I’m out. About most everything. I use my legal name (first and middle names, since my last name is very unique and I’d like to have some semblance of privacy for the people in my life). I work professionally using that name. My only living relative, my mother, knows that I’m a sex educator and that I am involved in multiple consensually non-monogamous relationships (I would tell her I am queer, if I decide I want to bring a non-male identified partner home to meet her, but given her age and my reticence to introduce anyone to her in her current state, that’s unlikely to happen). My boss & coworkers know about me – in fact, my managers read my website before hiring me.
Do I think everyone should be out? Absolutely. Do I think that’s in any way realistic? Not a chance in hell.
The reality is that it’s painful to be out about a lot of who we are. Stating that we’re kinky, queer, trans, or any other sexual or gender minority could potentially cause the loss of a job, a lover, a family, or one’s own life. Some of my trans female friends are (very rightfully) scared of being outed, as many transwomen have been killed by people who were threatened by their presence and their embodiment of self gender determination. Some of my kinky friends are very cautious about who they talk to and how they share their information, as their activity in the BDSM & Leather communities could cost them custody of their children or their job security. These are real issues – and sadly, the rest of the world has not caught up to the concepts of self-determination in one’s sexuality or gender identity.
Unfortunately, until we reach a tipping point of people who are out about all of these things, we won’t see any change. The groundswell of gay men & lesbians “coming out” in the 1970′s and 1980′s was, first and foremost, a radical social act. By forcing those around them to acknowledge the reality and authenticity of their lives, these men and women presented a public face of queerness; no longer could society say “Oh, those gays, you know they’re all pedophiles” without putting forth an image of your awesome Uncle Mike who taught his niece how to ride a bike, or Ms Jones down the street, who always brings food to shut ins in the neighborhood. They put names and faces on the terms “gay” and “lesbian”, at the cost of their own safety and security, and made it increasingly impossible for a minority of human beings to live in a state of marginalization. The rights that we have today were fought for, tooth and nail, by all of these people and their friends, families, and allies, standing up for their right to be treated equally.
My fear is that, until society sees enough normal-looking people who acknowledge their sexual or gender minority status, we won’t see any changes. When kinky people are constantly demonized as freaks who care little about themselves (and even less about their sexual partners), we can’t expect that society will see us as compassionate parents and competent members of that society. When the only images we have of poly folks are cult-type polygamist figures, we can’t expect that people will see relationships that involve more than two people as healthy, mutually-respectful ways of creating a family. When society’s only idea of trans bodies is that of street-based sex workers and self hatred, we cannot expect that transmen and transwomen (as well as those who do not identify as part of a gender binary) would be treated with respect and compassion by health care workers & law enforcement agencies.
We have to stop passing as hetero-normative. We all have to decide how we can, in some small way, come out. It may be just telling our friends, or disclosing our truth to a potentially sympathetic family member. It may be talking to our doctors about what we do, and demanding accurate healthcare based on medical fact, not social fear. It may be walking down the street, hand in hand with all of our lovers. It may be emblazoning our truth on tee-shirts and flying a flag announcing our reality. And if we cannot do those things, our only way of “coming out” may be talking with our dollars, by supporting organizations that help to end discrimination against sexual & gender minorities. But regardless – if we care about whether the next generation of people have the ability to insist on their rights, we have to start fighting for them.
Because, in the end, we owe it to them to create a world where they can be who they are, no questions asked and no apology necessary.
I’ve spent some time this week feeling real sadness that the concept of family & love that I was raised with is not my current reality. Mind you, I would not trade what I have for those old concepts – a nuclear family based on a monogamous heterosexual marriage with 2.3 children – but I still mourn it’s loss.
I met my future ex-husband when I was 21. We wed when I was in my mid-20′s – I was certain that what I needed to do with my life was to be a good wife & mother, and I had put all my energy into just that role. But after a few years, I realized that the cost was far too high; I had given up the core of who I was as an emotional, spiritual, and sexual woman in order to become what I was told that I should become. I made the very difficult choice to step out on my own, and eventually chose to end my marriage. My foray into the BDSM community started in earnest after my separation began, and it was there that I finally found some sense of sexual self esteem…followed by a sense of who I am as a complete, whole human being.
I cannot say that I would ever go back to what I had, or what I was supposed to have. But there are times that I look around and realize that the old training is still there, buried under the surface. The “what if’s” are like subtle echoes of ghosts walking through my home. What if I end up alone and unloved, because I never married or had children? What if I become gravely ill, and have no support? What if I never have another companion that shares my bed? What am I missing out on? The questions are dusty and dry; they blow through my mind like a dry wind across the desert, pulling the richness out of my experience of that moment.
