Taking chances and finding joy

What a great opening night for our Queer Country Social dance. We had roughly 20 people show up for the beginner lesson. Most were a meetup group event and a few from a south shore group.
It was amazing to see these people come out and do something they never done before. Most had not danced anything like social dancing since they were in grade school.
I was the basic two step teacher and I’m amazed they all picked up the basic two step pattern and go through a line dance lesson that was not easy. They rocked.
I’m sure they didn’t feel that way, I know I didn’t when I first came to a dance back in 2003. It took me many months to work up the nerve to step through that door. The only dance experience I had was on the club scene. I was looking for something a bit better than a bar to find someone. I didn’t expect to find a community. That first dance, Bucky came up to say hello and asked me to dance. How daunting! I sucked — toes were stepped on, I think I hit Ruth with my elbow, and my turns were all over the place (sorry Jim). There were so many people infinitely better than I was — I felt so clumsy and awkward. But Bucky reminded me that I never did this before and encouraged me to keep at it. I did. So much so that I’m president of the club and help DJ, teach, organize, and am part of the performance group. While I didn’t find a partner, I found a bunch of friends and my life is richer for it.
Social dancing is challenging but fun. A 2003 New England Medical Journal article “Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly“, showed that out of 18 activities, social dancing was significantly more effective at keeping your faculties as you grow older. I believe it’s the combination of being hyper aware of your surroundings while socializing and moving to the rythm of music.
You just don’t get that in a gym.
I love this group for their mix of ages, genders, and ability levels — the most refreshing is that we mix it up. We don’t care what role you dance, who you love, what color your skin. We just like to dance and hope you do too.
Gays for Patsy hosts three events:
I also love going to Americana Sundays in Somerville on Sundays from 8-10 at Thunder Road on Somerville Ave. that features a live band lead by Greg Klyma – a queer friendly guy who took his date to one of our dances and loved it. Though not a queer venue, we end up taking over the dance floor more than not. It is a small venue and quite not intimidating at all.
I hope to find you on the dance floor. Ask me to dance.
Bob “da prez” Sweeney
Gays for Patsy

A Northern Country Boy’s Dilemma

Bob Sweeney "da prez" Gays for Patsy
Bob Sweeney “da prez” Gays for Patsy

Last night I woke from a dream where I was in a NY-esque subway where a cluster of families in ethnic garb were trying to get to the safe house. It looked like a wedding party — joy and fear were around. People were jeering at them. In the dream I helped create a safe passage and asked the jeering crowd, “who here is not a descendant of illegal aliens?” I think this dream came by a combo of St. Patrick’s Day and looking at the news before bed. Both sets of my great grandparents came from different parts of Ireland to escape famine and persecution. I think of the Jewish who escaped genocide and the Africans who were brought here without consent. How our “great” American forebearers killed indigenous cultures in our settling of this nation. And that we have the gall to single out people because they want to come here to make a life or have a different view?

In the dream I tried to help but in my everyday life, what is it I do to help?

When I became president of Gays for Patsy — a lgbtqa+s* country western dance club — a few years back, I didn’t know a thing about running a group or the dances: I just liked to dance. As I became the de-facto spokesperson (a challenge for an introvert, I’ll tell ya), I’ve been slowly trying to learn more about the dance, being a host, and making people feel welcomed. When I started DJing I had a steep learning curve that I’m still struggling with (as when my software redid my beats per minute and I played last night a polka that no one could possibly dance to – it’s been deleted from my playlist). I previewed my share of red pickup, bad boy, daisy duke, and acting bad country songs — I played a few songs where someone quietly told me it was really a song about abuse and/or hanging. The things you learn. Now it’s more important than ever to be aware of what you say and it’s impact since our leaders don’t seem to have that ability.

With this current climate, we face a number of issues for our group and the greater queer community: fear, anger, and shame are just a few. These are the weapons that can be used against us — in the media, in the churches, in our politics. We’ve seen it throughout history, it’s not new. I find I’m so bitter at seeing all the progress that has been made in the past few decades being threatened. I know this winter I battled my own disbelief, shame, embarrassment, and anger at my fellow Americans, the political process, and the media that aided and abetted this farce.

I am struggling this year. I know I drank a lot of that toxic soup and turned inward, isolated, and hid (well, part of that was just winter in New England). But now as “spring” is here, I’m trying to turn that out. Little things like organizing Spring Stomp: A Hoedown in P-town is helping. I’m trying to be a bit more vocal about the importance to kind to each other and accepting. Looking for music that is danceable that echoes that theme. Trying to cope by turning that anger and frustration into action, even a little helps me feel less isolated.

What are ways that you cope?
I cope with dancing and listening to music. It’s become a lifeline for me.

What inspires you?
I know the women’s march in January was A-MAZ-ING to me and heartened me that I was not alone in saying WTF? and helped show that showing that anger and frustration need not be violent. I think of how strong women are and maybe that is why men are so afraid of them. Suffragettes, mothers standing in a line in front of police to protect their children, hell, even childbirth. men can’t hack that shit.

Just know, you’re not alone.
The women’s march was heartneing in so many ways. Get out and do things with people, come dance, have a game night, invite a few friends to watch TV, find a group that helps organize (like Meetup — there’s resist groups out there.

March in Pride
I’m about to fill out an application for the Boston Pride march. We’ve not marched for a few years, but this year Gays for Patsy will be a place to dance and have fun without fear. (I wrote “gays for pastry” now that’s a line I can stand by). If you don’t march, come watch. Be part of something.

Come out to a dance.
You’ll be guaranteed a hug and a friendly smile from me (unless I’m DJing and am frantically trying to figure out what’s coming next).
Ask me to dance. I’m fun.
And embrace your two left feet, you can ask some of our veterans, we all started stumbling around the dance floor.

Bob Sweeney
“da prez”, Gays for Patsy

* LGBTQA+S = lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, asexual, and straight – I know I forgot some but what it really means it don’t matter who you love, what your gender, skin, or politics are. That’s why I go with “queer” for our dances, for queer country boston meetup and I identify as such. I’d much rather be different in this day and age.