Celebrating life as a community

In more than three decades of service, the nonprofit HIV services organization that publishes Positively Aware, TPAN, has always been sex-positive. We have consistently reflected sex positivity in our images and education and our special events and fundraisers.

Community partners have always played an important part in these activities. For our most recent sexy fundraiser, Barlesque, were some of Chicago’s most faithful gay bars. Over the past couple of years, sexy bartenders and barbacks went online to perform a virtual burlesque photo slideshow, revealing more as they raised funds. This year, performers were paired with professional choreographers to create a live revue that was held September 30 at Center on Halsted, the city’s LGBTQ community center.

Craig Cherry of Sidetrack won the crowd favorite award for stepping onto the stage dressed as a boxer—with a couple of hot assistants to help him out of his robe. Ross Harrington of the Lucky Horseshoe performed as an alien who’d fallen to Earth a la Bowie, also with a hot assistant who helped him out of his coat. Viktoria Kay-Frost (Sebastian Velmont, originally from England) from Replay Andersonville was joined by a bodacious butch female assistant to act out a sexy “Skin Mix.” Marcus Stephen of Hydrate performed a stupendous butch/femme dance number titled This is Me. And the bartender who raised the most money, representing the leather community, was Luís Eudave of Cell Block, with choreographer Cocoa Pearlesque, performing a vampire seduction mix (featuring a riff off the sensuous “Sucker for Pain” by Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Imagine Dragons, Logic, Ty Dolla $ign and X Ambassadors). 

We needed this after the pandemic’s lockdowns. Out in the community, together again. In previous years, Chicago’s dance community staged a fundraising performance for TPAN called

Chicago Takes Off—use your imagination. The theme one year was Under a Big Top—what fun. 

More than $50,000 was raised. “I’m excited to raise money for TPAN,” said Stephen, who came from Manilla, the Philippines as a child. He was inspired to dance because of the cheerleading he did as a high schooler in the U.S. “I’m extremely competitive and love supporting important causes for myself and my community.”

So thank you, community, for always being there for us. For helping us reject the harms of repression. For celebrating life, in all its glory. For as long as we’re here, let’s dance. And so much more.