lambda literary reading

It was an absolute honor to be selected as one of the Fellowship recipients at this year’s Lambda Literary Foundations Writers Retreat. Here’s a piece about why we need gay clubs in Indonesia. 



The stage is drenched in red light. An aerial hoop hangs in the middle of the stage. Bobbie Burlesque has his back to the audience. He’s a steampunk devil, complete with black feathered collar. The snake-tongue end of his black sleeveless tuxedo coat swishes as he swings his hips. Jim Bianco croons in the background, singing about dirty mouths, dirty minds, dirty martini, and sucking on a boy’s thumb. 

Bobbie commands the stage. He knows when to look at the audience through those dark, kohl-lined eyes and when to break eye contact. The tuxedo tails are the first to go. He snatches them and throws one to the left, one to the right. The vest is next. He pops it open and reveals a white shirt and a huge red rose attached to the black suspender. It doesn’t take long before the suspender comes undone. Bobbie runs his palms on his torso. He untucks the white shirt and proceeds to peel off his black elbow-length gloves. He takes off the black feathered collar, fans himself with it, and tosses it away before walking to the aerial hoop. With one graceful leap, he hooks his leg and begins to swing upside down from the hoop. His back is to the audience. He unzips the white sleeveless shirt and off it goes. He has one more piece of clothing left, but Bobbie takes his time. And when the moment finally comes, he hooks the cuffs of his striped pants to the top of the aerial hoop and slides down like a serpent sheds his skin. Bobbie poses defiantly. Arms up, legs apart. He grins at his audience. His bedazzled jockstrap sparkles as it catches the light. 


Photo by Ed Barnas.

“It is stripping,” Bobbie says. “Burlesque tends to be a bit more dramatic and theatrical with more of a story and character development, but i am still taking off my clothes. I am still stripping. I don’t have any negative feelings with the word or title of stripper. And those who do, need to look up the definition of the word again, and come to terms with their inner demons.”

Bobbie hasn’t only come to terms with his inner demons, he’s made friends with them and adopt their various monikers that range from artist, dancer, performer, entertainer, to stripper, sex worker, peeler, burlesquer, and boylesquer. “All titles are beautiful to me,” he says. 

The last term, boylesque, is a play on the word burlesque. It was coined in the ’90s by a New York male burlesque performer Tigger! as a way to promote his work, but it caught on. Some male burlesque performers dislike the word, saying that it separates the art form from burlesque, as if burlesque belonged to women only. However, it is, by and large, a woman’s world. Men have been involved in burlesque, but always as a producer, musician, or host. 

When Bobbie started performing burlesque in 2006, six years after he’d been producing burlesque shows as well as managing his burlesque troupe, he was the first solo boylesque dancer in Los Angeles. That year, the Burlesque Hall of Fame began allowing men to perform and compete in their annual show. 

Bobbie admits to not knowing the exact ratio of female to male burlesque performers, but says there are a few of the mainstream boylesque dancers currently based in Los Angeles. There’s Tito Bonito (originally from Chicago), Vyper Synville (who’s also a belly dancer), and Mr. Snapper (who’s married to the burlesque star Red Snapper). “There are other boylesquers as well, but these performers have actually branched out of performing in only local shows and have been seen in major events, festivals, and shows across the world.”

BobbieBurlesqueTo some, being a man in female-dominated profession is enough to get attention, but when that novelty ends, it’s going to be difficult to have a sustained career. This is exactly why before he decided to become a professional burlesque performer, he did extensive research that went into all of his performance pieces.

“I truly believe these key factors and guidelines I have developed [through research] and follow, have made me successful in the industry and have allowed me to last as long as I have,” Bobbie says. He admits to have seen male performers come and gone. “They haven’t analyzed the scene and their performance pieces. They just perform what they want to and don’t take into consideration the audience they’re performing for. Yes, perform from your heart and do what you want, but if the audience is unhappy, they won’t come back to see you.” 

It’s this dedication and meticulousness that have won him awards, such as Mr. Hollywood Burlesque at the inaugural Hollywood Burlesque Festival and Best Novelty Act at the Texas Burlesque Festival in Austin. His first performance with his aerial hoop (his favorite prop – he always gives him a kiss before their performance) won the Best Novelty/Best Use of a Prop category at the 2013 Texas Burlesque Festival.

