*BUT. The truth is that it's so much more than that.
So. Much. More.
It's not just a dance... or a birthday party.
Or a night out....
It's a huge piece of who I am.
A huge piece of what was missing....
And not just "it" ... but *you*. Each and every last one of you.
My first Inferno in March of 2013.... was the first time I had ever shared space with any of you lovely people. It was the first time I saw a butch or an MOC person or a femme... it was, in fact, the first time I saw two women kissing....the first time I saw two women grinding on each other...
Hell.. it was the first time I saw two women touching each other breasts where the breast feeding of a baby wasn't involved. (#momproblems)
That first dance was the first space where all those years of self hate and institutionalized self loathing suddenly ... didn't hold a space in my heart and my mind anymore. I stood in that room and I looked around and I knew without one single guilt ridden doubt... that *I* was okay. I suddenly understood that decades of confusion was really founded on the cornerstones of a conservative childhood - and not because there was actually anything "wrong" with being gay or a lesbian.
More than that.... I suddenly felt: normal.
And because of the space Hotflash/Inferno creates I knew I was.... welcome.
Two things every closeted gay kid dreams of....
But, that's wasn't all *you* did for me.
Not only did your visibility and your own bravery at being authentic and out and visible long before I had the courage to do so.... not only did it change me:
it changed my children.
My children got a (somewhat) happy Gay Mom who taught them about the value of humans and asking about someone's pro-noun and they quickly rose up filling the hole I had dug with decades of questioning and societal disgust and filled it with love and respect for everyone and trans* identified childhood friends.
Two years ago we rode on the Inferno Pride Parade Float and someone captured this picture of my son - proudly pointing to his t-shirt which said:
MY GAY MOM
What an amazing gift you all gave me .... for my birthday in March of 2013.
Now. That's not to say that everyone likes me.... lol.
That's not to say that most of you even know who I am outside of the lady who "takes the pictures".... (and does all the flyers and runs this here website)
But that's okay, too. Believe it or not... I know almost all of you by face or name. I know when you've missed a few dances and I do, from a very genuine place, always try to keep tabs on how you are doing.
Because the greater you... opened the doors, lit up the dance floor and welcomed me when I didn't even yet know myself.... how could I ever thank you?*
So. Long story short: *I* get a birthday Inferno... but it truly feels to me like a celebration of all the things, all the friends and all the family that Inferno has brought to my life... and I hope I will see you there.
*Also... TWO of you I actually DID introduce to each other and you're now getting married... so - that has to absolve some of my debt. :) MUAH! hahahaha
However, as with all things in this glorious community, the need to win is tempered with the desire to help and support each other. It's part of what makes our community, and every facet of it, unique and special because while winning is a goal; it's not the only goal. I, for one, completely and utterly sucked during my one 'season' as an outfielder for Pitches Be Crazy but that never stopped Darcy from slapping me a high five, or Kate from giving me encouraging words, or Katie from yelling support from the dug-out.
As we kick-off the summer season of softball, Inferno and the Rose City Softball Association are proud to bring you the TONI CARR NO PLAYER LEFT BEHIND FUNDRAISER which raises money to help players off-set the cost of playing.
This Saturday's dance will feature an evening of good lookin' people (and lots and lots of them), as well as a 50/50 Raffle and some fantastic auction items.
First up, we have an AWESOME Date Night with Helix Holman who plays for the Inferno sponsored softball team. Aside from their dashing good looks and undeniable charm, here is what you get if YOU are lucky enough to win a date with Helix:
Coffee or Cocktails
With a Dandy, Dapper Butch who’s playful and flirtatious.
"Doesn’t coffee taste better when someone else makes it or brings it to you?
Let me make/ bring/ take you to coffee (No night before activities required, but possible).
We’ll have coffee and pastries wherever you/me or we desire (because the more the merrier- you may supply an extra person).
Not a coffee fan? Have you ever had a Dandy Dapper Butch take you out for a night on the town? I’ll take you out to the best cocktail places in town and match whatever you’re wearing (No after activities required, but negotiable).
Fret not, I have a bowtie to match anything you could ever wear.
Don’t like either option? I’m flexible, strong, and talented- I’ll come up with something you want."
Also on offer at Saturday's fundraiser:
Inferno Team Offering:
Equal Exchange gift basket (coffee, tea, chocolates): Shawn Seebach
Pitches Be Crazy Team Offering:
Batting practice w/ a live pitcher: Krista Wolfe
Smoked Meatloaf: Crissy Cotnam (I keep wanting to move so I can keep getting smoked meatloaf housewarming gifts!)
