PHOTOS: Controversy, Transphobia & OPULENCE Mark GMHC’s 2013 Latex Ball


New York City was burning Saturday night as the legendary children stepped out for the GMHC’s 21st annual Latex Ball. The theme this year was “Controversy Through Time,” which seems fitting considering the drama leading up to the Ball, as well as some of the shade flying under the roof of Terminal Five in Hell’s Kitchen.

Earlier this year, the ballroom community was calling for a boycott of the Latex Ball since there was some discrepancy over where the money from last year’s event went. In other words, they were telling the GMHC:


Apparently there was a reconciliation as the Houses of LaBeija, Xtravaganza, Ninja and others that made Paris burn turned out to turn it out. To be honest, we only made it through the first half (according to the program, there were three halves) of categories before sashaying out the door around 2 am. As Dorian Corey taught us, balls are notorious for being extremely long, drawn-out affairs.

Highlights included the high energy voguing battles (the deathdrop should be the real national pastime), the beefcake and cheesecake being served for daze, and the Labels category, during which Stephanie Milan gagged the audience with her high fashion sense. Deigning to step outside of Jersey, Ms. Milan came with trunks on trunks on trunks of couture.

But the show literally came to a stop during the Women’s Performance category. Women from around the world duck-walked for glory against each other with Russian minx Karina Ninja inevitably slaying the competition. However, one competitor, a trans woman, almost didn’t get the chance to compete.

She was initially not allowed to walk because, according to the hosts and some of the judges, she was not a bioloooogical woman. At one point, the hosts asked the audience if they should allow her to walk and were met with a chorus of boos. What should have been a safe, all-inclusive space threatened to devolve into some sort of transphobic witch hunt.

To her credit, the would-be voguer stood her ground, even going so far as to begin stripping to prove her womanhood. Before the Ball turned into a Burlesque, a few other trans women came to her defense and addressed the audience. No doubt each had come face to flawless face with transphobia, both in and outside of the gay community.

No tea, no shade, the trans voguer was eventually allowed to perform, but we reached out to the GMHC who offered this explanation of the incident:

The House and Ballroom community has traditionally been inclusive of multiple gender identities and expressions, as well as multiple race and ethnic groups, even though it is primarily a community of color.  It is a ballroom cultural norm to have categories for competition that apply to specific identities that are commonplace throughout the community.  Transgender persons have historically been among the pioneers of the community, and a category called “Femme Queen” and variations upon it are traditionally walked by transgender women, both pre- and post-operative.  Because the community has consistently included a significant minority of biological women who participate in balls, a category is usually provided called “Women’s Performance.”  Another category, “Female Figure,” has been utilized at balls to include all who express their identity as female, regardless of their sex at birth or, in the case of male-to-female (MTF) transgendered persons, pre- or post-operative status.

At the Latex Ball 2012, the category of “Female Figure” was included in the program, and transgender women after that ball requested to have their own category in the next ball.  Thus, for Latex Ball 2013, categories for “Women’s Performance”—as traditionally understood to be a biological female category—and “Femme Queen Performance”—understood as a transgender category (pre- or post-op) were included.  These are the kinds of measures generally taken in the community to ensure inclusivity in ballroom performance events, and which the community members request from GMHC.

On Saturday night, one contestant who identified as a transgender woman wanted to walk in the “Women’s Performance” category.  This has not been seen in the House and Ballroom community.  It was unexpected and an open debate arose as the various commentators and judges had different interpretations for the category.  The contestant suddenly grabbed the microphone from one of the commentators and took the commentator by surprise.  One MC for the event sought to bring back order to the event. GMHC staff also intervened to ensure that the contestant was able to finish competing in the category and successfully exit the runway. In response to the incident, and at the urging of the contestant, a GMHC staffperson who was also one of the MC’s, made a public statement from the runway to note that the community and this ball in particular have always been trans-inclusive and that the issue of gender identities in categories is larger than this ball. Community leaders need to continue to work on defining categories as new boundaries are explored. GMHC remains committed to serve all of our communities of which the House and Ballroom community is central.