“Each piece I create, I will continue to perform it throughout my career. I don’t believe in creating a new act for every show. My performance pieces mean something to me and I spend a lot of time, money, and effort into each one,” Bobbie says. 

Burlesque isn’t cheap. There are the tangible items like make-up and costumes (Bobbie only uses Swarovski crystals) and one-of-a-kind props. Then there are various expenses like choreographers, musicians, make-up artists, costumers, and classes. “I think classes and workshops are good to expand your knowledge about the industry and to get different perspectives on the art and learn more ideas, but I believe being a performer is something that goes beyond taking a class. I believe it is something you are born with and a passion you possess all on your own.”

He feels that performers who create acts quickly with little to no rehearsal time, no original or innovative ideas, cheap-looking costumes will produce an act that isn’t polished, and that cheapens the art of burlesque. 

Bobbie usually spends up to a year working on an act before debuting it and continues to grow and improve it. His inspiration comes from many aspects in his life: music, art, film, television, theater, mass media, friends, other performers, and even from his dreams. The bottom line of burlesque is stripping down to whatever’s legal in the place, but Bobbie likes to create different personas in each performance. 

ditaopiumden“I love Dita Von Teese,” Bobbie says. “I’m a lover of classic burlesque, and she definitely embodies the classic style I love as well as being beautiful and glamorous on stage! To me, burlesque is about all the things she does so wonderfully: entertainment, sex appeal, costume, make-up, music, and glamour!” 

Dita’s Opium Den performance caused a stir. Other burlesque dancers called her racially insensitive and appropriating a culture, but Bobbie sees this as the beauty of burlesque and stage performance. When it comes to the beauty of different cultures, religions, and backgrounds, with all the various costumes, make-up, and music, he advises to take something and make it larger than life. “As long as your presentation is done to appreciate and honor the culture you are representing in a respectful and beautiful way,” he adds. 

One of the main differences between burlesque and gogo-style stripping is the idea of beauty. To many performers, the all-inclusive nature of burlesque gives them confidence, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to not take care of one’s appearance. 

“I used to be a lot heavier and have more curves with a softer, pudgier stomach when I first started stripping,” Bobbie says, but he’s slimmed down a bit, not only because he joined the circus and became an aerialist, but also because he wanted to have a sexier, more defined body for stage performance. “I was happy and welcomed in the industry with my old body, but I have noticed my audience demographic open up to more people with my change in body type.” Although he believes that a true performer can captivate and seduce an audience with their confidence and stage presence alone, regardless of their body type.


Performing burlesque isn’t Bobbie’s main source of income. Thankfully, he loves every minute of it, from the first budding spark of inspiration for a new act, to the post-performance shower to wash off the glitter. To him, designing and bringing an idea to life is a remarkable feeling. 

Each performer has his own guidelines and rules, but Bobbie cheekily declines to answer. “Lots of performers have approached me and asked me about this, but like a prostitute, a magician never reveals his tricks.” He does reveal some of his pet peeves, though.

“I will never have tags sticking out of my costumes, and I will never beg the audience to cheer for me by beckoning them with my fingers. If you have a store-bought costume piece, remove the tags. I don’t need to see the washing instructions. And if you have to ask the audience for a verbal response, you aren’t doing your job.”

For more information on future performances, go to, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

new business ventures (jewelry & belly dance classes)

It never occurred to me that I’d be making jewelry AND selling it. I always make my own necklaces and wear them myself, but I think it’s time for me to start selling them. 

So it’s with great honor that I give you Sarasvati Jewelry & Adornments.


I’m also teaching American Tribal Style® belly dance level 1 classes on Saturdays at 2-3 pm (starting August 16) and Thursdays at 6-7 pm (starting August 21) at Live Arts Los Angeles

Please refer to this flier for more information, or click here to download the PDF flier.LALAYuskaATSFlier-01

I am so excited to be joining a team of wonderful people over at Not only did the website’s name capture my attention, but I was also thrilled to put my degree to use.

I’m now the resident Assistant Copy Editor of the website, and my first (approved) post is about Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent. So head over there and tell me what you think.

