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Taking your boyfriend to prom, foam parties, and dating Republicans (with Michael Dumlao)

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michael dumlao

wisdom of gunclesMichael Dumlao is an artist, activist and the author of ‘The Wisdom of Guncles’, a new book that celebrates the role of gay uncles and highlights the diverse perspectives and lived experiences they have to offer their families.

Born in the Philippines, he spent his childhood in Sydney, Australia, and then California before moving to Washington, D.C. in his early 20s. 

It was here that he made his home, finding his chosen family and laying down roots. We caught up to talk about his early days in the city, going to the lost superclub Velvet Nation, getting hand jobs at foam parties, and *gasp* dating Republicans… 

Do you have any memories from Velvet Nation, or from your own queer scene that you want to share? Well, if you have please get in touch – I want to create the biggest online record of people’s memories and stories – go to http://www.lostspacespodcast.com and find the section ‘Share a Lost Space’ and tell me what you got up to! Bonus points for embarrassing photos!

Find out more about Michael by following him on Instagram, and make sure to check out his new book ‘The Wisdom of Guncles’.

Michael  00:00

So he just looked me straight in the eye and said, I get a kiss me. I looked him in the eye and I said, EFF you fine. And I did. And I kissed him. Right, and that orange street light, illuminated for the block to say, I kissed him. And it was that moment where I just realised, oh, this is a thing.

K Anderson  00:19

Hello, I am K Anderson, and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about our venue from their past, the memories are created there, and the people that they used to know Michael Dumlao is an artist activist and the author of The Wisdom of Guncles, a new book that celebrates the role of gay uncles, and highlights the diverse perspectives and lived experiences they have to offer their families. Born in the Philippines, he spent his childhood in Sydney, and then California, before moving to Washington, DC in his early 20s. It was here that he made his home, found his chosen family and lay down roots, we got up to talk about his early days in the city, going to the last superclub Velvet Nation, getting handjobs at foam parties, and dating Republicans.

Michael  01:46

I moved to the other side of the country, and in many ways, the other side of the world, to save my relationship with my family, because having come out to my family, and you know, navigating that perilous dynamic of being, you know, brown immigrants, you know, twice immigrated brown immigrants, no less, who had been married the weights been in survival mode for a really long time. Also, growing up in a very religious, Christian household. And yes, family was very important to me faith was and in some way also continues to be very important to me. But my coming out, basically disrupted all of that. And it forced me to do what my parents taught us to do. And that was, you know, sometimes the best way to find out who you are to recover all of your relationships with people is to, frankly, you know, go across the world and explore and, and, and depart. You know, sometimes that dislocation from those relationships is basically what repairs it. Because when I came out, there was a lot of pressure to keep it quiet, there was a lot of pressure to conform, and there was a lot of pressure. At some point, actually, when I did come out, we, we got kicked out of the church that we were in. And that formed a lot of stress. Yes, absolutely. And very, very religious family. We were also very big on the music ministry. And when I had come out of the closet, this was in Santa Barbara. This was after, I mean, close to 10 years at this point of my parents leading music, across ministries from the Philippines, to Australia to America. And that ended the moment I came out, we were literally kicked out of the pulpit kicked out of the church. And I for me, I think part of it was to help my parents safe as I don’t feel safe face or at least recover from that trauma, but also for me to remove myself so that I could, frankly, create the kind of safe space that I needed, you know, to to become who I am to discover who I am. Apart from all of the hurt and the pain that I felt that I was causing them at the time. Yeah.

K Anderson  04:03

So can I so I’m gonna just gonna ask questions about them and then about you so with with them and their response, was it they were more worried about how other people would react? Yeah. You know,

Michael  04:16

I think I have grown to forgive them and have grown to understand them. You know, acknowledging that any immigrant especially, you know, immigrant from immigrants from war torn countries, from conflict ridden areas, from cultures that are not just conservative, but also very resource restricted, right. When we come to a place like America, we are forced to find our tribes out of pure survival and truth. You know, in the Filipino community, the family that was there, they helped us survive. I mean, we spent the first year in a single family home, all five of us, myself, my two brothers, my mum, my dad, in a in a single bedroom in my mother’s sister. three bedroom house in Santa Barbara. And she herself her sister had a husband and three kids. So as a family of 10. So basically basically two families of five plus our grandmother, all living in this tiny home just, you know, surviving and eventually thriving. But all of that basically, we had a very, very sort of close knit family then and then around us was this other community of family members and other Filipino communities. And that became just a part of how we survive. That’s how we created livelihood. That’s how we found a home, it’s how we were able to survive the incredibly, like, just toxic, you know, sort of racism that was happening around us as well. And that was it was explicit and implicit. It was systemic, certainly. And so it was it was that sort of a, you know, that phenomenon of having to find your community, your tribe, your village, just out of protection. And so for my family, I think it was important to keep those protections alive. And there was always a concern that any disruption to that would render them vulnerable. At the same time, there was also reputational issues at stake, my parents at the time and also become leaders in the community. There was also that issue with faith and with church and maybe wanting to recover some of that, you know, some of the shame of being forced out of the church. So my parents had this to say, when I came out of the closet, there was shock, right? Absolutely. There was shock, there were tears, there was a moment of telenovela style drama in an evening of crying and shouting and objects flown, right, like, like it was, it was very classic set up that way. But in the middle of the night, after coming out, I woke up in the arms of my father, cradling me, saying that, you know, saying, I love you, I love you, you’re my son, you’re my son, you’re my son. And he kept saying it over and over again. And I liken it to a mantra, almost like a prayer like a protection spell around me. And also maybe a protection spell around the family because he knew what was going to come afterwards. And truth be told, not everyone in the community received it. Well, they were shunned. They were turned away, they lost friends, they lost stature. Right. But then I think they also started to discover who their true family who their true friends who their true community was, and I think, but it took them a journey to do that. So you know, so while Yes, they were accepting within the family within the community, you know, that I think there was a protection there. Because remember, I also had two younger brothers, I had other brothers, other siblings that they needed to care for as well. And they needed to make sure that they had the same protective community and opportunities within the community as well. And I at least personally, did not want to endanger that for them.

K Anderson  07:39

Hmm. And so let’s talk about you then. Because you I mean, I don’t know what the timeline is. I don’t know what the like the point from coming out to being shunned by the community was, but were you like, like, this is this I’m coming out and like that, or did you kind of keep it on the DL for a while?

Michael  07:58

When like, I think like with most queer people I knew when I was really young, I knew when I was a very, very young, clearly very effeminate child in the Philippines. There is a famous festival, a famous parade March festival in the Philippines called Santa Cruz, which celebrates a religious procession. It has the Christ child, there’s a princess, there’s a prince, it’s kind of Disney. It’s like Disney meets the Vatican, like and I was once picked to be the escort that’s basically the prince to the princess. And in this sort of like Catholic Disney moment, I specifically asked them to dress me in probably like this outfit that in hindsight, probably was the first time I was ever in drag. I mean, there was a cape, there was a cape, it was silver. It was shiny.

