With a claim to fame as one of the world's longest running queer events, Queens Ball is an invaluable institution for Brisbane's LGBTQIA+ community.
Starting in the 1960s, the event has continued to evolve in all aspects but one: it has been a safe and inclusive space for Queensland’s Queer community for 60 years. The event’s history can be traced back to a party in the Gold Coast that brought people together despite the illegality of being gay at the time. It was a celebration, but a rebellion in its own right. This spirit of Queer celebration and activism remains today.
Each year Queen’s Ball features a talented lineup of performers, showcasing the best of Brisbane's drag scene and Queer art. In previous years, audiences have been dazzled by beloved drag queens like Gina Vanderpump and renowned burlesque stars like Citrine Velvetine. This year’s Ball, on the 25th of June, will be headlined by Sydney-based indie sensation Montaigne. She’s performed at Splendour in the Grass, Eurovision, and now brings her talents to Queen’s Ball.
If the entertainment isn’t enough to get you through the door, the event also features a two-course meal and a four-hour drinks package. It’s also an opportunity to dress to impress, with each Queen’s Ball having a theme. This year’s 61st Queen’s Ball will follow a Masquerade Theme.
But Queen’s Ball is much more than a black tie celebration. It is a platform for recognising the significant contributions of LGBTQIA+ activists, artists, and institutions. The awards portion of the evening is the main event, giving praise and recognition to the hardworking people and organisations that strive to improve every area of life for the Queer community.
Felicity Myers, a nominee for Activist of the Year in 2022 for her work with Educate, Don’t Discriminate, described the importance of an event like Queen’s Ball: “For many who are used to environments where they are hidden, undermined and unvalued, the Ball is a really special and meaningful night where they can be proud of who they are.…The Ball serves as a public display of our strength, resilience and pride as a community despite the hardships so many of us have faced because of who we are.”
She added that “To celebrate a queer person’s achievements is such an empowering monument to the whole community. It serves as a form of activism as we are demonstrating our courage, resilience and how proud we are to be ourselves.”
Matilda from Rainbow Families QLD, last year’s Community Social Group of the Year winner, expressed a similar sentiment. She said, “It provides recognition of the work in a sector which doesn’t always get the same public recognition as other advocacy work. As a society we’re starting now to talk more about LGBTQIA+ rights and LGBTQIA+ people, and Queen’s Ball is creating a space for connection and inspiration within the community around these issues.”
In addition to recognising their achievements, award recognition at Queen’s Ball is significantly beneficial to recipients and the work they do. Ella Ganza, host of the Ball in 2020 and winner of the Performer of the Year award in 2021, says the award has expanded her platform and audience: “A lot of the work that I do do is specifically for Queer People of Colour and Trans People of Colour, so having the wider, and whiter, Queer community there, they were able to see the work that I do for our community and also see our community being represented, by just being there and obviously winning the award as well.”
Matilda also noted that the award has had additional benefits for Rainbow Families QLD and their work with the community, saying “It was a good platform to raise awareness of our group and the work that we do….We have referred to the award when applying for funds from government and in law reform submissions and it has given us more legitimacy and more power in the advocacy that we do.”
It’s clear that an event like Queen’s Ball is activism in itself, highlighting the voices and achievements of the Queen community. But there is also room for activism within the event. From the 60s to today, Queen’s Ball has changed and grown, and it continues to evolve. As the issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community shift, so does the kind of activism present at Queen’s Ball. For former host and winner Ella Ganza, an important issue is the acknowledgement of Trans women of colour and Queer people of colour: “I definitely believe there needs to be a lot more trans women of colour represented at the event. I think for such a big, iconic, LGBT event there definitely needs to be a lot more representation for our Queer people of colour as well, definitely our Indigenous brothers and sisters, and definitely the priority of the Trans women of colour.”
Ella added that it is important for the wider community to vote on award nominations in order to recognise those making a difference, or those who may be overlooked, such as Trans and POC members of the community. She said “I do believe that it's up to us as a community to really vote those people through that are not being recognised. So it's really important that all of our voices are heard.…Queen's Ball is a positive tool to increase awareness around these issues and activism, but it's up to the community to vote the right people through and really support them.”
Voting is closed for this year’s Queen’s Ball, but that’s all the more reason to mark Queen’s Ball down on your calendar as an annual outing. It is a wonderful opportunity for the broader Queer community to voice the issues important to them, recognise those who need it the most, and celebrate how far we’ve come. In the words of Felicity Myers, Queen’s Ball “is a joyous celebration of individuality and the beauty found in being yourself. Having a night like this is something truly empowering that means the absolute world to everyone who attends.” To join this celebration, book tickets for this year’s Queen’s Ball here, and follow Brisbane Pride to be informed on the next round of voting when you can have your voice heard.