Monday, May 24, 2010


Not that it's absolutely necessary to understand the way the gay scene works in order to survive in this community but it does greatly enhance the experience if you know what to expect and also understand why so many young gay people find it appealing. It's still unfortunate but many young gay men and women usually find themselves alone and ostracized from their own families or communities, whether it be because their sexually goes against their religious dogma or they are made to believe that they've brought shame on their families, once that young person finds the safety of acceptance in community it does begin to have an impact on their psyche.

Acceptance is a very gratifying thing. Some young people are very fortunate and find that nurturing at home. Not all situations are ideal like that and sometimes the safety that is necessary to become that person that you are comes from somewhere else. That is why gay runaways head to the major cities -- New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami -- here they find community.

I remember when I first came back home to New York. Being back in the big city energized my soul and engaged my spirit in an incredible way and when I began to compare the differences between Miami's gay population and that of New York, it was like gay on steroids (in some cases...literally)! But it wasn't long before I found a way to fit in and I began to carve my niche into the scene. I had a series of some small jobs here and there before I landed a job waiting tables and tending bar at one of the cities premiere gay owned and run establishments right in the heart of Chelsea. It couldn't be any gayer! The money was good and the hours were flexible. I was able to still hit the gym and get to work, pay my bills and still have enough income to available to grab drinks and go dancing on the weekend. In all honesty -- because of my job I was meeting all the people that made the club circuit what it was in NYC, so drinks and access past to velvet rope was never a problem.

As completely individual as a was I was still very impressionable as a young man, so I wasn't the most successful at the whole dating thing. I still made terrible choices for myself. In retrospect it was quite amusing, but those choices often made me question my place in the order of things and how and why I never really could fit into the scene. I struggled with it particularly after one failed relationship and then I received the best advice ever from someone that I respected very much. He was my boss at the restaurant I worked at and he said to me: "You're wasting your time trying to be something you're not...and you've forgotten to be yourself." And suddenly everything made more sense to me.

I remember how true those words rang to me. I remember smiling at their truth and I remember crying because I had forgotten trying so hard to impress everyone else what it was about me that was so impressive. And after that the scene wasn't so bad.


There's that saying that God puts in your path the people that you need to take you through the journey of your life and that perhaps can not be more true than about my friend Raul (again...last names are being omitted to protect their privacy -- it would be kind of silly to change names; that would be rather pretentious, no?) I had first been exposed to Raul back in our high school days, and even though he would disagree, he was very special even then. I was dating girls in high school and not really concerned at all with my "unexplored" sexuality. I was content to play the role that I was expected to. In high school I was of a very different mind set -- I was from my perspective preparing to rule the world!

From Raul's perspective...he already was.

He was one of the youngest out gay people I had met. And for that he was incredible. In his youth, because of his rather irreverent manner, Raul really couldn't hide his nature -- but for him, that was a badge of honor than one of shame. I always admired that about him, that he had even in his youth that courage and sense of identity. He met only briefly during our high school years, but would cross paths again in our early 20's. By then I had already come out, and was much fodder for Raul and his click of relentless queens to make fun of. You see, just because high school ended it didn't mean the bullying stopped and although I wasn't bullied in high school, I had entered into a world that had a clear pecking order. As a newbie, I was way low on the totem pole.

Not that it mattered to me. I had my own rather impressive circle and friends that held their own, and didn't prescribe to all the drama. Truth be told, I was having too much fun for the distraction. Eventually, I just came to accept that Raul was one of those things that for one reason or another was set in my path.

I learned later that it would be as one of my life long friends. But as this story is meant to have some sense of relation as to give one comfort in their own self-awareness, bare with me -- I'm almost there.

Socially Raul and kept crossing paths to the eventuality that we realized, we just enjoyed each other's company and were fast becoming friends. What was (and is) most wonderful about Raul is his unabashed joy of life -- he always approached things with a fearlessness and excitement, a naivete that to me was unfounded. As we get older and become young adults with responsibility, we can become jaded. Not Raul. Of all my friends at the time, I was the first to move out and one my own. I had my own apartment and not one but several jobs to make ends meet. I was still trying to figure things out -- my place in the world and what I was meant to do -- but I chose to begin to do this for myself.

In all of that distraction, I was building a fast friendship with Raul that as also a learning experience. Raul and I had a friend in common, although I use that term loosely as this individual had a rather interesting way at manipulating and truly controlling the people around him, kind of like a "mean girl" did. If you didn't follow his rules you just weren't part of his click, and often times he challenged Raul and his masculinity. Among Raul's greatest charms there is his impish personality, his coy and simplistic approach that belies his wonderfully astute sense of curiosity and intelligence. But if he was to be a part of the "mean girls" he had to curb certain behavior, which I just didn't tolerate.

