How cannabis and the drag ballroom scene changed my life

June 2, 2022


I have been a writer, poet, rapper, pencil sketch artist, makeup artist, fashion model, burlesque performer, costume designer, and creative director. At some point, I decided it was a good idea to maybe run away with the circus, so I became a fortune teller and tarot card reader. But at the end of the day, I chose to become a cannabis nurse, an expert on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). As an educator who advocates for access as well as safe and effective plant-based therapies, I teach patients how to heal with weed.

Growing up, my freedom of expression was heavily encouraged by my immediate family, but I hit an unexpected brick wall when it came time to freely express the truth of my sexuality. I’ll spare the ugly details, but Mom would rather have me dead or disfigured than be a “bulldagger.”

Since my early teens, I was always brave and honest when it came to my identity and sexuality. At the age of 14, I was the first in my peer group to come out as bisexual and bi-romantic — contrary to the approval of my strict Seventh-day Adventist and Baptist extended family.

On that day, I had just spent several grueling hours rehearsing for an upcoming stage performance with my singing group. For the first time, a few of us decided to light up a joint to unwind, connect, and brainstorm ideas.

It was here that my best friend and I discussed our sexualities for the first time, and, after passing him the joint, I told him that it was okay for him to embrace who he was. He denied it at first, and for a time after, but he’s come out since then, and I understand why he denied it for as long as he did.

As an LGBTQ+ and BIPOC individual, I can confidently say there’s an overall lack of acceptance from society and family once you’ve decided to “come out.” Many of us have faced hatred, ostracization, and even the threat of bodily harm and death from those that we considered our closest loved ones. This is exacerbated for those who identify as Black, African American, Latinx, and who are also born male.

Years later, finally, at his own dramatic coming-out party, my friend invited me to participate in what he described as “a competition, sort of like a pageant, but for the gays.” But before I could go, he explained that I needed to wear a ripped bridal gown, have a bloody mannequin head instead of flowers, and walk the runway with a fierceness that no bridal show has ever seen. My friend wore a tux and a brand new pair of red glitter 6-inch platform pumps. It was 10s across the board. We won.

It was that night that I unknowingly agreed to be initiated into the wonderful world of balls, club kids, and LGBTQ+ Hollywood.

The LGBTQ+ community and the origins of drag balls

Full of stars, legends, and icons, balls have been around for more than a century in the US. They were popularized after the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969 and gained momentum throughout the 1970s as safe havens for anyone who had been ostracized and disowned for being LGBTQ+.

Formed mostly by Black and Latinx drag queens and gay men to combat racism, these outcasts would form strong family units known as “Houses.” Named after some of the fashion world’s most iconic labels — such as Mugler, Balenciaga, and Ebony — the houses are composed of “parents,” mother-father figures who guide and protect their “children,” often providing housing if someone has been forced to leave their biological family’s home.

House parents foster creative expression and prepare their children to compete and battle against other houses in multiple categories, including runway, voguing, and face categories. The competition is steep and the prizes can reach thousands of dollars.

Today, we see House Ballroom culture becoming a worldwide phenomenon. It’s showing up at nightclubs in Japan and Europe and in mainstream media on TV shows like Pose and Legendary. Many ballroom kids have gone on to build successful careers as choreographers, designers, authors, and actors.

In 2009, I was hooked and recruited into the House of Blahnik. This House would be one of the first that were devoted to HIV prevention, and since I’m a professional nurse focused on holistic healing and herbalism, I was able to clearly recognize how this community is a great benefactor of medical cannabis in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Formed by the icon Jay Blahnik, the House of Blahnik became my home and outlet for creative expression. I was trained and guided by ball legends who boosted my overall confidence on the runway. And when the ball was over, we would commune over wine and weed.

In these bonding moments, there were house beats blaring from speakers, glitter and feathers scattered across the floor, and cannabis clouds heavy in the air. We planned for the next competition and discussed ways in which we could help each other grow and heal.

These same allies encouraged me to pursue cannabis nursing. We were able to recognize the importance that cannabis played in our healing. And in our teens, my dearest friend would be one of the first people I knew to acquire HIV. When he was struggling with the complications of the progressing illness and rapidly losing weight, his physicians wrote him off and told his family that it would be best to prepare his funeral arrangements.

I’m forever grateful to the brave nurse who secretly told my friend about the appetite-stimulating and potentially relieving benefits of cannabis. She encouraged his mom to cancel the funeral, and instead roll her son a joint, smoke it with him, and feed him anything he wanted to eat.

Though I’m not sure if it was the weed or the bonding moments with his estranged family that encouraged my friend to live, some things are for certain: the ballroom and cannabis communities are about culture, community, and creativity. I and my closest loved ones wouldn’t be alive if it were not for ballroom and cannabis.

The post How cannabis and the drag ballroom scene changed my life appeared first on Weedmaps News.

I have been a writer, poet, rapper, pencil sketch artist, makeup artist, fashion model, burlesque performer, costume designer, and creative director. At some point, I decided it was a good…
The post How cannabis and the drag ballroom scene changed my life appeared first on Weedmaps News.Culture & industry