Domestic violence, sexual experimentation, relationships, date rape, steroid use and suicide are just some of the topics covered in Tahjaleenie 'Mega Body' Tahji's book G-String Dreams: True Confessions of a Male Exotic Dancer. Before talking at the April 3 Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus forum 'Sex and Eroticism,' Tahji discussed bisexuality, dancing and HIV/AIDS with Windy City Times.
Windy City Times: You cover so much in this book. Why share all of this with the public?
Tahjaleenie Tahji: Well, I've been through so much as a human being, a man and as an entertainer. I'm glad to be at the stage where I am now, [ but ] I'm tired of people asking me certain questions. Also, this gives me an opportunity to educate my children; I want them to know what the real world is like.
It's hard talking about sexuality and [ other issues ] because I come from a Christian family background. Me becoming an exotic entertainer—I had no idea that this [ career ] was something that was already in my family. I thought, 'I'm seeing Mom dance, and I'm seeing Chippendales dance,' but even after I wrote the book, my grandmother sat me down for two to three hours and said, 'This is no mistake.' Nobody wanted to tell me what was going on. I'm finding out that a whole chapter is missing from my book.
WCT: I was going to save that question until the end, but I'll ask it now: Was there anything you don't have in this book that you wish you had included?
TT: Just the realness of what my mom's and dad's [ lives ] were. I wish they had told me the truth: that they had done what [ I do ] . My dad brushed it off as ballroom dancing. [ My parents ] didn't really walk me through the journey of same-sex relationships and all that stuff. It was more like, 'When are you going to get out of that?'
WCT: So both of your parents were dancers?
TT: Yes. My grandmother sat me down and explained it to me. My [ parents ] and my dad's mother used to be exotic dancers. I asked her why no one told me this before and she said, 'Because you became more successful than anyone else who did it in the family. … You went further than anyone else; you went on national television and now you're an author. I believe that your mom and dad are jealous of you.' I thought that maybe it's true, [ but ] maybe it isn't.
WCT: I thought you were going to say that maybe your parents were trying to protect you.
TT: No; I don't see my mom and dad trying to protect me [ from ] this entertainment industry. At first, they didn't seem all that shocked and they were happy that the money was coming in. That's one thing I learned about family: When you're doing well, they all start coming at you. As soon as you hit rock bottom, no one wants to talk to you.
[ That being said, ] one of the biggest inspirations in writing this book was to say to everybody, 'Regardless of what happens to you, don't give up on your dreams. Your dream is your dream.' I enjoy the exotic [ dancing ] world, but there's no big future in it; there are no contracts or endorsements.
There are a lot of deep things in this book, such as domestic violence and HIV/AIDS. I'm blessed in that, after 13 years in this industry, I'm HIV-negative, but I could have been positive. I could've just been out there wildin' out.
WCT: And you would've been at risk because …
TT: You're out there, not protecting yourself. The majority of the time I dealt with women, and the majority of those women did not want to use condoms. They would say, 'I don't like that feeling [ of a condom ] . I want that rawness.' This is why I know that it's not just men's fault that women are becoming HIV-positive; it doesn't have to do with men being on the 'down low.'
Even from the aspect of being tested, there's still that window period of six months when [ immunity ] cells could be attacked—but who's going to wait six months? [ However, ] I do believe that women can hold themselves back sexually more than men.
We do need to limit the numbers of sexual partners, especially when we don't know what their sexual histories are. Three women in my family now have been stricken with HIV; I wanted to talk about them in my book, but they got scared.
[ This subject ] is really important to me. Some years ago, a male dancer died in New York from AIDS. Another of my friends, who did porn in Florida, passed away from AIDS. People are just dropping like flies.
WCT: How prevalent would you say HIV/AIDS is within the exotic-dancing industry?
TT: It's not known because no one is saying anything. I know that after my friend, Sensational, died in New York that no one said anything. We really do not promote any shows that raise awareness about [ HIV/AIDS ] . I try to put condoms in people's hands [ where I'm entertaining ] , and a lot of women are like, 'Condoms. Wow. What am I supposed to do with this?' Some women took it as a good thing; others took it as a bad thing. A lot of religious folk are upset about condoms because, if we give them to teenagers, they see it that we're giving teenagers a green light [ to have sex ] .
Outside of that, I talk about my [ two ] marriages. My second wife opened me up to a lot of doors; we talk about the type of sex we had as a married couple. I also talked about [ honesty ] between couples. There's also that journey from women to men … I was finally able to let go—but that didn't happen for me until after I met [ writer ] J.L. King.
When I started dancing for the LGBT community, I started getting the gay men, bisexual men, bisexual women and curious [ people ] . Now, I'm winding up in ménage a trois and these sex things, and I started pulling away. I wasn't ready to handle what a good feeling [ bisexuality ] is.
I learned some things about [ sexual orientation ] . I talked with my lesbian aunts after my book came out, and they explained things to me. [ But ] I also learned [ from other sources ] that there are tons of bisexuals out there.
I'm hoping that we can stop hurting each other and just let them be the way they are. … A lot of members of the Black community are having difficulty accepting family members as being part of the LGBT community.
I'm now talking with my [ children ] about being bi. One of the questions I ask is when LGBT parents tell their children who they are. There are now a lot of children exploring their sexuality, but there's always going to be issues, like race or [ body type ] . But if we were all created the same, the world would be boring.
WCT: Are you in a relationship now?
TT: I'm in a [ somewhat serious ] one; we were together, broke up and now see her off and on. I'm the only man she's been sexually involved with, and she has accepted that I've [ been ] with men. I had to be honest with her: 'Sweetheart, I like variety.' It seems like there are adultery issues [ with couples ] because people are not being honest with one another. … We're letting society dictate who we should love.
WCT: What would you say was your lowest point?
TT: My first point was when I was hit by a car and became semi-paralyzed. My mind kept saying, 'You're never going to do this again. You're never going to be famous.' So I thought about suicide a lot.
My next lowest point was after I divorced my [ second ] wife. If I had opened up and said more to her—it is very hard to say to your wife, 'It's not just women who want to give you money and [ gifts ] ; it's men as well.' I didn't know how to say that there were all these sugar daddies.
There are so many men who would rather go to jail for 15 years than be called 'gay.'
WCT: Where there would be a lot of man-on-man sex.
TT: Bingo. Exactly. I talk about my experience having oral sex in jail. Most men won't talk about something like that.
WCT: How has the exotic-dancing industry reacted to your book?
TT: Within the straight world in New York, a lot of the dancers are afraid of me. Even though I've never come on to the dancers and I never will, they look at me [ with fear ] . Right now, my book is controversial: Male exotic dancers don't want the same stigma as female dancers.
We have to deal with married women who aren't satisfied at home. We might have to deal with that [ jealous ] psychopathic husband. We could be [ attacked ] ; the bouncers aren't going to protect us.
WCT: How much longer do you think you'll dance?
TT: I'm getting into acting and the recording business; I admire rappers like LL Cool J and Will Smith, who don't use terms like 'bitch' and 'ho.' My daughter would be like, 'Daddy, why did you have to say that?'
As for dancing, I'm still able to do it. [ Tahji is 41. ] I enjoy it, but there's a lot of wear-and-tear because I [ physically ] pick up a lot of men and women. But my dream is to have a microphone in my hand and [ rapping ] . I also want to continue writing books.
For more about Tahji's book, see SurvivalFirstPublishing.com and www.Amazon.com . For more about the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus, see www.lovethybrotha.com .