Dedication and Elitism
17 January 2017 | 5:52 pm

There are some for whom kink is merely an interest, and others for whom it is a passion. While there is nothing wrong with kink being a low priority, progress is seldom won without people willing to sacrifice their time, energy, and even their enjoyment. A community does not simply happen on its own and without proper nurturing it can - and will - wither.

I cannot adequately state how important community is to kink practices. At its most basic value, it allows vetting of potential play partners by means of reputation; even this most rudimentary of functions is invaluable. More substantially, many kinksters have faced ostracization for their interests and being a part of a community helps dial back those feelings of rejection. This comfort results in an environment conducive to experimenting, which is obviously paramount in kink. Having community also allows people to share experiences, not only to aid growth but to protect others from repeating avoidable mistakes. And while it’s not directly related to kink practices, having community still offers a support network for when things go wrong with real life. Even if having a community only served one of these purposes it would be worth sacrifice; with all of these benefits it’s worth dedication.

Growing and sustaining a community truly does take a lot of work, and demands a wide array of people with varied capabilities. This can be as simple as being willing to help with grunt work for an event, as complicated as having the networking skills necessary to bring new people into the fold, or as easy as just showing up places frequently to show support. Every contribution matters, and every person can contribute in a meaningful way, regardless of their skills: what matters is simply the willingness to do so. One of the things I strive for in my daily life (both professional and personal) is ensuring those around me never feel deliberately excluded. I can have a bit of a hot temper sometimes, but the potential of someone feeling unwelcome just for being themself is something I try to avoid at all costs. When a community welcomes everyone, not only does it grant access to useful resources for individuals, it also ensures the community attracts the talent necessary to sustain. If you turn away people for their flaws, you don’t get to see what they can grow into or what they can bring to the table once they decide to give back. It’s not just that this inclusivity is useful, It’s that it’s the right thing to do.

There has recently been a lot of talk about elitism, specifically within the pup community. These arguments have been around for ages in other communities like leather, but CPP’s membership restructure somehow still seems to be stirring up arguments about what inclusivity looks like. So far as I can tell, there seems to be a misunderstanding where people believe inclusivity means “equal treatment” instead of “equal access.” As I said before, community does not build or sustain itself by magic: it is done through hard work and sacrifice. There is always be work to be done and the community will always need to be nourished, meaning active contributions will always be valued; just as a community can wither from neglect, so can recognition. Any individuals seeking such recognition are welcome to seek out the work, bearing in mind simply showing up to support something is an incredibly valuable contribution. It is both unfair and unreasonable to expect the same treatment as those making active contributions should you be unwilling to contribute, yourself.

As I look at the kink community, I see new people coming in all the time. I see cocky assholes come in and become humbled and respectful. I see awkward kids come in and find friends they mesh with, finally getting comfortable. I see people with anxiety slowly learn to manage it through exposure to controlled situations. A good portion of these people even come into the community lacking a single connection to begin with, and they are still taken in despite their flaws. I could not be prouder to be a part of a community that is inclusive enough to accept those with flaws without hesitation, only to make a concerted effort to help with these flaws. Though “elitism” has some strongly negative connotations, it is not an intrinsically negative thing. When, for instance, “elitism” refers to the caliber of person willing to continually give back to the community as I've described, I cannot bring myself to see that elevated status in a negative light. While there are some circles who seek recognition as its own reward, the kink community is overwhelmingly populated by people for whom kink is a passion and who find value in community. Those who see it as a lifestyle understand how difficult the journey can be, and naturally seek to make that journey easier for others in any way they can. Moreover, they are still happy to use their experience and knowledge to benefit those who may be less passionate.

There are two things that come to mind (other than defensiveness) as I hear these accusations of elitism. First, it is perfectly natural - and ideal - for a group to distinguish between those merely interested in something and those who are passionate about it. It is perfectly fine to not be passionate, just as it is to recognize that a shared interest runs deeper; everyone can’t be passionate about everything, and those who <i>are</i> passionate about something deserve to be able to bond over that deeper level of interest. Second, if you feel as though you are being treated as “lesser” due to a perceived lack of passion, find ways to express that passion. Recognition is not deserved without effort, and a community is not there simply to serve you or stroke your ego. We’re all in this together, and we need everyone to do their fair share; if you’re not passionate enough to help, you’re not passionate enough to need recognition or lament a lack of it.

