I remember my first time in a gay club—the first time when I knew I was, and decided to be, out. The memory is a bit fuzzy, but I remember. It was a Tuesday or a Wednesday or a Thursday. Some weekday. I remember first going to another bar around the corner, some crowded hipster place where the drinks were cheap. I had a shot of tequila and a vodka drink. I’d made up my mind I was going to go to the club, but I was working up that courage. Liquid courage, because I wasn’t very strong back then.
I didn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t even know anyone. I had my drinks and left and walked the 5 minutes to the gay club. My legs were shaking. And I walked right past the entrance. I was too scared. I walked to the end of the block and then turned around. Okay. This is it.
The second time down the block, I opened the door. I’m not sure what I was expecting inside. I remember the bar to the right, a small dance floor straight ahead. A disco ball overhead and rainbow lights flashing on the floor. It was early. Too early—that was obvious. There were only a handful of guys at the bar, some coupled up it seemed and others sitting alone.
I sat alone, but close enough to the others. I ordered a beer and sat there. Terrified. I think the guy next to me noticed. He must have because I’m sure there was a tremor in my voice, my hands shaking when I handed over my money. I was so anxious.
He started speaking to me. We talked about me, what I was doing. He was a journalist for a left-wing newspaper. I started to feel comfortable. I think I had another beer—maybe he bought it? More conversations. Where was everyone? There was a concert somewhere else that same night—some pop diva. I guess, being gay, I was supposed to know who she was. (She was famous; I remember that—a Madonna or a Rihanna or an Alicia Keys or something. I really can’t recall because my mind was somewhere else entirely.)
I won’t spare you the details of the rest of my first gay night out. But when I left the club a few hours later, I was happy. I was ecstatic. I went to a (gay) club alone! I met a boy! I’d felt something! I must’ve skipped all the way home. Full of joy and excitement and—finally—no longer afraid.
I went back to the club that same weekend. I was alone, again. But I wasn’t afraid. I walked inside; this time the place was crowded with guys—and girls, too. The music was good. There were people on the dance floor. After a little while, I was on the dance floor. My hand brushed against another boy’s. Our hips turned to each other. My hands tracing the gap between his pants and his tank top. Our heads twirling, our eyes locked. Our lips touching. Singing along to something. A break for water. A cigarette on the sidewalk. A phone number.
It was all so easy, somehow. So comfortable. I felt like I was home.