I honestly do not know what will happen, or what I might have missed. I can only begin to imagine what my life as a married parent might have been like. I do not know what it is like to have a decades-long relationship with a life partner. But I do know that my life, right now, as it stands today, stands out in stark contrast to what I had before – I occasionally say that it’s like walking out of Dorothy’s black-and-white filmed house into a vibrantly technicolor Oz, full of lushness and brilliance. And I look around at the people in my life, and I know that while my family may not look like what it was “supposed to” look like, it is a group of people, both lovers and friends, that I am honored and astounded have chosen to be part of my life. And in my case, that’s the crux of it – my family is my family, and it is enough.
No, wait, it is more than enough – it is everything.
I’m proud of the people who do not “pass”…who never “passed”…because the strength and depth of commitment to authenticity that they have shown is what has made life start getting easier for so many queer people today.
I’m proud of the people who did the right thing when their friends, family, and lovers came out, and supported & loved them not despite their queerness, but because it was a sign of tremendous trust and vulnerability for them to tell their truth.
I’m proud of the people that guard and treat queer people in rough situations – the homeless shelters that work with queer youth who have been kicked out of their homes, the people that understand that domestic violence knows no gender or orientation, the people that provide compassionate health care for trans people without judgement or bias, and the people who do the right thing to safeguard the lives of those around them.
I’m proud of every LGBT soldier who raised their voices long & loud to fight for the right to fight for their country. And I’m proud that they are now coming out in public so that each American can see how amazing, diverse, and devoted our military service people are.
I’m proud to see the faces of people who demand their right to have their relationship recognized by the government. I’m proud to see the words from churches around the nation that refuse to deny the right to have all marriages & loving unions blessed at their altars.
I’m proud to be consistently taught about what the lives of my friends and acquaintances are like, and to bear witness to their triumphs and struggles. I’m grateful each moment that they open up their pain & joy to share with others, in hopes that their experiences can help someone else.
I’m proud to identify as a queer woman. I’m grateful to every queer person that came out before me, because it’s those people who made it possible for me to live my life the way that I am. And I hope that for every person that comes out, the path gets a little bit easier…until there is no reason to fear speaking our truth.
As is quite obvious from the date stamps on my blog entries, I haven’t been writing much here lately. Life – lovely, gorgeous, busy life – has been getting all up in the way. But it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking, and listening, and talking. A lot of topics have been at the top of my mind lately, namely being an educator and dealing with the big questions around consent…and so I thought I’d try to capture some of those thoughts, in short form. (And thanks for the prod to do so, Sheryn!)
What is vital in my life is the ability to create learning & growth opportunities for others while keeping my ego & expectations in check. I believe that being given the chance to help shape & change opinions by being in a place of power or fame is a sacred responsibility. I believe that, if you seek out or accept that power or fame, your ego has to take a back seat. It becomes a sacred act each time you speak. I believe that if you let ego overtake humility, your words become out of balance, and so does your sense of self. You push people away, rather than attract them. And if you push them far enough away, you have no hope of them hearing your truth.
What is also vital in my life is my sense of autonomy, my ability to choose my own path and my own fate. It’s a birthright for each of us, and while not all of us are able to be self supporting in the same ways, we all have the right – and the responsibility – to make our own choices. We also have the responsibility to live with the repercussions of those choices. One of the things I remember my first 12-step sponsor telling me is that I could do anything I wanted to…as long as I was willing to accept the consequences. And she was right.
I am able to give consent, or to withdraw it. Everyone is. Even if you think that you are prevented from doing so, you still have the RIGHT to do so. If your consent has been violated, call the cops, file a complaint, fight back, speak your truth. If it may have been an accident, then communicate with the person that you believe violated your consent. Tell them what they did, and why it crossed a line, and how you felt. And for goodness sake, use your voice before the fact to clearly state what is okay and what is not. A person who does not wish to harm you in any way can still do so if they do not know that their words or actions may cause you harm – and that’s especially true when you’re talking about sex. But if you say that something is okay, clearly and without undue influence, and later find out that it really wasn’t – speak up, and take responsibility for your own well being. I cannot read the minds of my partners, and unless they tell me that the boundary is close by or about to be crossed, I have zero hope of ensuring that I continue to be a responsible partner.
The best thing about being right where I am, at this very moment, is that I can act in ways that were not possible five years ago. I have learned more about myself and about what my path is. I’m better able to remove my own expectations from how that all turns out. I cannot be the Big Name Educator that others are; and you know, I’m pretty cool with that. Screw quantity of events, to hell with where on the list of presenters my name falls (or even if it’s there at all). What matters to me is that I’m still growing at this life thing, and while I’m here, I believe that my job is to help provide other people with the tools to do the same. With all my flaws, and all my failings, my greatest wish for my own life is that I remain teachable and accountable. And that is good enough for me.