Why this was such an issue is beyond us, since if someone — particularly in the ball scene — self-identifies as a woman, she should be treated as such. But there are apparently rules agains this sort of thing, which to invoke her memory once again, reminds us of something Dorian Corey once said: “After they’ve laid down these little categories, then they try to become a stickler for exact interpretation.”


Identity politics aside, the Ball — at least what we saw of it — went off without further hitch. And judging from the amazing photos, the children owned everything.

Photos: Luna Ortiz 

01450112Legendary (Disco) Face


01450097Women’s Performance





01450155Also, EVERYTHING

01450159Putting in werq


01450173Serving Face

01450188Legendary Runway

01450187Sheer Beauty

01450196Nicki Minaj, is that you?

01450218Yes, Ma’am!

01450228The children went in…

01450233And were taking…



tumblr_mhqejy7ypQ1rjkh9so1_500‘Nuff said.

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  • Bee Gaga

    Fabulous-ness hun-ty!

  • AuntieMame2013

    It was the 23rd Annual not the 21st. They got through 24 out of 30 categories. At other traditional balls you’d be lucky to get through 10 categories.

    There was no boycott obviously if you see the images there were more that 2000 people in the building. The boycott is ran by a group foolish people who don’t understand how a non-profits run.

    The ball was over at 4am, 8pm-4am.

    Stephanie is not a Milan she is a free agent.

    If you are not a part of the ballroom scene, you wouldn’t understand what happened with the trans woman. In the ballroom there are specific categories that are gender driven, Fem Queen is the umbrella name for any female figure talking female hormones, which for the last 50 years even transsexuals have walked under. The discrepancy was stated that if she walked that night as a woman she cannot flip flop from Fem Queen at one ball and women at another. Traditionally in ballroom trans women are fem queens…always has been.

    Get your facts right.

  • Krishna Stone

    Please note this year’s Latex Ball was the 23rd, not the 21st ball. Also, the Ballroom community did not call for a boycott of this ball, rather a small group of people.

  • Loose Lips

    After reading this article by the Queerty editor Lester Brathwaite and the responds by Krishna Stone, the GMHC publicist, and looking at the photos by Luna Ortiz, it is unfortunate that nobody had anything to say or show about the HIV prevention and testing, when using 50.000 of AIDS money to pay for it, nor does the editor Lester Brathwaite, who showed some journalistic potential, failed to do any research on who and why thousands from the ballroom community were boycotting this Latex Ball. Instead he was using one quote “Earlier this year, the ballroom community was calling for a boycott of the Latex Ball since there was some discrepancy over where the money from last year’s event went.” This is the problem with today’s media, they are just writing stuff and instead of looking into all of the reasons of the boycott, he decided to downplay it and contributed to the marginalization of the ballroom community.

    The fact that this ball was funded with AIDS money seems to be of no concern by the Queerty editor Lester Brathwaite. He also doesn’t seem to be informed about the overall scandals about GMHC revealed in 2013.

    COO Janet Weinberg made an announced in early August, crying about all the budget cuts and GMHC had to cut food and other services for their clients. Two days later after Weinberg’s announcement to the media, Luna Ortiz, producer of the Latex Ball announced more prize money for a fun Latex ball. Prize money instead of food money.

    The editor certainly was not paying any attention that GMHC is in a position to loose tens of thousands of dollars on a FUN ball and reported record breaking prize money for the Latex Ball.

    This lack of reporting shows clearly that we have people writing STUFF over real journalism. What GMHC is telling the public is “More Prize Money for the Latex Ball instead of Food Money for the Clients.” If the editor actually had contacted us or went to our blog and read all of the reasons why GMHC is denying meetings with us and why the ballroom community was boycotting this ball, he would have found many disturbing facts on how the GMHC agency is abusing and “pimping” the ballroom community for years. Instead he went for the glamour pictures and a ball report, no surprise.