K Anderson  08:52

I think, capes, it doesn’t have to be. Superheroes wear capes.

Michael  08:55

That’s very true. cosplay. Let’s put it that way. cosplay as a Catholic Disney Prince on a actual like horse drone core carriage that brought us to church. And I remember in that moment, thinking, you know, as I’m sitting next to this girl who I found out later, I was technically sort of portraits, too. I’m like, I’m sorry, girl. This is not gonna happen. But wait, how old? were you? I was five, five or six. Okay, all right. And yeah, it was perfectly doable, you know, to be sitting next to a girl that may or may not have been destined to marry one day. And so she was dressed as a princess. I was just as a prince. And in that moment, I thought to myself, this is fabulous. And I kept wanting to do it. I kept wanting to dress up I kept wanting to and then eventually I found myself like in sort of like kids theatre as an artist, it music and my parents and my mom specifically enrolled me in art classes, music classes, theatre classes. I was at an did she not know what that would mean? I she wanted to nurture the creative energies in her children.

K Anderson  10:00

You let your kids be creative homosexuality I

Michael  10:03

know you know exactly and, and on top of that my mom was a singer. You know, she was she worked in a bank and she was corporate. She was also an aspiring singer. My dad was a trade attache, but also was an actor. So they, I think, saw in their kids like these latent talents that they had always wanted to nurture in themselves. So they nurtured in us. And they also recall that each of their parents told them that they couldn’t pursue their creative dreams because they need to have practical jobs. And there was this classic sort of reversals of like, Oh, my kid’s going to be there. So I became, you know, a designer, eventually now an author, my middle brother is a filmmaker, my youngest brother is a musician. So you know, it worked. So kudos to my Filipino parents for not sort of subscribing to that stereotype. But that pressure of like, only demanding they have doctors, lawyers, and engineers. So you know, my mom has always acknowledged that I was born out of her holding a karaoke mic. So she, between the costumes and the fact she forced her kids to basically sing backup to her singing, like literally like we were, she basically created a church, she didn’t have children, she had backup singers.

K Anderson  11:00

So So basically, what you’re saying is she made you gay.

Michael  11:04

I mean, she created a Partridge Family dynamic, inevitably meant that one of us was going to come out homosexual. And that, and we did that in the church, right? So we were sort of like this, like Filipino Partridge Family of worship, music, where and throughout all of that, in that space of performance, ironically, that’s when I started realising that not only was I different that only it was a feminine, and only it was like creatively inclined, but I also decided to like boys, and so transferred then to Sydney, we would, you know, flew to Sydney, you know, when I was seven or eight. And I don’t know how much you know about Australian culture, but it is very, very masculine, dare I say, toxically? masculine in a lot of ways. It’s very sports oriented, certainly, at the time, not very welcoming, brown people coming in escaping political turmoil from Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. And so it was difficult, right? Because not only was I navigating racism for the first time in my life, I was also navigating the fact that I kind of like boys, because I think about growing up in a very sports centric culture like Australia, it meant that I was constantly surrounded by like, boys in speedos locker rooms, changing rooms, and you know, that sort of like, you know, blokey, matey like slap on the wrist like slap a dick here they like it was very homoerotic but homophobic was homophobic homoeroticism, like, replete throughout my entire, you know, young adolescence, which also just made me that much more self conscious about like, Oh, this is only good if I don’t find this sexually erotic and attractive. It’s only good if I’m actually physically trying to hurt someone.

K Anderson  12:43

I mean, why not both?

Michael  12:45

Yeah, one or both. And then, you know, I was also in the midst of the church. So I said, Okay, this is an affront to God, I’m gonna go to hell, I embodied all of that. And then move later to when we finally did move to the United States moved to Santa Barbara, California, by then I was 12. And by then, you know, the cat is out the bag. I mean, I knew I knew what was happening inside, I just didn’t know if I could ever actualise that. And at some point, I remember saying to myself that to help my family survive in this strange new place, because my family, not only did we give up living in an Australia, left jobs, left schools left in a network, left family, we gave up a lot of stuff, a lot of opportunities as well. And we came to America, literally with a dream literally, with everything we could fit in our bags. Like, for the second time, it’s it felt like we were fleeing again. But it also meant that we were in survival mode again. And so I decided to put myself away. And by that, I mean, I decided to just be the big brother, I decided to be the one that was going to be the perfect golden child that was going to get the, you know, the best grades, and it was going to help the house, take care of my younger brothers even got a job, you know, to help pay the bills. And all of that was just to make sure that, you know, we didn’t add to your statistics of a failed immigrant family, right, that was gonna disappoint everyone. And so, I didn’t really come to terms with who I was, until, you know, eventually homens gjakova and I found myself falling in love with a boy in high school in the theatre programme once again. And this is around the time of that stupid Romeo and Juliet movie and he happened to look like Leonardo DiCaprio if he’s listening to this is going to get such an ego boost.

K Anderson  14:26

Does he did he have the fringe that

Michael  14:29

he had the fringe? He has freckles mile he also happened to be an actor on the stage. He was sort of like the celebrated teen actor of our like community theatre.

K Anderson  14:42

so cliche to fall in love with him.

Michael  14:45

And it was a bad boy as well. He was a bad white boy. That white boy, like all the things that my parents told me I was not I was away from and then you know, we were in marching band together. We were in theatre class together. We were doing quiet to go And he started way,

K Anderson  15:01

wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, you were you were in marching band, theatre and choir and you still had to come out?

Michael  15:07

Yes, yes. That is the crazy thing. Back in the day when that wasn’t an automatic, Okay,

K Anderson  15:14

come on, come on. Come on.

Michael  15:16

But to that point, okay, so to that point, it was a safe cultural environment because at the time, we had clueless, we had two seasons of the real world. And, and, and, and between the two senses, the real world all with like gay characters.

K Anderson  15:36

I don’t think Yeah, like, real world is just an American thing, right? Like, it’s kind of like Big Brother, but it’s not.

Michael  15:41

Yes, yes. Yes. I will say it was a precursor to Big Brother, right. So it was a big thing at MTV. And they stuck basically, like 12 annoyingly attractive people, you know, strangers in their house, and they were forced to live with each other and be real with each other. And the very first one in New York had one of the very first like LGBT characters, and then every single one has has sort of a gay character was it it was very revolutionary at the time, especially for a young, you know, queer kid of colour, like me to say not only people of colour, immigrants, you know, be represented, then also the first gay people to be represented. And so that was the thing. And then if you remember clueless, the movie with Alicia Silverstone, you know, not only did she introduced us to the power of yellow plaid, but she also introduced us to the first gay best friend boyfriend. Oh,

K Anderson  16:29

yes, I need to watch that film.

