Lauron Kehrer deposited “Sissy Style”: Gender, Race, and Sexuality in New Orleans Bounce Dance on Humanities Commons 6 months, 1 week ago
For the past decade, queer and trans rappers have been the dominant force in New Orleans bounce, a dance-centric hip hop genre specific to that city. Inspired by the language of bounce rappers themselves, such as Sissy Nobby, who self-identify as gay and reclaim a once pejorative term to openly express their sexual and gender identities through their performances, music journalist Alison Fensterstock coined the term “sissy bounce” to describe this current phenomenon. Since the genre first developed in the early 1990s, dancing, or “shaking” as it is called locally, has gone hand-in-hand with the music. More recently, bounce dance styles, including twerking, have drawn mainstream attention, fueled in part by controversial performances such as those by Miley Cyrus. “Twerking” is now part of the national vocabulary, but is largely misunderstood, especially its distinctly queer iterations.
Drawing on interviews and fieldwork conducted in New Orleans, this article illustrates the ways in which gendered shaking styles have been adapted among its queer and trans participants and its role as kinetic community response to trauma inflicted by Hurricane Katrina. It demonstrates that shaking is an example of both a racialized and gendered performance and a performative act in which gender and racial identity are co-constructed. Finally, it considers the implications of twerking’s exposure on a national stage and how New Orleans bounce artists have reacted. Bounce music and dance are interconnected forms of expression; considering them together helps us to better understand the relationship between sound and gesture in hip hop.