I Just Wanna F**kin’ Dance!
Way back in 2007, Out magazine ran an article of mine about the traditional "Circuit party" in which I speculated that the all-gay, all-night, all-weekend-long dance-infused festival was becoming an endangered species. The fallout led, among other things, to my editorship of the newly christened noiZe (neé Circuit noiZe).
Since this issue of noiZe offers a look back, I thought it was a good idea to revisit my original thesis. In 2007, we still couldn't serve in the military openly. Only Massachusetts recognized same-sex marriage. Openly gay men had trouble adopting children in most of the country. Nationally, sexual orientation wasn't included in the definition of a hate crime; we had not formal job protection; and the Defense of Marriage Act ensured that we would be denied over 1,000 benefits granted to straight couples.
What a difference five years make!
I'm amazed at how profoundly changes in society have affected gay dance parties. Take, for example, Fire Island's Pines Party, the annual all-night oceanfront extravaganza. Past themes ranged from Arabian nights to classical deities to superheroes; sexy as hell, in other words. This year, the theme was "I Do," a celebration of marriage.
In its wake, marriage equality is dance-floor equality. Along with our increased acceptance in the wider world, there has been a melding of the party scene. These days, a "gay" dance party is likely to include a good number of straight women, couples and, yes, single straight men. Yes, we've always had our fag hags (and before you start, like "queer," it's an appropriated term, dammit). But lately, I've been noticing that a hot girl as much an accessory for the hottest guys as a refillable water bottle.
Parties like Matineé come to us with a pedigree in the straight world - and with straight party enthusiasts. On the flip side, gay men are flocking to huge parties like New York's Electric Circus and Miami's Ultra. Partly, this is a result of the increasing dearth of big-room gay nights. In most of our major cities, if you want a full night of clubbing, you'll probably be facing the same velvet rope as everyone else.
Dance Music, the Universal Language
But it's also a result of the universality of dance music, especially electronica, which has taken over all the big rooms. Back in the day, if I heard House or trance blasting from a passing car, I knew it would be one of my peeps. Not anymore.
Gay DJs regularly play straight venues - and vice-versa. Many gay DJs, like Jonathan Peters and Danny Tenaglia, made a name for themselves in mainstream big rooms before gay promoters started booking them. And boy, do we love our straight DJs! Boris, Superchumbo, Marc Anthony, Horse Meat Disco, Pagano, Chus & Ceballos, the Freemasons ... the list just keeps growing of the headliners who have become at least as popular in "our" clubs and parties, if not more so. Even the Black Party, the most sexual of giant parties, truly became a big tent this year: Of the four featured DJs, two were straight men; one was gay; and one, a transgendered woman.
Don't get me wrong: In general, I find this trend a good thing, especially when (as at Victor Calderone's New Year's Day blow-out bash two years ago), our straight brothers are so goddam hot. Gone are the days when straight men refused to take off their shirts. They're here, they're not queer, but they don't mind our ogling their carved bodies one little bit. Hell, they get off on it! In fact, that chiseled, manscaped muscleman dancing next to you is at least as likely to be straight (but most definitely not narrow); conversely, that gaggle of skinny guys with their shirts firmly buttoned are as likely to worship at our church.
A Rainbow Includes All Colors
Still, it's worth asking if we've lost something along the way. A Circuit party provided us with a safe space to be ourselves, which meant not only taking over a town for a night or a weekend, but also the freedom to express our sexuality openly. Is heavy petting and bump-and-grind conga lines next to a straight couple going to remind you of your parents or that inevitable moment in every gay man's life when Mom walked in on your wanking it? Judging from my own experience, I'd have to conclude that most of us aren't the least bit put off or intimidated by an integrated dance floor.
Acceptance, after all, is a two-way street. Maybe, just maybe, as we start raising families, we're becoming more comfortable letting loose regardless of who's dancing next to us.
If you're in your twenties and reading this, you may well have come out in high school or earlier and have as many straight friends as gay ones. You're comfortable working, studying and even protesting together. Why, you may be asking yourself, do those relationships have to stop on the weekend? If you can pray together on Sunday morning, why shouldn't you be able to play together the night before?
Before you accuse me of painting too rosy a picture of gay-straight relations in the present U.S. of A., don't think I'm unaware of the ongoing struggle for our rights. As a gay journalist, I've had the depressing job of writing account after account of the fatalities resulting from the bullying that continue to plague young people. Even in a supposedly enlightened city like New York, the recent surge in anti-gay violence speaks volumes about how much progress we have not made in changing hearts and minds.
But on the dance floor, at least, we're moving more and more toward making that rainbow flag a reality. And don't think for one minute that, just because you're going to the chapel, you have to turn into one of Bridget Jones' "Smug Marrieds." Rather than giving up the transcendence through physical movement, it only means that you're doing it with a husband instead of a boyfriend.
That theme for Pines Party might not have been so different from previous years after all. Sure, say "I do" at the altar. Then get on the dance floor and work it!