Michael  16:31

Absolutely. It was iconic. Like she had the classic trope of falling in love with a beautiful, perfect Disney Prince of a boy and tries to sleep with him, and then discovers that he’s gay. I thought she fell in love with her brother eventually, after the gay guys.

K Anderson  16:49

That’s the obvious second choice, right?

Michael  16:53

Yes, obvious second choice, right? It’s like go from like, gay best friend to your stepbrother, at least. And so all of that basically meant that when I did finally come out, and I didn’t come out, so the story that coming out is basically at some point, he and I got close. He and I started, you know, not not, we hadn’t snugged yet, like we had, like, had you like,

K Anderson  17:14

brushed your knees against each other? And like, yes, there

Michael  17:17

was a lot of there was a lot of like, you know, very, very sort of, like, you know, Jane Austen ish, sort of like looking at each other a lot of like, brushed hands, various sort of, like, you know, like wind to the read sort of like crap. And then at some point, there was a moment where we were standing, we’re sitting outside of my parents home, it was like, pitch black midnight, and there was an orange fluorescent streetlight, just just off to the side of my parents driveway. And he sat me down. And he looked at me and said, Where is this going? What are we in here, and I was like, We’re best friends. And we’re just great friends. I really like hanging out with you. Because ironically, he was also the very first male best friend I’d ever had in my entire life, which ironically, made my parents really happy that I finally had a good male influence in my life. At that time, all of my friends were women. Were all girls. And so. So he just looked me straight in the eye and said, I dare you to kiss me. I looked him in the eye. And I said, EFF you fine. And I did. And I kissed him. Right, and that orange street light illuminated for the block to see, I kissed him. And it was that moment where I just realised, oh, this is a thing. And then we decided and then we just continued and we just kept snogging again, basically, like the entire time and it was it was very passionate, very teenage, very, like of course, like when we played in my head, it like took like full 40 days and 40 nights, but it’s probably all of like, a minute. I don’t want to get too close at that, but I will say that later in the game. Okay, fine. So like immediately afterwards, I said, Listen, if I’m gonna fucking do this when I fucking do this, and so I grabbed the keys for my parents. Oh my god, they’re gonna hear this Okay, our keys, my mum’s bought her purse, but next to her purse, right? We went into the family Dodge Caravan, and I may not have had my first sexual experience in the family Dodge Caravan in the driveway. Which my parents then several hours later took us to school and

K Anderson  19:12

so what was it just like oh, you know, I’ve been waiting for this moment forever. I’m gonna make this like count. I think sort of Yeah,

Michael  19:19

I mean, like I had been basically I’m just gonna use this word because I can’t think of another way to say this but I had been edging. should I explain that to your listeners what that is?

K Anderson  19:27

like what do you mean physically edging

Michael  19:32

get kinda but it made like, so like, emotionally, spiritually, but also physically, like, I hadn’t had like a, like a sexual sort of moment. I mean, I had sexual moments with girls prior. And I had like one really random camp experience with like a distant male cousin that didn’t count. It’s on the record, everyone. It doesn’t count. Yeah, data is on the right. He knows better. But it was until that night that I not only have my first like, passionate Like French kiss, you know, with emotion with feeling, you know, with a boy. He then like, you know, took me in his arms and we did not quite everything but pretty close to everything that a young teenage person with, you know, access to shitty 90s internet could muster in terms of what gay sex was. And so, which is basically just a lot of rolling chops. But still, that was

K Anderson  20:23

a side note for a minute. Yeah, one of my big pet peeves about movies and TV shows is when people just spontaneously have sex, and they don’t like shower or get ready in any way.

Michael  20:35

Yeah, I know. It’s unrealistic.

K Anderson  20:39

So I’m just yeah. Anyway, I don’t know why I felt the need to bring that up. I just was thinking about you in that camper van. And I just want to reassure your mom, if she is listening, that it was probably like really innocent, it was

Michael  20:53

very, very innocent. And we did clean up afterwards. To remove all the traces of evidence Come on. It was the first time that I thought like, and it was a bridge that I had needed to cross both physically, emotionally, spiritually, vehicular literally, you just can’t see a Dodge and now without getting misty eyed. And I will say that for a long time, I did may or may not have had a kingdom but having sex and cause after.

K Anderson  21:21

So just something about the vibrations of the motor… from going from this moment to coming out to your parents like what, what kind of time frame was that? And kind of

Michael  21:31

Yeah, and so then we start so here’s the thing. So then we started dating, we started officially dating so that was the moment Oh,

K Anderson  21:38

quickly, the teenage experience is supposed to be your first sexual experience and then never talked about.

Michael  21:45

Yeah, no. I know. I am. I know, I’m ashamed. Like I know, this is very much a classic sort of like 50s like teenage rom com sort of moment where we were best friends. And then you know, we had sex and then we became boyfriends. I think that’s how that works right that time. And then we announced it so that was the big thing was like then we sort of like told close friends but here’s the thing. Don’t expect your secret to be a secret if your best friends that you tell are in theatre because those assholes love nothing more than drama and what is more dramatic than the high school’s first ever gay couple. And and so it became a thing I actually not only did we come out to our friends very very soon after we were forced to come out and it wasn’t we weren’t I will never say this I we were not outed we were definitely not out at people were very much like, Am I allowed to tell him I’m not allowed to tell. And after I said yes to this and this and that. At some point. I just said, fuck it. I’m just gonna tell everyone and so I did. I told people and I did. I did like the strategic thing, right? I told like all of like the gossipy girls like I told the popular girls by this point, by the way to go back to clueless which I now feel like I’m totally endorsing this movie like inadvertently but but Clueless Elsa did was it protected me and I’ll tell you why. Because clueless showed every single popular girl in America and no one has showed that that everyone needed the best accessory the season, which was the gay best friend. And so what is the best defence against a homophobic, insecure male jock? their girlfriends who suddenly had a had to protect me like they were protecting their Louis Vuitton bags. Oh, I’m not even kidding. I was literally everyone’s favourite fashion accessory at that point. So it was great because I got stature like weird fetishised stature for the first time in my life. And I always had a boyfriend. And in many ways in the school, we were being celebrated. So one thing to bear in mind is like in school, we were celebrated. I had a couple of stupid homophobic moments from some stupid moments here and there. But other than that, we were mostly safe and celebrated, which then read meant to me that at some point, it was going to get to my parents. And so I was getting ginning up getting like gearing up gearing up gearing up at this moment. And then it happened very, very unexpectedly after a party. So by this point, because we were dating, I was lying a lot, frankly, lying more than a teenager usually would tell my parents, oh, I need to borrow the car to go to Bible study. There was a lot of Bible study going on. And then I got to that point said, Oh, Mom, I need the car. I’m going to youth group Bible study. And then I took my boyfriend to a party out in the mountains where there was no Bibles, and there was no studying. And I come back, it was late. And my mom said, Hey, I checked with the pastor, there was no Bible study tonight. Where did you go? Who did you go, who you’re with? And she started grilling me? And at some point, she said, Is it the drugs? No, but I thought like, you know, she said, she said, she went full on just Filipino mother at that point. And then I reminded myself that actually do know my native tongue instead of going back, and then after like a very, you know, very, very argumentative back and forth. She says, I don’t know who you are anymore. You’re taking my car every day. I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t feel like I know who you are. Who are you? Who is this person in front of me? And that’s when I said, Well, you’re right. You don’t know who I am. You don’t even know the fact that I’m gay. Like, I straight to the point basically, like you don’t know who I am, I’m gay.

