Years back, when social media meant AOL profiles and pages on GeoCities, people relied on nicknames and handles as barriers against being discovered as a secret freak. Google wasn’t a thing, reverse phone-number lookups and ISP tracking were not commonly available with the click of a mouse, and anonymity was easy. Then things began to develop such that the percentage of lives lived online multiplied exponentially and it has become necessary for most folks to have a public online presence. For many folks, this means they are obligated to tuck away or tone down aspects of their lives in order to maintain their careers or family connections. It is an unfortunate truth that there are people in positions of power in our lives who wouldn’t accept us if we were living a lifestyle against which they felt enmity, or about which they were ignorant to the point of fear.
I am fortunate. I don’t have to keep it secret. Even when I worked for Wells Fargo, their liberal, accepting and forward-thinking policies meant my being involved in the BDSM and Leather communities wasn’t an issue. My orientation to their Bay Area team was lead by a self-identified transwoman. One of my co-workers was the Empress of the SF Royal Drag Court. Another had been International Mr. Drummer and was well known as a gay leather pin-up. Hell, they provided the portable ATMs for the Folsom Street Fair! I made sure I always worked for companies and businesses where inclusivity was a feature, not a bug.
And yet, I have felt the momentary sting when I am disowned from public connection by a friend or acquaintance because they do not wish to be associated with a kinky person. Like BDSM is a contagion that will besmirch you. Leathery , kinky cooties, out to make you look…well…perverted!
Let me state that I find it bloody strange that my non-kinky friends and acquaintances never seem to feel that they have to evade me because I am kinky.
I want to give a shout out to all of those folks because you give me life. All of you – parents, spiritual leaders, doctors, lawyers, midwives, teachers, bankers, bakers, artists – all of you who are not ashamed or reluctant to claim me as a friend….you are changing the world, one drop at a time.
I give them dap because they don’t seem to worry about someone saying “Hey how do you know that pervert?”
No, it is always other kinky folks who distance themselves from me. “I can’t take the risk!” they shrug. Friends, former play partners or lovers (man does THAT one suck) old Dungeon buddies…it is always other kinky folks. Friends from my elementary, High School, college… former co-workers … castmates from shows in which I have performed…none of them seem to be phased by this. It is fascinating to me that the shame is still so prevalent that even the chance of being questioned drives us to disown our own. Why on earth would you just not say “They’re a friend. We met as a party / convention / through a mutual friend.” which is 100% true? Instead they say they can’t sully their friendship circles with a known pervert.
SIDEBAR: while we are talking about that distancing…I absolutely respect that people are compelled to separate their personal lives from their professional. However please consider not telling an acquaintance you can’t connect with them on social media because they are out about being involved in an alternative lifestyle and you must keep your public profiles “clean.” I am not “dirty.” This bothers me as much as when folks talk about tests for STDs or STIs coming back as “clean…” as though having a medical condition sullies you as a human. Being positive for HSV I and HSV II does not make me vermin. It makes me positive for HSV I and HSV II…me and the majority of other humans alive on the planet today.
Living my life openly as kinky does not mean I am dirty, deserve social pariah status, and that I will somehow damage your reputation as an upright citizen. You won’t get my kink cooties.
My Mother, churchgoing, God-fearing lady that she is, was so proud of us for telling our story in the New York Times. I am not saying YOU have to take your copy of the article into your boss’ office, slam it on their desk all like “BOOYAKASHA!! SEE THESE FREAKS?! THEY’RE AWESOME!” but if she can share it with her prayer circle, why is a link on Social Media so terrifying? Why is saying “Yes, these folks are among my circle of friends. So what?” such a daunting prospect?
You don’t have to be out. You don’t have to expose yourself to the ridicule and cruelty and judgement of strangers. However, supporting those who do with a vote of friendship is a step in the direction of eventual tolerance and – that magic, holy grail – acceptance.