Bad News Beavers Team Offering:
Batting practice w/ a live pitcher: Rebecca Hartley
Fairies Team Offering:
Date night w/ a zookeeper at the Oregon Zoo: Lindsay Cumella
50Tree Team Offering:
Batting practice w/ a live pitcher: Summer Rose
Knockouts Team Offering:
Family/Engagement photo session w/ professional photographer- http://www.plusminusphoto.com/: Alma Ibanez
4 hours nanny service from a professional nanny for date night: Brenna Daugherty
TNT Team Offering:
3 Olives gift basket (liquor!): Pam Golden
L-Crew Team Offering:
Homemade mexican dinner and movie night: Angela Vargas
So.... lots of dancing, a room brimming with softball players, a 50/50 Raffle and... a little something for EVERYONE to bid on: how can you pass that up?
We look forward to seeing you on Saturday and don't forget to bid, bid, bid!!!!!!!
At a new job.
Making new friends.
When I first came out I think I looked a bit like Rainbow Brite from the 80s because I stuck rainbows on me everywhere I could.
In my hair: check.
In my wrist: check.
On my wallet: check. (pun intended)
On my shirt: check.
On my sox.... absofreakinlutely.
Aside from pulling a Prince, changing my name on to "That Girl Formerly Known As Straight" and putting "LEZZY" right across my cheek in permanent tattoo.... I was stumped for other ways to visually communicate who I was.
Who I was?
WHO I AM.
That's the thing about coming out; you have to do again and again. Just the other day a man - a cis-gender/bio-man - asked me for my phone number. Now, don't go thinking that I think I'm *at all* that hot or that I have some crazy notion that people follow me around waiting to ask me out on a date.... because I most certainly do not (and they most certainly do not). The conversation went like this:
Him: You just need someone to whisk you away.
Me: I do not. I can pay for my own dinner, take myself to the movies and whisk myself anywhere I want.
Him: Well.... You should give me your number, so it's not so long until I see you again.
Me: You know I have two kids... right?
Him: Yup... two sweet kids.
Me: You know I'm a lesbian... right?
Him: Yup.... I don't mind.
Gee.... you don't? How special for all of us.....?
So there I was coming out to this guy..... then I posted the story on my fb page, kind of shocked and surprised that he even asked and a friend - a FRIEND who has known me for YEARS - messaged me and said.... "Oh, so you're not going to be a lesbian anymore?"
My second 'coming out' of the day... I'm really starting to re-think that face tattoo idea.....
LUCKILY for my MOC and Butch counterparts.... their identity is so much more... well - hot, totally swoony, makes me melty in all the best places..... GORGEOUS.... and for some reason when a person see's a woman present in masculine clothing they just assume that person is likely a lesbian.
Butch visibility is, imho, vital to our community and to our collective identity. They are sans the need for anything Rainbow Brite and stand among us out in society for the world to critique and comment on... and (hopefully) support.
Tonight's dance will feature a POP-UP Shop by Dapper D.
Run by a local lesbian family, these clothes are amazing and stylish and perfect for those MOC and Butch. From Polo's to accessories, to the *hottest* hoodies I personally would love to be unzipping on someone special....
Oh....and also perfect for your girlfriend to wake up in snuggled next to you.... have you seen the cleavage capability on The Girlfriend Shirt?
Owned by Vanna Pecoraro and Rasha Pecoraro, these clothes are more than a way to visibly express who you are and how you feel... it's a dream and a movement. The movement to Be Brace, Be Authentic, Be You. It's about loving who you are, whatever your size, however you identify, and putting it out there for the world to appreciate. It's a chance for those who identify MOC of Butch to avoid shopping in the men's department where clothes almost fit, but not quite.... where they get sideways glances from sales people and stares from customers.... it's a chance to dress HOW YOU FEEL... and look damn hot doing it.
So come on down and get your Dance on.... there will be Dapper D Models walking around for you to touch and feel (their clothes of course) and a Pop-Up shop for your try on clothes. We will see you there!
This past week some of the Hotflash Productions staff helped out at the BUTCH Voices SWAGGER fashion show featuring the fashions of Saint Harridan and our very own Dapper D. To say the very least: it was FREAKING AWESOME.