If you are passionate about kink, be patient and be open: there is a place for you, but we all have to carve a little space for ourselves. Find people who share your particular passion and make something of it.

Moving On
29 December 2016 | 9:08 pm

This blog is, and always will be, primarily a kink blog. That being said, community is an important part of kink and this year has been inundated with loss for many. I thought hard about whether or not to post this, not wanting to change the tone of the blog again, but I’m hoping that doing so will either bring fond memories of someone who passed or a hopeful thought for a way forward. Feel free to keep scrolling if you’re not in search of either.

The last few months have been hard, and I’m very glad to feel nearly out of the woods. I recently went through a calendar I keep of daily activities in case I ever need a look back, and realized it was the first week of the year that I had to amputate my dog's leg. I knew this year had been bad, but it somehow didn't really register how wrought with trauma it was from the very beginning. As the year draws to a close, I’m not sure if it’s the proximity to the end of the year, or the distance from the sources of my grief that has me feeling better, but I will not take that progress for granted. Despite this, there were some recent backslides as some things I’d used to help process by grief wavered, and there was a recent resurgence of the need for answers. As the questions came back, I found myself very prone to tears for several days, and it took a lot of soul-searching and heart-to-hearts to feel sane again. During this short-lived regression, all I could think was, "Don't let yourself become defined by sadness," which was thankfully enough to keep me moving forward.

I don't think many people realize it, but joy is actually a burden. There are people who go most of their lives without experiencing real joy and they are rightly contented in their banality, but once one has felt joy life is woefully bleak in its absence. Those who have felt it recognize its value and as such are very apt to protect it in whatever ways they can, including self-sacrifice. Much of the time this can mean simply feigning stability as others waver, or putting aside your own feelings to make sure others don't wallow in their own, but joy is seldom preserved without cost. I think one of the main reasons I loved Thom as much as I did is he was always a champion of absurdity and joy; never in my life have I met someone as determined to preserve joy as he was. Absurd and magical things happen all the time, but he recognized them instead of taking them for granted, sharing that gleeful view with others. I didn't love him for the joy he brought to the world, I loved him because I knew he cared more about protecting the joy of others than he did for his own - despite the tremendous pain he carried.

When I think about moving forward, about moving on, the only way I can find is to be conscious of the life I want to live - hence my fear of being defined by sadness. It’s such an abstract concept that it can be a little hard to visualize, but I recently realized there is a Thom story I hadn't yet shared with many people that perfectly sums up the life I want to live.

It was the last night I ever got to see Thom, three very short weeks after he let me back into his life. He loved hockey - playing it, watching it, wearing the gear - and that night his team was having a beer bust at a gay sports bar. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity to see him an extra day on top of what I had dubbed “sneaky date night,” even though I always feel a little fish-out-of-water at sports-related things. We hung out with the team for a while, and some friends decided to have people over to their place after the bar. Everyone else either ubered or took public transit, but Thom and I decided to walk. I don't know if he wanted the time with me alone, just wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather, or even if he couldn't afford the extra $2.50 for the train ride because he was so short on cash, but it was Thom. He could have suggested we crab walk there and I would have, just for the excuse to have more time with him.

Along the way we took a lot of alleys because, true to form, we had a beer or two stored in our bag. At one point, we passed a garbage can that was overflowing, with a bag sitting next to it that seemed out of place. Upon closer inspection we found it held an entire tea set, with at least 15-20 different pieces in all, in impeccable condition. We were at a loss as to why someone would discard such fine cuppery, so we decided to take them and went on to the friends' house with the full tea set in hand.

Of course I can't imagine being on the other end of the experience, but if someone I was expecting to walk straight to my house from the bar showed up with a full tea set I would likely be a little perplexed - even as entrenched in madness as I am. Looking back at my time with him, things like this were perfectly Thom: he was so engrossed in Life that he could find magic in a discarded tea set, and he made it his personal mission to share the joy of such absurdity as often as he could.

As the new year draws nigh, I keep coming back to this story. I'm sure it's partly because I really miss Thom and could not think of a more “him” story: a single memory that shows his incredible ability to find joy in the mundane, constantly defy expectations, and always be unapologetically himself. But more so than that, I think I keep dwelling on it because I never realized just how much I truly admired him for these qualities until he was gone. It’s not that I took them for granted, I just never quite isolated them as things that were decidedly him, and certainly did not realize there were aspects of him that could be carried on.