Every once in a while, I look around me and think “whoah – how did I get here?”. This is one of those times.
My contributors copies of The Ultimate Guide to Kink, by Tristan Taormino, arrived on my doorstep today. Some of my writing is in there; my chapter is entitled “Whole Hand Sex” and starts on page 69 (yes, seriously!), and discusses the hows and whys of vaginal fisting. And while that is cool…what’s amazing and humbling to me is being included in a book with people who shaped the way I think about kink and sex, and the way I educate. Midori, who was one of the first educators I had an opportunity to see. Patrick Califia, whose writing was formative in both my pervy kinky ideas and in my concepts of sex, gender, and family. Laura Antoniou, who has been an example of intelligence and a wicked sense of humor for me since I first saw her reading from her work in Richmond, VA a dozen or so years ago. Tristan Taormino, a woman who, in a very real way, has shaped & created a path for me, and has supported me with her spirit, her tenacity, her business acumen, and her recommendations for years. And others. And more. And more.
If you have not purchased your copy yet, please do so. You can click here (in which case, I’ll make a quarter or so off of it). You can pick it up at any of The Pleasure Chest stores (NY got it first!). You can visit your local bookseller (preferably a locally-owned establishment). But do give it a peek. If you’re a newcomer to the world of kink, a jaded pervert, or somewhere in between, I guarantee you’ll find something in this book that you didn’t know, that you haven’t thought of, or that inspires you to take a risk and ask for what you want. And now that I have my copy, I’ll do the same…
This past weekend, I was invited to present the keynote speech at Colonial Kink in Williamsburg, Virginia. They asked that I speak on the topic of diversity in the kink / leather communities, and since it’s something that I’ve been doing a lot of listening, thinking, and conversing with friends & peers in the community, I was pleased to do so. I have had a couple of requests from people for the text of the speech, so here it is…I hope that you find it enjoyable – but more than that, I hope that you find it thought and conversation provoking.
A little over 22 years ago, I found a community that changed my life; it changed how I viewed the world, how I accepted myself, who I gave my time and energy to, and ultimately it developed me into the leatherwoman that stands before you today. It was not the BDSM or Leather community that I found at that time – it was the community of Alcoholics Anonymous. And I’ve found that the ideals (or the Twelve Steps & Traditions, for those of you that are familiar with those sorts of groups) have shaped how I perceive my role in the kink communities – and how I see my community of calling & choice as it relates to the world today. Read the rest of this entry »
Last month, Garnet at MyPleasure.com (where I’ve done a few blog posts) sent me a new glass toy from Joyful Pleasure that she thought I’d like. Well…she was right.
This? This is the Pure Joy, an unusually-shaped glass toy with a flat base At 6.5″ insertable length, and with a 1.5″ width, it’s definitely filling; those who love girthier toys will enjoy this one.The design is very similar to some of the other bead / bubble shaped toys – a series of bubbles that flow smoothly into each other, giving your body lots of opportunity to tighten or relax around them & providing for some really amazing g-spot stimulation! (Unfortunately, my prostate-enabled co-tester was unavailable for this, but I’m guessing that he would have loved it – the gentle curve is fantastic for reaching deep inside). Anally, this is something that is definitely not a beginner toy, but if you’re used to using larger toys and love ripples (or your favorite set of larger anal beads), I’d give this a shot.
It has a base that can ostensibly be used with a harness, but I could not get it to fit & hold up well in my Spare Parts or my Aslan harnesses, as the weight of the toy pulled it too far forward for me to get the right aim – however, if you’re willing to support it with your hands or do shorter thrusts with it, it’ll likely work great for you!
I was personally not a huge fan of the bubbles for thrusting – I prefer a bit less of a bumpy ride than these offer – but an in-place, rocking motion hit my g-spot beautifully. It’s got enough girth at the top to really press against the g-spot, rather than “poking” at it like some toys with narrower or more pointed heads. I’d compare the sensations favorably with the larger head on the Pure Wand, and as I usually talk about in my g-spot classes, glass and metal are my two favorites for really getting the pressure that g- (and p-) spots love without the friction involved in other materials.
My one major complaint about this toy is the lack of information on the type of glass used. The box says “handmade” and “fracture resistant”, as well as that the glass is safe to boil & freeze – so my *guess* is that it’s shaped from a rod of borosilicate glass, but without that information, I cannot really feel 100% confident about that. As a result, I’m not going to do a heat sanitizing run on it as I’d do with other toys (I’m using antibacterial soap & water on this, which with a non-porous glass toy is sufficient for me to feel confident that it’s clean as a whistle). I’d love to see the type of glass listed on the packaging – maybe the folks at Joyful Pleasures can do that on their next product run?
