by Aja (she/they)

In the mid 2000’s, I started going to gay clubs in Los Angeles. Aside from West Hollywood which was frequented by mostly Gay white men, there was the Black lesbian scene where QTBIPOC folk could dance, flirt, and be together in safe space. Spending time at these clubs were formative years of my queerness, that gave me permission to evolve into who I am today.

The “strippers” were my favorite part of those queer nights out. These were not go-go dancers, nor were they there to cater to cis-het men. Sometimes they would perform on a stage, but other times these dancers performed right in the middle of the dance floor.  We, the club goers would make a big circle around them to watch, praise, throw money, and dance with them. 

I was mesmerized by these women; barely dressed and fully empowered and in their sensuality. It was the both/and for me. They were soft and powerful, submissive and aggressive, sexy and alluring, and just like everyone else. These dancers were the stars of the evening, like local celebrities--everybody looked forward to getting a chance to be close to them. And they were also approachable and accessible, the same as those of us circling them on the dance floor. 

I think I was so intrigued and mesmerized because I saw myself in them. I looked like them, danced like them, and was from the same place as them. I was seeing a representation of freedom in a Black femme body like mine. I’d seen freedom in other forms of body expression before, but this was different. Their sensuality wrapped in Black, Queer, LA femme vibe and embodiment felt like being on the most comfortable couch in the coziest room of this erotic home of mine. 

I can still remember the performance names of all of the dancers, and definitely remember my favorite dancer, Whiplash. I felt connected to the fluidity of their movement, and the power they had in their sex appeal. For most of my life I’ve been pretty introverted and have done a lot to make myself less visible, but the dancers sparked a deep desire in me to be seen and desired like them. So I began exploring to find my own version of seduction, dance, and play. I continue to aspire to the type of embodiment, confidence, and freedom that I first saw in them.



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