In January 2018, Donald Trump's former communication manager, Jason Miller, was arguing with CNN correspondent Brian Karem, when he surprised viewers with some unexpected vocabulary. “If it’s not true, then we need to go and make sure we’re being very clear here. So, please don’t try to throw shade,” said Miller.
From “throwing shade” to “getting read” to “clocking someone’s look,” much of queer slang has gone mainstream. Chad Ochocinco, former Miami Dolphins wide receiver, recently commented on his daughter’s Instagram picture saying, “you betta give me looks sis” and “come through hunty.”
In gay culture, there are many phrases unique and dear to us, such as “reading” or referring to someone as “sister” or “mother.” But it is not just our vocabulary that has been popularized, it is also our dances—voguing, death drops, duck walks—and our mannerisms. The issue for many homosexuals is when queer references and actions are used in mainstream pop culture, but are not credited as originating from queer culture.
Queer culture and pop culture do not correlate, explained Zach Phelan, a freshman at The Savannah College of Art and Design. “It’s annoying to me when Vanessa Hudgens says she’s ‘so into voguing right now’ because voguing isn’t a fad happening right now, it’s apart of a lifestyle and has cultural significance,” said Phelan.
Phelan continued saying, “decades of gay people being completely isolated in a heteronormative society, and now it’s trendy to have a gbf [gay best friend] and people don’t even understand ball culture and where all our trendy moves and lingo comes from. It’s just frustrating.”
Madonna’s iconic song “Vogue” sold more than six million copies worldwide to date. She popularized an underground, queer dance fad, and introduced it to a mainstream audience without crediting queer culture for it creation. Many homosexuals criticized Madonna for erasing the queer roots of her hit song.
Nicole Thompson of The Latin Post, criticised the pop artist in her article “‘The Madonna-Free Zone:’ The History of the Harlem Vogue Scene,” saying Madonna “took a very specifically queer, transgender, Latino and African-American phenomenon and totally erased that context with her lyrics.”
Voguing was the expressionary form of “shade,” explained Willi Ninja, a dancer and choreographer, in the documentary “Paris is Burning.”
“Voguing came from shade because it is a dance that two people did because they didn't like each other. Whoever was throwing the best moves was throwing the best shade," he said.
According to Madonna, in her song “Vogue”, her lyrics infer she views voguing as just the opposite. It was an escape from yourself, it was allowing your body “to move to the music.” “Vogue” ripped off the legacy of many queer men, discrediting and removing their acknowledgement from the limelight.
“It's infuriating when you're forced out of a space, seek asylum among other similarly marginalized individuals, create a thriving community for yourselves and those who look like you, and the people who expelled you (in this case cis-hetero black women, cis-hetero black women and white people in general) co-opt your comfort and survival mechanisms for their own enjoyment. All while refusing to acknowledge the trauma they inflicted, forcing you to create those things in the first place.” explained Ryan Sides, writer and digital strategist.
As time continues, the way we talk, walk and move keeps finding its way into mainstream pop culture. Queer trends, fads and slang has grasped the attention of many heterosexuals, but we are not being credited for the creation of such trends. Behind every new trend and pop queen is queer culture originating the next fad.