Friday, May 13, 2011

Daddy's Suzan's Bucket List

Given that I moved to San Francisco to make a career of being the most dedicated fag hag I can be, there isn’t much I haven’t done or seen. My “bucket list” of experiences no other girl has ever had has dwindled away, with the exception of gaining entry to Blow Buddies or Steamworks. (It’s not like I haven’t tried, trust.)

I’ve been to the legendary Black Party, I host a monthly party at the infamous Powerhouse, I’m part of the working group that produces Real Bad, and I even hold a leather title of my own (Miss Heart Throb 2010), thanks to the Castro Lions. But there is one event that still qualifies as fantasy territory for me, and when I attend my very first International Mr. Leather in Chicago this Memorial Day weekend, I’ll know I’m legit.

In my mind, it’s like Disneyland meets Tom of Finland – a major city teeming with bulging biceps and baskets, daddies and slaves, tops and bottoms (bottoms and liars, more likely, but I digress). That I’m attending at the invitation of porn pimp Ricky Sinz, to perform at the Sunday night War Party at V Live with two great friends, Joanna Parks and Race Cooper, at a party where “godfather of house” Frankie Knuckles will be the DJ? I die.

I’ve heard people say that this 32-year-old event ain’t what it used to be, but what is anymore? People say this kind of thing about many of the parties I hold dear as a veteran lover of gays, but any event is exactly what you make of it. The payoff depends on whether and how you personally bring it.

I’ll be keeping company with the boys from Dungeon Beds, Mr. S Leather and Folsom Street Events, so I have no doubt that our party-within-a-party will always be the place to be. I’ll be dancing more than fucking, and I know I’ll be inspired by the eye candy. I’ll be spreading the spirit of San Francisco, and showing due respect for the gay “old guard,” for which I consider myself head cheerleader. I may have girly bits rather than manhood in my leathers, but Daddy Suzan loves her leathermen just as much as the next guy.

If we’ve never met, please come introduce yourself at Forsaken on Friday night at the Jackhammer. We can giggle over my favorite game of “I’m gayer than you are” and watch leather history unfold and evolve. Wouldn’t it be amazing if San Francisco took home the IML title for the first time since 1992? I’ll do everything I can to support Mr. SF Leather 2011 Darren Bondy, and to bring some tales of the city to and from the Windy City.

Friday, April 29, 2011

This is just how we do

 “Only in San Francisco” is a phrase we hear a lot here in Oz. It’s a point of pride, the defining feature of our beautiful bubble.

Even when we’re trying to be conventional, relatively speaking, we end up doing things our own way. We can’t help it.

 Easter in Dolores Park, for example, is a perfect representation of San Framily values. Whether you “observe” the holigay by bringing your gayby to the egg hunt, tricking out a bonnet, or rocking a loincloth in the Hunky Jesus contest, there’s something for everyone, because that’s just how we do. Some may call it crude mockery, but religious intolerants target San Francisco values every day, so I say hooray for the one day where we make them the punch line and have Jesus our way.

 “Family-friendly” is always relative when it comes to San Framily. More often than not, it’s about our chosen family. Our lovely lives are exactly what we make of them, because this is the freedom our fair city affords, even if most of us can barely afford to live here.

 Another place I love to see this on display is at Flagging in the Park, a party and fundraiser in a majestic natural venue (the National AIDS Memorial Grove) that honors those tragically lost with a colorful celebration of life. The event glorifies a uniquely gay art form born under the disco ball, providing pure and life-affirming entertainment while welcoming everyone to sacred ground.

 The way we play here by the bay is a religious experience. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence bless these events, and make saints of people like Xavier Caylor, who has been producing Flagging in the Park since 1996 and teaches a weekly flagging class at Gold’s Gym SOMA to keep the flow arts alive. A new season for this party begins on May 15 with DJ Craig Gaibler, who has graciously tapped the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy as beneficiary.

We party with purpose in San Francisco, and it sets us apart from other gayborhoods across the globe. We set our intention, and then we realize it, fully. Fruit-fully! We get our gay on as hard as we can, and we don’t apologize. We don’t need to, because more often than not, we’re giving something back to our community at the same time.

That’s my intention with Nasty, my “filthy fun-raiser” at The Powerhouse on first Fridays (please come on May 6!). While the entertainment there is decidedly more adult, we still manage to keep it silly yet significant, taking donations for Project Inform in Crisco cans by playing a game called STICK IT IN!

When we’re doing good by being bad, we’re living the San Francisco dream, bringing it in ways that constantly remind me of why I love my gays.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bring It: April 13 2011: Reflecting white

Reflecting on the White Party Palm Springs is like experiencing a hot new remix of moments and memories, scenes that affirm all the ways my gays bring it – to the dancefloor, to each other, and to life.