Here’s a sizzling picture of Prince Philip (Brenton Thwaites) to motivate you:

gay men and body image

Matthew Dempsey, you talking about gay body image is just like people with no cancer telling people with cancer to deal with it and you know damn well why: because you’re not mainstream ugly and you can pretty much have and do anyone you want.

Let’s start with the list:

Thick hair: Check.
Good teeth: Check.
Good skin: Check.
Good body: Check. (Everyone can tell that you have sculpted arms under that shirt).

And believe me, when your mouth is open like that and you still look good, you don’t have the fucking right to say anything about body image.

Don’t you get it? You’re like the 1%.

I don’t know how ugly you think you are. Or how much of a struggle you have to go through every fucking day, every fucking time you take a look at your own reflection in the fucking mirror. Or how much you hate yourself for looking like you are, how much you want to kill yourself for looking like you are, how terrified you are of outside the world, how much you think everyone who looks at you funny judges you and laughs at you.

You don’t have the fucking right.

You are not one of us. You are not one of the ugly people. And now I know why people who never have to deal with cancer can’t say, “It’s going to be all right,” to people who have cancer.

Do you want to know what ugly is?

Ugly is that person with genetically bad, genetically yellow teeth, a huge scar along the leg, pockmarked skin, large pores, weird hairline, sucky nail bed, paunchy belly, bat ears, flat butt, eczema spots, and a small dick.

Ugly is that person who turns the lights off not only when he’s having sex with someone else, which is quite rare and often doesn’t end well, but also when he’s jerking off. Alone.

Ugly is that person who depends so much on the darkness and the sparse and playful lights of gay clubs that he curses when it’s last call and the lights go on. And of course, he’s still alone.

Ugly is that person who makes Jonah Hill look like James Dean.

So don’t tell me to suck it up. Don’t tell me to accept the fact that I’m ugly, because hearing that from guys like you make it even worse. I mean, come on. I’ll bet that you don’t ever want to fuck me, not even with a sack of cloth over my head.

Oh, that’s right. I’m not ugly. I’m just not your type. Or maybe we’re both bottoms. Regardless, my niche market is still smaller than my Asian dick.

Look. I don’t know why you’re doing this. Maybe it’s for the money. Maybe it’s good for business. For exposure. Or you’re fulfilling your HuffPo video quota. Whatever the reason is, find something else to talk about. I mean, if Gwyneth Paltrow can do it, so can you, because right now, you’re the bully who tells the smaller kids that they shouldn’t be afraid.

You’re the mean girl, Matthew, and I’m taking my business to Lizzie Velásquez, someone I can actually relate to.



a little hello

I dreamed about you.

I don’t quite remember what it was. I just remembered you, in bed, in your grey brown shorts, in your olive green shirt, you wore a hat, a cap, the cap I knew so well.

You looked at me and your smile just said everything you’d wanted to say, everything you’d been trying to say, all those years, all those years.

I dreamed about you.

Months after months after months without even a little hello, a little acknowledgement of existence, but I know you’re still there, still alive, still surviving.

I don’t blame you. How can I. I was the one who left. I was the villain. The poison. The bitch. I took everything away from you. Everything everything everything.

Delete me. Eliminate me. Annihilate me. I don’t blame you. I won’t blame you.

You’re a better person than I am.

You’ll always be a better person than I will ever be.

The sun kissed my skin when I woke up and for a moment I wondered why I was so happy.

Canggu Beach, Bali

in my hands

We sift through a collection
Of photographs
A lifetime of emotions

I know some of those
In the photos
Different hairs, furs
Different glasses, claws
Smiles, eyes

I can never decipher what they’ve
Journeyed through
Desertion, death, divorce
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

Then there’s this one
You as a baby
Lines as eyes
Did the camera flash?
Were you just trying to
Protect yourself?

It’s placed inside a note
Announcing your arrival
Written in decorative
Embossed soft aqua
Hidden inside a yellowed
Bone-dry envelope

“Here,” you give them to me
The envelope
The note
The photo
And I realize

I’m holding a life
A beginning of a life
In my hands
In my hands

I’m holding a person
A beginning of a person
In my hands
In my hands

I’m holding an ocean of tears
But the clouds
Pregnant with fears and possibilities
Are upon me
Upon us

I’m holding a journey
A beginning of a journey
In my hands
In my hands