All in all, it’s a lovely addition to my sex toy collection, and I’m not just saying that because it’s now sitting on my end table in my bedroom, looking lovely while it’s waiting for it’s next play session. Thanks, Garnet!
I’m so happy to be heading to the annual Leather Leadership Conference in Nashville, TN this April! For those of you that aren’t familiar with LLC, it’s an annual conference that brings together people who help make the organization side of the community work – whether it’s volunteers, board members, education coordinators, educators, titleholders, event producers, vendors, or people who will be growing into those roles. It offers them (us!) a chance to work together for two days, to share their experiences, listen to new ideas, view poster presentations, and find the resources to help their group, event, business, or organization grow & develop in the coming years.
Here are the details of my class, Building Bridges & Creating Change:
Nothing can live in a vacuum – not even if it’s made of leather. Community building requires us to work with outside organizations, local businesses, and non-profits in order to do everything from raising funds for charities to letting novices know about safe spaces & techniques. At it’s best, those organizations can support us in our own mission, and can provide valuable allies in our efforts towards demystifying & decriminalizing our sexuality. Sarah Sloane, manager of The Pleasure Chest – Chicago and long-time kink educator & activist, will discuss concrete ways that activists, groups, and event board members can engage in building those connections with the non-kink world that they live in.
If you are at all involved in the “back end” of the alternative sexuality community, there is no place like LLC to get your network & education needs met. With three pre-conference sessions (one on adult sexual education that offers CE credits, and one on small publishing & self publishing taught by none other than Janet Hardy), classes from presenters including Rick Storer of the LA&M, Vivienne Kramer, Susan Wright, Mark Frazier, Allena Gabosch, and more and more and more…it’s going to be amazing.
If you are curious, or you think that LLC may be just what you’re looking for, please visit their website. Currently, registration is super inexpensive – only $89! There are also scholarships available for folks who can’t afford to pay for registration – if you’re interested, please drop a note to LLCNashvilleSROC@yahoo.com by 1/30/2012 with “scholarship” in the subject line for more info.
Hope to see many of you there – it’s going to be an amazing weekend in Nashville, TN!
Mistress Manners is guest writing my blog this week…
Recently, I have been inundated by electronic mail, “tweet” messages, and penned missives from ladies, gentlemen, and gentlequeers who are uncomfortable with the lack of etiquette guides for their sexual encounters. While I must admit, I do not have the ability to write a tome dedicated to the arts of mannerly love, I am pleased to offer a few simple considerations to ensure that your next intimate acts (or, “the making of the beast with two backs”, as you young people call it these days) are polite, mannerly, and will likely yield repeated invitations from your host.
1. Be clean and prepared. Be freshly bathed, avoid heavy perfumes or colognes, and make sure that your underthings are clean and attractive. Your guests would appreciate a well laid table; your lover would likely feel the same way.
2. Always bring a “host gift” of safer sex supplies. These can be arranged in a lovely basket, made into a centerpiece, or placed into a foil wrapped box to add charm and attractiveness to the gift. Not arriving with a gift of barriers is akin to showing up to dinner without any food to contribute – it’s rude, and it places the burden on your host, which shows a lack of courtesy on your part.
3. Always ask permission before you touch anything, or wait until it is offered to you. “May I wrap my hand around your penis?” is far more mannerly than simply doing so, and until you and your partner know each other well enough to have a greater understanding of their pleasures and comforts, a cautious approach is best.
4. A gracious host will understand that even the most careful guest will occasionally have an accident, or need to end the evening early due to physical weariness. Be prepared to respond to these situations in a manner that shows respect and compassion. A nearby damp cloth or a promise of a future engagement can often soothe the guests’ sense of discomfort.
5. Try a bit of everything offered (unless you are certain that it is not to your taste), and if you decide you don’t like it, simply say no and direct to the top selections on the menu. Compliment your host honestly; saying that you loved their cunnlingual techniques when you didn’t is dishonest and does not give them the necessary feedback required for them to adjust their entertainment skills. Far better to compliment the things that you did love, even if it’s the basics, such as that their bedding was highly comfortable or that their choice of lube was sublime.
6. Finally, thank you notes are quite important, even in more intimate engagements. Sending your host a brief letter or card describing your pleasure at their invitation and in their company, as well as perhaps inviting them to be your guest at some future time (if you should feel so motivated to engage in further intercourse with them, both social and physical), both shows you to be a guest that they would enjoy having back into their homes, as well as expresses the gratitude that you should certainly feel after having been invited to join with them for an intimate evening.