When I heard about Club Bodice from a PR friend, I was intrigued first by the name, but, the more I found out, the more fascinated I became.
Started a year ago by Miss Mortis as a Gothic dance party at the famous San Francisco LGBT club, The STUD Bar, Club Bodice is a monthly Body Positive dance party for folks of all sizes, with the goal being for folks to be comfortable, have fun, and feel safe.
Coming from a world in which I personally struggled with size shame for most of my life, first remembering hating people because they made fun of my weight at the age of 5—and then being on diets from then on, I very much understand the feeling of always feeling awkward and monstrous in a world made for “average” sized people. (My 6’5” height didn’t make any of this any easier, because not only did I feel like I was putting on compact cards like armor, but I felt like the Flinstone’s Dino , wondering whether my head was going to punch through the roof!)
I went to my first Gothic subculture event in 2011, Cincinatti’s GothiCon, which was also run by a curvy woman who went by the name of Goth Mom and who refused to allow anyone to belittle or shame others there.
I remember feeling like I would be so out of place, that I wasn’t “really” a Goth (or rather, not the way mass society defined Goth). Instead, of more rejection and exclusion, though, I found an entire community of people who understood me—and who I, in turn, understood as well. Getting a chance to be with people of all backgrounds and yet feeling safe and protected as we got to know each other was truly incredible and, to steal a quote from Miss Mortis herself, “sacred.” This was my first true experience with the Gothic subculture and it has informed my decisions since then.
If there’s one wonderful thing that I’ve seen from that first Gothicon and the four years that I’ve run DGM since, it’s that the Gothic subculture is one that embraces people of vast differences, and appreciates those differences. That’s why our models are of all sizes, shades, orientations, and ages; and that’s also why we don’t tolerate shaming from anyone. (You’ll hear me use the phrase subculture, because there are also a variety of niche scenes within that subculture which can be more exclusive, catty, and isolating—but neither we nor our subculture endorse that behavior in any way.)
While we were only able to start our Midwest-baseed “Embrace The Night” events a few months ago as a way to pull people together and let them see the beauty inside them, our West Coast Gothic sister was able to begin this process a year ago in San Francisco with Club Bodice. So when I heard about their upcoming anniversary event, “It’s Only Forever,” (which is also a tribute night for the incomparable David Bowie), I knew that we at DGM wanted to be involved in letting others in our community know about both her and this cool event!
I recently had a chance to sit down and chat with Miss Mortis about Club Bodice, the journey that she’s made throughout it, and the people that have been touched in the process; this is what we found out:
Thank you so much for meeting with me today. To take a page from all the comic books ever written, every great hero (or organization) has an origin story, so what is Club Bodice’s origin story?
I had just become burned out on all the pretention and size stigmas that I found in the traditional club scene. I had stopped going to the clubs pretty much altogether, until one day a friend convinced me to go to a friend’s “Dangerous Curves” Night at Bondage A Go-Go.
I ended up going and it was pretty awesome. I saw so many people that I never saw at the non-alternative clubs. I was admittedly a bit disappointed in the fact that it was not all people there for the theme of the night, but also BAGG’s normal crowd, and some music that I didn’t really agree with, but I was still really happy to have some kind of recognition.
I found a new feeling that night of liberation whenever I was in the theme focused room. I found myself wondering why there was no Goth club where it could be like this every time. Where I could go and not have to feel like I was “working twice as hard to look half as good” as other club goers. Somewhere I wouldn’t have to question whether or not someone was looking my way out of admiration or disgust.
From this seed of thought came a discussion at my Birthday party a year ago, and through cultivation with friends and family sprouted what would become Club Bodice.
I’ve explained my perspective of Club Bodice earlier, but how would you describe this club to people who’re just hearing about it?
Club Bodice is a safe place where Body Positive participants of the Greater Alternative and Goth communities, as well as their allies and admirers, can come, dance, and socialize together in a fun and supportive atmosphere, free of the negative, shallow stigmas regarding things like size, color, gender, and orientation associated with more general clubs and the outside world.
I imagine you’ve heard stories from folks over the past year in association with your Club. Changing their names, obviously, can you share a couple that really impacted you?
One of the ones that sticks out most to me is one I just heard from a girl that has since become my friend: We were at a party for one of my besties, and Club Bodice was brought up, and she chimed in with something along the lines of that it’s “an amazing place and she never feels more beautiful than when she is there.”
The second most memorable one was going on the Skullz Radio Show with Lily La Rosa to promote one of our events, and watching her make a deal with the show’s host to not trim her pubes for a year if the show’s host would come to Club Bodice in Drag and give her an xmas “trimming” on the air.
