Last night I had the privilege of watching dozens of shirtless young men sweat and jump around on a stage. No, I wasn’t at a bar full of go-go boys…I went to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake–a reinterpretation of the Russian classic that replaces the delicate female swans with fiercer male ones. The performance was moving and stirred up some emotions that have stuck with me.
I went to the ballet with Sir Ray…a friend and mentor I met at the Eagle who believes in fostering and teaching a younger generation in the community (to take over from the old guys one day). He had seen the ballet before and wanted to share it with me since it covers some timely themes about gays in society…themes about acceptance, safety to love, and how not having these things can be so damaging.
I’m sure like many of you out there, growing up gay was difficult and not being able to freely express my sexual interest or longing desire for another male really hurt. My teenage/early twenties were a time of great conflict, confusion, and even self-hatred. I was living in a world dominated by Christian ideals that forbid me to be myself and as a result I felt like I was drowning in loneliness.
In Bourne’s Swan Lake, the Prince is the boy who feels so alone and estranged from his mother the Queen and the royal lifestyle around him. He struggles against it…fighting to find purpose and identity….and then in the midst of calling it quits he meets the Swan–a dark and alluring figure who awakens a new energy in the Prince. Suddenly there is a whole new option for life that the Prince didn’t know he could have.
The story goes on to a tragic clash between the Prince and the Swan when a “Stranger” (aka the Swan in leather pants…hot) shows up to a party and romances the Queen. After several scenes of agony and conflict, gay-bashing and finally redemption, the Prince and the Swan are reunited. The final scene is a powerful image of the Prince in two places:
- dead in this world to the heartbreaking grief of his mother (who has finally expressed affection for her son).
- held securely in the arms of his Swan…peacefully together at last.
As the curtain closed on this scene I blinked for the first time in a while and I felt a tear in my eye. All too quickly the lights came up and I was brought back to reality where the image of death/loss combined with life/love lingered with me. The themes of the ballet resonated with my own personal experiences of identity fulfillment as a gay man and the power of finding acceptance and love.
I have been the Prince in his loneliness and isolation…and I have been in the Prince in his long-sought fulfillment with a lover. Like so many gay men I have looked into the hopeless abyss and listened to the lies that society tells us; and I have also turned away from that shadow and found a whole new life of acceptance and enjoyment with my queer community. I’m thankful for where I am today and want to encourage anyone struggling with confusion or loneliness that there is hope and life waiting for them.
My Leather Brothers…the men who make me feel normal and welcomed…are good teachers of acceptance. Everyone seeks a place of support where they can be themselves without fear of judgment; the Leather Community is definitely that place for me. And of course there’s also the hot men…that is an added bonus 😉