K Anderson  25:02

So that’s, that’s when the theatre kid jumped out, right?

Michael  25:05

Yeah, the theatre kid jumped out. And then her theatre kid jumped out and without skipping a beat said, well, you still can’t borrow my car anymore?

K Anderson  25:16

Well, I mean, that is the ultimate punishment, right?

Michael  25:19

Yes, it is. It’s just like, we just kind of borrow my car. And then she took it. She was like, but what did she say? And then we went back and forth. And you know, and then that was a moment where she had a struggle. She was like, Okay, we’ll get through this, we’ll fix this. She kept saying that will fix this, you know, and, you know, but don’t worry, you’re still my son, you’re still my, you’re still my son. You know, we’ll get through this, we’ll figure out a way to fix this. And then I told her I was and I didn’t have the words back then to her said, you know, there’s nothing to fix. All I said was Mom, this is who I am, this is who I am. And then she says, Okay, we’ll talk about on the morning, don’t tell your dad that he’s not ready. And then that’s when two hours later, I wake up in my father’s arm, and he’s cradling me crying sobbing on top of me saying, so clearly, she had gotten it, you know, she, she had told me before I had a chance to tell him. And she and he was cradling me, you know, saying, you know, I will I will always protect you. I was like, you know, because he knew he knew what was going to come. And at the end of the day, you know, what they were most concerned about wasn’t so much them. And then of course, there was their reputational, you know, sort of like, you know, needs there, it was from me, because Also remember, at the time, you know, this is still the 90s, late 90s, late 90s. Lots of anti gay laws, lots of anti gay sentiment, we had literally just finished a very, very anti gay, homophobic, you know, sermon at church, like a couple of weeks prior. You know, there was a lot of rhetoric, political rhetoric around basically literally practically calling for like the Reek formalisation. of Okay, people essentially. So it was not very safe. At the same time, though, because of that, there was a lot of activism. And I do remember that same summer, there was a lot of news about young people taking their same sex partners to prom, there was a very, very famous one in LA, there was a famous one actually, just a few counties over, they got a lot of press and a lot of the news stations within within in California, dementia America. And then that made me think, well, should I bring my boyfriend to prom? And so what happened was they that promise coming, prom was coming and my parents were like, Don’t bring them to prom. We don’t need this attention. Like we need to deal with this as a family. And then something happened. Remember that church I told you about that we got kicked out of and I came out my boyfriend, joined it, joined it, and then dumped me for Jesus. Yeah,

K Anderson  27:37

I mean, well, I mean, like, okay, so just to work through this. What do you look like a loincloth? Ah,

Michael  27:43

I look now pretty good, because I’ve been working out. But back then I looked like basically a starving Filipino teenager. loincloth it would not have been, I would have looked like a server at some sort of like, really racist restaurant.

K Anderson  28:00

But like, okay, so sorry to make light of it. But like, was it influenced from his family? Was it did you go to one of those Carnival things that they have in America where the like, it’s a haunted house, but it’s about people dying of AIDS.

Michael  28:13

So those things did not happen around us. But what also happened was, I had told him why it was such a big step for me to do this. And then when I told him that I had, you know, basically been kicked out of the music ministry and my parents also kicked out, I guess he had sort of developed a guilt, like he felt that he had inadvertently taken me away and my family away from our support network. And so he went there. And then unbeknownst to me, but he himself had been struggling with his faith for a really, really long time as well. And then just something clicked, something happened in the midst of all this, were a combination of his guilt, his long term, sort of like struggling with his own fate that I didn’t know about, sort of just made him that much more attractive to the pit to the conversion therapists and the conversion ministers in that church that I actually was being forced into as well. But my family to their credit said that I was not going to go to key however, went and got stuck and

K Anderson  29:17

conversion minister so that’s like converting you from homosexual to heterosexual not converting you from non-believer to a believer.

Michael  29:25

No, no, that was converting me sexually. So converting. And it doesn’t necessarily converting us too straight so much as making us sort of deny our homosexuality and turning us at least not necessarily straight, but turning us you know, biblically aligned, and that we will deny our sexual sort of desire or sinful desires, and instead go on the path of righteousness. And so I always tell people, it’s like, Yes, I lost my very first boyfriend to Jesus. He dumped me literally dumped me a week before saying that he was doing it to save myself that he needs to save his soul. He had to go through this journey. And so I couldn’t bring my first boyfriend to prom. So in many ways, it was the combination of that trauma. Plus the fact that my parents were also now jailing with now having an out gay, Filipino son. And I was actually told later that I was the very, very first out gay Filipino in that community ever. So the entire committee didn’t know what to do. My family didn’t know what to do. I, to my knowledge, you know, constantly at that point, I was the first gay out member on both sides of my family. So this was a disruption and multiple levels, I need to get away because at that point, I was now starting to, I had that moment, right, that moment of like, I’m doing this for me, I’m doing this because I need to live my truth. And I started seeing myself creep back into that protective, older brother young, you know, oldest child, sort of like narrative and behaviour and pattern of needing to protect others before I protected myself. And so then I started to retreat and thought to myself, Oh, wait, Dwight, should I regret to do today say that I regret this, should I go back to the closet? Should I do no. And I guess all of that basically put a very, very strong inkling in my mind that for me to protect my relationship with my family, to protect my parents to protect my brothers. And ultimately, I think, to protect myself, I needed to leave. And that’s when I decided to move out of the house. And then eventually actually ended up going back to Australia for College, where I would say a combination of living out of a house in Santa Barbara SATA discover places like LA and West Hollywood, finally, all those places that I saw on them to these real world, and then getting an opportunity to do part of my university studies back in Australia, where I literally really lived my full gay, queer self, apart from even the family that I had grown up with there. And then eventually moving myself to DC. I mean, that was, there’s, there’s very much a narrative of voyage of disruption leading to, to departure, let’s just put it that way. And that for me to basically discover who I am, I needed to depart and create something new and find something new. And then from that space of, you know, of incremental healing, only then could I go back and heal the relationships that I had left behind.