The rest have come from attendees’ sentiments along the lines of them not going to clubs for similar reasons as me and that my club has given them a place to go again where they feel safe and represented.
If your work in this world is anything like mine, you’ve had to learn as much about yourself as the other people you are trying to empower. What have you learned about yourself and your self-image through this journey?
I feel like I have learned a lot, and I’m still learning.
Being Body Positive is a daily struggle. A lifetime of force-fed self and societal hatred is not something easily forgotten. There are good days and bad days.
Some days it’s easy to say “hey, this is who I am, I’m doing what I can with what I got and that is beautiful and it is enough, and I don’t need to change myself to make you or anyone else happy”. And some days it’s near impossible to want to look at myself in the mirror. It’s in those times that I remind myself, if I had a friend who looked the way I do, what would I say to them? Would I care how they looked or would I love them as they are? Of Course I wouldn’t care…Well then why am I making such a big deal about it for myself.
It’s also learning and working to not only practice body positivity for myself but towards others. It’s fighting that urge to be catty with someone and think or say negative things about another’s body or appearance if you’re feeling upset or pissed off. It’s remembering that we need to try and be the role models we want to see in others. It’s remembering that, above all, we need to be supporting and friendly to one another. I think if more people just tried to incorporate more of these two simple things, how much better of a world this would be. As a favorite Youtuber of Mine puts it, he is on “The Quest for Positivity”; for me, it’s “The Quest for Body Positivity.”
That’s an excellent point. Let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment. If someone in the Gothic/Alternative community had never been to an event like yours, why might they think that your event wouldn’t be for them? How would you clarify that misconception?
I could see how some people might think that this is “plus-size only”, because of the nature of the club, or some may thing this is an “LGBT only” club due to the nature of the venue.
The thing is we welcome everyone. Club Bodice is an ally of the LGBT community and loves them. The Stud Bar is the place that has given us our start and the home for our shenanigans. Also because this is a Size/Body Positive event it means that we welcome people of all Shapes and Sizes, creeds, colors, identities. Body Positive is for EVERY BODY. The only thing we do not welcome is negativity, haters and discriminators. As long as people come with respect to the others in attendance they are most welcome at Club Bodice.
What are three of the best memories you have over the last year from Club Bodice events?
- When the Stud Bar said I could have my event at their venue.
- The First night, seeing how many people came out and enjoyed themselves, and the confirming feeling that came with it that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.
- The feeling I get every time I’m on the dance floor at Club Bodice, and I just feel completely free. For those few minutes, dancing to whatever song I’m dancing to, I don’t have those naggy little thoughts in my mind about how I look in my outfit, or if people are looking at me. I Just feel safe, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be, I feel …free. And I hope with everything I have, that me doing this is able to, for at least a little while each month, give that feeling to others as well.
Again, thank you so much for chatting with us, Miss Mortis. We can’t wait to get follow ups on future events, as well!
Any of our readers in the Bay Area, do yourselves a favor and check out “It’s Only Forever” this upcoming Sunday, August 21st, 2016. It’s only $10 cover from 9pm – 2am at The Stud Bar. Hosted by Noveli, you get DJ’s Bino and Owen spinning Bowie and other great 80’s/new wave music, performances by Kitty Von Quim and Ariellah, “Dance Magic Dance” singalong, and even door prizes from Curiology, Anticmoon Designs, MindSick Tattoo, and Curvy Girl Lingerie.
If teleporters had been invented, I and a bunch of DGM staff would be going to this party ourselves. Since we can’t, I certainly hope our west coast readers can take advantage of this cool event. And because Amber Nichols (of AyeVanity Photography) will be taking pictures of the event for DGM, not only will you be enjoying and supporting a great event, but you might even be featured in our upcoming event gallery!
If you’d like to learn more about Club Bodice, go to their Facebook page. To learn more about Miss Mortis, go to the Miss Mortis Facebook page. (Be sure to stay tuned to DGM, because you can bet your life we’ll be doing a gallery of the gorgeous Miss Mortis in an upcoming issue.) You can also do a search for “Miss Mortis” or “Club Bodice” on YouTube or Instagram to follow her at either of those platforms.
If you’d like to subscribe to the Gothic/Alternative events happening in California, you can use the new DGM West Coast Community Calendar which will keep you up to date on Club Bodice events, as well as Hanging Garden Events, and much more.
Photography Credits for Miss Mortis' Portraits: AyeVanity Photography