I'll be honest... there days where I define femme apparel as a somewhat clean t-shirt from Old Navy and a pair of jeans from Ross that have something bedazzled on the butt pocket. Mind you, femme girls have it easier than those who identify MOC, or trans*. So long as the aforementioned shirt has a plunging neckline, all I have to do is add a great push-up bra, some red lipstick and voila: insta-femme!
Our MOC counterparts, however, often struggle as their self expression might not be as simply defined by a well-placed tube of lipstick.
As we all search for who we are and where we fit in and how we want the world to see us.... for those who identify MOC, it should be as easy as buying a pair of men's pants and heading out the door. But... often, it's not that easy.
Instead... they are often met with stares when they enter the "Men's Department" of major department stores when searching for suits.
They bind and bind hoping to stuff their body into standard men's shirts.
Their desire to wear a pair of men's tailored pants is often met with the questioning eyes of under-educated sales people.
But no more:
Saint Harridan has the answer.
Mary Going and her amazing team custom tailor suits and shirts to fit your body and your gender sans the stares and uncomfortable questions.
Saint Harridan suits have been re-engineered and are MOC suits that have been custom made to comfortably fit the various shapes and sizes of our community. They offer "off the rack" suits and can accommodate any further alterations you might need.
So last week, I was there with my trusty plunging neckline and bedazzled jeans, among the tall, proud, gorgeous people donning these amazing suits and bow-ties and fun accessories.... the room was literally boiling over with an infectious confidence and only comes from not only looking your best but feeling your best. Every single suit wearing person in that room was HOT... and they knew, they felt it... they radiated it. For this wee femme: it was a total swoon-fest.
Stop by their Pop-Up Shop this coming weekend in Portland, and you will be met with kind eyes. You will be expertly measured by knowledgeable hands. You will be welcome.
You will feel great.
And.... I promise: you will look HOT.
Ps... this is their final weekend in Portland - so don't miss out!
Of course.... that almost feels obnoxious to post. I mean, every day that we were out there and *living* and being visible: we are showing our pride. Right?
There was a day when my own personal idea of 'lesbian visibility' was blasting Melissa Etheridge from my MomVan: one foot safely planted in the 'acceptable straight world' and one foot dancing happily, though secretly, in the 'gay world'.
To be honest, until I started living in my own skin and accepting myself, I didn't know what pride was.
Fast forward 39 years on this planet and our PRESIDENT.... the LEADER OF THE SO-CALLED FREE WORLD* - has just made June PRIDE MONTH. Wow... we have come a long way and yet, we still have so far to go.
However THIS year.... THIS PRIDE: let's DANCE.
Let's celebrate, not only our own personal victories and struggles, but those of our entire community.
Let's come to a place where we can be ourselves, enjoy the night and celebrate each other.
Or... you know, you can always just come for Emilio. (yes, pun intended).
One of the hurdles we, as Hotflash Productions, still face is that bar and club owners can often .... not take us very seriously.
We tell them we can sell XXX amount of tickets: they doubt us.
We tell them we need multiple and quicker entry options: they doubt us.
We tell them that this town is full of lesbians who want to dance: they don't believe us.
THIS YEAR: The CRYSTAL IS ALL IN... and they believe us. lol
THIS YEAR: We will have EXPEDITED LINES FOR ENTRY if you pre-purchase tickets.
THIS YEAR: We will extra satellite bars.
THIS YEAR: We will have MORE FANS to keep the room cooler.
THIS YEAR: We will have fewer performances with just Kimikaze and Emilio on stage.
THIS YEAR: We will have more dancing, less waiting and more fun.
Oh... and THIS YEAR.... this year, you can win tickets to see CHER just buying pre-purchasing your Inferno PRIDE tickets..... it doesn't get much more gay Pride than that, does it?
THIS YEAR..... BOTH of my feet are firmly planted in the world of hot butches and pretty femmes and Melissa Etheridge lovers....
THIS YEAR.... we hope to see you there.
Pecoraro goes on to say, "We will accept any and everyone, and treat each Dapper D equally. We want to encourage everyone to Be Brave, to Be Authentic, to Be You!"
At the outset, Dapper D will start with some closet core basics: casual (but stylish) shirts, hoodies, bracelets and hats. Shortly after they will introduce a new line of pants, belts & other accessories. Currently, and for a short time only, you can be 'rewarded' with some of these items by being a part of the Kick-Starter campaign and helping fund Dapper D, which is an opportunity you don't want to miss out on for sure.
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE DAPPER D KICK STARTER PAGE
So.... here's something new: an Inferno Blog.
