November 16th, 2011
Wednesday Epiphany: I Love Gay People!
Saturday night I found myself undulating in the well-muscled arms of a bare-chested, slick brown-skinned, 6′ 2″ God of a man whom we shall call Atlas. What would Henry say if he could’ve seen me? He said, “You go, Girl” when I told him. Because I was dancing in a gay nightclub called Hunters on Leather Weekend in Palm Springs and Atlas didn’t play for my team. In fact, he may have been using me to attract the attention of an equally gorgeous man we’ll call Bare-Butt Chaps.
I didn’t always love gay people. When I left home for college I was a homophobe. Because I didn’t know any gay people. Okay, there was my sophomore lit professor Mr. Kennison who was given to wearing silk scarves and the occasional mink. But he was too old to have sex. He was at least 40.
So I went off to live in the freshman dorms at USC. And there were two KNOWN LESBIANS on my floor in rooms 8 and 14. One of them wore Goth make-up, bolts in her ears and had Joan Jett wallpaper. The other one was more subdued with a close-cropped haircut and hiding brown eyes. Why didn’t the school administration put the lesbians in the same dorm room? Were they dangerous? Would they try to talk to me? Were they going to jump me in the communal showers like the mean juvie girls jumped Linda Blair in Born Innocent?
One of the lesbians said “Hello” to me one day and I fainted dead away. I have no recollection of the two days that followed.
I don’t exactly know when it happened, but somewhere in the middle of second semester I began to realize that they weren’t dykes (because a dyke is a levee, a natural or artificial slope or wall to regulate water levels) but that they were Julie and Roxanne. Julie and Roxy hung out together in Roxy’s Joan Jett shrine and smoked clove cigarettes. One day as I passed Roxy’s open door they invited me in. Taking my life in my hands I entered the lesbian lair. It was oddly … ordinary. We did what I did with my straight friends; talk about our lame love lives and listen to music. A few weeks later they asked me if I wanted to go to Peanuts with them.
Peanuts was a drag club in West Hollywood circa 1983. I didn’t have a car and hadn’t ever been off the USC campus let alone to Gay Town. I was also, I might mention, a virgin. And the worst kind of virgin, which is to say, the judgmental kind. Non-virgins were slutty. I was always happy to wake up from an erotic dream to realize I was THANK GOD STILL A VIRGIN! A pristine vessel never to be smote down by God or Jesus or the Holy Mother. I also never drank or did any drugs. I was a smug little shit.
Somehow this homophobic virgin and her equally green, straight roommate, Susan, agreed to go with Roxy and Julie to Peanuts. I’d like to think it was a gesture of friendship toward my two new friends, but there was certainly a voyeuristic element involved. I was a journalism student who, up until this point, had relatively little to report. To fortify myself for the assignment I smoked a clove cigarette. Roxy had to stop the car just before we got on the 10 Freeway so I could barf.
When we arrived at Peanuts I was surprised to see people were wearing clothes and not simply whips, chains and permanently affixed condoms. Yes, there were piercings, tattoos and nipple safety pins (which was fairly uncommon in the ’80s Stone Age) and there were men dancing suggestively with men and women dancing suggestively with women. But it was just like watching men dancing with women. And women dancing with men. Some couples were sexy, others danced like they were having a grande mal seizure, some were awkward, self-conscious, in love, in lust … basically exactly like the straight world. Huh.
Than came the drag show. I sat bedazzled by the display of beauty. I would’ve killed for those smooth, sinewy gams. Those firm, high-perched butts. That Diva-like swagger. And I really wanted to know what they’d all done with their penises. From a purely anthropological point of view, of course.
After the drag show the house music came up again with a vengeance. I realized I didn’t have to dance with anyone to dance. There were plenty of people just dancing by themselves. Throwing caution to the tsunami I entered the pulsating throng. I danced alone at first, then co-mingled with men and with women — only after I’d informed them I was straight. And a virgin who hadn’t joined the Hornucopia Of Life yet. And did I mention straight?
I left with my condescending morals intact. Turns out dancing isn’t sex. Who knew?
Also, dancing in Peanuts with all the gays was different than dancing on fraternity row, or at your cousin’s wedding or at straight club. For the first time I didn’t feel like anyone was judging me. I felt safe. And free.
Cut to: Twenty-seven years later. Leather Weekend in Palm Springs at Hunters. I found myself dancing onstage with my mom friends Lauren and Julia during All-The-Ladies-Up-On-The-Stage Time when here came beautiful Atlas, wending his way through the crowd his arms outstretched to receive me. I leapt into them. Did I have to worry my husband would be ticked when I got home? No. Did I have to worry I might be sending the wrong message? Absolutely not. Did I have to worry I would crush him beneath my mom poundage? No. In case you haven’t noticed Ladies, a preponderance of gay men have the BEST MUSCLES! And so, for one long club version of Katy Perry’s Firework my dance partner spun me, swung me, dipped me, twirled me all over that disco dance floor and I was free again.
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