I didn’t even have the boxes unpacked in my dorm room when I decided to be a seducer of butch women and so I did. I was living on the performing arts hall of a dormitory renowned for its art fag theater performative psychedelic weirdos and the young man with a single room dropped the card loud and clear: he was screening a gayGAYgayGAY movie, that he was flamboyantly gay, and people down with that should stop by his gay room to watch the gay movie.
The glitter carpet was rolled out and all of us queers on the hall accepted the invitation because we wanted to know who we were. It was the first time most of us had a real chance to identify ourselves through commonalities rather than differences. The first movie night meant the world to me in terms of liberation and in that room I met people that I would explore so many human mysteries with from sex to the meaning of revolution.
I realized that night that I wanted to be an aggressive vixen, a hard femme and when my eyes landed on the soft butch in the corner it was lust at first night. I wanted to seduce her and I reveled in the fact that at long last I could wear makeup as an actor rather than a reactor, that it felt more like decoration than camouflage. My new gay friend down the hall railed against the “rice queens” who chased him and I pondered ways to seduce the curly haired woman with the gentle demeanor and an obviously neglected worthiness of desire.
6 months later, the people I met in that room would pile into a university van to crash a collegiate conference on all matters LGBTQQIA at the base of California. We weren’t registered, we were riding a flimsy Ford, and for some reason we departed in the middle of the night during a torrential downpour and my big gay life flashed across my big gay eyes as I sat in the driver’s seat through a stretch of road named “blood alley” for the frequency of accidents that occurred due to the lack of lights, the absence of clear road and sign markers, and the curves of the road. The rain came down in buckets on the windshields and the wipers were not up to the task. Animals darted into the road and semitrucks emerging from nowhere with nearly spontaneous floodlights blinding all of us.
How we ever made it to dawn and southern California is beyond me. The big gay roadtrip started out in a tempest and by the time we reached Los Angeles we decided to grab breakfast. The next driver took the wheel with half the group on a quick travel errand while the rest of us stuffed our faces. 30 minutes into the meal, we found out that there had been a minor accident with the van resulting in a jammed door and missing sideview mirror. I was elected the driver as we took a detour to another state university who drilled a small and random sideview mirror in a locked position matching my height onto the side of the car and sent us on our way.
We arrived with hotel reservations and that was about it. There was no guarantee we could get in but at the very least we would be at the base of California on the outskirts of this gathering. We approached the registration desk where we were informed that there was no space left for registrations. The group was discouraged and walked away dragging their feet. I stayed at the desk and asked, “Given that this is university space, how are you monitoring who gets into the sessions?”
“There’s no way for us to really check for the lectures and workshops but all of the meals will have security posted,” said the slender dyke in the good looking pantsuit. My introduction to queer theory and organizing came from the tacit permission to just attend the sessions but leave the food for the paying customers. That’s just what we proceeded to do.
I had never been exposed to so many blunt ideas about sexuality and gender and porn. Deep Dickollective took the stage at the party and set politics to music in a way that blew my mind and flirting across the dance floor felt electric. The sessions ranged from what it meant to be a drag king, the truth of anal fisting, caucuses for groups of marginalized people to come together to draw from mutual life experiences and create think tanks for progress and change were held, bodily representation in porn was analyzed in a critical but totally porn positive way, and I felt overwhelmed and overloaded at every turn but also excited and turned on by everything around me.
It was funny because I ran into that sexy and gentle soft butch at the same conference reiterated years later in a different city, setting, and culture. I was off to speak and corrupt young minds and she was there to be a chaperone for a group of students. She would protect them from the stupid decisions we made, like driving through a ridiculous rainstorm in the middle of the night in a van everyone was pretty sure had been recalled or sneaking into a conference or mixing alcohol and soda and getting into trouble and yet having eternal patience for the fact that mischief is so necessary to growth. Like the pant-suited dyke we met years ago who understood how to bend the bars on the institutional cage to let some young minds meet new ideas, that’s more or less what she was there to do.
As for me, it’s rare to see me behind the wheel of a van or any other car for that matter. I’ve never had an accident but I’m superstitious about the fact that I feel like I deserve one for as close as it came on the big gay road trip. I feel like I’m still sneaking into conferences by hiding in plain sight as a presenter. I’m not entirely certain I’m allowed to eat the food. It felt weird to run into my dear friend at the conference and yet I wasn’t surprised at all. It made sense to see her there and it made me nostalgic for the other participants.
I guess I’m both the case for and the case against gatherings like these among young queers with nubile minds waiting to break molds and change worlds and find love for themselves. I still remember entire portions of the porn presentation I saw in 2004 by a graduate student examining queer and racial gazes and so much of what I saw made it possible for me to start performing and eventually making queer porn.