GoGo for gold-think RuPaul’s Drag Race but for go-go boys – features a jaw-dropping roster of fuzzy bears, dancers in heels and trans man Paulo Batista, all competing for a $10,000 cash prize and the title of “No. 1 American Champion Gogo Superstar Star”.
“Not everyone is attracted to abs and big thighs,” says Batista, 38, a competitive bodybuilder and building manager for Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago. “Some audiences want to see bears and daddies, some want to see performers who are just really good dancers. We’re all diverse. Even within the trans community, we all present ourselves differently. You have some non- binary, you’ve got feminine, you’ve got hyper-masculine alpha, which is kind of like my vibe when you watch this show, it’s important to see that we’re all different and we all bring something major and amazing at the table.
For the uninitiated, a go-go boy (or go-go girl, or person) is basically someone with enough attire to dance in a skimpy or revealing outfit on stage or above the bar in a nightclub or bar setting. Technically, a go-go boy is not so much a stripper as a dancer employed in a bar whose job is to delight, amuse and entertain the crowd, sometimes for cash tips.
A panel of judges fleshes out the winner based on four categories: Fantasy, Body, Dance and Individuality, with one or more contestants eliminated each week. GoGo for gold is currently streaming on the LGBTQ+ streaming service OUTtv.
Batista’s fellow contestants were “super supportive” when they found out he was trans. “Some of them were surprised because, I hate to say it, I have this passing privilege in the trans community. In the end, they were all really excited to see that I could bring this representation to the show.
GoGo for gold, which premiered on May 13, airing weekly on OUTtv and is available through Roku, Apple TV, iOS and Android apps, and other streaming platforms.
Performing as a trans go-go dancer in the LGBTQ+ bar scene has its challenges. “Sometimes it’s hard to find work because the bar owners are scared. Like, to be honest, I don’t have bottom surgery. I wear a prosthetic phallus. So if something happens while I’m playing on stage, how will it affect the crowd? I was refused [for gigs] many times, but other times. . . this is not a problem. I mean, look at me: I did a reality show with the top 12 go-go dancers in the country! Over the years, Batista has danced at Jackhammer and Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, two popular Chicago LGBTQ+ bars with male dancers, without incident.
According to Batista, the Northalsted/Boystown area is generally welcoming to transgender people, although improvements to increase diversity and inclusion are always needed, regardless of neighborhood or space. “Wherever I went and showed my ID, I had no problem,” says Batista, who hasn’t legally changed her biological name. “All of my legal documents, credit cards and IDs have my original birth name, Paula, but I have yet to encounter a ‘bad feeling’ at all. There is even a crosswalk for the transgender community in this area,’ he said, referring to the pink, white and blue crosswalk – the colors of the transgender flag – in Melrose and Halsted, one of the 14 rainbow-colored pedestrian crossings along Halsted in the neighborhood. .
Batista made the transition over 12 years ago. “I transitioned when transitioning wasn’t even really an option. But I’m a persistent, stubborn person. I didn’t listen to people telling me what I could and couldn’t do, because that I knew who I was. Over the years I had my top surgery, I had my hormones and I just went my own way. My advice to others is to persevere in your dreams. You find a way. It may not be quick and instantaneous, but you just have to be patient.
GoGo for gold inspires viewers to think outside the box (go-go) by featuring contestants, like Batista, whose appeal is ultimately rooted in their personal stories and how they connect to audiences, rather than standard perceptions physical beauty.
“It’s also just a good cheesy show. It’s for fun and it shouldn’t be taken too seriously,” adds Batista, before describing one of his favorite moments behind the scenes. “I think the funniest hue was me there with three different sizes of prosthetic phallus pieces just to give different looks, like a go-go dancer would. I asked them, ‘Which one should I wear today, guys?’ and they were so jealous! They were like, ‘We’re glad you can choose!’
While the response from viewers has been largely positive, Batista admits that some of the comments on social media, particularly those criticizing someone’s looks or talent, have been disappointing, but not completely surprising. “I hate to say it, but I feel like there’s too much jealousy in the world. And it’s especially hard to hear it from our own community. People sometimes hate seeing other people living happy lives. and true!
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