WARNING: This post contains language that may be offensive to some readers. Words like Ass, Dick, and Tolerance will be used frequently. If any of these words bother you then please leave now.
“Are those guys fucking in the foam in front of a few thousand people?” This is one of the many questions I asked myself over an interesting five days with the #mygaypride campaign at Barcelona Pride. From traditional walking tours to a visit with some awesome Drag Queens, I was educated on the ins and outs (pun intended) of the Barcelona LGBTI scene and the overall reality for LGBTI people.
In all honesty, I have no idea where to begin. As I explained in a previous post, this is entirely new territory for me. Jumping head first into this project may not have been the best idea in hindsight but it sure as hell gave me a new perspective on LGBT rights, culture, and history. All of these have made me a far more tolerant person, and I think a better person in general. With that said, everyone needs a listicle from time to time so here are my favorite/most interesting moments of Barcelona Pride.
Getting Soapy at Barcelona Pride Park
Now foam parties aren’t new to me. I’ve freaked down a lady or two in my younger years at events like these so I’m not sure why I was caught so off guard by what I saw. We arrived shortly before the festivities, headed over to grab some drinks, and we were off to the foam. As the house music pumped and the two foam operators started to douse the crowd I began to notice a gradual change in the scene. Clothes started to fall off and hands started moving.
Hiding behind my trusty Canon 7D I waded into the sea of foam and flesh. Side note, the weather sealing on this thing is amazing. People thought I was nuts. As the foam rose higher the hands got……handsier. I like to think myself a pretty progressive cat but not when someone is grabbing my goodies and I don’t know who it is. I started to quickly make my way in and out of the foam to get shots I wanted. Only one member of our crew and a friend of mine initially decided to jump in, but that soon changed.
After grabbing more drinks (bad idea by the way), our entire gay crew headed into the foam, and that’s when things got interesting. The largely inebriated crowd pushed and gyrated their way in the foam. It was shortly after I went back that I noticed a couple. I swear I don’t know why, but I couldn’t stop staring at these guys. I had never seen such passion between two men in person – TV and movies sure, but never mere feet away from me. As I spoke with my friend DJ, who was standing between me and the couple, I noticed the guy closest to DJ turn and face me. He then pulled down his trunks and his partner went to work. I was in shock.
First off I had barely seen men kiss in my presence, let alone seen them fuck in the middle of a foam party with thousands around them. DJ was totally unfazed by this and laughed it off. I was confused. That’s the best way I can describe this. Had this been a straight party people would have been freaking out…….. who am I kidding. No one would have cared either.
After a couple hours I headed to my hotel, my soaked and destroyed sneakers bound for the trash. As I sit here writing my notes of the day I can’t get the image of that couple going to town out of my head. I don’t think I ever will. And I’m really not sure how I feel about it.
Sidenote: I have NEVER been given so many free condoms in my life. Safe sex is a very high priority at Barcelona Pride. From condoms being given out freely to HIV testing stations on site, the team there definitely support people having fun in a safe way. As it should be. I walked away with 38 condoms and 12 mini packs of lube. As my buddy David says, stocking up for the winter.
Night Bar and Intro to Hyper Sexuality
Like many bars, Night is situated with a single long bar and limited walking space. Also dicks. Lots and lots of dicks. Big dicks, small dicks, black dicks, white dicks. Anything you want….or don’t want in my case. You’re immediately bombarded with posters of ripped young men and gay porn playing on several flat screen tvs. What happens here is pretty clear. Hook ups and of course the occasional drink. Before I go on, let me explain why some gay bars like this one exist.
For decades, and even today, LGBTI peoples had to hide who they were. They couldn’t openly pursue their desires, couldn’t interact with other LGBT people, and couldn’t satisfy their sexual urges without the possibility of being “outed”. Establishments such as this one allowed for all these things to happen: a safe place to truly be who they are. Along with the oppression outside the bars walls came the level of hyper sexuality (by conservative standards that is) that we see today, which brings me to my “experience” in a gay bar Dark Room.
