Some stories don’t fit neatly into a single song, album, or year, so I’ll be making a “mixtape” for those entries. Like this one…..
It’s June, which means it’s LGBT Pride Month.
Which means any corporation worth their salt (or stock price) will trot out a pride flag in their imaging. The hot Maytag guy was holding a rainbow cake on Facebook, so hey, I’m all for that show of support.
And it also means that the inevitable discussion about Do We Still Need Pride and Why Is There Pride and Why Must We Be So Loud and Flamboyant all bubble up to the top.
A few years ago, there was an article in a now-defunct Canadian magazine, The Grid. (ONTD has a mirrored link here.) It was called “Dawn of a New Gay,” and it spoke to a number of twentysomething young gay men about all the things they were so over. Gay bars were on everyone’s list.
I understand that things have changed. I just know that the bar scene was an important place for me to figure out who I was, and how I related to other people.
I wrote about this particular era of my life in another blog. “Formative years” is accurate enough, but seems insufficient.
Music was an incredibly important part of that scene, and R&B and dance were the DNA of it all.
The whole 1980s hybrid of pop and R&B, which came together in the form of Michael Jackson and Prince, was just a few years in the rearview mirror.
Bars and nightclubs could be really cold places, with knives out (metaphorically and, occasionally, literally), but I loved dancing and loved the music I heard there. It felt warm and alive to me.
The Jam/Lewis sound was especially warm and fun, a throwback to late 1970s disco music, and no one personified that sound more than Janet Jackson.
Somehow, despite living in a dreary corner of the Rust Belt, I had friends and enough cash in my pocket to go on adventures every so often. One of our favorite trips was to Cleveland, where the clubs and bars always seemed much friendlier.
I remember the club Keys, in downtown Cleveland, one of the first places I remember being where black and white men were side by side, no borders. No boundaries on the dance floor, as long as the DJ kept things moving.
We were living in a rising queer sensibility – or so all the crucial gay magazines told us – where we tried to smash gender lines, racial lines and every other box and boundary possible.
I was political and aware as the next guy, but also, sometimes? We just wanted to catch a buzz and get laid.
I stopped going to clubs when I had to be up at 6:00 a.m. for the start of a boring corporate workday, and that, as they say, was that.
But I still dream about it from time to time….it’s a beautiful place to lose your inhibitions, to make a beautiful fool of yourself and revel in the joy of it all.
Pride’s the same way for some people, be they old or young, L or G or B or T or any other identity that isn’t in the binary system.
A few weeks ago, I found out that someone I knew as a kid – someone who lived a few streets over, someone who was a pretty steady presence in my young life – was murdered.
I can’t accurately call him a friend, but he and I were both gay, and we served as confidantes to each other, sharing notes. We had a few awkward teenage experiences together (fill in the blanks, kids).
And then we got macro-awkward, about everything, for no good reason, and drifted apart. What? Who knows. We were hormonal teenagers, and drama queens to boot.
We caught up years later at a gay bar, and I think we may have talked for all of five minutes, but it was pretty clear that at that time, he wasn’t out to his family. I don’t know if that ever changed.
Two things hurt my heart; one, that he was murdered. And two, that they were talking around him and who he was. He was referred to in one article as “unmarried.”
The details of his death are being hidden, but the between-the-lines message that’s been implied is that he may have been the victim of a hookup gone wrong.
Coming out may not seem important to some people. But if I died tomorrow, I know that people would talk about me and about everything I am, and everything I was.
They would talk about my partner, and how he’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and the reason my world turns.
There would be no hiding, no shame, no abrupt end to a life that never got to completely emerge from its shell.
And I’m sad, and angry, and hurt that my former school mate didn’t get that chance.
You should read Joe Jervis (of Joe.My.God) and his essay, “Watching the Defectives.”
The last line gets me every time.
“They wish we were invisible. We’re not. Let’s dance.”