K Anderson  32:11

Hmm, so then why DC.

Michael  32:15

So I got a job working for the Al Gore campaign, basically, and the entire Democratic National Committee, you know, at the time. And this is basically part of the choice as to like I had a choice, when I was looking for a place like I need to get out of head to get out of here. I could either move to LA, or I could move really, really far away. And I guess, in my mind, because the very first release, so let’s go back to a real world, the very first real world was in New York City. And in my head, the very first, like, truly out gay narrative, like I ever really saw were all those stories about New York City, and I always thought of New York City as sort of a place that I would go to. And so I had an opportunity to help be part of a an election campaign, a political campaign in the New York City area, and I applied, I got in, and I found myself driving cross country, where I would ultimately help in this, you know, coordinated campaign between some local candidates, eventually, you know, working on some senatorial candidates, including one Hillary Clinton, and then eventually Al Gore. And all his basically meant was that that was the year that I not only completely removed myself, from my family, and from that part of my community and my history, but basically started a whole new history for myself now on the east coast of America. Now by myself, I didn’t have any family around me, I was by myself the entire time. I found myself basically in New York City during the New York thing, and then eventually going to DC if it I don’t know if How many of y’all remember your American political history, you should. But that was a highly contested election in the 2000s, where it was a toss up basically, and eventually came down to a Supreme Court decision. It was the very first time that hung Chad fucked me over and and that’s based in New Hampshire had basically a reference to something to do with like the voting systems like there was something wrong with like a physical paper voting system. And all that basically meant was that many of my candidates, including the presidential candidate lost, and I found myself basically stuck on the East Coast eventually stuck in DC, waiting for the outcome of a presidential election that had promises of jobs and a career should the outcome go my way. So fortunately, even though you know, most of my candidates, actually several my candidates did win, but the big ones didn’t quite win. I mean, Hillary obviously won. It did at least give me a solid sort of like political and, and professional network in DC, enough that I was able to find a job immediately, I was able to actually find housing immediately. And a small sort of like social network, you know, based off of sort of the political connections I had, which included several LGBTQ people, but I was also part of the LGBTQ political action group that was helping us basically, you know, rally LGBTQ people around these candidates, and many of them had been to DC and we’re living in DC. And so I was able to go to, you know, share house with them, I was able to explore the city with them. And that is how I finally found myself in Velvet Nation.

K Anderson  35:20

Oh, bringing us around, it only took us 45 minutes to get there. And the like, so was it your plan then to to, like settle in Washington? Or is it just kind of something like, I’ll see what happens.

Michael  35:33

It’s actually your original plan. So remember, I started my career in the new like the northern New Jersey suburbs, and sort of like New York City Manhattan area. And so the plan was to actually go to DC, frankly, just survive again, I was definitely back in survival mentality. Again, it’s just like, get a job, get some money, pay your rent, and then find a way back up to New York and actually figure out a way to go back and forth. And actually, for a while I did, I did actually find myself eventually in a position where I was actually going back and forth between DC and New York to the point that I almost considered myself, you know, bi-Metropolitan between DC New York.

K Anderson  36:07

Does anyone use that term to people who call themselves bi-Metropolitan?

Michael  36:11

No, I just made it up.

K Anderson  36:15

So then, let’s go back to those first days in Washington. So like the early 00s, what was the queer scene like at that time?

Michael  36:25

So it was in turmoil. For one thing, because it was the very first time that I would, that would experience what I have now experienced, many, many, many times since. And that is what happens to DC in the community in general, when there is a presidential transition when there is a party transition. Because remember, we had just spit finished eight years of uninterrupted democratic rule under the Clintons. And now we’re going into the Bush era, right. And this was a very, very different era. So I remember distinctly, and I remember, too, that the Supreme Court decisions didn’t happen until I believe, like January or something like that. So I had moved to DC in November, December, I was waiting in this like, sort of professional Limbo of like, Where am I going to stay? Where am I going to go? Where’s my job? What am I going to do for a living, and then eventually, you know, finding out that, you know, our candidate had lost and all this and stuff that happened, found myself a job. But then I also found myself in this community of all these people, like, just, but the F just happened, right? You know, like, we had all these dreams, we had all this, like, we were so close, we were, you know, starting to, you know, create all these plans. And then suddenly, you found yourself in an environment where people were just very, not fearful yet, because that would come soon. But they were very sort of concerned about, like, what their prospects were unknown, totally how the culture was going to change, knowing that in many ways, that President who won ran on certain platforms that were not going to be conducive to a lively queer culture, let’s just put it that way. In fact, in some cases, it would become highly homophobic. Even the rhetoric in those early early days of that administration started to point towards being very anti immigrant, very homophobic, and all those things that a person like myself, who embodies the kinds of identities I embody, does not thrive in, right. So the queer scene back then, was, it was big, it was thriving, but it was it was it was a lot of like, sort of had this place of like, what’s going to happen. And then I discovered something. And I have discovered it since in the many, many times that DC America and the world have been in turmoil is the way that the queer community rallies through creativity to create safe spaces. And how we discover these strange renaissances, right, a creative output when we are attacked. And that’s what I saw, I saw a city that was redefining itself a community that was redefining itself. And by that, I mean, you know, networks, support groups. And as we started to see the homophobia, sort of the homophobic rhetoric start to increase more and more, I started to see a lot more sort of action and, and the sort of sense of, you know, let’s fight against this. But they all started to see just people from all these people that had come to DC expecting there to be some sort of like, different sort of environment that was expecting, trying to create something out of out of something that they did not expect, which I thought I felt made it a little bit more interesting and certainly much more artistically vibrant. Because suddenly you were forcing these artists and these creatives, let’s just myself to really critically think differently about how art can make a difference. And that’s what I saw.

K Anderson  39:32

And so is that is it like that in DC that the culture kind of is very, very heavily impacted by the leadership? by Presidency, I guess and so I guess that there’s like a flux of different party affiliated people coming in when a new administration because they’ve coming in for jobs.

Michael  39:54

Yeah, it affects the culture and it also affects the kind of spaces they want to go into, right?

K Anderson  39:57

Yes. Yeah. I guess I just never thought about it before now?

Michael  40:01

I mean, if you think about it back then you had basically a conservative, a conservative, Christian Texan in the White House, which meant that we had a lot of, you know, gay Republicans. I remember Actually, I will say this, what define my experience in the first couple of years of living in DC, is me being a staunch progressive democrat, navigating the dating scene, surrounded by Republicans, by gay conservative Republicans. And understanding that dynamic, right?