    No more free HIV prevention and education and free HIV testing; instead GMHC is charging $20 or $35 dollars to get tested at the Latex Ball. It used to be free before the government stopped funding those types of prevention events, because they no longer serve a purpose to the community. Not one word on that. Not one word that 4.000 people used to support this ball, now they have a few hundred people left and GMHC publicist Krishna Stone’s comment “Also, the Ballroom community did not call for a boycott of this ball, rather a small group of people.” This small group of people Stone is referring to and is trying to separate from the ballroom community has actually an organizing body and has two chairs, Kevin Omni and Wolf Omni. The House of Omni is celebrating their 35th anniversary in April of 2014 and this House was inducted into the “House Hall of Fame” and has three members inducted into the “Ballroom Hall of Fame”, the highest ballroom achievement. Kevin Omni received three awards from GMHC for his ballroom contributions, vision and leadership and now Krishna Stone try’s to discredit him for speaking out against them and makes it look like that the boycott is organized by some outside people. The House of Omni founded the Historic and Cultural House Ball Institute representing many members from the house ball community and is best known for their historic ballroom contributions in “Old Way Voguing” and “Face” categories, education and lecturing at the most prestigious universities and film festivals world wide and for their activism. Stone is doing the dirty work on behalf of GMHC and it is a shame that Stone and GMHC have to go out of their way to strategically downplay the boycott and are trying to discredit the historians and educators of the ballroom community to earn her paycheck.

    Let’s at least try to frame this conversation, if we can call it that. Who is the ballroom community besides the glitter and glitz that everybody likes to write about? They are a disenfranchised, marginalized, under-served and under-funded community with trend setting artistic values. What does that mean? It means that a community of this nature is unable to organize and stand up to fight for their best interest, it is unable to empower itself and it is unable to fight for justice. They tear each other down rather to support each other. Only but a very few can escape from this down spiral self destructive environment, created by society of which GMHC is taking full advantage of. In real life it translates into the following. You give individuals from a marginalized community a penny on the dollar, which is what GMHC is doing, they will sell their mother and the kitchen sink for that penny. You offer them $100 in prize money at the Latex Ball and they don’t care if this ball is in their best economic, social, health and artistic interest. All those important community values have absolutely no value or meaning to members of a marginalized community, because they are not able to see it and understand it. All they see is the $ and the 5 second of walking the runway.

    If members don’t have the money, because they have no jobs, are homeless or have no parent(s) to pay $100 for admission, sweeten the pot, transportation, food and new outfits, they will do whatever it takes to get that money to go to the Latex Ball. This is an unfortunate part of ballroom culture and is an element that is very unfortunate. If we could get support by the AIDS agencies in form of empowerment, we would be able to actually help those most unfortunate ones. It is a disgrace that GMHC would encourage that by charging so much money to the young adults from the ages of 13 to 19 years old from our community. This is a very sad reality the ballroom community is facing by GMHC and they fail to apply any moral standards and they provide an unsafe environment for those in the community that are less fortunate.

    The loss of ballroom leadership to the epidemic, makes them not only vulnerable to outsiders, they have no recourses to protect themselves. Everybody dealing direct or indirect with this community either benefits financially or will exploit this community at the end of the day, in one way or another. All they have to do is give the community a penny on the dollar, one good program and they get away with all the exploitation and abuse by the government and the public and media turns a blind eye.

    As long as the less fortunate from the ballroom community continue to go back to GMHC for the penny and continue to sign the sign up sheets, those agencies stay in business and they have nothing to worry about, because there is no government oversight and nobody is held accountable at GMHC on how they do business. As we all know, society doesn’t care about this marginalized community, as long as they entertain them, they will write about us, that includes this article and it includes the Madonna’s, the Lady Gaga’s, Lambda Legal, GLAAD and the list goes on and on. When it comes to fighting for ballroom justice and empowering, none of these people and organizations will lift one finger, but they are the first ones to take advantage of our talents and unfortunate situation.

