Growing up as a non-white LGBTQ person in America is not always easy. Prejudice, disease and mistreatment are part of everyday life. In New York, the community comes together in a special subculture: the KIKI-scene. The spectacular ‘Ballroom’ – the dance that became famous in the nineties because of Madonna’s ‘Vogue’– allows young LGBTQ people to strengthen their identities and to dance their problems away. They do this in special houses that instantly form a new family. Twiggy Pucci Garçon is a father in one of the largest KIKI Ballroom Houses in New York.
Twiggy Pucci Garçon grew up in Virginia, in a ‘stereotypical and homophobic environment’, he says in the film KIKI. There, being openly gay was not okay, especially if you were part of a church community. When Twiggy was about fifteen years old, people started to ask questions. Why did he behave so feminine? Was he gay, maybe? If he were to continue that behaviour, he would no longer be welcome in church. “That hurt a lot. Everybody who knew me knew that I was in that church all the time.”
He came out to his mother, who did not accept it at first. “It must be a phase,” she said to him. It turned out not to be a ‘phase’, and when his mother started reading a lot about LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer), she knew: this is part of life, people are even born this way. “Knowledge is so important,” she explains. From that moment, she supported her son. And she is very proud of him. Twiggy’s father never accepted him. Twiggy moved to New York where he and his dancing would play an essential role in the LGBTQ community.
Compared to the lives of many young people in the film KIKI, Twiggy’s story does not even sound that hard. Most of these youths were forced out of their house by their parents and ended up on the street, where sex work, violence and HIV are always lying in wait. At least fifty percent of them are HIV positive. Twiggy: “Look, you have all these layers in society that make it difficult. Being black, being gay. When you are not just black but transgender as well, you are in a very difficult position.”
In a KIKI-house, young people get a new family. Guided by a ‘father’ and ‘mother, and together with brothers and sisters, the KIKI members train hard for the spectacular KIKI-balls. These are events where you can show your identity and earn money when you win. It does not matter who exactly is male or female, or who feels masculine or feminine. As long as you can be yourself. The more extravagant, the better.
Twiggy leads the Opulent Haus of PUCCI and has become a kind of frontman for the KIKI movement, about which he speaks around the world. In addition, he is a Senior Programme Officer at the True Colors Fund, where he fights for homeless LGBTQ youth. But above all, he is an amazing dancer and a role model for the LGBTQ youth he works with. “The support and love we feel for each other help us to deal with setbacks. We are strong as fuck."