K Anderson  40:28

Isn’t it weird is like, as you kind of, you don’t want to be like too judgmental because of someone’s political affiliation. But like, how the fuck Can you not?

Michael  40:36

Yeah, absolutely. Especially when there was literally, you know, we were all partying in clubs that were like, within the shadow direct line of sight, to, you know, the Capitol dome, to the White House, you know, to these places where our very human dignity was being debated. And here you are supporting those debates, supporting the people sort of propping up those debates, and are behind those debates. And so, you know, so it did sort of like, but I will say this, it also created a sort of empathy, and understanding. And I’ve, this is where I feel like I’ve grown a bit and that, you know, just because I strive to understand you doesn’t mean that I will ever agree with you, right? So I strove to understand these, these people who would eventually become my friends who would eventually become a boyfriend or two, right? In fact, actually, I had long term relationships with several Yes, absolutely.

K Anderson  41:26

Are you going on the record, yes,

Michael  41:27

I absolutely dated Republicans, right. Let’s visit dynamics in DC, like where, if you want to get laid in this town, you’ve got to be two things a, you’ve got to be politically not that you don’t have to give up your core. But you’ve got to be a bit politically savvy, you also have to be you also have to be vers because everyone here’s a bottom. So if you want to get like the sex, you basically have to learn how to top once or twice.

K Anderson  41:51

Well, I’ll keep that in mind. Like there is a difference between getting laid and having a relationship with someone.

Michael  41:58

Absolutely, absolutely. But maybe this is where we’ve lost. You know, that camaraderie I know in our political dialogue, is that there used to be a point where we could just fuck away our differences. And apparently now

K Anderson  42:12

I just long for those days.

Michael  42:15

Just fuck across the aisle, you made a photograph.

K Anderson  42:19

But then to just like, you’d have dates that you just didn’t talk about anything?

Michael  42:24

Oh, no, we would talk about it. Oh, no, no, no, no. Here’s the thing about dc dc that I love is that we’re not shy about professing our political affiliations, beliefs and alignments. Even in the midst of a hookup or like to get to hook up or I don’t know, maybe there’s a kink, maybe there’s a kink there.

K Anderson  42:41

So what you’re telling me is your favourite way to fuck is hate fucking.

Michael  42:46

I will say debate fucking. I don’t have to hate you to debate you.

K Anderson  42:54

Just like you know, 10 minutes of a debate with certain people like you can be fairly certain that you

Michael  43:00

hate but here’s what I will say. Here’s what I’ll say. DC is also very, very widely known to be a very kinky town. And I can tell you in those moments of, you know, of political sort of like strain and stress during a romantic amorous moment, ball gags go a long way.

K Anderson  43:18

changing hearts and minds,

Michael  43:21

changing hearts and minds. Exactly.

K Anderson  43:24

Okay, so yeah, maybe we shouldn’t talk about how I’ve beaten up some Republicans. And let’s talk about Velvet Nation,

Michael  43:36

from beating up to Velvet Nation.

K Anderson  43:39

Do you remember the first time you went there?

Michael  43:41

Oh, absolutely. 100%. If you remember, I came to DC as like I literally just said, I came to DC in a moment of just just professional Limbo, personal limbo. Like I didn’t know what I was doing here. I don’t know if I was going to stay. I didn’t know what was going to happen really, to myself to my friends too. So I was very much I would say scared, but definitely certainly anxious and apprehensive. But much like my first time hooking up in my parents caravan, I decided to just go full hog and just say, you know what, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it fully to the hilt, like Ball State. And so yes, I was in DC, not really knowing to the end. But also remember that I was part of the LGBTQ group. And so and there are a lot of people there who were already sort of like, at least familiar with the town had friends who had network K. And so like any good homosexual, you know, I found my tribe where I could find them. And our very, very first night, the very first night in DC, I went to Velvet Nation with political with other political gays, because we were there for a conference. We were there for a big set of like strategy made because I came here actually, it may have been even like the weekend before the actual election day. And so you know, after like maybe 1214 hours of straight political You know, and you know, strategising and gruelling work and phone calls and, and and mailer and last minute mailings, like all these things that we were doing like all the activity that goes on in the, in the planning

K Anderson  45:09

the

Michael  45:10

Yeah, the frantic panicking that happens before an election night I my friends were like, Hey want to go for a drink. And I said sure where we’re going, it’s like, oh, this

45:19

is like this club

Michael  45:19

called Velvet Nation. And so we went that evening, and my mind was blown away, particularly because I had never been in a space that big. Now granted, prior to this, I had now gone to gay bars and gay clubs in New York City in Sydney, in LA and San Francisco. Those are the four big cities that I’d explored prior to this. And while you know, those places definitely have big big clubs big sort of like thumping. So it was a big sort of, you know, culture of club culture back then. This is a little bit different I because it felt dirtier it was in Bose basically a warehouse like your classic warehouse club, but it was also sprawling and cavernous. And that had an outdoor sort of seating area, sort of an outdoor patio and a balcony, that I will never forget this, that directly faced a brightly lit Capitol dome. And for me that

46:11

has

Michael  46:12

never ever, ever not been my image of Velvet Nation throughout all the times I went to Velvet Nation and all the historical moments that would happen in the midst of Velvet Nation, you know, operating was the fact that, you know, at 234 am in the morning, however, you know, you whatever state of mind or dress, you were, like, literally you would look up right past the exit in the entrance and you would see the Capitol Dome. And for me, it was sort of that dynamic of power and play that I always found really, really interesting, especially in the context of what was to come and what would attack and what would happen to the LGBTQ community and to the community at large like in the years to follow. So I remember that like I remember walking outside I think I think there was like a Junior Vasquez like Madonna remix happening. I think there was like a drag queen was like a really really famous dragon at the time. It was like was was was onstage and of course there was circuit queens and muscle queens and and that was the thing too about validation around was that it was everyone was there. So like the goth kids were there, the raver kids were there, the muscle queens, were there the twinks are there it was just coming in or like watering hole, if you will.

K Anderson  47:23

So you talked earlier about colliding of power and play. And I feel like I know what you’re talking about in terms of power, but I would like you to talk a bit more about play

Michael  47:34

Foam parties. Let’s talk about foam parties. That’s probably the worst invention ever in any you know known to party organisers and event planners ever.

K Anderson  47:49

I need to look at

Michael  47:52

what the origin is, but I can only mourn all the lost things all the things that have been lost in the foam.

K Anderson  47:59

I haven’t I’ve only ever been – this is going to make me sound like the biggest square ever. I’ve only ever been to one foam party and then like the next day my skin like just came out in like massive rash like everywhere

Michael  48:11

Of course it was you’re just having a bath with 700 of your other mates.