    Because the GMHC board of directors and the staff are “respected” members of the community, the public believes that they would never do anything like that. This is a very common structure used within the not for profit sector and society, which is set up very strategically, so nobody will actually question them when people like the historians and activist speak up. But when they do speak up about their community concerns, they are quickly shut down and they try to discredit them as it is in this case by Stone and GMHC. They go as far as corrupting members from our own community and turn them against their own community by using slander and division. They strategically build the environment around us that we are “just a few people” and therefore not of importance, because they say so.

    Who gave the GMHC health agency the right to decide who is important and who isn’t in the community, and who is right and who is wrong? They get funded to take care of our health, but they use the AIDS money to pay for artistic programs like balls, voguing classes, mini balls, Youtube videos, trips to the museum and such, cutting into the ballroom economy by over one million dollars and they are corrupting and manipulating the natural artistic progression. GMHC has money for all that, but GMHC is cutting funds for food for their clients and they cut the “Buddy” program, a program that served homebound people with AIDS, so they can have a fun ball. This is what this agency has become.

    When the marginalized ballroom community reaches out for help, everybody is turning a blind eye, because society around them has been paid off by GMHC and they still look at this agency as a gift from GOD unfortunately. They have no interest in empowering a community for obvious reasons, because they make much money off it. It’s a triple whammy, African American and Hispanic, gay and poor. Another reason why nobody helps this community is that they can not help politicians to get re-elected nor can they provide any benefits that are of importance to the people in power.

    Krishna Stone is the publicist for GMHC and her job is to hype the event and minimize the boycott, all in one sentence, because that is what she gets paid for and the media still falls for that.

    Stone has become the laughing stock amongst the ballroom historians and activists and we are questioning her African American heritage, because she represents the best interest of the GMHC health agency and not the best interest of “her” people, who are the originators of the ballroom community.

    The fact that thousands of the ballroom community boycotted this ball for years can be easily explained by simply looking at the attendance of the Latex Ball over the years. It’s simple math. When the ballroom community was in support, the ball would draw 4.000 people at Roseland, now the numbers are in the hundreds at Terminal 5.

    What does a publicist or a Latex Ball producer know about how the Latex Ball cuts into the ballroom economy by over 1 million dollars over the years and what does a health agency know about the manipulation and corruption of the natural artistic ballroom progression and traditions by the Latex Ball and all the other artistic programs they fund through the Club 1319 Youth program using AIDS money to pay for it all. GMHC is a health agency but they act like the “Sony” corporation entertainment group by funding artistic programs they don’t know anything about and they loose every year tens of thousands of dollars on the Latex Ball. They ignore the community voices, concerns and needs so they can continue to produce a fun ball and artistic programs using AIDS money. They tell the public that this is a wonderful prevention event, because they have tables at the venue distributing condoms and literature, they lie about that HIV testing is free and they never talk about the Club 1319 youth program, the home of all the artistic programs that also includes the Latex Ball. They justify their actions by making this a popularity contest by a few hundred who showed up at the ball, rather than supporting the thousands that don’t support this ball anymore for years.

    So, “What are the true motivations of GMHC”? Why are they trying so hard to hold on to this ball and artistic programs? Having to discredit and slander respected members from the community and having to downplay the boycott? Why are they denying the truth? Why are they ignoring the fact that thousands of people stopped going to this ball? Could it be $$$ and more $$$. It is absolutely about the dollar and we all know how they are “milking the ballroom cash cow” for decades. After 23 years of dealing with GMHC, collecting scientific evidence, it is impossible to hide it.

    When reading this article or the Latex Ball promotions on their facebook page, there is not one word about HIV/AIDS prevention and education, but yet they announce it as a prevention ball publically, to make the public feel good about how they spend their AIDS money donations, because they will never know.

