Content warning: this article makes reference to drug use. All views expressed are that of the writer.

I gave up on being the most dolled up doll at the rave long ago. The rave is not about that. It is about dancing. Dolls dancing. If my outfit prohibits my movements, then it could all be worthless. Sometimes, I make mistakes. I made a mistake tonight by wearing oversized Phat Farm jean shorts with knee-high rubber Ganni boots. The look was fab but not quite rave appropriate. Too much skin coverage. No space for air flow. The boots or jorts could have been okay on their own but paired together made me feel heavy after the hours of dripping and stomping.

The mistake was made because I had planned on going out, but I did not plan on carrying. There is a difference. Going out means any number of things. I use it to refer to the club. I can wear almost anything to the club and get away with it. Carrying in this context has two meanings: (1) raving, usually involving hours of perspiration and uninhibited body movements, multiple drugs, and powerful sonic technicians, all within a suitable location, ideally a warehouse, abandoned building, or under a bridge and (2) the literal act of lifting, sustaining, or transporting; doing the most. The best carries involve extensive preparation, acquiring drugs, car money, energy supplements, snacks, tickets (or, for me, list), and the perfect outfit.

A close-up selfie of Zora Jade Khiry

Zora Jade Khiry

I have one main objective when carrying; to imagine my body in the future. Juliana Huxtable is booked to play at [REDACTED], the most perplexing venue in all of Brooklyn. I have never had a good night there. If I am going to [REDACTED], I expect to leave feeling unfulfilled and thirsty. But I can get on list there. And it’s Juliana. So I put on my jean shorts, knee-high boots, and a beautiful Missoni top with long, dangling ties that I wrap sensually around my waist. I am dressed for the club. Not the carry.

The first person I see at the club is Video Girl. Wearing a backless bodysuit with the hood pulled over her head. There is something so deeply sexual and mysterious about a hood. She finds me at the bar. I buy her a tequila mate and tell her how incredible she looks. She compliments my hair then leads me to the green room, puts a neon yellow wristband around my wrist, slowly so my skin doesn’t get stuck to the adhesive, and cuts me lines of coke and ketamine. She tells me that Mother (Juliana) is playing another set at a rave at [Warehouse] right after this one and she has a friend who is working door. But I am dressed for the club. Not the carry.

We finish our lines, letting them sink in a bit, the inside of my head expanding. On the dancefloor now, we snake through the crowd, up the stairs, and behind the booth. Juliana has just started. Her orange locs fall along her back as she ​​​​whines her waist over the turntables. It’s empty upstairs aside from us. I plant my feet shoulder width apart, sink my hips, and relax my waist. I can be comfortable here. For a moment. I brought the wrong bag. This Margiela clutch is not suited for the way I need to move. My body has plenty of space, but the awkward, annexed dance floor with couches and floor length mirrors feels so impersonal, sterile.

I put on my jean shorts, knee-high boots, and a beautiful Missoni top with long, dangling ties that I wrap sensually around my waist. I am dressed for the club. Not the carry.

The entire club does. We move downstairs to the main dance floor and find a spot in the front. Same shit. Blurs of people travel rapidly in and out of the spot we carve out, like apparitions. Oh God... No... Some normies have pulled out their Nintendo Switches on the fucking dance floor. They know not the gift they have been given, a chance to witness one of the best DJs alive spin at one of the worst clubs in the city.

I tense up, unable to dance among this bedlam. Not everyone goes out for freedom. Some people, perhaps even most people, go out for spectacle, to be it or to find it, and to hold those of us freedom seekers hostage. Some people don’t want to get free.

I head back behind the booth. Juliana is tearing now. It's a light tear. The cosmic tear will come later in the morning. For now, I am good. After another bump of kundle, I am surrounded by dolls on all sides. “What’s your name, baby?” “Doll.” “Me too.” We go hard for Juliana, throwing our wrists into the air, shouting exclamations of ecstasy as the bass finally drops after a sexy break. I see Video Girl again, on the other side of the exclusive section. I dance over to her, taking in her movements as I make mine. Fuck… She looks so good. Maybe, I will carry tonight. Just for her. We both have enough space to flow with the entirety of our bodies, involving our feet, knees, thighs, asses, hips, waist, tits and heads into a slither.

A DJ behind decks

Zora Jade Khiry

Still, there is something about the way this space is designed, the display of it all, that prohibits me from losing myself and finding my body. As good as I look and as well as I dance, I am not here to put on a show at this showy ass club. That isn’t really true. In New York City nightlife, the dolls are always the show. Our hypersexualised bodies are the out-of-towner’s drug of choice. We are surveilled like celebrities, like criminals, and put on display like antiquities. We are simultaneously the sexiest, strangest and scariest part of your night. Fuck. I’m too in my head. I let the kundle jumpcut me.

