Vogue Tribute to the Orlando Victims Sends a Powerful Message About Gay Identity

June 14th 2016

Lucy Tiven

On Monday evening, thousands of Londoners filled Soho neighborhood's Old Compton Street at a vigil for the Orlando shooting victims, The Fader reports. Shortly after a 7 p.m. moment of silence, three dancers — Jason A. Cameron (a.k.a. Jay Jay Revlon of the House of Revlon), Omar Jordan Phillips (a.k.a. BamBam Khan), and D'Relle Khan of the International House of Khan — started a vogue dance-off.

Others joined in to use the emblematic dance move to express their pain, show solidarity, and celebrate gay identity and queer culture.

"Why vogue? Vogue — like Pulse — was for the black and Latino gay community, and is an expression of strength, freedom, and unity," Khan told The Fader.

Voguing spread through pop culture in the 1990s after Madonna included the move, but it was created by gay men of color in Harlem, New York's ballroom drag culture in the 1980s, according to The Guardian.

"Vogue is a dance outlet that comes from the ballroom scene, and within the ballroom scene there's many categories, but it was for the queer people of color, black, Latino, et cetera, to come together in this world — it was for queer people of color to create this feel of a ball," Cameron explained. "A place where everyone feels comfortable, a place where there's no judgment. [Yesterday], I called everyone and was like, "let's vogue down!" — because there's so much upset and sadness and that is happening, and voguing is uplifting. It's an outlet for pain."

Voguing celebrates queer identity and is a way to voice pain and struggle.

“To the drag queens of that time, vogue was a beautiful escape, a way to dance away the pain and oppression they were experiencing,” Kevin Omni Burris, who has been a part of New York's LGBT community since 1975, told The Huffington Post. “But beyond that, it was a celebration of their beauty.”

In January 2016, Dazed Magazine released the documentary, “Vogue, Detroit,” which chronicles how the city's LGBT youth use dance to express their identities and create safe spaces in the city.

“They had found solace in one another and Vogue was their universal language," director Mollie Mills explained on Dazed.

Detroit’s Ruth Ellis Center, a social services agency dedicated to homeless, runaway, and at-risk LGBT youth, even offers voguing lessons.

The dancers in London wanted to pay homage the Soho neighborhood's LGBT community and emphasize the importance of safe spaces.

Soho, a historically queer community, has recently come under threat due to rising rent prices.

"I think in the light of such a horrible attack to our community, we wanted to not only show solidarity to those in Orlando, but ensure we showed solidarity to our own communities," Phillips added. "Especially when Soho and other LGBT spaces are under threat of closing down, from high rent, cuts to arts funding, etc, and they are integral to enriching society and allowing everyone to feel safe. We were reclaiming our space, and letting our community know they can do the same."

[h/t The Fader]