Raul was among the first of my gay friends that I comfortably hugged and displayed affection to in public. I was always genuinely happy to see him and we'd hug. In the beginning he would ask for permission, as opposed to following his nature and authenticity. He soon learned that I wouldn't have anything less than his entire authentic self. He has always been inspiring to me, in that of anyone I know he embraces his identity and expresses himself honestly. Something that very few people would dare to do.

For a young gay man to see that in a friend, to have that as part of his process, it made a huge impact on who I was and the pursue of my own acceptance. By his example, Raul encouraged me to be my genuine self and still today teaches me lessons of great depths. When we me, some 20 years ago, we were unstoppable and invulnerable quickly becoming fixtures among the South Beach club elite -- there really wasn't a velvet rope Raul and I couldn't cross. In our youth, during those times -- there was nothing more important. And now 20 years later, I can say that although the priorities have changed, the party hasn't. And although the velvet ropes are fewer, I think my friend and I are more comfortable with the ones that we've created for ourselves -- Raul will always be among one of my VIPs.

To be continued...


In order for a group to survive they must thrive by creating a community. This holds true in most world cultures and even in literature -- why even vampires conspire to live together and even hunt in the safety of a coven to insure their strength and longevity. But I am in no way suggesting a comparison between gays and vampires -- I'm just citing a humorous example especially given the growing pop-culture popularity of those charming blood-suckers (again I am referencing vampires).

In every major metropolis across the world, every sub-culture carves its own niche for itself. In some places these areas are referred to as ghettos -- just because you find one kind of the same kind of people there. And usually where you have the poorest part of the major city, you eventually have the gay community move in. If you're wondering why -- it's because the real estate is cheap...and few less braver people trek into those parts of town. The gays bring in money, improving the economy with their small neighborhood bars. Yes -- I daresay, we are pioneers. Soon they invite trendy eateries and shops into the areas, and if there are any large vacant warehouse spaces to be had, multi-million dollar investors simply invest in some innovative free-thinkers ambition to open a mega-dance club. Putting a wise investment to use on a sophisticated lighting set-up and sound system and draping and polishing a posh VIP area, ringing it with several neon lit bar stations sporting strapping well-groomed hunky bartenders (t-shirts optional) and peppering it with the right amount of celebrity and nocturnal activity and you have the weekend destination -- and often times the epicenter of the gay village.

Welcome to the gay scene and if you aren't seen in it, you're aren't anybody -- or at least that used to be the case. Times change.

You see without having to worry about supporting extensive families or putting children through college, gays tended to have a lot of disposal income (especially in the early 90's -- which was marked by some as the "Me Era"). So once they began to populate a specific area especially on a weekly bases and it became a safe haven, that part of town would eventually thrive and be the place to be -- the address to be had.

As part of research for a piece that I'm currently crafting, I've had to reflect on my own experiences dealing deeply into the "gay scene" and the elitist culture that exists when the gay community. It's not by all means a judgement but it's important to understand that especially in the beginning, a young gay person is often trying to find their way and like a moth to a flame they get attracted to the fire. Let me go on record as also stating that within that fire they often find the hearth of companionship and solidarity -- identity and brotherhood.

I've had several experiences within two very distinct aspects of the "gay scene" as I had mentioned. When I was younger and finding my way I found my way through to the club culture and looped myself in with the gay community that was particularly affluent and turning Miami Beach into the gay destination. At that time in the early 90's there truly only were a handful of clubs that popularized the scene on the beach. There were smaller, cruise-happy bars and only one major dance space which was Warsaw and within it's hollowed walls I found more than I would dare to comment at this time, but mostly I learned a lot about myself.

When I first came out I used the term "bisexual" to describe least for the first 2 months. It felt safe and actually evolved when I would express myself as a bisexual especially to young women, but in theory I was slowly realizing that I was segueing out of my heterosexual identity and fully accepting that in essence I was a gay man. I was 19 and getting into 21 and over bars -- in Miami the legal drinking age of 21 and I (or my friends) didn't really abuse that rule; we truly partied very responsibly but yes I had tasted liquor early on. I soon befriended bartenders and doorman who never carded me until after I became legal, so I partied with the big boys! As a fairly attractive young gay man, I did meet men who were older than myself -- but not unreasonably older or in any way inappropriately older -- as a 19 and 21 year old, I often dated mean in their late 20's or early 30's. It as alright -- especially cause I could hold my own. I also felt extremely liberated when I came out to myself and my true personality really came through. Perhaps it was a quality that made me attractive to people.