Outside now, across the street. Myrtle/Broadway is post-apocalyptic at 3 am. We lean against a random tagged building, hunched over into branch-like shapes, waiting for the wind to take us to our next destination. Elsewhere in Brooklyn. Right near the water, at [Warehouse], of course. Let the carry ensue. Fuck these baggy ass shorts. We arrive and greet the person at the door with kisses to each cheek and honeyed words. Video Girl leads me to a corner littered with stained couches. Another line and my joints begin to expand. We slink through the crowd. There seems to be endless space in the hazy mist of nitrogen and salt. Are we outside? It feels like a jungle.

Not everyone goes out for freedom. Some people, perhaps even most people, go out for spectacle, to be it or to find it, and to hold those of us freedom seekers hostage. Some people don’t want to get free.

Juliana is ripping the slit; her broken, frenetic beats make the palms of my feet tingle. My first instinct is to run. Or jump. To do something to release the tension from my body. She introduces throbbing drums underneath a patterned, electronic layer, and my hips sink. I rub my hands over my tits and press myself against the beat.

I open my eyes and Video Girl is in front of me. She is ravishing. Her movements seem to connect with my own. We lock eyes. I float closer towards her, fully entranced. Her body opens for me. I place my hands on the sides of her hips, not too eagerly. I don’t know what she does to me. I don’t do this usually. I sense that she knows this as she pulls my waist into hers, conjoining us. Our bodies are moving together as one now. I lift my feet with hers. She swings her hips with mine. Juliana commands us to move up, up, up, up and down, down, down, down. We dare not disobey.

Something begins to shift. The atmosphere unfolds and reveals a divergent plane​ at [Warehouse].​ ​ ​​ ​ Only Video Girl, myself, and Juliana take space.​ ​I look up at her, our bodies clinging to each other. Our mouths touch and I am disarmed. We transcend further into this lush new landscape; our bodies climbing the walls of sound like hedera vines. Is this how circuit gays feel? Their pornographic bodies of leather and muscle coalescing into a beefcake. My massive, Black, transsexual body morphing into a supergiant, the sonic mayhem sending me into supernova, the gravitational pull of my Black Hole drawing my sisters and sister-lovers into me.

A selection of clothes from Zora Jade Khiry laid out: a knee-high boot, handbag, black top and denim shorts

Zora Jade Khiry

There are more trannies around me now, Black and older. They graze my shoulder with familiar hands, bestow a blessing with a soft gaze. One woman embraces me, cradling the back of my neck. “So glad to see you, beautiful.” Decades of transdata are transmitted from woman to woman, doll to doll, with just the locking of eyes.​ The beat shifts again, a hard electro moment. I close my eyes and breathe in.​

My path realigns, and my life arrays inside my eyelids as a technicolored quilt. I see myself in front of me. Boy me. A child. A mollusk. He has never yearned for a future because he has never yearned to exist. Then, boy becomes girl. Her shell is shed and left to become sand. She descends into a sea of desire. Never have I felt so sure of my own future than this moment.

Black trans women have such an intimate relationship with death. Loss may be inevitable, but loss is not the absence of life. We live in spite of loss. I have lived and will continue to live, just as these women exchanging power with me have lived and still live. For as long as we live, so does this music. Techno; a music of brokenness for a broken world. A music of tearing and ripping and shredding and scarring. I have held the fabric of my universe together by strings of will and hope and torment and dreams and regrets.

I let go of it. Now, it is cut, forever torn, no need to be rebuilt or tightened or braided or sewn back together again. I am unraveled, completely. Untwisted, out. Knot free. A spool of thread, unspooled.

My body is an ever changing vessel. She is sturdy and persuasive but open to my experimentation. She is patient where I am anxious and assured where I am apprehensive. I am constantly in awe of her abilities.

This kaleidoscopic trance culminates with a two hour dance break​ as my high shifts from the hallucinatory stage to the dancefloor diva stage​. I move throughout the space fluidly, left, right, middle, and center. I find friends in the very front, of course, and join them there. I stand by the speaker and place my Margiela bag on top of it. Finally, I can rest my forearms on the top of my head and rock my hips in rhythm to the beat. I love this part of the rave, finding a position to actively rest in exhausted ecstasy. Juliana is blending sounds of rhythmic feedback. I worry at first the speakers are going out until the noise begins to increase in pitch, crescendoing into a final blare. The crowd screeches as the music screeches, our limbs flailing to the heavens in mass rapture. She ends her set in something I can only describe as a hard techno, electro brawl. MOTHER! I look for my friends again. I must congratulate them on surviving this war.

