Where else could my bizarre journey have begun other than with an invitation to watch the Eurovision Song Contest finals? After spending the majority of the year divided between rich kids parties, San Andres reggae/dancehall events and Pacific salsa nights I figured it was time to see what the rest of the British Council lot had been up to all year.
Quite a large majority of the boys at BC are openly gay and have been busy exploring the gay scene in Bogota and the rest of Colombia, and I had followed some of their escapades and experiences via Facebook and some very worthwhile blog posts (anyone interested in reading the revelations of a witty Irishman in Colombia: http://ryanmcfaul.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-guide-to-dating-in-colombia.html )
Eurovision is an annual family event with my Mum and sisters. My Dad pops in just to give a nod to the Turkish entry but he finds the whole thing a bit overwhelming so the rest of the time he disappears and occupies himself with something a bit more macho. Being so far away from home I jumped at the opportunity to watch it with some fellow Europeans (the attraction is difficult to explain to people who are not from Europe…). One of the other language assistants had set up the projector and was being a wonderful host to about 20 guests, having made both falafel and humus; she is a woman after my own heart. Meanwhile, the boys and girls were giving a running commentary of the performances. This was welcomed because the contest was being streamed from some Eastern European channel which meant we were missing the crucial input of Graham Norton. Although in a room full of gay guys and I am not sure that there would have been space for his contribution… “WHY ISNT SHE CRYING?? IF SHE WAS COLOMBIAN SHE WOULD BE CRYING!!”, “Her dress is so tacky, and I am saying that as a fan of Miss Universe”.
Irish Ryan was very upset that the UK only gave Ireland 1 point and proceeded to the rum, along with a few others in the group and we ended up having a bit of a dance after all the results had been counted and yet another European country that I have never visited won the contest.
Conversation turned to the fast-approaching night and what plans people had for it. A place was mentioned called “Theatron”, somewhere that I had heard of in passing, but never visited. My gay companions were shocked at this revelation and made a pact to take me there that night.
Apparently Theatron is one of the most famous superclubs in the whole of Latin America, CJ even referred to it as being “the size of Sheffield”. I am a curious cat and I was interested to know what has been going on right under my nose on the gay scene in Bogota. I was even more excited when they told me that the previous year they had had a gigantic layer cake out of which popped a dancing transvestite who rubbed cake all over her body. I wanted to go.
After a whirlwind of preparation I caught a taxi to the venue to meet the boys. The queue was like something I had never seen outside any club in Europe. There was one for men only and another for men and women, snaking around the sides of the block. The venue itself took over half a block to itself.
I have spent a while in Bogota, wondering whether Shakira wrote the song “Where Are All The Men In This Town” specifically about this city. Talent is thin on the ground (remember, I am comparing this to the Dominican Republic, Algeria and my beautiful, beautiful friends) and whilst the women are notoriously attractive, it has been a very long time since a man has turned my head here. Cliché though it may sound, I found all of the talent of Bogota concentrated in the queue for the gaybar. Men of all shapes and sizes, many with nice bodies, well groomed facial hair and exquisite style, I do believe that even the most die-hard homophobe wouldnt have been able to deny that this crowd was pretty delicious. It was not as overt as I had thought the Latin American gay scene would be. I had been given the impression by Colombian friends that it was wild and crazy and that the guys were all over each other and a bit promiscuous, but I have to say, it was a good 40 minutes before I even saw a couple kissing and was reminded that I was not in a museum of divine men created for my admiration, but actually in a gay club.
After paying a very expensive entry fee (oh the perks of being a lady in a straight club) we got our cups for the free bar and I vowed to get my 35,000 COP worth of soft drinks before the night was through. (I failed because another pitfall of a lady at the bar in a gay club has much more competition for the bartender’s attention).
The interior of the venue was beautifully decorated. It was designed like a regal theatre, with lots of red and gold features, leather sofas, high ceilings and large paintings on the walls. And that was just the first room or “ambiente” of 11.
We proceeded to the main room where there was a huge stage, two bars and a number of levels going up in the style of a theatre. There was a go-go dancer in a sort of stage platform that could only be described as “hunky” (sorry) wearing tight silver hotpants and big black boots, feathery wings, shaking his thing much to my the delight of the on looking audience.
