Archive for November, 2008

abuse among the kinky, part 2: 10 things to do to reduce abusive behaviour in the s/m world*
November 27, 2008

Mr. Leather Toronto starts tonight… so here’s the second instalment of “Abuse Among the Kinky, *originally posted in April 2007. Again, if you’re in town and interested in exploring the question further, come to the workshop that Ariel and I are giving on Saturday afternoon entitled “Lighting the Fire: BDSM and Abuse.” Details in the Workshops tab.

On with the show!

***

Before moving on to my list of suggestions on what we can do about abuse in the SM community, I do think it’s worth mentioning that I’ve never seen anything that indicates a higher rate of abuse among kinksters than in the general population. I don’t have any statistics on this, but I’ve been around for a number of years now and if anecdotal evidence is worth anything, I’d say people in the SM world are either just as likely (or unlikely) as anyone else to be abusive, or perhaps less so – given that participation in the SM community makes us even more sensitized to power dynamics than the average joe, and given the community’s near-obsessive focus on the ideas of consent, SSC (Safe, Sane and Consensual), RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink), safewords, good play technique and so forth. I did think this warranted saying, given how a lot of people seem to think that SM is by its nature abusive and by extension assume the SM community is chock full of leering wife-batterers.

That being said, a couple of other points are also worth bringing up.

One: Just because someone has a pair of leather restraints and a flogger in their bedroom doesn’t mean they’ve been exposed to SM community mores. There’s a ton of kinky behaviour taking place in people’s bedrooms all over the world between folks who’ve never set foot in a dungeon. So I don’t think it’s accurate to presume the safety-obsessed standards of the public SM scene are adhered to by every person who likes to spank their honey before sex. In other words, there is simply no substitute for common sense and self-protection. Just because someone can pepper the conversation with “blah blah safeword” and “yada yada consent” does not mean they’re a safe player with good morals and pleasantly unwholesome intentions. Watch your back. Don’t go home with a stranger and let them tie you up, or if you do, arrange for a friend to check in on you by phone (a safecall). Look before you leap. And if you don’t do any of these things and someone ends up raping or assaulting you, don’t waste your time getting mad at yourself; they’re still a fucking rapist, and it’s not your fault.

Two: I actually disagree with the community’s massive focus on safewords and consent. I personally don’t play with safewords; they have always felt like an awkward and artificial way of going into a scene, and my only experience with them has been negative (someone used their safeword inappropriately once and it really jarred me). If a person doesn’t trust me enough to stop when I read their body language, or at worst, if they say “ouch that hurts too much, can you tone it down,” they shouldn’t be playing with me at all – and the existence of a word like “red” or “mercy” should make no difference to that willingness one way or the other. I also don’t like the SM world’s obsession with the idea of consent. Sure, consent in the legal sense – i.e. no use of force or coercion – is a necessary prerequisite, in my mind, to any kind of satisfying interpersonal exchange, SM or otherwise. But if I’m going to strip someone down and torture them, I want way more than their consent. I want their active desire at every step of the process. The mere fact of someone saying “OK” is simply not enough for me to enjoy myself or feel like I’m doing something that’s right and positive. I mention these things in particular because I’m linking to an article, below, that does a fantastic job of explaining the differences between SM and abuse, but it focuses a little overmuch on the safeword thing without explaining there are other ways to communicate within a scene.

En tout cas. Here is my list of…

10 Things to DO to Reduce Abusive Behaviour in the S/M World

1. My big #1 suggestion is to go read the information provided here. It’s a full page entitled “Is It S/M or Abuse?” and it is the most well-written, accessible and complete short resource I’ve ever seen on the topic. Then – and here’s the key part – send the link to every SM-oriented website you can find and encourage them to post a link on their home page. If you have your own SM site, post a link there. Make a quest of it in your local community. Hell, develop a reputation for being “that guy who wants everyone to post a link to an anti-abuse page.”

The page – which can also be ordered in brochure format – was developed by the New England Leather Association (NELA) in conjunction with The Network/La Red, an organization in Boston which is committed to “ending abuse in lesbian, bisexual women’s and transgender communities.”