We have no words to describe what just happened nor any energy to verbalise. So, we look at each other, smile feebly, and wave our hands back and forth while shaking our heads in enervation. “Tore,” I whisper, and the mist dissipates and the light refracts. Back on this earthlier plain, I take stock of myself. Somehow, I have managed to successfully carry in this completely inappropriate outfit. My jean shorts are a darker blue than I remember them. My brown Missoni top is one with my brown skin, my erect nipples bold through the thin material. My bangs are wet with sweat. I watch a droplet form around a coil of hair and fall onto my chest. I am desperate for water. I go to the makeshift bar and wait in line. They are out of water bottles. Insane. I guess there are worse ways to die than from dehydration and overheating after a life-altering Juliana Huxtable set.

Video Girl and her girlfriend come up behind me. They want to go upstairs to the House music room. The vibe upstairs is cute, but I have been completely consumed. We sit in a room with broken windows and white people in all black locked deep in indiscriminate conversations. Video Girl spot an old white gay man whom she knows has meow meow. I sit down next to her and try to relax, reflecting on the last few hours. This in-between flux of post-evisceration is always one that I dread. I feel too high to have a conversation but not high enough to continue dancing. I should go home but I feel the urge to wring this carry out like a wet towel.

A DJ behind decks

Zora Jade Khiry

This urge can be dangerous. Every carry has its limits. I remember my first Juliana Huxtable set at Basement. It shattered me mentally, spiritually and physically. I found a spot all to myself on the side of the booth between the speakers and the emergency exit stairs. I spun and twirled and stomped and proclaimed. I sang praise. I exalted and exhumed and exorcised. For weeks after my knees hurt from trampling the uneven concrete terrain. I was worried I might not recover. I went out some in the weeks after injuring myself, unable to dance freely and thus unable to release. I did bumps of ketamine in the Nowadays bathroom to try and numb the pain a bit.

Instead, I received visions, visions of my body in the future. In the first one, I felt about 40 years old. I had a shaved head covered in tattoos that wrapped around my neck and broad shoulders. My tits were out, bouncing and breathing. I was a giant DJ, commanding the bodies and minds of fellow ravers. In the second vision, I was alone in a darkroom. I had no idea what I looked like, but I knew I was seated, unable to move, and on the verge of death.

Black trans women have such an intimate relationship with death. Loss may be inevitable, but loss is not the absence of life. We live in spite of loss.

How long had I been there? Will I ever leave? No mobility, no feeling. Only the abyss. But now, here at [Warehouse], upstairs in the House room, I sit in my fat, Black, trans body, expended but loose. Free. My body is an ever changing vessel. She is sturdy and persuasive but open to my experimentation. She is patient where I am anxious and assured where I am apprehensive. I am constantly in awe of her abilities. I have been nurturing her, cherishing her more. I allow her to lead while I follow. I sit further back, sinking into the couch, trying to see where she wants to take me next​.​​ ​.

​​​I look up. The white gay man. Looking down at me. His face contorted. Contempt. He leans down. His neck winding back and forth. I have no space. He is so close to me. Cold, gray irises. Dead-eyed. Slowly, he curses. “And do you want any? Huh, Miss Priss?” He says priss how people say nigger. ​​​​​

It takes strength to maintain my connection to my body. Can’t lash out. Can’t strike him down, spit on him, eviscerate his fragile, faggot ego. Just that quickly I am reminded of the price of freedom. My big, Black, transsexual body, hosting a robust, mosaic self, is offensive to the white world, a world not made distinct by the mainstreaming of anal sex or any sexuality or gender or ideology. My Black, transsexual autonomy, here seen in the simple act of sitting in thought, is radical? What is prissy about me? Is it my style, my sunglasses, or my clear disinterest in fawning over him? I won’t shuck. I won’t jive. Don’t know how. Won’t apologise for that ignorance.​​

A window with graffiti

Zora Jade Khiry

​​​​​I stare at him over the top of my sunglasses and wait for him to remove himself from my presence. If I am Miss Priss, then he is a peasant, a heathen, a stain upon my sight. He puts his drugs away and leaves. I to dance, alone, to House music, and dance while watching out the window as the tech nerds and stay-at-home moms of Greenpoint emerge from their domiciles. Just moments before this, the only people that existed to me were Black people, most of whom were transforming and transcending their sex and genders. My utopic, techno-ketamine-estrogen tesserae shatters. The carry is over.

I look around me and recognise no one. Not even myself. I do not mourn the destruction of my fantasy for long. I can’t afford to. This hostile plane is home, despite how unwelcome I am within it. Whatever freedom I found is lost, but I am familiar with loss. The pursuit of freedom, however temporary, is always worth the violence of its theft. This journey will be littered with boundless, brutal munitions intended to obliterate my vision, expel my body from space, and kill me.

​​​I kiss the friends I can find goodbye and call a car home. I roll down the window. The warm, early morning air against my salt stained skin hurts like truth. I sit back and close my eyes, trying to re-imagine my future body.

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