Once Debby and her fiancé finally parked their car—somehow, even though we were the ones that walked, Jay and I beat them there—the four of us busted into the club. Circuit was hosting Urbano, the self-described “hottest Black and Latino Gay (LGBT/ SGL) parties in Chicago.” They had all been here before, and I was excited to be there for the first time. I paid my 10 dollar cover—the most expensive on the strip—and walked quickly to catch up with Jay and the others who had already started to march towards the back of the club.
The interior of Circuit is much darker than the other clubs on Halsted, in lighting and demographics. Once my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I could see the center right-hand side of the room had a large dance floor that was about half-filled with a mix of men and women, mostly Black. Outside the dance floor though, leaning along the black railing that ringed the floor, there were about four or five times as many people. A good 100 people total.
Like almost every bar in Boystown, Jay had a bartender that he knew. This one was an early 30s white guy, which I found surprising given that he was the first other white person that I’d seen in the club. Grabbing the gin and soda that Jay bought me, I took a moment to survey the club.
I had expected to be one of the few white men there, but I didn’t expect to be the only one. The other clubs that I went to that were identified as white, like Roscoe’s for instance, still had a good 25% presence of people of color (completely a guestimate, I am still in the process of developing my establishment survey). About 15 feet from me, leaning up against the railing in a grey trench coat clutching a brown paper bag, I saw that I was wrong. There was one other white guy there.
“It was you and the creepy guy in the corner,” Jay told me the next morning when he called to check on the status of my hangover. We laughed. “I bet you were scared they were going to eat you up.” I told him that I could obviously handle myself. He started calling me “loca blanca.”
That was the third time that someone had told me that I should have been worried about being at Urbano. A couple of nights earlier, I was talking with a guy that I’d met off of OkCupid. We were discussing the possibility of us going on a date that weekend. He was busy Saturday. I told him that I was busy Friday. I was going to go to Urbano at Circuit that night.
“Lol. O they are going to love you. Watch out =),” he texted. “Those boys love me. They might eat you.”
Every time that I was told this, the connection was that because I was a white guy, I was somehow vulnerable to the aggressive sexuality of Black and Latino men. “Those boys” were going to manhandle me and I should worry about their groping hands.
That doesn’t fit my experience that night at Urbano. While we were dancing in the main area of Circuit, Jay, Debby and I had the space mostly to ourselves. There were a few guys that were in groups standing around the railing within sight of us that I would notice looking at our group. Most guys, however, were checking out the moves and the bodies of the group of slender Black men dancing a couple yards away. No one was eating anyone up around here.
As the night winded down, around 2 AM, we left the dance floor and headed to the front bar, called Rehab. Jay and Debby both got another drink. I almost switched to water, but Jay wasn’t having that and ordered me another.
Clearly a bit drunk already, I mostly stood up against the bar with Jay. I certainly wasn’t in the mood for the young Asian-American guy that came up and danced on me, pushing his hands into my shirt. I wasn’t interested, so I tried to tactfully brush him off. When he wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept grinding into me, I had to be a bit more forceful. I moved further away from him to stand with Debby. As I typically did, I wrote about it on my phone: “I’m not sure whether what is communicated in that moment is that I’m not interested in him or whether it is read as not being attracted to asian guys in general.”
Obviously, I’m a chatty typer when I’ve been drinking.
He was the only guy that tried to eat me up. For the others, I was leftovers. Unlike the characterization that everyone had told me that Black men were aggressive in the club, the Black men that I saw mostly—of course, no group is homogenous; we’re talking trends here—stood and waited for others to come up to them. From my new vantage point away from my unwanted dance partner, I could see three Black men standing together drinking beers, each of them with biceps more bulging than the last. I was struck by several instances in which smaller framed men, mostly latino, asian, or middle-eastern descent, came up to them and started to try to dance on to them. The projected image was one of Black masculinity: Black men as tops while other racial groups are bottoms, often echoed in pornography.
At Urbano, I saw racial gendering shaping behavior in the sexual field. What should I make the contradiction between what I observed at Urbano and people’s perception of Black men as the sexual aggressors, a classic stereotype? If anyone was eating, it was the smaller framed Latino and Asian men, not the Black men as I was warned. By standing perfectly still, somehow these three Black muscular men were the aggressors.