2. Order “Is It S/M or Abuse?” in brochure format, or simply copy and paste the info into a Word document and print out a few copies. Bring copies to every SM event you attend and ask organizers to post it or have it available at the door. Bring it to munches and give it to the newbies (thanks for that suggestion, Pepper). In short – let’s make this information so ubiquitous in the SM world that it’s nearly impossible for someone to stumble across our community (especially online) without also coming across information that will help them differentiate WIITWD (What It Is That We Do, another common acronym in public-scene kink) from abuse.

3. If you see someone in a situation that you feel might be abusive, go talk to them. Aahh! Scary thought, isn’t it? Much easier to talk behind their back or post a nasty comment about the bad guy on a website, isn’t it? First, take off your shining armour and put your badass attitude in your pocket. Then go see the person you think might be on the receiving end of the abuse, and ask them how they’re doing. This might actually involve making friends with them first, and gaining their trust in at least some marginal way. Or it might not. Then ask them in a really non-preachy, non-challenging way how they feel about their relationship. Do not accuse their partner of being an abuser; say very clearly that you are not trying to make a judgment about their partner – and mean it! – but that you just wanted to put some information out there because something you saw made you feel it might be wise, just in case. If you have to, make something up about how your cousin was once abused and now you’re really sensitive to anything that might look like abuse. Find a way, however clumsy, to tell them there are resources for them, and then hand ‘em a copy of the sheet and tell them they can come and talk to you anytime, or never talk to you again but talk to someone else if they need to.

4. Even scarier: Go talk to the person you feel might be on the giving end of the abuse. First, take off your shining armour and put your badass attitude in your pocket. Muster all the open-mindedness and diplomacy you can, and approach this person from a place of humility. Keep in mind you really don’t know what’s going on, unless you’ve watched absolutely undebatably clear situation of concrete non-consensual physical or extreme emotional harm being done, in which case emergency measures might be more appropriate than conversation. Keep in mind that leveraging an accusation of abuse is a really fucking serious thing. Keep in mind that if you were on the receiving end of such an approach, and you weren’t being an abuser, you would probably be very upset unless the person was extremely tactful and empathetic and left lots of room for errors in their own judgment. Feel free to say something like “I’m sure you’re not a bad guy, but sometimes the way you speak to/play with Person X makes people wonder if everything you do is really consensual. I just figured you might not know that, and maybe if I told you, you’d be able to do things a bit differently so people don’t get the wrong impression of you.”

5. Wear a t-shirt to S/M events that says “ask me what the difference is between S/M and abuse.” Have an answer ready, and make it better than just “consent” (which in my opinion is an over-used cop-out answer that we rely on way too heavily, see paragraph above).

6. Find out where the women’s shelters are in your area. Then find out what shelters accept trans women, trans men and/or bio-men. If none of them do, find out what you can do about that. Start volunteering there, and tell people in the S/M world about what you learn.

7. Find out if there are any resources in your area for anger management, abuser recovery, etc. Then find out which ones accept trans women, trans men and/or bio-men. If none of them do, find out what you can do about that. Start volunteering there, and tell people in the S/M world about what you learn.

8. Find out if the shelters and anger management groups in your area know anything about S/M. If they don’t, figure out how to educate them. Then actually do it – perhaps with the help of a community group, a committee, a kink-positive therapist, etc.

9. Find out who the kink-positive therapists are in your area. If there are none, figure out how to get a bunch of them together and educate them. Then actually do it – perhaps with the help of a community group, a committee, a guest speaker, etc.

10. If you are an abuser, go get help. If you are being abused, go get help.

***

P.S. Just in case anyone reading this is considering #1 on the list of 10 things to do, I figured I’d post this little addition if you’re feeling twitchy about the safeword question. (Note that I have updated this from its original posting, with slightly different document links.)

***

I checked through the works cited at the bottom of the Network/La Red document I linked to, and found a couple from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), a US-based legal support group for kinksters and other alternative-sexuality folks.

Interestingly, and happily, the NCSF documents do not always insist on safewords… and they were adopted in 1998 (after that year’s Leather Leadership Conference), so clearly even then some people must have seen the problem with an excessive focus on safewords.