    Another good example on how it plays out in our community overall. The Imperial Court of NY had their annual fundraiser in 2013 and they made GMHC one of their beneficiaries. We reached out to the president Gary Cosgrove to inform him about the Latex Ball controversy and scandal way before the fundraiser, but he couldn’t be bothered and the current empress got on the slander band wagon by GMHC supporters such as Louie Garay and Hector Xtravaganza. How this plays out is. The Court wants to “sleep” with the GMHC agency and they really don’t care where GMHC spends their money on, as long as the Court can hang out with the important agencies in the city. What the Court is doing in their advertisement to the public is that the money raised will go towards HIV and AIDS. What happened now is the Court miss-informed the public, because the money was part of the prize money for the Latex Ball that had nothing to do with HIV and AIDS anymore. It all plays out where at the end of the day the GMHC agency wins across the board and the ballroom community can not get out of the artistic and marginalized ghetto, because our own community would rather “sleep” with GMHC than to help the ballroom community in the fight for justice.

    In addition, GMHC was serving alcohol at one of their Club 1319 Youth program, called Latex Ball and to members in recovery at Terminal 5. It was the second year that they served alcohol even though we pointed out at the meeting we had with them that it is not appropriate for a health agency, because we have many minors and people in recovery. Their responds was, “GMHC received a break in the rental fee and in return the corporation needed to make more money, so we decided to serve alcohol.” With other words, they put our community at risk and sold out the community so the corporation can make more money by serving alcohol.

    The Latex Ball 2013 also promoted sexual and mafia behavior through their categories to young adults at the ages between 13 and 19 years old and they are asking to act out these categories with a “shady” attitude. Where are the moral standards GMHC? It cost parents $100 for their children to attend, they come home at 5AM in the morning and HIV testing is no longer free, even though they say in their press release that they provide free HIV testing. How do they get away with this lie? Some are homeless, no jobs and no recourses. How is GMHC expecting how they pay for all of this?

    Who in their right mind would support an event of this nature, what are the moral standards and who is accountable at GMHC? The board of directors? Staff? Public officials? Community leaders? The media? Has AIDS money become the new artistic empowerment fund for GMHC? Are artistic programs more important than serving food to the GMHC clients, pay for a subway fairs so clients can receive services or serve homebound people with AIDS?

    After many scandals coming out in 2013 about the GMHC agency, such as the discrimination law suit, providing the MZA Corporation with free office space but GMHC is charging non profits rent and our boycott, all had much to do with the change of public opinion about the agency’s reputation. We could clearly see it at the AIDS Walk participation, which was down 33%, a solid 15.000 people less and the donations were down over $300.000. The public is getting the message, when is GMHC, the media, the public officials, the editor of this article and the leaders in the LGBT community getting the message? Isn’t it amazing what “A small group of people” can do?

    Have the historians and the activists of our community become an inconvenienced baggage for society and are we no longer needed to represent the best interest for the community? Have a few hundred people become more important than thousands of people boycotting this ball? Have we been replaced by incompetent people working at those not for profits who will sell out their mother and kitchen sink for a paycheck?

    The Krishna Stone’s, the Marjorie Hill’s of the community who finally got fired, because of “a small group of people”, the Janet Weinberg’s, Dirk McCall’s, Luna Ortiz’s, the GMHC board of directors and staff are all aware of this Latex Ball scandal and are all turning a blind eye. WHY? Because the Hill’s and Weinberg’s make $200.000 a year and many others at GMHC make over $100.000. Adding up the salaries of the top 8 people at GMHC, it totals 1.2 million dollars. Would YOU sell out a community if YOU made this kind of money?

    GMHC’s annual budget is 10 million dollars vs. the ballroom community budget is cero dollars, what do you think the results in the media and the public officials are going to be?

    At the end of the day there is always the internet, and what a blessings that is for “a small group of people”.

    Become a friend and support the up-coming First International Annual Ballroom Convention 2014

    Please go to our blog for more detailed information about the Latex Ball scandals, it’s an eye opener http://gmhcitsachop.blogspot.com/, thank you for your time and concerns and please look further into this matter.

    For your Latex Ball Satire pleasure

    Ballroom education

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