My younger brother and I made our way down Folsom to the Street Fair just after 1pm. People were collecting in the sunny streets, streaming towards the entrance on 9th Street. I was proud that my brother was joining me; he was as straight as they come, so to speak, but since moving to San Francisco, he was striving to understand the variants of lives outside the constructs of our childhood home in suburban Kitchener, Ontario. He was starting to question the norms, blossoming on an intellectual level and cultivating a new identity in San Francisco.
Beyond the front gate was a wide spectrum of human sexuality across genders, ages and races: we saw dominatrices, leather daddies, mooing men, lumberjacks, naughty nurses, man-bunnies, pups, subs, a line of boys dressed like crocodiles and even a guy in a diaper casually sipping a beer. I was awestruck, having never experienced sexual expression on such a large scale. There were hundreds of thousands of revelers flooding the streets, strutting playfully for all the gawkers.
“Want a beer?” I asked my brother.
“Um, okay,” he said.
The beer stand had a large line, so we took our place at the back and continued to gaze out into the crowd. And that’s when I heard a distant drum. A man bound to a stake was being carried through the crowd; he had a mask on, like something out of Mad Max. The drum sound trailed behind, like it was part of some ancient ceremony. My brother looked over and smiled uncomfortably. “Zike,” he said. That was the name he gave me growing up. “I might actually go and do yoga after this drink.”
I believe that there’s no shame in discomfort so long as judgment doesn’t accompany it. My brother never judged anything I did, not once, and he pretty much knew everything — we were very close. “Maybe I’d be ready for this in two years,” he said, almost like he was disappointed in himself.
“You can just leave now if you want, Bub,” I said. “I can stay by myself.”
“Are you sure?”
“Love you, Zike,” he said. He hugged me and left.
And there I was, alone again.
I took off my shirt and continued down Folsom Street, wanting to check out the Deviant Dance District between 12th and 13th Streets. I moved through the crowd of thousands with a smile on my face, admiring the beautiful people: there was a cowboy in a slave collar, a naked dude with a bouncing erection, bound men and women doing acrobats and hippies with their tits hanging out. There were no limits, no guilt about who, or what you are, or should be — it was a celebration of raw sexuality.
As I approached 12th Street, I noticed a massive sheep structure in the distance wearing a harness. The DJ was playing on top. I later learned that it was a Burning Man art bus called BAAAHS (“Big Ass Amazingly Awesome Homosexual Sheep”). To see it nestled amongst the industrial streets of Folsom seemed very post-modern, appearing as a silhouette in the haze of the Californian sun. I got closer and found a crowd below that danced and cheered while the DJ churned an eclectic blend of deep house. The music was liberated from usual club sounds.
More people joined in, all facing BAAAHS like it was their patron deity. The street was packed full of free-spirited folk. I danced in that moment, with those people, to that music, and felt like all the rules about how life, relationships and sexuality were mere constructs. Ernan and I were free to define things as we chose — I wanted to liberate him from his traditional way of thinking. It wasn’t just about an open relationship with him. I wanted much more than that. Maybe it was more about family structures, or tribes?
The music got so good that I finally let that thought go and enjoyed the moment.
I went to get another beer an hour later and ran into Kyle from the other night at Beatbox. He had this wide-eyed glow, and he was consumed by the spirit of the fair. “There you are,” he said, grabbing onto me. “You have to come and dance with us. Phil hasn’t stopped talking about you since Friday night.”
“Hi!” I said.
“Come with me. He really likes you but he’s stuck with his boyfriend. They’re about to break up, though.”