In the document “Consensual SM Activities: A Field Guide for Law Enforcement,” there is a general explanation about the distinctions that discusses safewords without much nuance. But in the document “S/M vs Abuse Policy Statement,” the only time the word “safeword” is mentioned is in the following paragraph about SSC (Safe, Sane and Consensual): “Consensual is respecting the limits imposed by each participant at all times. One of the recognized ways to maintain limits is through a “safeword” which ensures that each participant can end his/her participation with a word or gesture.” (The “one of” part of course being key.)

However, it must be said that while both of these documents do a great job of explaining the difference between SM and abuse, they are for the most part not intended for potential abuse victims. In their wording it seems pretty clear to me that they’re intended for the general public, lawyers, other people in law enforcement, etc. – i.e. not people who do WIITWD, but people outside it who misunderstand its nature. The exception would be the two series of questions in the “Guidelines” section of the “S/M vs Abuse” document – but even those are a lot more theoretical and heady than practical and concrete, compared to the explanations of abuse situations given by The Network/La Red.

Of course, for all you curious people looking into this for more academic reasons, these links are excellent. But with all that in mind, I still think the Network/La Red document is more appropriate to link to withthe aim of giving newbies a tool to help them assess whether what’s going on in their relationship is OK. It’s way more concrete in its SM-specific examples of actual abuse situations.

Of course, if you’re thinking of putting an anti-abuse link on your SM- or sexuality-oriented website and the safeword thing in the Network/La Red document bugs you a whole lot, I still certainly think it’s better to post the NCSF link(s) than nothing at all.

finally, a one night stand
November 25, 2008

I must begin this post with a sincere apology to the fine folks at Fatale Media. They kindly sent me some free porn so that I could review it here… but they sent it in July. And now it’s, what, practically December? Yeah, I totally suck. I bet I’ll never get free porn again. Talk about delayed gratification…

But rather than dwell on my lack of timeliness, I would rather focus the first portion of today’s post on the very cool film that is One Night Stand. No, I’m not just saying that to make the Fatale people happy. In fact I actually saw the film in its original French version, Pour Une Nuit, at Montreal’s queer film festival way back when it was first released in 2006, and it blew me away then. The DVD release is no different – or if anything, it’s better, since now I can rewind, replay and slow-mo the good parts. And luckily good porn transcends linguistic boundaries (there’s not much to subtitle, at least for the actual people-fucking-on-camera parts) so the English version is just as hot.

The concept really works for me too. Paris-based director Émilie Jouvet basically let the participants – all queer women and FTM guys – choose their own fantasies and play them out together on camera. She then discussed the experience with each of them after the fact, and the resulting interviews are included in the DVD release. (Okay, so there are a few more subtitles in that part.) The sex is so hot you might be tempted to skip the talking heads, but it’s totally worth taking the time to watch them too. Somehow, hearing the stars talk about their motivations, emotions and experiences after doing the film rounds out the package of the porn itself, making the participants into people instead of characters. Plus, it’s all the more intriguing, after seeing the genuinely sizzling content of the film, to learn that for many of the stars, making the porn was an activist project. (One Night Stand is the first dyke/trans/boi porn ever made in France.) It’s pretty inspiring to see super-hot people take such visible pleasure in their work, and then come up with an articulate analysis of it too. Mmm. Candy.

The film’s various scenes are downright delicious, definitely a cut above what I’ve come to expect of queer porn. There are several very sexy encounters, including one in which a femme gal calls an escort service to order herself another kinky femme for the night, who comes complete with a collection of toys and available related activities. The two are so comfortable in their bodies, and clearly have so much fun together, that despite the somewhat cheesy premise the scene is one of my faves. Another of my favourite scenes is that between Ali, who’s got the most gorgeous cocksucking mouth you could ever imagine, and a trans guy who later provides a powerful sex-positive explanation of why he feels trans bodies need to be showcased in porn on trans people’s own terms. Oh, and make sure you check out the creative, and highly aesthetically pleasing, pubic trim job in that scene. Superstar!

The chemistry in the final scene is electrifying—a laconic eyelinered rat-tailed butch named Shadow gets it on passionately with a sexy femme (who delivers the most unmistakeably real orgasm in the entire flick) in flashbacks, in which they’re tightly framed in a tiny red-painted bathroom stall. Really the whole film is beautifully shot, with lots of great angles, especially impressive considering it’s a DIY.