I made friends within the scene very quickly, but as a part-time college student and retail employee I certainly wasn't making the bank roll to sustain the lifestyle that most of the men I surrounded myself with were living. I met gay men who had expensive cars and boats, beautiful bachelor pad condos and often spent their evenings eating out at fine restaurants. This was also the advent of the designer drug culture and extacy (whether natural or synthetic) was expensive but cheaper than coke. It wasn't until much later that I delved into drugs, but never more than socially or for the sake of entertainment. I'm just not wired that way, but in the scene it's just part of the picture -- that's not to insinuate that everyone in the gay scene is a drug addict. That's just not true -- but I can't honestly discuss the nightlife culture which is at the center of the scene without bringing up drugs. I'm not promoting drug use and I am not a drug user by any means -- my worst vice now in life is coffee and caffeine addiction (which may or may not lead to heat disease -- it depends who you ask -- but that's most likely what I'll die from some day).

As Miami grew more fabulous so did the scene and it wasn't long before bigger and brighter clubs and parties opened up all over South Beach alluring the gays from all over the world to our sandy shores. It's kind of ironic that God put me at the heart of the biggest gay party for my coming out! How insane is that, but I wouldn't have had it any other way...but the party doesn't last forever even if the scene is still around. It's not necessary the end all of end alls if you start to feel that you don't fit into that whole block or category -- some of us are not meant to. I'm comfortable to watch it all from a distance and participate when I want to and if it feels right. My own identity and self awareness is very important to me and I'm proud of that. And it doesn't make me any less of a gay man because I'm not always in the think of things or on the list, or even in the heart of it all. You can still participate, without missing a beat.

Just don't forget who you are is special and relevant. And you can be your own scene.

Friday, May 21, 2010


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!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


As prepared as I was to embrace my being gay, I didn't immediately come out to everyone, especially not my family. So like most young people I adopted a new family that temporarily replaced my own and provided me with the sanctuary necessary to explore my identity. I certainly knew enough gay people -- I had gay friends after all in high school. Things were a little different then.

It was 1990, and unlike today where every coming-of-age teen-angst drama features a prominent gay character who on a weekly basis swoons for the the high school captain of the football team (and on certain occasions actually lands him), things were a little different then. Our gay role models were still very vague and undecipherable -- we had the obvious supporters: Madonna and the like icons, but the male roles were lost to us. There was no one to really look to and graph onto as the temple of what one imagined a gay man should be. When I developed my first "man crush" I turned to the only gay alpha-male I knew in my adolescence. His name was (is) Mario -- (out of a courtesy to protect the identities of those involved, I'll only use first names -- but everyone knows who he is).

I remember sitting on the floor of my room with Mario's jotted in pencil phone number on a scrap of paper. I had to ask another mutual friend of ours for the number. Mario and I weren't exactly very close during high school, but we ran in the same circles -- we were both artists involved with our theater departments and members of the drama club...and boy was there ever drama! That's what gays were like back then: dramatic. In order to avoid ridicule and prosecution from the rest of the student body, the gays I knew in high school were very cutty and tough! You really didn't want to mess with them even on your best day. But I must be honest, the environment that I was growing up in during the late 90's was fascinatingly tolerable. Which was very surprising considering that I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic community in Little Havana, Miami. When I have to think about, it's as if God had lit the lamps on my runway of life and was just waiting for me to guide my plane into the skies!

I sat there rustling up the courage to call Mario sweaty palms and all, thinking about what I was going to say to him exactly. Some how and seemingly not of my own volition my fingers must have done the dialing and I sat there listening to the ring tone. When Mario answered, I remember simply saying hello -- and a long pause. I mean what does one say? Mario decided that there was nothing to say, he simply asked do you wanna head out for a while, and before I knew it two underage young men were making the rounds of all the gay hot spots on South Beach (and back then there were a lot)! And I realized that I wasn't alone.

I didn't have to say anything. I didn't have to rationalize any of it, and I didn't have to judge by it. I was 18 years old and 20 years later, Mario is still one of the lights on my runway, always navigating the mothership home whenever I get off course, but mostly he offers his friendship and support always and from the beginning without any judgement.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Imagine feeling as if suddenly everything at one instant made perfect sense in the world. Suddenly everything was right and every answer was given. That's what it feels like when you realize that you're gay. "Coming out" is another matter all together -- that anxiety is unexplainable, but the exhilaration of knowing (or defining) who you are when you've been walking around without clarity -- it's like you have a new lease on life! At least that's what it felt like for me.

