The beat pulses and your heart begins to race. The lights in the club undulate and you can feel the music build and build, as the anticipation rises. The DJ finally drops the bass and your body follows, happy in your own safe danceworld, surrounded by your community.
Could the dance club scene of today ever be the inclusive community for the black queer of color community it once was? Could the straight communities properly credit the integral part the black queer community played in the creation and evolution of electronic dance music, and the house music scene, in particular, as the reemergence of classic house music continues?
In “An Alternate history of Sexuality in Club Culture,” DJ Loren Granic stated:
“We’re currently experiencing a total mainstreaming of dance music in America. Many of the newcomers are straight/white kids who are very far removed from the LGBT community, despite fist-pumping by the millions to music that was born from gay people of color sweating their asses off at 5:00 a.m. in a Chicago warehouse.”
Clubber Cedric Neal said plainly, “If you couldn’t stand to be around gays, you didn’t party in the city of Chicago.” However, it seems that no one can even recall the who, when, where or why—imagining the city’s gay party scene has only ever been found in Chicago’s very white Boystown neighborhood.
Furthermore, it appears the gay community began abandoning the house music scene once it became too straight-washed. As one interlocutor in Steven Amico’s “I Want Muscles” put it, “That whole dance thing just got totally hetero, and we didn’t want to be like those straight people.” So what does this mean for the electronic music of today? Luis-Manuel Garcia wrote, “It’s… strange that mostly-straight, white, middle-class audiences are currently ‘rediscovering’ the ‘classic house music’ made by poor, queer, black/brown people 30 years ago—but they’re not likely to be aware of what that same crowd is doing now, in another part of the city.”
In creating a home through house, the black queer community not only built a safe danceworld based on acceptance and joy, but their work also laid the foundation for so much that the current DJ world needs to pay tribute to. Both DJs and club goers of today must recognize the correct story of the music they are indebted to. DJs who continue to profit, both creatively and financially, from the work of the black queer community must be made cognizant of the true history of the music scene they are deeply connected with.
Born from the death of disco, and growing into a music rhizome, sprouting various dance music genres, the dance music of today exists because of the house music of yesterday and the black queer men who spearheaded the movement. It is important to recognize its accurate musical history, to acknowledge the safe spaces and visibility it created within its notes for the black queer community of today. Or as Jesse Saunders put it, “... being isolated makes you look within to see what actually moves you. That is house music.” Conversations about diversity, acceptance and queer factual acknowledgment must be ongoing. Those who were there must not let their stories be forgotten, and those who discover house music should sing the praises of the real home electronic dance music was built on.