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Life > Experiences

Tracks and Transformation: How a Nightclub Visit Changed My Life

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

Was I allowed to park here? Why did the signs in Denver have to be so confusing? Ok…so I can park here every other Tuesday except for the third Tuesday of every month between 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., and on Thursdays, I can only park here facing north…it’s probably fine. I slam my car door and try not to think about it. I have bigger things to worry about. 

The week before spring break, I was invited by a friend to join her at Tracks, an LGBTQIA+ club located in Denver that opened its doors in the early 80s and quickly became one of the most popular queer clubs in Colorado. I quickly agreed. Why? To be honest, I don’t know. I’m an introvert. Loud noises scare me, bright lights overstimulate me, and my OCD makes it difficult to be in crowded rooms. So a nightclub where music blared, lights flashed, and bodies constantly bumped up against each other was, by definition, my living nightmare. And yet, rather than explaining that to her, I heard an enthusiastic “Yes! I’d love to!” escape my mouth. 

Now, I stood next to my car in the dark at 9:30 p.m. on the streets of Denver, clad in my leather jacket and Converse, staring at the building in front of me. It pulsated with light and music and screams and laughter. It was loud. It was bright. And it was crowded. What had I done? 

My phone dings. It’s my friend. 

Where are you? 

By the door. 

Come inside! We’ll go in together!

I slip the phone back into my pocket. Well…too late now, and I step into the club. 

It’s a small entrance. A square room with a metal detector leading to a winding maze of barriers that end at a ticket booth. To the right a wall of flashing rainbow colored lights, to the left a wall filled with posters. In front of me, my girl. 

“You made it!” she flings her arms around me, and I hug her back, thankful for something familiar and safe to hold onto, “Come on!”

She leads me through security and up to the ticket booth. 

“Hi, hun!” a drag queen peers at me through the glass window, her makeup done to the nines, exaggerating her full lips and big eyes. 

I smile. I think she knows it’s my first time because she speaks softly and compliments my outfit, telling me I look good and to make sure I take care of myself tonight. I thank her as she marks my hands with two large X’s and points me towards the ramp that will take me into the main area of the club. 

It’s alive. That’s my first impression as I enter the dim, smokey room. People dash back and forth, wrapping each other in warm hugs and words of welcome. It’s the beginning of the night and parties are meeting up, getting adjusted, and preparing for the festivities ahead. Lights skim across the floor, lighting up faces and bodies. Music erupts from four large speakers adjusted around a small dance floor situated in front of a small T-shaped stage on which two dancers swing their hips in time with the beat. 

I had steeled myself for the inevitable wave of anxiety that usually comes when I enter a space like this. I had prepared my excuse to step out early and reminded myself of my coping skills to help me make it through the night. I was ready. 

And yet, I didn’t need to be. As my friend dragged me through the various rooms, pointing out bathrooms and patios, I kept waiting for the breakdown I had prepped for. But it never came. All that came was…excitement. In this crowded, smoky, loud, and flashy room where I should have been terrified out of my wits, I felt…excited. 

After the tour, she dragged me to the small dance floor and began to rock to the beat. She looked at me expectantly. 

“Is this what we do?” I shouted over the music, “Just dance?” 

She laughed and nodded, taking my hands and swinging them around. I began to move. As my hips swung and my shoulders dipped in time with the beat, I began to take in my surroundings. Drag queens milled in and out of the crowd, drawing cheers and applause wherever they went. Shirtless waiters behind a long bar laughed and danced with their customers, pointing to bathrooms and other amenities. The dancers on stage moved with a confidence that I envied. They held a pride and comfortability in their skin and bodies that I had strived to obtain for years. The people around me hugged and kissed and moved with a freedom I had never experienced before. It felt like the room and its inhabitants were sighing, releasing an enormous amount of built-up tension. A tension I myself had come to know as I entered my queer journey. A tension caused by consistently looking over your shoulder and wondering to whom and when it was safe to reveal your small secret rainbow. A tension built over years of news headlines and politicians promising to thwart your existence, churches detailing to you the various forms of torture you will undergo after death for committing the simple sin of loving a human being. But here, in this small corner of Denver, that tension dissipated. Here, it felt safe to breathe and to be — freely and without judgment or fear. 

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As we moved further into the crowd, closer to the thumping speakers and farther from reality, I began to take note of the bodies surrounding me. They came in an array of colors and shapes and presentations. Tall, small, slim, curvy. Decorated in slick fabrics and glittering jewels or, in some cases, scarcely covered at all. But all moving so freely. There was no shame here, no right or wrong way to be, only a celebration of the human body in every way it came. They moved with ease and confidence and freedom, flowing in unison as if they’d done this a thousand times before. As if they owned the world, claiming their place in it with their arms, legs, hips, chests, and hearts. So visible and so wild and so unbound from expectation. 

As I moved in time with them, I felt their rhythm in my chest and stomach. Their pulse and breath became my own, and I felt something crack open in my mind. It’s difficult to explain what it was that I felt. In this crowd of simultaneous anonymity and community, I felt for the first time in my life permission to be completely and totally myself. Every aspect. Whatever messy, wild, imperfect part was not something to hide or to laugh at and label “quirky” in an effort to save face. It was to be upheld, honored and celebrated. Here, the norms were to be defied, and the rules were to be broken. You were not here to present a perfect, dolled-up, checklist version of yourself. Here, in this wonderfully queer space, there was an acknowledgment that you would never fit that box. And you were not meant to. Your purpose was not to conform, but to break. Break free, break out, break apart. And rebuild in your own time, in your own way, in your own image. 

I became lost in the haze, in the bodies, in the music. I let myself go, breathing in the love and the hope I had been so starved of. It’s odd. In this place of chaos and noise, bright lights and constant touch…in this place that was supposed to bring me nothing but anxiety and fear, I found the greatest peace and belonging. 

I knew I would be coming back.

Hannah van Duursen

CU Boulder '25

Hannah (she/they) is a contributing writer at Her Campus at the CU Boulder chapter in Colorado. She covers a variety of topics ranging from pressing social justice issues to book reviews to discussions about mental and emotional health. Outside of their Her Campus work, Hannah enjoys volunteering at their local Planned Parenthood and seeking out other opportunities to give back to their community. Hannah is currently working towards a bachelors degree in Women and Gender studies and a minor in Spanish. She's passionate about social justice work and hopes to one day obtain her PhD to become a professor of Women and Gender studies. When not campaigning for human rights, Hannah can be found hiking in the woods or diving into a good book. They adores cats and can often be found at their local cat cafe sipping hot chocolate and hanging with the kitties! She's also a major movie buff and will talk for hours on end about her latest marathon to anyone who will listen. With her interest in the arts, it’s no surprise she enjoys creating herself. She currently houses a large collection of poems she’s written that cover everything from her thoughts on puppies to her questions about what humanities' role is in this small corner of the universe.