Every circuit party has its own alchemy. The music and the mood have everything to do with the experience, but so do the people that form your peripheral vision and your perspective under the disco ball. When fabulous friends create your party-within-a-party, everything is bliss.

The comfort of knowing you’ll see sincere smiles and familiar faces counts for a lot when words are drowned in beats. Little gestures, happy coincidences, and silly scenes are the foundation of what often turn out to be long-term relationships. These relationships can seem fleeting and shallow to the uninitiated, but love on the dancefloor runs deep and wide.

We may not even know one another’s names, but we know that our hearts beat to the same tribal drum. I know I’d never survive a weekend marathon like the White Party without my nearest and dearest.

There’s the water angels that deliver hydration for those (like myself) that don’t have the good sense to occasionally leave the dancefloor. There’s the shutterbugs that document our dreams, populating our profiles with glimpses of glamour. There’s the screamers (like me), along with the fist-pumpers and twirlers, that move our spirits and keep us bouncing. (This is where Brasilians are essential!).

Then there’s the nonverbal embrace from those who sidle up into your groove or let you sidle up into theirs, content with just swaying and snuggling from one song to the next. And there’s also the reliables, the trustworthy souls who confirm their commitment by buying tickets in advance, or carrying your keys, or holding you up when your energy or swirl can’t do it for you.

All are true friends, with big hearts and genuine intentions.

My addiction to dance is what drives me to drag all my friends to the dancefloor weekend after weekend, and it’s what brought me back to the White Party for the third year in a row. Never wanting to miss a beat and always wanting to support the DJs and promoters who fuel my circuit fantasies is why I can’t ever say no.

I hope that part of what I’m bringing to the party is gratitude for the special roles my San Framily fill. And I’m especially thankful that when the party is over and the glitter has (mostly) washed off, my circuit sisters are still present and real in my “real” life, helping me find balance and happy harmony as I search for new and inspiring ways to love my gays.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bring It: March 31 2011: Rites of spring, rites of passage

There’s something about White Party Palm Springs that keeps me coming back. It’s a rite of spring and rite of passage. It’s hard to think of a more definitively, quintessentially gay getaway.

On the one hand, the journey we take and the road trip we endure makes me feel like I’m starring in my own version of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, with the finale being an over-the-top display of glitter and glamor.

On the other hand, there’s an aspect of it that feels like a spiritual pilgrimage. It’s a sacrament of survival that gathers queens from all over, to groove under the sweltering sun and form a swishy sweat lodge.

It’s a gayer version of Burning Man, in a considerably more comfortable desert than the Black Rock Playa. I’ve heard Palm Springs called the Gay Retirement Village, and it’s no wonder. The essence of the experience is tanned and trim, rested and relaxed.

Living over the rainbow in San Francisco, we have every opportunity in the world to get our gay on, but it isn’t often that we get the sublime joy of dancing in the open air. Sure, we do everything “out in the open” in a metaphorical way, but a circuit party that takes place on a fairground in the middle of town is an affirmation all its own. It’s why I never miss the chance to get my dance on at Dore Alley or the Folsom Street Fair, and it’s also why I flock to the dick deck of an Atlantis cruise time and time again.

When I was just a baby fag hag, I remember imagining the White Party as gay heaven in a faraway land: beautiful boys, the aesthetic unity of everyone in fabulous white costumes, celebrities in the mix, and nothing but smiles with dancing for days. Now that I’m in the mix myself, I’m still pretty star-struck, especially at the Sunday T-Dance, when the sun sets poetically over our disco tribe, and dusk gives way to an explosion of colorful fireworks overhead.

I’m amazed that a seasoned circuit queen like me still sees magic in this seasonal celebration, and I hope I never get over it. Won’t you meet me there and help me live the dream of creating poetry in a picture-perfect moment? It’s one of my very favorite ways to love my gays.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bring It: March 18, 2011: Let’s hear it for the girls

I have to laugh that it takes the annual “girly issue” of Gloss to remind me that I’m a girl and not actually the gay man I think I am.

My insistence that I’m not like all the other girls tends to flare up when I’m faced with purses and heels and free-flying hair on the dancefloor. Another funny reality check comes every once in a while when I’m, say, in the men’s bathroom line at the club, and some well-intentioned boy will say something like “Are you having fun tonight? How does it feel to be the only girl with a bunch of gay men?” I try hard not to sneer when I respond with something like “Are you from out of town?”

As a fully immersed and entrenched fag hag, gay men have been my best girlfriends for as long as I can remember. But every gay man needs a wingman, and that’s where I’ve gotta give it up for Joanna Parks, my boo, my BFF, my “nonsexual life partner.”

You might know her as “the other girl” on the dancefloor, and there’s real comedy in how often we get confused for one another by good-hearted gays who apparently think all girls look the same.

