In honor of the 52nd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (today, June 28th), and Pride month, Body & Pole student Wayne Anderson shares his story about growing up gay in the Deep South, coming to NYC, and the role that dance played as an outlet for self-expression and eventually coming out. 

I was a little gay boy born in the bad times, 1968; a year before the Stonewall Riots that would spark the flames of the modern LGBTQIA+ equality movement. To add insult to injury, I was born poor in the Deep South of Georgia and spent most of my childhood as an Army brat. I don’t think there was a more homophobic atmosphere one could grow up in. It was an incredibly lonely existence. I knew early on that I was gay, and it seemed my young peers perceived it as well; they certainly made my childhood a hellish experience because of it. My love of dance became my escape mechanism. When I danced I left all the hatred behind, the lonely little gay boy that everyone picked on became strong and confident the moment my feet touched a dancefloor.

It seems I’ve spent a lifetime dancing my way into becoming the man I always meant to be. I joined the Army at 18 years old and was stationed in Germany in the mid 1980’s. This was before the days of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Back then, as far as being gay in the military, it was more like “Don’t Even Think About It.” Yet, it was there, drawn to the gay dance clubs of Frankfurt and Berlin, that I “Came Out” to my first person, who was a friend and fellow soldier. After my tour of duty in the Army I returned to the States and moved to New York City in the early 1990’s.  I dived headfirst into the “Club Kid” scene. It was the worst of times and the best of times. The AIDS epidemic was decimating the gay community, and there was such hatred against gay people, yet the gay dance clubs of New York City became so popular that straight people even began clamoring to attend. My first paid dance gig was at the Palladium (it was the Dance Club Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell opened after they got out of jail for the debacle that was Studio 54). I was painted blue from head to toe, wearing the smallest bikini known to man. I think I got paid $50 for dancing until 3am in the morning! And I would’ve gladly done it for free! Despite the death and horrors that were all around in those dark days, I had never felt more alive than when I was dancing on that GoGo Box.  Dancing was life for me. At long last I had found Pride through Dance.

As I grew older, dance was still a part of my life, but I began to think my days (and late nights) dancing on a pedestal were over. Yet the gods of Dance decided they were not done with me yet. Just before my 50th year on this planet I discovered Aerial Arts, which then led to pole dancing at Body & Pole. And it seemed that everything that had come before was a prelude to this. My love of Yoga, Dance, and Club Costumes culminated and I was born again. There is nothing more empowering than doing what most think can’t be done. Aerial acrobatics on a pole seems almost too difficult to many, and in your 50’s it’s a near daunting impossibility. And yet, like a moth to the flame, I could not deny it and was thrilled to find that I actually had an aptitude for it. I have no explanation for my longevity with dance other than gay Pride. I am one of the lucky ones. I lived while so many of my peers died. So many who died so young. I know that I dance for my own joy; but I also dance for them. I push myself to live my life to the fullest, for myself and for all those who had their lives and their hopes and dreams cut short. I dance for PRIDE and I’ll do so until they put me in the ground!