Arts, Culture & Entertainment

Beyoncé is changing how people see the LGBTQ+ community, one ‘clack’ at a time

From previous albums celebrating the beauty of Blackness to her latest album and tour proudly celebrating queer spaces, Beyoncé changed the game. Now, she’s bringing ballroom culture into the spotlight and changing how people see queer culture today.

Photo of Beyonce performing on stage. There is a red, pink, purple and blue background behind her. She is has one leg up on a podium. She is wearing a sparkly red jumpsuit and singing.

From the documentary “Paris is Burning” to streaming hits like “Pose” and “Legendary,” queer underground culture has repeatedly made its way into the mainstream. Beyoncé's “Renaissance” tour is the latest example, offering the biggest stage yet.

Ballroom, a word often associated with high etiquette, is also the name of a queer subculture inspired by Black and Latinx identities. It’s a community where individuals express themselves freely, find acceptance and create their own family: an essence captured and revived on Beyoncé's album “Renaissance” through house music, and showcased on tour, even in places where LGBTQ+ identities and celebration have been controversial.

“When you tour in places that don’t really accept queer people, you’re putting ballroom, house music, and just the culture on blast, not only just for gay culture but gay Black culture especially,” said Dominic Jackson, an avid-concert goer and influencer who runs the popular Beyoncé fan account @beybigger on Instagram.

For those outside the culture, it has given them a window into ballroom and queerness, an experience that’s been very positive for Muna Obiefule, a USC junior in environmental studies.

“Black queerness has always been fun and I’m like, ‘I want to go to a ball,’” said Obiefule.

Katie Luo, also a junior at USC, said she’s noticed Beyoncé's world tour changing people’s perception on queer culture in general.

“[Ballroom] has been really relevant recently in the sense of popular culture,” said Luo. “Because of Beyoncé and shows like ‘Pose’ or ‘Drag [Race]’ and everything, it’s bringing more people in and a lot of them enjoy it.”

LGBTQ+ representation has been a heated political topic, even in Los Angeles, with clashes between parents for and against LGBTQ+ curriculums in schools taking place last month. Anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrators held signs and called out chants decrying queerness itself as evil.

For Beyoncé concert-goer Bryson Gonzalez, the tour has invigorated his belief in ballroom as a way to find love in untraditional places.

“She’s created space for us in a place where we weren’t previously accepted,” Gonzalez said. “The fact that she’s acknowledged [the community] so publicly with this tour, I think it says a lot about who she is and where she stands, especially the fact she had an uncle that was a queer pioneer in the ballroom scene.”

Beyoncé has dedicated “Renaissance” to queer culture and her “Uncle Johnny,” a gay relative who was actually the nephew of Beyoncé's mother Tina Knowles-Lawson. The superstar credited Uncle Johnny for introducing her and her sister to house music and queer culture, which inspired the album. With that in mind, Black queer artists have become the soul of the album and the sold-out world tour, which showcased ballroom culture at the front and center.

Within ballroom culture and the Beyoncé fandom, it’s common to engage in activities like voguing and emoting, and using lingo like ‘ten, ten, ten across the board’ and ‘your face card never declines, my god.’

TikTok, alongside other social platforms, has become one of the biggest hives for the subculture, helping it spread to new fans and becoming an avenue for teaching it to friends and family.

One of the most recent trends that has been blowing up features Beyoncé and ballroom lovers showing others how to unfurl a black fan to make a loud clacking sound to the beat of the song “Heated,” a popular, crowd-pleasing move the superstar has showcased heavily on tour.

In a time where anti-LGBTQ+ policies are being passed throughout the United States, seeing the beauty and art of ballroom culture on a massive artist’s main stage has been an inspiration to those with queer identities.

“It shines a spotlight on something that has been very intertwined into queer culture and makes it more public,” said Jackson. “It gives people a reason to research and know the history of what is actually behind a lot of what you see popularized in gay culture nowadays.”

“She’s putting a spotlight on us, specifically the ballroom scene, that’s where a lot of trans girls started out,” said Gonzalez. “She’s definitely impacting the queer community in a big way, in the best way.”