Two years ago, while in my 57th year, I began going out to dance parties again. To my surprise, reentering the gay dance party scene at 56 proved to be, and continues to be, a much more edifying experience than it was in my 20s.
I give credit for this transformation to decades of seeking with my MFT therapists Karen, Jim, Winston, and Sharon, a Forum-like intensive called The Experience, MKP men’s retreats, meditation retreats, yoga teacher training, coaching training, Tantra training, a personal meditation practice, and drugs.
Of course, none of that would be possible if I did not have the willingness to look into my heart and unpack the results of the Idaho-Mormon-gay-AIDS trauma I’d internalized. Walking through all that trauma history with a wide array of teachers is why I am able to enjoy the cornucopia of pleasure, self-celebration, and connection I now enjoy everywhere, especially on the dance floor with my brothers.
Everyone’s life is different. Everyone’s amount of trauma is different. My trauma required lots and lots of work. Some gays, like my husband, who’ve had relatively little trauma, have the ability to find contentment without all those programs.
Nearly 30 years ago, when I was 28, I went to my first White Party in Palm Springs. It was a big deal back then.
I had resisted going for several reasons. I’d only been sober for two years, it was still more expensive than I could afford, and most of all, and most pertinent to this post, I didn’t think I could compete with all the hotties I saw in pages of Circut Noise Magazine, the magazine covering circuit events pre-internet. It contained pages of evidence that I needed to be something other than who I really was. Someone confident, excruciatingly beautiful, and ready for a photo op with ten equally beautiful men.
You know, guys who were winning the party. I’d need to reinvent myself to be one of them.
I felt like I needed permission to be on the dance floor.
“What if you got paid to go?”
I was prodded by my workout partner, Adam, to join the scene. He had connections with the producers, custom design skills to create our Bad Bunny gear, and a body and cock that demanded attention. He made it possible for me to get paid to go, including a shared hotel room at Motel 6. All I needed to do was work a couple of doors and dance on a box at the military-themed nighttime pool party.
Adam thrived on the scene. He was a huge fan of the spotlight. Any spotlight. He also ran with other spotlight seekers, so I was sure to be surrounded by the top tier of circuit party meat sacks who had also prepared for the dance floor with Olympic-style workouts. We’d have outfits made by Perry, a talented queen who later went on to work for Lady Gaga.
How could we not win the party?
At the military party, we climbed our separate camouflaged riggings and had our very own spotlights to shine on each other from across the sea of men and into the crowd itself, which garnered lots of attention.
I had the body. I had the attention. I had the outfits. I had the validation of knowing I was on a towering box at what was then one of the biggest parties in existence. Guys who seldom gave me attention at Gold’s in Hollywood were looking up at me, smiling. I’d met Boy George. I’d visited one VIP hangout after another at the various parties.
But when Adam turned his spotlight on me, I felt something unexpected. Something other than joy. I certainly wasn’t happy. I was confused, irritated, and empty.
I felt betrayed by the feelings that came up. This was supposed to make me happy. Wasn’t I dominating the party? Isn’t that what makes a gay happy? Why wasn’t I fucking happy?
This continued to happen as I attempted to win the party at the Probe (later called Icon), at the Zoo Party in San Diego, and on the small stage on the edge of the dance floor at Fire House (which is now The Chaple at The Abbey). Time after time, I gave my power away to men and boys who were strangers. Attachment to their approval was my primary source of validation and dignity.
The holy grail of permission granted by dancefloor domination left me empty.
Nearly 30 years later, I learned in my yoga certification training what was causing the problem. It was one of the “5 Kleshas,” all 5 cause suffering. I was experiencing the suffering they predicted is caused by grasping.
It’s important to note that pain is not optional. Sorry.
But the suffering is.
This is how #3 of The Five Kleshas works.
Attachment/Grasping (Ragga)Grasping = Suffering When I get X, I’ll have happiness. If I can get that hottie to dance with me, I’ll be okay. If I can get 1M followers, I’ll be content. If my body reaches X size, the world will love me. Yup. All sources of suffering, according to Patanjali, the Sage who wrote all this stuff down.Non-grasping = Contentment I find peace with the world as it is, with what and/or who is in front of me at this moment. I let the world flow around me and go with it. I recognize “no” and honor it, then make a course correction towards love. I hold my own boundaries and say “no” with love and dignity. My contentment is not reliant on the actions or reactions of others.
On the dancefloor, in a sex club, and while navigating LA traffic, the pain of not getting what I want can pop up and last a moment and then be gone, or I can try to force it to be something different than what it is, grasp for something other than what life has put in front of me, and suffer indefinitely.
When I feel that icky vibe, I say to it, “Thanks for sharing. I hear you. What’s really going on?” And because that’s my ego talking, not the real, perfect me the yoga sages wrote about, I then ask my real self, “Is there something I can let go of?
There usually is.
Now things are different.
Like the wrapper of my favorite Dove dark chocolate candy says, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” Since I no longer show up trying to dominate the party, I am no longer surrounded by narcists unable to connect with anything outside their own agenda.
I no longer need permission to be on the dance floor. When I stopped grasping for that permission, I was able to own my 58-year-old, cis, white self and go where the love is.
There is no longer a need to have a designer create outfits for me that will wow the other partygoers. I wear the same jock and booty shorts to nearly every party. My husband and I are often the only two men dancing in paratrooper boots. They are a nod to my kinky side, make me taller, and support my old ankles. More importantly, they are an extension of my authentic self.
The party is big enough for all of us. When I’m at my best, I am not attached to a need to have the entire venue, the entire community, or the entire country give me permission to be who I am. That comes from inside.
Somehow that makes me better able to celebrate the other guys on the dance floor who are doing what’s authentic to them. The muscle guys bobbing up and down in their jeans with their stern faces, the sexy queens flashing smiles while twirling in skirts, and Asian guys in their sensible outfits huddled together for solidarity are all things to be celebrated.
They are not competition. They are family.