My colleagues had previously explained what a dark room was and inquired if I would be willing to see one. Out of journalistic curiosity I agreed, but I should have noticed the devilish grin on their faces. At the bar we ordered drinks and they began to explain its layout to me. When the topic of the Dark Room came up, DJ offered to take me. At this point I realize I’ve agreed to it already so I kind of have to go. DJ and two others from our group escort me to the mythical Dark Room.
As we walked toward the back of this bar I began to notice the crowd getting a bit more PDAish. Once we finally arrived to the room there was actually a line to get in. Kind of like it was a bathroom. DJ isn’t the kind of person to let a line get in his way so he grabbed me and pulled me in with our team in tow. Although called a “Dark” Room I would call it a poorly lit room. I had zero problem seeing everything going on, and boy was there a lot going on.
I was caught by the faint smell of must and staleness. Men were standing in the doorway of what looked like toilet stalls, appearing to be “waiting” for something. The moans and heavy breathing filled the thick air of this non ventilated room. DJ takes me around the corner where we observe two couples going at it. Or at least that’s what I would assume since I didn’t get close enough to make out exactly what was happening – silhouettes tell the tale. With all the sincerity I could muster I plastered a smile on my face and strolled out.
What I soon realized is how much my colleagues looked out for me. Not that I was in any danger, but they understood how uncomfortable the situation could have been for me and not only escorted me but explained things to me. They didn’t just tell me the what; they made sure to explain the why. Although most gay bars I’ve visited aren’t like this one, a few things are definitely similar: the hyper sexualized environment is one of them. Straight people, we don’t know shit about hyper sexuality. This community is killing that game.
My LGBTI Education And the Team that Opened My Eyes
I have never been surrounded by LGBTI people. Of course I have friends and associates within this community but I’ve always been in the majority. I received a small taste of what it must be like to be gay in a straight world. It’s time us straights meet the LGBT community on their “territory” instead of ours. That one gay you know doesn’t represent all of the ideas and thoughts of an entire community any more than the one black guy working at your office represents all blacks. I quickly learned that the LGBTI community is very diverse in not only the way they look, sound, and act, but in their perception of LGBTI rights, history, and culture.
Everyone in my group was amazing. DJ, Auston and David, Liam, Eloi (our amazing guide from RainbowTours), and David all went out of their way to help me understand gay culture and what it’s like growing up and living as a gay man. But I have to step back and acknowledge the person who truly made this trip a life changing experience, Meg.
Meg was the only lesbian in our group. I was the only straight and black. BONDINGGGGGG. What made Meg’s presence so interesting to me was she didn’t fit in at all. Not in a bad way. But in that Barcelona Pride, and it seems many Pride events, are geared toward gay men. Everything was vastly male oriented and most of the participants were male, but she took it in stride and educated me in the process.
She’s a former LGBTI educator. Working in the nonprofit sector she not only helped craft equal rights legislation but helped to educate people on LGBTI issues. We were chatting over lunch one day and she mentioned a story where she had to explain the issues regarding rape and other LGBTI issues with a group of Caribbean/African students in the inner city. I assure you, that’s not the most LGBTI or woman friendly crowd. I’m all the more impressed at her ability to educate in the face of ignorance. I’ll admit, I’ve not had a very good perception of lesbian women. All of my experiences have been largely negative, but Meg has certainly changed my mind and educated me beyond anything I could have asked for. One huge takeaway for me, Lesbians and Gay ARE NOT the say. Seriously. It’s a huge divide and that’s no exaggeration. I’ll definitely touch on this in my next piece.
