So, what's a house?
Think of houses as a home away from home for certain members of the ballroom scene -- these are tight-knit families that are meant to serve as safe spaces for African-American and Latinx queer youth, operating under the guidance of house mothers and fathers. As Pose perfectly illustrates with Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) seeking Blanca's help after being disowned by his parents, houses were often seen as a source of refuge for those who had been rejected by their families and/or were struggling to survive. House members didn't actually live together, but some children had the option to live with their house mothers if they had nowhere else to go.
In addition to being a source of emotional support, the main function of houses was for each group to compete with one another at balls. As Dorian Corey, the late founder of House of Corey, so eloquently puts it in Paris Is Burning, "A house is a gay street gang." She adds, "Street gangs get their rewards from street fights. A house street fights at a ball -- and you street fight at a ball by walking in a category."
Some of the more well-known houses include House of Labeija, House of Dupree, House of Ninja, and House of Xtravaganza all founded by iconic drag queens Crystal Labeija, Paris Dupree, Willi Ninja, and Angie Xtravaganza respectively.