This weekend, while at the SINergy kink/Leather/sex positive event in Lansing, Michigan, I had a moment of clarity:
As a fully out Chicago Femme Leatherman, I take my Leather and S/M life much too much for granted…and I shouldn’t.
During the weekend event, I wore the clothes, knee-high Wescos, and cuff that I wear to run errands, to have dinner with my parents, and, previously, while sitting in my office and working with faculty, staff and administrators at DePaul University. During the SINergy event, much like most out of town events I attend, I didn’t feel the pull to attend classes or sit in the dungeon with my partner and watch the play because I see play all the time…and, every weekend in Chicago (including holidays), I can visit no less than two S/M dungeons in the city (three, if I count another in a nearby suburb, and four, when a private studio is open for parties) and four Leatherbars, all of which are 15 minutes or less from my apartment. There are also several gay bars where no one flinches at the sight of Leather, even when that person or knot of folks is in High Cow and full-throated-ly singing along to musicals and drinking slushies. I live in the city that hosts IML, MIR, ABW, Kinky Kollege, Shibaricon, and the home city of LA&M, among many other Leather/kink/BDSM events and spaces. Our Chicago Pride Parade is four miles long and has over 200 floats, and, this year, the Leather contingent was at the halfway point of the parade, not the end; I even seem to recall someone telling me that, this year, our Leather/kink/gear/fetish float had over 150 people within our contingent (and 200+ folks by another count). And, though a femme/female-presenting, in Chicago, I am given easy access to all the Leatherbars, including backrooms, and I am not really a novelty when I’m seen smoking a cigar in any mainstream space where smoking is allowed.
This is not me bragging about “my glamorous life:” no–this is me cataloging the reality that life in the big city can bring to someone kinky, SM or Leather. And, this weekend, I realized that, since I’ve been living in this environment for such a long time, I’d nearly forgotten how brothers and sisters in smaller cities and in more rural spaces are still “simply” fighting daily for a place to meet with one another—and, knowing this, it seems very important I remain conscious of this contrast as I conduct myself when I travel AND within my community.
This weekend, during the kink event’s ash bash party, I sat next to a woman who told me that she wasn’t “really even ‘that kinky,’” but she simply likes going to kink events so she can dress the way she really wants to dress. And she looked adorable and sexy in her Goth ensemble—an outfit she could easily wear in Chicago and be perceived as nothing more than “artsy.” I met another person who’d never been to a kink event before, and had only been to a few private parties—neither of these people were new to adulthood (mid-thirties/early 40s), and the look on their faces—the joy of being around 200 people with similar hungers, drives and desires—made me feel so happy for them and desirous to look internally to see what more I can do for them or those who will follow in their footsteps.
And I realized something: while my visibility as an open and out Femme Leatherman is important to creating social change, those of us who can be “out” and who are “out” need to pay much more attention to those working hard just to locate space or locate kindred spirits. I am in deep awe and have high respect for those in smaller cities who continue to fight tooth and nail to have short-term gatherings where they may only have 72 hours to be wholly authentic in a public environment or meet eyes with someone after stating aloud their actual, basic hungers and sexual/physical desires. These individuals are our modern-day sexual outlaws and radicals, and it’s important those of us in the bigger, Leather/kink-friendly cities not forget this: we may believe we PLAY harder than our more remotely-located Tribe, but that’s only because we cityfolk have places and daily access to our spaces—our brothers and sisters in the small towns are WORKING exceptionally hard every moment they are NOT allowed to be themselves within their hometowns, and they are continuing the FIGHT to create safe gathering spaces.
I fear those of us in the larger, Leather/kink/SM communities are taking for granted what we have and who we are/can be…and, as a result, we are not helping our brothers and sisters who remain hungry to live a daily life openly and authentically. The drama, cliques, factions, gossip, backstabbing and jostling to be “the coolest” in our communities is amazingly petty once confronted with someone who lives only three hours away, yet still fears the ramifications a large bruise on her/his/hir arm or what might happen to them in mall parking lot at night if they’re wearing a pair of very shiny black boots.
Change begins in our own backyard, and, as any therapist might say, “it’s an inside job.” My Leather service work, my love of community, my activism is about seeking Unity and about carrying forward the efforts that the previous generations of activists began so I could live the life I now get to live. If I am unhappy about something or unhappy with myself/my life, only I can do the hard work to make myself happy. And if I don’t like something occurring in the community, then I shall see how I might act to create the change…not just bitch about it and be catty about what I’m seeing or what someone else is doing—grousing just to grouse or poke fun at another’s choices is unhealthy and counterproductive when, indeed, there is still so much we must do to help our Tribe live their lives without fear or stigma.
After this weekend at SINergy, I am re-conscious of the fact that, as a Chicago Femme Leatherman, I lead a very charmed Leather and SM life…and, when confronted with “the small stuff” of pettiness or one upmanship, I’m going to remember that, three hours away, there is woman my age who just wants to wear her boots and cute Goth skirt in public and find someone who finds her hot as hell, shares her hungers and wants to bend her over, spank her ass red and then fist her until she unapologetically and with great pleasure squirts all over the place and then asks to try something new. Had a different chain of events transpired within my journey, that woman could be me…and, this morning, I am very conscious of the fact that, perhaps, those of us in big cities are not doing enough for the exceptionally hard-working badasses in the smaller spaces and geographic locations who are risking so much of their livelihoods just to get to be wholly authentic in a public setting for weekend events that they may only be able to afford to attend a few times a year.
Mock me, call me names, roll eyes, put passive-aggressive tea-sipping memes on social media in response: I have done the hard work of self-exploration, and I am amazingly happy with my life, where I live, and what I have…and there are many more important things to do in this lifetime than try and figure out how I might look more “cool” to someone else.
I seek Unity, and I will continue to work hard and with passion and joy to try and create the change that might help all of us eek one step closer to that state of Unity within our Leather, kink, SM journeys. It is the least I can do for my brothers and sisters…and it is the least I can do for my mentors, heroes, and the previous generations who only dreamed of what I now have, how I live my daily life, and what I might take for granted much too easily. It is my hope that, in sharing this, others might self assess the journey they are electing to take, and the approaches they choose to take when confronted with local community “drama”: I am currently very grateful to the woman who “wasn’t really even ‘that kinky’” for unknowingly reminding me that there are bigger fish to fry than the small stuff that often gets under my skin.
Any hate, cattiness, character assassinations, non-scholarly arguments/discussions will not be tolerated here and will be removed: my social media page, my boundaries.
Chicago kink filmmaker Christina Court posted this on her Facebook page. She has given us permission to reprint here.