Not sure how this will come together - if we will write all the content, or open it up to other's ... for *sure* we'd love to hear from you if you have your own Inferno story to tell....
In the meantime, I'd like to share mine, so bare with me. :)
My name is Elle - I'm the tallish, not skinny, possibly overly-friendly - bracelet girl turned recent photographer for the Portland dances and I also worked our dance on NYE in Seattle.... so you might have seen me either asking for your email, asking if you're single (and hence need a glow bracelet) or shoving my camera in your face.
Clearly, I'm good at first impressions. ha ha ha
I have been coming to Inferno dances for the last year, and if you know me at all, then you know that Inferno means the world to me. THE. EFFING. WORLD. (oh... and you also would already know that I tend to swear.. a lot. :)
15 months ago I had finally come to terms with the fact that I was *not*, even though I was already 37 years old - I was not going to grow up to be the girl my parents wanted me to ... happy, married to a man, 2 kids, picket fence... etc.
Growing up in a fairly small and fairly religious home being "gay", the very *idea* of "gay" was not terribly welcome. In fact... it was something that was believed to be "wrong" and, frankly, I'm sure more than a few of you out there can fill in the blanks with the usual things certain family members or friends have said to you about being "gay". So, like many people within the LGBTQ community, I didn't feel like I had a 'choice' to be anything but 'straight', but now it was time to face the rainbow laden piper and accept the truth: I was a lesbian.
I felt guilty and 'dirty' as my Kindle filled up with lesbian literature, seasons of The L Word and The Real L Word and movies about Brandon Teena. It was quickly becoming a dirty little secret and I guarded my Kindle with my life - hoping no one would pop it open and see what was on my 'carousel' of purchases.
At that point, I didn't have one single Lesbian friend and only knew two gay men (a couple). I first went to them and told them how I was feeling - how I *had* been feeling for years and they paused, looked at each other and one of them turned to me and said, "Honey…. we knew you were one of us the first night we *met* you- it's about time!".
F*ck. Had it always been this obvious to everyone but me?
They told me to go out in the community - find a girl, have my "first experience" and "make sure" that I liked 'it' - *before* I came out to my family, because what if I didn't like sex with girls? What if it wasn't what I thought it was? Why upset my whole family to change my mind later…….?
I wasn't so sure about that idea - other than I knew I needed to get out in my community and make friends. However, I didn't much like the idea of "experimenting" with another human being…. women are *people* - I didn't think they were something I should take for a sexual 'test drive'. It felt wrong…. and I wasn't sure I could do that. BUT…. was it that I couldn't *be* with a woman? Was this a convenient barrier I was putting up? Without knowing…. I guess I wouldn't "know" - but it still seemed wrong to "test" things out on another person.
I went online and I typed in, "Lesbian Portland" - and I started going out to everything Google suggested. I went to gay bar after gay bar - alone. I ate lunch and dinner at Dingo's - alone. I hung out at what were listed as 'gay friendly' coffee shops and deli's….. I tried to surround myself with as much of the LGBTQ community as I could. Just sit, watch, listen and *try* to learn.
One day, at Dingo's, the gorgeous waitress could see that I was alone…. again. She was kind enough to chat with me and I just came out and asked her where someone might meet other girls in town….. she pulled out her phone, went to her facebook page and wrote down a whole list of gay and lesbian events.
The second thing on the list from the gorgeous waitress was going to something called Inferno. Inferno was a lesbian dance held at a local Portland bar once a month…. so I looked it up online, wrote down the date and I waited anxiously because it was still a few weeks away.
The night of Inferno came I had yet to make any "friends" within the community, and I was scared. Oh, feck.... was I scared. Would these 'lesbians' see right through me???? Would they know I had been with a man? Would they see the tell-tale signs of stretch marks from having babies and then run the other way screaming, "Here comes another 'confused' straight girl from the 'burbs... run for your gay lives!!!!"
I was nervous and scared and I had certainly not had any kind of "experience"…. and I walked into that dance and it was like a f*cking cloud parted and rainbows filled the room….. no, seriously.
I know that sounds super gay…. but it was *was* super gay - but in the very best way.
There were woman everywhere.
Women who looked like 'women' in heels and make up.
There were athletic girls in tank tops with toned arms and backwards hats.
There were women who looked like men, with short hair and boys clothes.
and me…. in my Mom jeans, black sandals and Old Navy t-shirt.
I'm pretty sure I really looked like lesbian repellent…. seriously.