When grieving, it’s easy to think of loss as a hole: time and love gone from your life that you desperately want to fill. If loss is sudden, of course this seems even more stark since all the pain has such a recognizable form, but loss is never a hole. A hole just sits there quietly and can, by most measures, actually be filled. No, loss is more like a dropped torch: something that changes how the world around it looks simply by existing, gone. While the world will never look the same, we can still remember how that torch changed the world and try our best to keep that influence alive.

I've never been a fan of New Year's resolutions, but I think I can get behind trying to set a general course: I want spend the year being the kind of person who, even in his darkest hour, can still see magic in a discarded tea set. I loved Thom and I will always miss him and the perspective he brought to the world, but it’s time I stop trying to fill a hole and start trying to bear a torch.

I hope everyone finds some joy in the upcoming year; you all deserve it after one so trying.

The Follies of Binary Identities
1 November 2016 | 10:59 pm

I’ll be perfectly honest: gender identity confuses the fuck out of me. I’m a cisgendered, homosexual male, so virtually everything about my sexuality is centered around male energy and, of course, male genitalia. While understanding the nuances and struggles that come from being transgendered are well beyond my grasp, there are certain aspects I feel I can relate to. As a homosexual, I can relate to negative responses when an individual becomes aware of my sexual orientation. These reactions, in my personal experience, have ranged from immediately expressing disapproval to explosive anger which can potentially escalate to violence. If you take one thing away from this post remember that, specifically for transwomen, this reveal can not only jeopardize their safety but directly endanger their lives. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Try an ignorant, heterosexual male feeling like someone just deliberately "tricked him into bein a fuckin faggot." However wrong the sentiment may be, the resulting rage can literally be deadly.

So far as I can tell, it seems like where most confusion about gender starts is that sexual attraction tends to be more resultant of physical gender expression as opposed to a person’s sex, despite the composition of the term. For most people attraction can start with someone’s face, their physique, or even their style. Additionally, in most situations where we experience attraction to new people, genitals tend to be an assumption rather than a direct part of the attraction. For a staggeringly large percentage of the population this can be confusing, as the physical manifestation of their attraction (i.e.: sex) necessitates having the appropriate genitals. If all you want is to get fucked, it’s somewhat natural to have trouble being attracted to someone who does not have the biological means to do so.

What’s misunderstood about attraction is that, when it’s allowed to be, it’s absolutely raw; it doesn’t have caveats or qualifiers, it just is. We try to affix reason or draw logical conclusions about it, but if attraction wasn’t raw and unadulterated a heterosexual male could never unknowingly find himself attracted to a convincing drag queen, nor would we have any Kinsey 1’s or 5’s. For most people sexuality is a fairly large part of their identity, and when you feel something directly contrary to how you perceive yourself it can be incredibly unsettling. Homosexuals who didn’t have the good fortune to recognize their orientation very early in life are likely all too familiar with this: that feeling when a guy got your gears turning for the first time. It didn’t fit what we were supposed to do or feel, but it felt good and we wanted to go on the adventure that attraction promised.

The interesting thing that happens with homosexuals is that we find a way to essentially mimic a biological impulse despite our physicality. I don’t particularly lust for penetrative sex but as a whole our brains are still largely programmed for it (give it a few more centuries); in gay dynamics we end up having anal sex to create a receptive partner or lesbians often use implements to allow for a similar means of penetration. What's important to understand here is that, where homosexuality is concerned, we find ways to express attraction despite our bodies sometimes lacking the means to do so in the most conventional way. We have acknowledged that our attraction is not only real and legitimate but acceptable, and we will find ways to express and explore it.

Understanding gender as anything but a binary can be difficult, given that for many people a fluid model does not fit their experience. People are very quick to be impatient with those who can’t grasp the concept but the fact is that, statistically, sex is largely binary and this will instinctively shape one's perception of gender. It is unfair to expect someone to change their view of gender when they may not have met anyone who is intersex or might not even know that such a thing exists. Bear in mind this is by no means condoning mistreatment of trans persons or an unwillingness to learn, simply a call to understand how incredibly counterintuitive nonbinary gender identity is to a large swath of the population. A perceived binary system can only be broken by calling attention to outliers: when you’re talking about a small percentage of the general population, it can take quite some time for someone to experience enough outliers to see a spectrum instead of a dichotomy.