One fact I learned that we all need to be aware of is that one transgender person is killed every 29 hours. In 2014 it was every two days. Violence is getting worse against transgender peoples and no one is talking about it. We clap and cheer for Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox yet turn a blind eye to all of the pain and suffering these people endure, even beyond the traditional homophobia we have become accustomed to. Another concept I have rarely heard of was explained to me: Over murdering or Over killing
Over murdering/Over killing is when a person’s body is also mutilated and defaced after death, such as through the mutilation of genitals. This has become all too real for this community and adds an extra level of disrespect and straight privilege to this narrative. Pass all the marriage laws you want but until THIS stops, no real progress has been made. Thank you Meg for bringing this to my attention.
Drag Queens and Booze at the Pride Parade
I’ve seen several Pride parades but never have I been in one. Sensory overload started even before we boarded our float, with people dancing, singing, and partying in the plaza well before the parade started. Now I’m not going to go into much detail here as the Barcelona Pride Parade deserves, and is getting, its own post. But a few things stood out to me.
The sheer excitement and energy of all the participants was off the charts. If you were on a float it would be hard as hell to not have a great time. Free flowing alcohol, glitter, and semi nudity were abound. And who could complain about that? My team was on a float with five spectacular drag queens, two who went out of their way to chat with me early and who made me feel right at home. Seeing their passion and energy up close and personal was truly something I’ll remember.
Although the Parade was peaceful and relatively calm, I did notice something that disturbed me. The floats and the crowd are two different “things”. At moments I would look at and see a myriad of emotions. Amazement, curiosity, joy, disgust, confusion, and most of all judgment. As I was told, not everyone agrees with Pride parades. Not even within the LGBTI community. I didn’t expect universal support for this event. I expected a few small protests here and there, but didn’t see any. Personally, I think that may have been easier to digest for me. As a straight man, laughing and singing with my friends was great. At times I would look out and lock eyes with someone in the crowd having as much fun as we were – singing and dancing. At other times I would lock eyes with someone looking at me with all the disgust and disdain in the world.
I’m a bit ashamed to say that there were times I wanted to scream, “I’m not gay”, slipping back into my old mentality that there is something wrong with being LGBTI. Consciously I would say fuck off, but clearly subconsciously the fear of judgment still haunts me. I just wanted the judgment to stop for a minute and let me breath. The weight of the looks and supposed judgment weighed me down quickly., but this was only a couple hours. My colleagues deal with this their entire lives. Decades of THIS. Of being judged and mocked. Of being told they’re lesser, even from within their own community. I can relate. This parade wasn’t about showing off or having a good time. Those are just a byproduct. What this parade showed me was the reality of the LGBTI world. All the flash, all the energy, and all the confusion, anchored in a “here we are” attitude. I’m glad I was part of it. Anyone claiming to support equal rights and equal treatment should have no problem standing in the light and being counted amongst those they claim to support. And sometimes that light comes from a disco ball while standing next to a 7 foot Devil Drag Queen with assless chaps. Take it where you can get it folks.
I don’t have all the answer. As a person I still have quite a lot of growing to do when it comes to my views, thoughts, and feelings regarding LGBTI peoples. But something that was easily strengthened was my dedication and commitment to equal rights for LGBTI peoples. The only way to truly change things for the better is to walk into that bar or jump on that float and LEARN. Bigotry and hatred are learned and they can be unlearned. I wasn’t disrespected. I wasn’t accosted. I wasn’t treated any differently. All the discomfort I felt came from a hetero-normative mentality and years of homophobic brainwashing. Interesting how quickly the tables turn.
I attended Barcelona Pride as part of the outstanding #myGayPride campaign with GayStarNews and 100+ other Ambassadors. This trip was partially sponsored by several great companies but a few I want to highlight. TocHostels, with one of the newest and best located hostels in Barcelona. AllDayInternet which kept me posting throughout the week on social media. Melia Sky Hotel, our home for the Pride event days and an excellent property as usual. And lastly RainbowTours and Visit Barcelona for opening Barcelona up to our team. Check out the link below and make sure to follow #mygaypride on all social media channels.