K Anderson  48:15

It was like a bit cheapest detergent they used for that foam It was horrible

Michael  48:20

Of course because they weren’t going to Bed, Bath and Beyond like for like a silky level to scrub to put into the system

K Anderson  48:29

I paid £10 to get in I expect the best

Michael  48:30

Yeah, they were putting in basically like dove dial or like some really crappy detergent. But I say foam party in particular because a they were known for it like that was literally what Velvet Nation at the time was known for with these massive incredibly just dirty and debaucherous foam parties on the

K Anderson  48:52

outside. Like how do you even dress for a foam party as well like you’ve got a you want to look good for going to the club but then you also want to wear something skanky so it doesn’t matter if it gets ruined like how do you make a decision? Except

Michael  49:04

unless you’re unless you’re like a you know a fashion diva want to be like me I might be like my very first popular my first foam party because I will also never forget the first time I ever actually mourned an article of clothing. I had just gone to Okay, first of all, I realise I’m about to say the word Armani but I’m gonna follow it with the word exchange. So but at the time it felt fancy all right at the time. I was barely in my early to, like it was in my early 20s barely able to afford rent but I could afford a sparkly new like shirt and like some cute new pants all from Armani exchange. And I remember like going into this club, I did not know foam parties were a thing that I had been to them before because I’ve been to foam parties like in Sydney before. By the way those foam parties were usually in a pool where I was in a speedo and that was appropriate. This foam party was in an urban club outside the patio where everyone has been sweating for several hours. So with no pool, no Shower in sight. So I go in there, and I mostly dressed in all white because I’m an idiot. And so I go in, and my friends are like, Oh, go to the pool that says go to the foam party. I’m like, I have fun. And here I am thinking it’s going to be like New Year’s Eve was just gonna be like champagne bubbles, like a bubble machine, you know, like when they should, and it’s gonna be like a balloon drop, just gonna be like, a drop of like gently, non corrosive bubbles. You know, that would like caress my skin and leave my clothes intact. I was so fucking wrong. I go in there, and I dive in. I’m like, Oh, it’s Sunday. Okay, so I’m like, Oh, this is not too bad. And then I go in. And the first thing that happens is I first of all, at this when you go it’s a wall First, it wasn’t what people should realise. The visual is, is that this point it is a wall, it is a fog. It is not like it’s coming up to your knees. It is coming up to your eyeballs. And I am a short Asian person, which means like, if it’s tall for a tall white person, I am basically like in a glacier at this point, and I distinctly remember like running in after my friends and my friends just dive in. I’m like, Fuck, I gotta go find them. Cuz they’re my ride home. And so I got to go go in and the first thing I do is I land place into someone’s chest into a gigantic Bear’s hairy chest. I fall backwards onto the floor in the middle of a third party with a firm above me, so I am literally now practically like on my back, everything is soaked. The nice kind Big Muscle bear Of course, like brings me hugs me because he’s rolling. Yes, so that’s our first ever is basically faceplant into a big muscular chest being like thrown to the ground, finding myself and then eventually seeing my friends fighting my friends and having a tough time of my life. I lost my shirt. I absolutely lost my shirt. I obviously at some point, maybe I’m just like, just take this fucking thing off. So I took it off. And then I put it in my back of my my thing. But then of course, it’s firm. So it’s everything’s slippery. So that slipped out. So I mourn the loss of that my shoes were ruined. My shorts

52:03

were

Michael  52:04

like, I could not ever recover that like to the life of me. And on top of that my phone, which was in my pocket, which I think the phones today like are barely like able to escape a brush with water back then. No. Like so. By the end of the evening, while I had an amazing time. I totally snowed a couple of really cute boys. I may have like Apple hands. These are the I mean, like it’s the phone like so you can do it’s like having a darkroom but but slimy. Like, you can do things in that it’s kind of hot. And I will say like foam after a while has this consistency of the blue dish is kind of what was happening, the famous things are happening in the foam things are happening in that mock. It’s not innocent. Yeah, it’s not a bubble bath. It’s kind of a not a bubble orgy. But it’s like it’s things are happening there.

K Anderson  52:50

Okay, so what I think you’re saying here is that foam parties are good for hand jobs, but not much.

Michael  52:59

They’re good for they’re good for when you are wearing nothing but a speedo. And maybe some like sandals, and a waterproof case. around all of your valuables.

K Anderson  53:09

Yeah. So anyway, if you’re if you’re listening, and you’re thinking of going to a foam party, prepare yourself in mind. Yeah, yeah.

Michael  53:17

I’m not selling it to you. But I think you should absolutely experience yet another foam party, because I will say this. There’s nothing quite like the lights like, okay, imagine that the lights of the club, right? My little lights, like out of like the lasers, and you know, the classic mirror ball. And that refracted through the foam in a darkened sort of area. Plus the centre, the music making its way through the fire. I mean, surely say it’s magical. I’m not gonna go that far. But it’s definitely memorable. And it’s different.

K Anderson  53:49

Yeah. And so what else happened at Velvet Nation?