If you find yourself having trouble comprehending how someone can be an outlier to a certain (supposed) binary, substitute one you’re more familiar with. The logistics of how outliers will interact within the system will always be different, but if you can find commonalities it will help unearth some of those nuances. For me, looking at gender through the lens of the ever-so-prevalent Dom vs. sub binary was hugely helpful. By and large there is considerable pressure to align oneself with either identity, to the extent that someone who identifies as primarily Dom may be chastised for submitting to someone who brings out that side in them - this bears similarities to males being taunted for expressing feminine qualities. Within D/s dynamics, I have seen and felt these attractions myself and have witnessed both “100%” Doms and subs switch roles as a result. As a Kinsey 6, it is virtually impossible for me to imagine wanting to have sex with a woman, the same way someone who is exclusively Dom may not be able to imagine what subbing would entail for them. The logistics of how that interaction could play out is simply not something I can even process due to my limited sexual experience with women, which makes it difficult to consider. Despite this, as I think about those 100% Doms/subs I’ve seen switch, I see that they had the strength to pursue their desires despite the confines of others defining their identity. They also likely didn’t understand the logistics involved with the situations they were putting themselves in, and still elected to allow attraction to steer. Finding a connection with someone is beautiful, and when we concern ourselves with what these chance occurrences mean about us we reduce the chances of even being able to feel them in the first place.

Gender is easily the most prevalent, steadfast binary that is present in our culture. Homosexuality vs. heterosexuality is still significant one, but we’ve at least made some progress in carving out space for bisexuals to exist and drive it towards becoming a proper spectrum. Additionally, the stigmatized link between sexuality and behavior has been greatly weakened in recent years; most people are now substantially less shocked when they find someone who presents as masculine while identifying as a homosexual. Unlike sexuality, gender-based assumptions are present in nearly every action we take: from how we walk, to how we sit, to how we eat, to how we express ideas, people have implicit expectations that stem from a person’s perceived gender. It’s reasonable that some might have a difficult time changing how they think about something so immersive, and it begs a modicum of patience as someone unlearns stereotypes that have been imposed upon them as well since before they were born.

As we continue to move forward with gender transitioning from a binary system to something more fluid, there are going to be logistical complications. Some of them will be frustrating, and some will require a great deal of conscious effort but there is no way around this with any form of social change. Currently many people are having issues properly using pronouns because they don’t understand their importance; it’s hard to understand what it’s like to have your identity called into question around every corner when your identity fits within a binary. A tweet recently showed up in my feed that said “Reminder that cis people will apologize for misgendering a dog but not a trans person.” This is indicative of an overwhelming attitude that says “Ugh .. why should I have to work on changing this when it’s your problem?” Essentially, cisgendered persons are less likely to be or be impacted by misgendering, making it incredibly selfish to tell someone that they aren’t worth the energy it takes to be more considerate simply because direct benefit is not seen.

It’s worth noting that gender isn’t the only binary that can be harmful to an individual’s mental health. We, as humans, want to see patterns and make sense of things; there’s a reason some of us see Jesus in slices of toast. When we instinctively create binaries to suit this need they tend to be imbalanced which can lead to a number of faulty assumptions. Even without one half being elevated, a binary system tells people that picking a side and towing that line is more important than doing what they feel is right for themselves. This doesn't just apply to sex, it can apply to politics, economics, platonic relationships, etc: binaries directly oppose autonomy, and this limits our ability to have unique ideas or expressions. If you are cisgendered and want to look at this a completely selfish way, breaking the gender binary can have long-term benefits for you. Our culture is presently weighted to see things in binaries, and as any individual continues to see more and more how flawed these systems of classification are, it becomes more natural and intuitive to avoid them in the future. To put it more succinctly: this isn’t just about gender, it’s about empowering individuals to be themselves which benefits everyone.

We’ve got a lot of work to do, and these narrow-minded systems are causing harm. Even with sexuality shifting towards more of a spectrum than a binary, homosexuals are still between 2-4 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. For transpersons this rate is closer to 15 times, which amounts to a 41% attempted suicide rate. It’s easy to simplify this and look at the worst-case scenario, but for every person attempting suicide there are several others just struggling with something as simple as trying to be happy. Whether it’s bottom-shaming, using the wrong pronoun, or judging a friend for switching roles, these actions cause very real harm. With a little bit of conscious effort, you can stop yourself before trying to box someone into a binary. This isn’t some pie in the sky perfect world ideology, it’s something you can do in your daily life that will make a significant difference to those you surround yourself with. When it comes to respecting others’ willingness to be outliers in a binary system, a little respect can go a very long way.

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