My “performative art” revolves entirely around my body.
In the gay scene in Columbus, I have quite a few friends who I am Facebook friends with, but don’t really speak with in person.
A great deal of my Facebook and online presence is more of a “stream of consciousness” – a lot of my posts are satirical. Often time, I have a political joke, or some sort of religious joke, or something that isn’t always serious.
Sometimes, my Facebook is sad – I cross post my satirical posts with sadder ones that have to do with my Ex Jehovah’s Witness activism.
My Instagram goes in hand with this as well – my Instagram is full of semi-carefully manicured selfies, some sweet and charming; others sexy and alluring – also cross pollinated with my shots from my travels or what ever else I find interesting at that moment in time.
Because of this, I have a lot of people who follow me on Facebook solely because of my funny, or sad, or satirical posts. I have Instagram followers who have followed me because I have hookup apps (Tinder, Grindr, Scruff, et al) linked to my Instagram (and it’s not hard to find Facebook profiles from Instagram). I have people who have literally come up to me at gay bars and said “I’ve seen your Instagram profile!”
“I follow you on Instagram, it’s so nice to actually meet you in person!”
“I know you on Facebook! I love your posts!”
With that, I realized that not only is my Facebook a medium to express myself and sort of catalog my thoughts and emotions, or let people know how I’m doing; I have an audience.
What If I was a bit more deliberate in what I want to show to other people?
In its current state, I post whatever I want.
Enter another development in my personal life – exotic dancing.
My old (straight) roommate wanted to pursue his acting career, and in order to build up more candor and people skills as well as the money, he decided to get in the world of Columbus stripping.
He enjoyed it greatly.
I started to be attracted to the idea as well – I was into the idea that people are only allowed to desire me with my permission only. In the realm of Grindr and other hookup apps, “gay racism” can be so horrible – the fact is – on these apps I am not seen so much as a person, but more of a product.
“Man, I want your Big Black Cock”
“Mmm, I LOVE Chocolate”
“Once u go black, u never go back ;)”
In Columbus, OH, I often times feel like a product. I don’t feel like a person or sexual being, but I feel like a product, something to be bought and sold. Lately, I feel that if I am going to be bought and sold – I should at least be getting paid for it.
With that, I started to get interested in stripping, go-go dancing, and other entertainment in gay spaces. One of my very close friends is a drag queen, and my old roommate (straight) was a stripper for awhile for gay spaces as well. He had so much fun doing it, so I figured – why don’t I give it a try.
It took about a year before I felt comfortable with my body, working out, and really exploring my sexuality. I still am, to be honest.
I got in touch with some stripper friends, who encouraged me to do it.
From watching them, I learned that their “stripping” profile is sort of a persona semi-carefully crafted from their own personally. I looked at the way they market themselves, how they dress, and what they wear.
I started to craft my own persona, and I chose the name “Catch 22”.
Columbus is actually a very white town, and it’s not as progressive as I initially thought from when I moved here, I quickly learned. Black people (as I talked about in sexual racism) don’t have the mobility in the gay scene as much as whites do – this is the case in many places, but in Columbus it feels so much more pronounced.
There are no black strippers in Columbus. There is one from Dayton, another who is mixed-race and fair skinned, and the last one actually retired after a 15 year stint of performing around the East Coast.
Most black strippers who are strippers, are the “black fantasy” – tall and fair skinned, kind of light and feminine features – or dark, hyper masculine, very ‘jacked’ and muscular.
I am neither of those.
There’s a lot more body diversity within white dancers, but not black ones.
Anyways, in order to craft my identity – I figured I needed to sexualize myself a little more than the half-joking, or even the “pretty” pictures I post on my Instagram and Facebook.
With that, I started to buy more interesting undergarments, thongs, singlets, etc.
I started out slow – posting pictures of me shirtless, or more risque but still tame.
My responses changed – people whom I didn’t really speak with….started noticing me.
“Man, that’s pretty sexy”
It felt nice, but remember, my end goal here is to craft a persona so that when I “surprise” people with my performer profile and persona, they won’t be so shocked.
I started referencing to the type of underwear I was buying – still in my joking way, but still showing people that I mean business.
Then I posted a series of pictures, fairly risque, but tame enough for Facebook. One of them is also actually my promotional picture that I’ll be using at bars/clubs handbills.
Lots of comments. A couple “thirst followers” commented, and reached out, and followed me on Instagram. People who I didn’t really speak with, but sort of friend-ed because I thought they were attractive – started to notice me.
Not all was positive, though. I started to get real backlash from people I cared about saying that I was “selling my body”. Or that “I would regret this later in life”
I ended up changing my profile so that she can’t see when I post things like this. That bothered me a little – I pride myself on being “One speed for everyone” and me having to censure myself for someone hurt.
With that said, this “artwork” is still a work in progress. My first “show” is coming soon, and I’m excited to see how well my persona is working with my performing aspirations, and whether or not I’ll continue dancing, or tweaking this persona to work.