I was surrounded by girls …. girls kissing other girls, flirting with other girls… laughing with other girls… grinding on other girls….. and I never felt so 'at home' in my whole life. It was like having spent 37 years standing in rooms never *once* feeling like I actually fit-in…. and suddenly: I did.
I didn't know a single soul in the room….. and yet, I felt like I was at home.
I stood, for the most of the night, off to the side on my own. I watched these women of all ages dancing and expressing themselves and I was mesmerized. I had never been in a room full of lesbians in my entire life… and here I was: immersed in them.
They were intoxicating.
More importantly, even if they *did* suspect I was a girl Previously Known As Straight, they weren't running from the building, or making me feel unwelcome. In fact... it seemed like they didn't care. There smiles and hello's all around the room - I was *welcome*.
After a while this totally gorgeous girl came over to me. She was around my height and age - covered in tattoos with short hair and wearing boys clothes…. and I was … barely able to breathe.
As she talked to me, her hand brushed my arm and I felt my chest tighten and my head get a bit light… I could do barely more than nod in agreement and laugh at the appropriate parts of the conversation. My entire body responded - without my even having time to think about it - without time to process what it all meant…. it responded to her every gentle, ever-so-slight touch of her fingertip on my shoulder or hand as she talked.
Then she asked me to dance.
Ok…. so *she* danced and I kind of kept myself together enough to sway in some kind of rhythmic fashion and then she turned and grinded up on me (but not in a 'twerk' kind of way … just in the general dancing really close kind of way….) - and..... I almost passed out.
My hand to G*d - I seriously had to leave the dance floor and go back to lean on the wall. My head was light, my heart was beating out of my chest - parts of me that I was pretty sure had rotted closed in the year before.... were warm and….. tingly.
Sh*t. I liked girls. I mean…. I *really* like girls.
More to the point: I liked girls who 'looked' like boys.
I would later learn that the kind of 'girls' I liked were usually 'butch'.... I had so much to learn.
When the dance was over she walked me to my car and we exchanged numbers (after that we became friends and nothing more.)
I drove home that night firm in my heartfelt conviction that 8 year old me was right: I liked girls.
More than that... I knew that I wanted to dance with them.
I knew that my body wanted to hold them and be next to them.
I knew that I wanted... more than anything to kiss them... and do other things to them.
I also knew... just from that Inferno dance-floor, that no "experimenting" was needed.
I had found myself, as cliche as it sounds: out there on that dance-floor... and there was no turning back.
I was confident that I didn't need to 'test drive' anyone for anything….. if just *dancing* with a girl - feeling her body pressed up against mine, feeling her sports bra under my finger tips, smelling the boys cologne coming off the back of her neck…. if *that* was enough to make me *literally* weak in the knee's…. I was gay. Period. As gay as a rainbow unicorn: Lesbian. Queer. Dyke.
And .... proud of it.
And I couldn't wait to come out of my closet…. so I danced right on out of it and started living.
I came out the next day to my entire family, and then my friends in the weeks that followed. I had still never held a girl's hand, kissed a girl Katy Perry style or otherwise... but I learned enough on that Inferno dance floor to know that it was more than "ok" to be who I was.... it was necessary.
So .... on this 38th birthday and my FIRST BirthGAY.... I want to say thank you.
Thank you to Pauline who took me under her wing, and created a place for all of us.
Thank you to D.J.Wildfire and Army for allowing me to stay on and continue to work for Inferno.
Thank you to the girl who first asked me to dance.... your kindness changed my life.
Thank you to the first girl who offered to buy me a drink that night... whose 2014 wedding I'm photographing, you are awesome and inspiring in ways you don't even know.
And thank you to YOU..... even if I didn't know your names, or who you were - I looked forward to seeing your faces *every* other Saturday last Spring. YOU were my lifeline to who I was. YOU kept me going when I was still barely getting out there and making friends. You didn't know me, didn't know my name and probably (most likely) you thought I was the most overachieving and over-friendly 'door girl' in Inferno history.... but you have no idea how much you mean to me.
Seeing you there dance after dance.... there. visible. OUT.
Meeting you dance after dance.... open. friendly. kind.
YOU are amazing and I'm so incredibly grateful..... so thank you.
And come to the BIRTHDAY INFERNO for Army & me this Saturday!
I'll be the girl - no longer standing on the sidelines, no longer waiting to be asked to dance.
I'll be the girl, proud and grateful to stand in this community.
I'll be the happy girl, still wearing my 'mom' jeans, still with my stretch marks and beaming with PRIDE.
See you then!