Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Identity Politics of Gay Club Flyers

For the past couple weeks the boyfriend and I have been working on a logo/flyer for Fuck Shit, Let's Dance! (a version of which can be seen here: One of the first things we decided was that, contrary to just about every other gay club night (Honey Sound System being the only exception that comes to mind), we weren't going to put a guy on the flyer. This may be promotional suicide, as it remains to be seen whether or not gay guys will go out to a party that doesn't overtly advertise sex, or the possibility of it, but choosing what kind of guy to put on the flyer is so stepping into the minefield of gay identity politics that we didn't want to deal with it, and we really wanted to communicate the idea that our night is about music and dancing more than picking up (though if you want to get into something in Deco's basement we'll be happy to provide the soundtrack).

Here's what I mean about "identity politics:" pick up any gay club flyer and check out the guy on it. Chances are he will be a) a bear b) a muscle boy c) a 70s mustache queen d) an "alternaboy". Each of these options is designed to communicate not just what kind of guy you might be able to pick up at this party, but also a whole set of associations that you can identify with yourself. In our own particular bubble each of these sets of associations is usually opposition to the others; if you're a bear you won't identify with, or necessarily want to associate with, shaved muscle boys, while if you're an "alternaboy" you won't want to hang out with muscle queens either. Meanwhile, mustache man tells us that this party wants to associate itself with some nostalgic gay identity from the 70s, which might be kind of a turn-off for the muscle boys. Etc., etc., etc.

When I look at gay club flyers in San Francisco I see a scene that has factionlized around body types and whatever identity associations come with them. This really bothers me, as I can remember a time when clubbing was about bringing the community together, without fetishizing body type or facial hair or anything else; we all just wanted to get together, dance, flirt, maybe pick up, and have a good time. I place the blame for the current situation on circuit promoters like Gus Bean, who played the biggest role in associating one body type with a particular party scene, but I also think some responsibility must be shared by those who have taken a reactionary stance against circuit parties and created their own factions.

When we started talking about doing Fuck Shit, Let's Dance!, this is exactly what we wanted to get away from; that's even what the name means. Fuck all this shit about what body type you are, whether you're hairy or smooth, whether you identify with this group or that one, whether you're queer, gay, post-gay, lesbian, baby dyke, bisexual, omnisexual, straight, het, alterna, mainstream, whatever - let's just get together and dance and have fun! One of our original ideas for the flyer was a set of infographics that would depict a bear, a guy, a girl, a heart, whatever else we could find to communicate the idea that this party was for everybody, but it got a little complicated and busy, so we decided instead to go with something that would communicate the idea that it was all about the music.

So that's our utopian idea; the boyfriend and I both really believe that dancing together brings people together, and that's what we hope we'll achieve with Fuck Shit, Let's Dance!

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