Kinship is Burning

In this article, I take Judith Butler to task over her critique of queers of colour involved in the voguing scene in New York in her famous article Gender is Burning. I argue that by concentrating solely on whether these voguing competitions subvert or reify gender, Butler misses out on the self-transformative aspect of training for these competitions. I show that queer kids that have been disowned by their biological parents form a unique kind of kinship system based on the apprenticeship of “children” who are amateur voguers by “mothers” who are experts. The complex of “mother” and “child” here makes up what are called “houses” in which each child takes on a new last name, that of the “mother”. These “mothers” not only teach their “children” to compete but they also inaugurate “children” into a community and mentor them on how to be a queer person of colour. So, while not undermining gender, I show that as a new “experiment in living”, this group creatively undermines and changes our notions of kinship, an important step in any feminist theory of liberation.