We danced our way through the labyrinth of ambientes. Mark is from San Andres and made an exceptional dance partner, and I have to say, I have never been treated so well by any men in any club in my life. They held my hand and warned me of all the steps and were so concerned about me in my heels and whether I had enough water. It was lovely. And, I was not their target for the end of the night!
We reached an open air section in the middle of everything and I really understood why some of the boys had renamed El Theatron “The Gay Disneyland”. It was colourfully lit and the surrounding windows to the rest of the ambientes were full of beautiful dancing people. There was a purple minaret that rose high into the sky and a massive screen showing the sexy music videos that accompanied the reggaeton being played. It was a really nice atmosphere and I was having a lot of fun with the boys, having little dance-offs and wondering how I had gone so long before making this discovery. I like to go out for one reason: to dance. I do not drink and I do not hook up with guys. This place was like the perfect place for me because none of the guys were interested in me, but they were amazing dancers so we could serve each other’s dance floor needs.
The crowd started gathering in the main ambiente where the theatre was and there was an excited buzz around the whole room. Dancers came down and mingled with the crowd who came close to admire their impressive outfits…they had the most impressive eyelash extensions and makeup – black and white balloons and huge headpieces and shoes that Gaga would go gaga for.
Suddenly it started.
Ten chorus singers entered the stage and the host, in the style of a jester/narrator, opening the show with lots of panache. What followed was the best spectacle I have seen in a very long time. There was a fantastic routine that had men and women dressed in red Dorothy-esque high heels and lace leggings dancing with chairs and generally making Beyonce look like a wannabe.
A number of diva anthems were drilled out, as well as flamboyant renditions of all of the best songs from Les Mis, The Wizard of Oz, Moulin Rouge and Cabaret, among others. The standard of the performances was jaw-droppingly good, the outfits were divine and the atmosphere euphoric. In another life I think I was a gay man, either that or I was just overcome with nostalgia for my dance school years and all those summers I spent at musical theatre camp. Either way I was really enjoying myself, as was everyone else. Finally they had indoor fireworks, hundreds of balloons falling from the ceiling and, of course, glittery golden strips of paper spluttered all over the audience. It continued to be a crazy wonderful evening until I got into the taxi, completely sober but giddy off of all the excitement of the night.
The boys were amused and pleased with my reaction and promised to take me out with them again before I leave Colombia. They were so great with me, they really looked out for me, were so lovely and all looked after me and the rest of the group. I felt really safe and happy to be with them.
I consider myself to be Muslim, but I also believe that to each their own. If someone wants to ask me about Islam I will happily tell them about it and I believe that we should share our ways of thinking so that we can have mutual understanding. People who have no idea what the gay community is like can fear it a bit because they do not know what it is about. I like to go and see things and not take someone else’s word for it. I went to the club and I really enjoyed it, and I defend the right of anyone to live their life as they see fit as long as it does not impact on the life of another. That is how I can enjoy my freedom to do what I believe and see to be right, so just in case anyone was confused, let that just be clarification for you.
I have seen the seedier sides to Colombia, I have worked with the prostitutes and the nuns in the red light district, I have seen the upscale strip clubs where the rich kids get their kicks in Bogota, I have heard my students stories about sex and relationships and I have heard a lot of homophobic comments. I have to say that after all of that the gay scene as far I have seen is much healthier than any of the “on the side” escapades that many Colombians get involved in. At least their actions are based on two consenting adults making their own decisions, without the issue of exploitation that I have seen when it comes to prositution. Morals are a complicated issue to tackle, and I do not really want to get into it now. I just wanted to let people know about the wonderful experience I had and say thank you to the wonderful Brits Irish and Colombians that made it such an enjoyable night for me.
Love and peace to all who are reading this. Know who you are and what you want, but leave the doors of your mind open to recognize that understanding other people and their right to make their own decisions is the key to peace. One love x
PS. This video shows a little bit of the interior of the club. For the curious cats out there. It wont kill you to look 😉