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All photos by Erik Carter. But Jolene , the first trans-inclusive event run by a trans person in Los Angeles at Cheetahs nightclub, started on a serious note. The front row was packed with queer people showering the stage with cash and admiration. Jolene's mission is, in part, to give performers better opportunities in an increasingly hostile climate.
Remy Solomon, attending for the second time, specifically went to Jolene to celebrate the LGBTQ community and tangibly support strippers while Hustlers reigned at the box office. Dancers who have been made to feel less than welcome at other clubs have flocked to Jolene. Avery , a Black woman who dances at Jolene, recalled how she was denied an audition once she showed up in person at numerous L. EthicalDrvgs , a trans woman of color who performs as Fine China, is the mastermind behind Jolene.
Anti-trans violence is often linked to men grappling with transamory. Cheetahs had previously run a trans-themed night, but it was headed by a cisgender man and had an offensive title—Tranny Strip— characterizing transamory as a risque fetish. When EthicalDrvgs began dancing at Tranny Strip in , she was inspired to throw her own event celebrating trans and gender-nonconforming dancers.
Last April, along with queer party collective Black Charmed and Gracie Cartier , she launched Girls Like Us —a cabaret featuring femme performers from across the gender spectrum. Erica Solitaire and Elise did a gymnastic duet, twirling around a pole while a moody electronica song blasted. Many attendees knew the dancers personally. Adam, a twenty-something wearing a bright, geometric yarmulke and a few piercings, had already gone to Jolene twice to see his friend, the dancer Malice.
Onyx Black , a dancer with years of experience, increasingly relies on inclusive nights such as Jolene and Teaseher , a recurring event night celebrating LGBTQ people of color, to perform. Cheetahs is primarily a heterosexual space, but there's an ethos of integration at Jolene. Jolene's dancers share a strong collective bond. Throughout the night, they helped one another collect tips, get ready backstage, and safely return home.