My most upsetting experience was this one. I was in my late teens and in my first year of being out of the closet – I was finally living my best life. But there was a lot to learn in terms of navigating ‘the scene’.
At the time, Gaydar was the online social site most gay men used. Through this, I found myself talking to a well known DJ (it escapes me who messaged who first, though I think it was him). The DJ hosted a popular show on Galaxy 102 and was the resident of the biggest and best club in the gay scene in my city. He had a lot of power in the scene, though this didn’t really cross my mind at the time – I just thought we were mates because of our shared interest.
We quickly swapped numbers. We talked about DJing, and I told him about the records I was playing at the time and my fondness for using accapellas. He said that he was going to be recording a special one-off radio show for Gay Pride, and invited me to come to the studio with him to record some of my accapella mashups to play on the show – naturally, I was thrilled and agreed to this.
On the day, I arrive at the studio entrance, he comes down to meet me. It’s a Sunday afternoon and there doesn’t appear to be anyone about. He takes me up to the studio in the lift and there’s no one there but us. He shows me around and tells me a little bit about how the recording of the live shows work – I’m fascinated.
He then asks me what I plan on recording – I talk through all the records in my record bag and he agrees with my selections. He takes me through the booth where the turntables are located. I start cuing up records and recording each mashup. He potters about in the background and then leaves the studio for a while. I carry on mixing. Then out of nowhere, I feel his hands on around my waist and then he thrusts himself into me, pinning me against the workstation the decks are part of. He is fully clothed, but I can feel his erection. He takes my headphones off and growls in my ear “I love little chickens like you”. For context, though I was 19 at the time I was very baby faced and so probably looked 15 or 16 – some years later I realised that I got so much attention because I looked underage and that some guys were really into that. He was ten years older than me.
I froze. I think anyone would be scared, but for me it felt like history repeating itself – I was sexually assaulted at secondary school and it left me feeling incredibly confused about my sexuality for a long time – even after coming out, I struggled to separate sex from violence.
I was really starting to panic – then he asked me “Isn’t this what you came for?” at which point I seized the opportunity to pull away from him and said that I was under impression that this was purely professional as there hadn’t been any suggestion of anything romantic or sexual at all during our lengthy discussions over the phone and by text. He is stroking himself and I can see the shape of his penis through his trousers.
He tells me that he loves to bottom for ‘little twinky boys’ and then asked me if I was top or bottom – I told him that I didn’t want to talk about sex. He then asked me if I wanted to DJ at the club where he was resident in the dance room and nodded (we’d previously discussed this – at the time, it was goal), feeling a little scared at this point as I’m still worried he might assault me. He then said “If you want to DJ there, then you’re gonna have to fuck me. I can make it happen. I know people. But if you don’t fuck me, then I’ll fuck you. I’ll make sure that you never DJ there. The choice is yours”. There was a moment of silence and then he just pretended like the whole conversation had never happened by thanking me for coming to the studio and telling me what date the show would be on the air. I left. I deleted his number, never spoke with him again and avoided going in the his room at the club for the remainder of his residency there. When he played my edits on his show, he took credit for them – I felt really used.
I didn’t tell anyone other than one of my friends, as the DJ was a very powerful figure on the scene, and I didn’t want to risk being blacklisted at other venues too. Even my friend at the time said “Are you sure? He sounds so lovely on the radio”. I now find myself in a difficult position, as he died following a battle with cancer in 2017, and everyone haled him as a hero and a local legend. I still feel like no-one would believe me.
DJing on the gay scene continued to be difficult – my technical ability was better than many of my peers, but I was almost always overlooked in favour of muscular and/or more attractive guys (some weren’t necessarily even DJs). I was never asked outright to have sex with someone in exchange for work, but it was implied on many occasions. I persevered with it for years, as I was brainwashed into thinking that mainstream clubs weren’t safe for gay men like me.