Let's face it -- our music does something to you. And by "our music" I mean the dance music and house beats that you only learn about when you head out to the club...and usually the gay club has all the original sounds and music that you want to listen to and have move you. When I was out of high school and nearing my 20's the Miami gay and nightlife scene was just beginning to emerge. The modeling industry and real estate boom on South Beach revitalized the South Florida culture and before long everyone was calling Miami and especially Miami Beach the "New Rivera".
To us it was just home and not particularly out of the ordinary, but the Latino culture that permeated Miami and gave it it's flavor also made for a very forbidden and sexy environment. Everyone always wanted to explore the myths of the culture -- after all Latinos are considered among the worlds most romantic and sexually charged of cultures. I don't know if that is particularly true about me, but back then I was just figuring things out and sex wasn't always (so not true) on my mind. I just wanted to dance! I wanted to listen to music and look up at the disco lights and I wanted to dance until I sweat my stress away!
And although the music and the dance club don't always prominently fit in every young gay person's life, for me: it did. I did immerse myself in the culture, but in the innocents and joy of it. I wasn't really exposed to the seedy dark side of club life, unless not in the beginning. Growing up in Miami, it was all very innocent and playful. Everything was exploratory and for me, it was all about the music.
On the weekends, Mario and I would pile our friends into his car and ht the underage clubs (the ones that allowed 18 and over party goers) and it was there that I would lose myself and dance. I didn't really dance much as a child. I didn't think I was very good, and because in my youth I was very thin and awkward, I avoided dancing in public or at parties -- but I did. I tried to do my best, but after I came out I got very close to my body and very comfortable with how it moved and functioned. I had also been working out since I was 17, and joined a gym -- the gay rite of passage -- so the skinny kid that I still sometimes see when I look in the mirror, was giving way to a physically formidable specimen. And it was all for the club...I worked out to change my own perception of myself so that when the weekend came I could let it out and just dance. It wasn't for the attention -- it was for the freedom I was feeling on the floor.
It was a freedom I had never had before in my life. I wasn't much of a rebellious teenager. I questioned everything, but always within reason -- and always respectfully. I was respectful of my mother and the home we had, even though I loathed my mother's husband to the core. But once I realized that all my life I had been fighting something that was for all intents a losing battle, and accepted that truth -- that I was made in God's loving image, and I was made a gay man -- and that there was nothing wrong with me, then life became something to celebrate.
I learned very early when I came out that you are meant to be happy -- that doesn't mean your happiness should be irresponsible or reckless -- but suddenly for the first time in my life I felt a happiness in my core that was pure and exploratory and innocent. I found that suddenly happiness was my responsibility and something that I was entitled to, but first I needed to be honest with myself. I had to find myself and I did -- I had.
I found myself on the dance floor...and I haven't stopped dancing since!