Joanna is my true circuit sister, and she’s always been there for me as I’ve pushed my way through the gay glass ceiling. Together, we’ve gone everywhere that no girl has ever gone before, and neither of us would change a thing about our lifestyle. It’s not that we hate girls, we just love our gays more.

There does come a time, though, when there’s no substitute for having my girly by my side. Joanna and I call that time “dick o’ clock,” when the vibe in the club changes from “let’s party” to “let’s fuck,” and the music changes from “let’s dance” to “let’s get the fuck out of here.”

It’s a time when girls need to get gone, and I take pride in knowing when a girl needs to make herself scarce. If you ever see me in the back room, I promise it’s just a drive-by to hand out condoms, or to tell one of my boys he’ll need his own ride home.

One of these days I’ll take my homosociology on the road and find my way to The Dinah in Palm Springs to see what the girly equivalent of dick o’ clock is. But for now, Joanna and I are gearing up once again for White Party Palm Springs, to be wingmen to all our girly boys, and to cheer alongside them for girls like Robyn, Zoe Badwi, Alexis Jordan and Wynter Gordon.

If it wasn’t for gays loving their girls, we’d be nowhere at all, so let’s hear it for the girls!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bring It: March 4, 2011: We Were Here

Every once in a while the universe shows us the way. In my case, it showed me how and why to be gay.

Attending the recent Castro Theatre premiere of We Were Here, a documentary that reflects on the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco, I was reminded why I was essentially “born this way.”

I lost my virginity, discovered the gay dancefloor and learned about a disease called AIDS all in the same year, 1985. Just as I started to appreciate sexual freedom and gay pride, everyone around me started dying and condoms became mandatory.

I felt robbed, and an activist was born.

Growing up in Washington, DC, it was easy to get involved, and while most kids my age were on sports teams and in theater groups, I was volunteering at ACT UP and marshalling the first AIDS Walk. AIDS charities have been a constant in my life, and I remember that just before I realized my lifelong dream of moving to San Francisco, I witnessed the last time the AIDS Memorial Quilt was displayed at the National Monument. It had grown so large that it could no longer fit in a single location.

Taking a look back at our history, it’s amazing what we’ve accomplished. We’ve come so far so fast – with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and marriage equality slowly but surely becoming law – it’s easy to forget the depth of our struggle and loss.

What we can’t forget is that prevention is still the only cure. I worry that this gets lost among the medical and policy victories we’ve gained, and that the generation growing up gay now doesn’t realize that AIDS, for better or for worse, has defined our community and given us reason to rally.

There’s still work to be done, and I’m incredibly proud to be part of the “San Francisco model,” that continues to lead the way. As I celebrate the 2nd anniversary of my monthly fundraiser at The Powerhouse, I’m grateful to have my inspiration and motivation reignited by this poignant film, and I appreciate anew the importance of organizations like AIDS Emergency Fund and Project Inform.

Of the millions of reasons why I love my gays, our dedication to mobilizing our talents and helping our own and giving back to our community top the list. And until there’s a cure, I’ll continue acting up and carrying on, in hopes of honoring those who were here and those who sacrificed their lives along the way.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bring It: We Are Blessed

 I’ve only been back on land a few days following Atlantis Events’ amazing Allure of the Seas 20th anniversary cruise, and my withdrawal symptoms are already severe.

It’s hard to describe how perfect life aboard the Allure was, and how intensely real the feeling of community was at sea. Where else in the world do 5,500 sexy seamen come together with such sincere smiles and such pure intention to play nice together and make the best of every magical moment?

The scale and scope of the largest gay cruise in the world was daunting, and while the logistics and venues on the ship weren’t always flawless, the vibe and spirit certainly were. From the epic T-dances in the Aqua Theater to the Studio B dancefloor that was packed until well after dawn each day, the cruise far surpassed my expectations.

Maybe it was because my San Framily was heavily represented on the “dick deck,” or maybe it was because this third cruise for me was the charm in terms of knowing how to prepare and pace myself, but I was repeatedly blown away by the sense of love and privilege everyone seemed to be taking so deeply to heart. The cruise was sold out for nearly a year before we embarked, and by the time we finally set sail, everyone was set on making it the experience of a lifetime.

When you dance around the clock for seven days and barely stop to eat or sleep, it’s hard to even remember, much less select, a list of highlights. But I was literally brought to tears by one spontaneous expression that sums up the sublime joy of the journey. At the “Final Rinse” T-dance, a group of guys did flip cards on a terrace high above the crowd. “My chosen family” was the first message, and the last was “We are blessed.”

Blessed indeed. The gay world has come a long way in 20 years, and the Allure of the Seas was the best representation I’ve seen of living proud and out loud, with full appreciation of common cause and hard-won victories. Anthems like “I’m Coming Out” and “We Are Family” took on new meaning as we celebrated the freedom and joy of such a validating voyage, and I know I’ll never forget the feeling of being totally satisfied and totally at peace with my Love My Gays lifestyle.