analysis:

Most general queer slang has been lifted straight out of queer subcultures, such as ballroom and drag. Most queer people who live in accepting environments understand the meaning of all the phrases listed above. In general, these phrases aim to empower the receiver through the emphasis of feminine characteristics (like making “pussy” a positive word), while some others come directly from ballroom culture, like how “the category is” and “the house down” reference competition categories and Dance Houses. As society has become more accepting and queer culture has taken over digital media (through shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race), these terms have become well known to the general public. It was definitely a shock when I heard my 10-year-old cousin shout “Yaaaaas queen” when I showed her an outfit, but that really illustrates how mainstream some of these terms have become.