Michael  53:55

I will say that. So probably one of the most significant memories that will ever have of a Velvet Nation was either the weekend immediately after, or shortly after 911. And I know we’re about to come to the 20th anniversary of 911. I do want to mention this very show, because for me, this was a very, very formative moment, not only for me, but I think for the community. And at least for me, it solidified really how this community how the queer community can come together, right. I was working on Capitol Hill at the time, and I distinctly remember that morning, I was just on IRC, or I CQ, one of those like, he yawns old, like, I think it may have an AOL chat, I was able to chatting with my best mate in New York. And I remember, like, at some point, around nine o’clock in the morning, suddenly his chat stopped. I thought, okay, it must have been busy. And then I tried calling another friend of mine, and I was like, Hey, I was jalon. You know, for this thing. I was kind of happened later that month, and they stopped answering the text messages. And then all of a sudden, all of a sudden, my boss comes into my office and says, Come to come to the conference room right now. And I see You know, everyone’s packed in there, I see the giant TV screens. And then of course, I see it, I see the plane hit, I see all of that. And we’re just like a gasp for morning, whatnot. Immediately as that was happening, we get the message as every person in Washington DC at the time got the message that another plane was heading to the Pentagon. And then shortly after that, that happened, and then suddenly everyone’s in a panic, everyone’s trying to go home. And then we hear that a third player said there was another plane, it was the plan that would eventually you know, be grounded, that, you know, they they were able to run in Pennsylvania was headed to the Capitol, literally where I was working at the time. So you can imagine the panic, you can imagine sort of like the chaos, everyone was trying to get out of the city, everyone was trying to escape, I distinctly remember coming out of our office, going to my car to try to pick up my roommate, um, who was who was working nearby. And I could see across the Pennsylvania Avenue, I could see across the street, all of these armoured cars loading up all of these senators and their stuff into these armoured cars to get them to safety. And then I started seeing tanks all across the street, basically, this, it became just a moment where the city was just like in chaos, but also trying to control the chaos. I eventually, you know, found my car, you know, got into my car, somehow navigated around the city, and then I will never forget if this Oh, I couldn’t find my roommate, unfortunately, got blocked, all the streets were getting blocked. And she had to figure out her own way back. But I do remember saying, okay, we’ll meet you back, you know, in our apartment in our apartment at the time was in the northern part of Virginia, not too far from the Pentagon. And I mentioned that because I had found my way through meandering through the streets, eventually getting out onto the highway, and they hadn’t close it off, I was probably one of the last cars to be allowed on that highway. Because then I remember driving past the wreckage of the Pentagon, and I distinctly thinking to myself, I have a camera in the back, should I stop and take a photo, because zooms are gonna look really, really, really important moment that I want to capture. But then my fear overtook me. Because then I started hearing sirens, I saw I mean, like I saw the I saw the fire, I saw that I saw, like everything that I could figure out, you know, what was happening front of me and it was an eye, all I could think about was like, I need to get that I need to get out of hand to get to safety, I need to get home as quickly as possible. So I went straight home. And eventually my roommate, you know, shows up. The phone lines were also in chaos, nothing was going through. So there was also almost a communications blackout, everyone had to rely on the news. And so I couldn’t get a hold. My parents were panicking good to get hold of me, I couldn’t get ahold of my friends, one of whom I knew for a fact world, and it worked in the Trade Centre, and it couldn’t get ahold of him. And so and I had friends in the Pentagon, who I couldn’t get ahold of, when you also work that, and so there was just a lot of chaos. And, you know, after you know, everything started to sort of like, not settle down, but no things started, like sort of like happening in the next couple of days. You know, it was it was there was a lot of chaos, a lot of misinformation. I distinctly remember a feeling of not calm, but almost just like a pause. It’s like the entire city, the entire world is such sort of just taking a breath, and just waiting for something else to happen. And then I distinctly Also remember, like being invited, like there was a lot of people alone in their apartments. And there was this feeling that we couldn’t leave. But then that switched very, very quickly to Oh, no, we have to come together. And I distinctly remember a lot of pot and just not putting up parties. We’re not calling parties, but gatherings, gatherings nearby, where people just felt they needed to be with their, their loved one with their chosen family, they needed to be with each other. And then eventually, you know, we started hearing that some spaces, were opening up some schools like the city at that point, basically shut down, nothing was going to be open, and people didn’t know if we were going to become under attack. And then we decided to sort of just, you know, go to people’s homes. And then we started hearing from hearing that, that some venues were starting to open up just so that people had a place to congregate. So that they had a place to go. And then shortly after that, you know that some of the clubs were opening, and then some of the venues are starting to open. And I remember at some point that Nation decided to open and there was this general feeling about like whether or not it was appropriate to go like, ah, should we go, can we go? Like, Is it safe? Is it safe to go like used to say that that’s not going to be attacked, you know, by someone nefarious, like, what are we going to do? But then I remember a drag queen friend of mine, you know, who, like many, many people in the entertainment industry, like many queer people in DC, they have to double last that only was she a drag queen, she was also an FBI agent, and work basically his insecurity and, and knew a lot of the people who were the first responders. And what she said was that we have to, we have to acknowledge her fear, but I think we also have to retaliate in some way. And there was this phrase of like, we can’t let them win. We can’t let the terrorists run, and it’s almost feeling that the best way to retaliate was to revel in our joy to rediscover it, right? You know, to somehow use joy and togetherness, to grieve and using, maybe it’s not necessarily joy, but sort of like that moment of just like just coming together and just being together as human beings, and to come together and just be with one another. And to maybe, maybe not find joy, but maybe find some sort of solace and peace, and just the fact that we were now together, and then use, you know, things like music and dance, and any sort of art that we could grab on to, as a way to maybe not make sense of what had happened, but to make sense of how we were feeling, you know, the fear that we were feeling, or maybe to distract just momentarily from the fear that everyone at the time was failing. And so I do remember, like, shortly afterwards, you’re going to Velvet Nation. And it wasn’t necessarily packed, I will say that it wasn’t necessarily too packed. But I do remember that there was enough people there that it did feel like people coming together. I had, it was the first time I had seen people since before the attack, it was the first time that people were coming out of their homes. The music was not Salvatore, right, but was almost defiant. It was you know, it definitely people there was no foam party, but there were definitely drinks. I probably drank more that night than I had ever prior. And then I distinctly remember that after that, right, every single weekend after that every single month after that, and especially in those first couple of months, where if you remember in DC afterwards, we had the anthrax scare, where basically somebody had shipped some mysterious powder that found out later to be anthrax, I was actually in that I I was exposed to it and actually was on supro for many, many, many months. And then like eight months later, we had a sniper, we had to sniper attacks, basically where people were randomly getting shot all across the DC area. And so in the midst of all this fear, you just started to see a lot of these club promoters and all these entertainers, not retreat, but retaliate, you know, with this want of like saying, No, you’re not going to take away our joy, you’re not going to take away our celebration, you’re not going to replace our revelry, right, with fear. And so I loved that I loved how there was always a counterpoint, there was a balance to that rhetoric, because of course, there aren’t all those attacks, there was a lot of rhetoric around fear around attack around mistrust around suspicion. And I felt like places like Nation and queer spaces in particular, were the places where one could rally around a different kind of emotion to balance that, that didn’t feel so, so fearful, but instead felt more communal. And, dare I say, even safe. And I saw that I definitely saw that in the art. I saw that in the music. I saw that in the parties. You know, there’s just a lot of moments where people are literally, like I said, retaliating with joy. And I found that to be so urgent, and the community also was very creative at that point as well. And for me, that was for me, I think what really stuck with me about what was so important about queer spaces and why they needed to be supported and protected was because for a lot of us and for many of our sins, and for many other instances and moments in history, since those are places where you could not only find that safety, but that permission to find joy again.

K Anderson  1:03:11

Do you have any memories from Velvet Nation, or from your own cuisine that you want to share? Well, if you do, please get in touch. I want to create the biggest online record of people’s memories and stories. Go to law spaces podcast.com find this section share a lost space and tell me what you got up to. I want to hear all of the juicy details but leave me You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as lost spaces and pod. Find out more about Michael by following him on Instagram. handily his handle is Michael Dumlao and make sure to check out his new book The Wisdom of Guncles and I will share a link to buy the book in the show notes for this episode. Last basis is not only a podcast about a concept record as well, I have been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there. And we’ll be releasing songs over the coming year. You can hear the first single well groomed boys which is also playing underneath my talking right now on all good streaming platforms. If you liked this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribe, leave a review on your podcast platform of choice or just told people who you think might be interested in giving a little listen to I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces.







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