I was fortunate that I didn't really all that traumatic a sexual revolution when I was younger. I followed the rules and dated girls, built the usual relationships and the typical exploration. I went through the motions of what was expected of me and if I had a wayward thought, I'd file it away and mull it over on my own. I had very healthy and wonderful friendships growing up -- people who really knew me and respected and enjoyed the uniqueness of who I was as an adolescent. I really never felt the pressure of having to belong to any click or social group and instead chose to mingle with everyone. The pressures of belonging came much later in life (save for another day), but in the beginning -- I didn't have any internal conflicts. Which is why the first time I "touched" another man in an intimate way it didn't feel foreign; it didn't feel wrong.

God had turned down the contrast in order to make everything sharper...

And the day I was able to correlate the two: the physical with the emotional -- what was happening to my body and what I was seeing in my head, it was as if someone was waiting for me at the end of a long tunnel ready to introduce me to the world. I could remember the world around me becoming brighter as if God had turned down the contrast in order to make everything sharper...and I remember laughing. I laughed at the absurdity of my plight. You spend some time thinking about "what's wrong with you" and when you equate that to a three-letter, one syllable word that is meant to define you -- you have to admit, it's very funny! You think that you're whole life will end because you are g-a-y.

I didn't. I thought suddenly, my whole life was about to begin.

Don't think for a second I didn't have a comprehension that this wasn't going to be a difficult path to follow. I knew I would have my share of challenges. I was a young man, a Latin man, in my late teens and the year was 1990...I had just graduated High School (didn't know what I was going to do with my life) -- and I was still living at home! I was still figuring my life out and my place in the world and decidedly God sends me this curve ball. But I embraced it. I knew that in order to be my genuine self I had to accept the truth, and the truth was: I was gay.

And I was fine with that. After all it means: happy.


It would appear we’ve entered into a very critical time in our social history and development as a culture, if not a civilization. To put it into the proper perspective: we’ve achieved a cultural milestone with the election of the first African-American President. That should reflect on us that we’ve moved pass a lot of our stunted social bias and negativity. Surprisingly there appears to be a rise of prejudice in America, more than ever before, except the focus has shifted toward another one of our nation’s groups of minorities. And the gay and lesbian community has if anything, always been the most encompassing of groups in this country able to look past the destructive strife that pulls apart our country and find a way to challenge adversity.

If you don’t believe me, just take a closer look. The gay community is made up of all kinds of individuals from all walks of life that prove we all have something in common. We’re hispanic. We’re black. We’re asian and indian. We’re also white. We’re rich and we’re poor, and some of us are even middle class, or blue collar. We’re sons, daughters, sisters and brothers; we’re cousins, aunts and uncles, and nieces or nephews. We’re even fathers and mothers. Some of us rescue dogs and others shelter cats, and we care for our pets.

We’re metropolitan and cosmopolitan; from the midwest and from the snowy tundra. We’re immigrants with vision, and nationalized citizens who have sought freedom from prosecution, and we’re Americans with the power to make things happen. We’re teachers, we’re doctors, we’re construction workers and scientists. We’re not always hair dressers, designers, floral arrangers or party planners, and some of us aren’t the most fashionable...we wear glasses to read and not because of the label.

Anyone who has seen our flag waving proudly and wondered why it’s made up of the colors of the rainbow...we chose those colors because it reflects all walks of life -- every color of the spectrum; like Americans.

When Harvey Milk proclaimed on his soap box “I am here to recruit you!” it wasn’t to induct someone into a life wrought of decadence or indecency -- it was to stand and be counted, to be visible and especially to know that someone was watching your back. He wasn’t just talking about gays...he was referring to everyone and anyone who felt disenfranchised and needed a way out of the shadows into the safety of the better, brighter world that we’re all a part of. If we take any lesson from Harvey Milk it is that when he meant community he was speaking to everyone, because he understood we are all connected.

In the history of the world there has always existed a group that was forced to relegate itself and to sit in a corner for no other obvious reason than because that’s what another faction expected them to do. Otherwise how can they feel better about themselves, if there isn’t a group that they can look down upon from their own fragile pedestals. And when they stumble off of that pedestal -- and you can bet they will because everyone has to be humbled -- and find themselves looking up and into the glare, who will be waiting to help them up?

Fortunately there will be a person somewhere who will have compassion enough to lend a hand and grant support. Chances are that person will be a homosexual, because a gay person knows what it feels like to be looked down upon and made to feel “less than”.

If gays don’t discriminate, then why do you?