The only real flat note in the collection is the “Dolls” special feature, which is choppy and weird and a bit creepy. But if you’re not interested, you can just skip it. Ah, the beauty of home entertainment! All in all, One Night Stand is a true treat, and definitely a must for the collection of any queer porn connoisseur. Torontonians, you can get your copy from the ever-fabulous Come As You Are.

***

This is a much shorter post than the usual, I admit, but I’m having a hard time coming up with something to add that would segue nicely from a queer porn review. So I’m going to call it a night instead. I will leave you with a piece of very happy news, though, that at least relates on a European front, if not a pornographic one: I’ve been asked to give two workshops at the International Women’s SM Conference in Berlin this coming April. Very exciting! I’ve never been to Berlin, so I’m definitely open to ideas about what sorts of shenanigans I should get up to while I’m there!

abuse among the kinky, part 1: 6 ways to think about abuse*
November 20, 2008

It’s a snowy, sunny Thursday and life is good.

I have two notices for you today.

First, for those in Toronto, there’s a panel about gender inequities in health care taking place next Tuesday night (November 25) at the Gladstone. All details are posted below. I find it quite interesting that the description of the event mentions differences between health care for men and for women, but says nothing about how things might be further differentiated for trans people – isn’t that part of gender inequity in health care? I’m always amazed at how “gender” means something completely different to people depending on their social and political location. For many second-wave feminists, it means “women are oppressed and men are oppressors.” For many third-wave(-plus) sex radicals, it means “let’s deconstruct gender entirely and then let’s talk about trans issues.” Personally, I’m all for bridging the gap and recognizing that both layers of the gender question, and many more, are still very much present and operational in our society, for all that they’re complex and ever-evolving. I’m aiming to attend the panel at least in some part to see if there’s any room for such gap-bridging.

Next, I wanted to point you to a recent article I wrote for the Toronto Xtra! entitled “Puppy Play Unleashed.” It was an absolute blast to write! If you think you might be interested in learning more, I encourage you to attend Dart’s workshop on the topic, “Puppy Love,” which he’ll be giving at MLT (Mr. Leather Toronto) next weekend (November 29-30).

And speaking of MLT, I’ll be giving two workshops there this year. The first will be “Lighting the Fire: BDSM and Abuse,” which I’m giving on Saturday afternoon with my colleague and friend Ariel from Boston, who works with The Network/La Red, a domestic violence organization that specializes in marginalized communities including queer, trans and kinky. The second will be “Take Five: The Pleasures of (Vaginal) Fisting)” on Sunday afternoon. Full details in my Workshops tab if you’re interested.

As a sort of lead-up to the abuse workshop, I decided to re-post two pieces I wrote a year ago, just before switching to WordPress, about BDSM and abuse. I’m posting one now, and I’ll post the second one on Thursday of next week. If they get your brain juices flowing, or if you’d like to discuss the issue for any other reason, by all means come to the workshop.

*I put this two-part post together in April 2007. Well, it was originally in three parts, but I’ve combined the last two into the second post this time around. Here’s the first one.

***

Recently on an international BDSM discussion group I’m part of, there was a thread on the topic of abuse within the SM community. Often, one of the ideas that comes up when this topic rises is that of creating some sort of online blacklist that would list “bad dominants” or dangerous players. The idea always leaves a sour taste in my mouth – for a number of reasons. One, because I don’t think it’s possible to avoid people simply using it as a way to bad-mouth each other or air out their differences. Two, because I don’t believe it would actually serve any purpose in protecting vulnerable people from abusive players. And three, because I don’t believe in dealing with community problems through a punishment / revenge / protection approach; I really think this kind of thing needs to be looked at from an education / empowerment / positive reinforcement standpoint.

With that in mind, I came up with two lists: first, a list of six ways we could THINK about the problem of abuse differently and possibly more effectively. Second, my personal list of ten specific things that each and every one of us could DO that would make abusive behaviour less likely within the S/M world. I figured I might as well post ‘em here too.

So… for starters…

6 Ways to Think About Abuse

1. Admit that we simply cannot make it go away. It will always exist. There is no perfect solution. I’m not being a pessimist – at all in fact – just a realist. So let’s stop looking for a solution that will always work; they will all have their flaws. This should not discourage us, it should make us think more realistically and take more concrete action instead of finding hopeless plans and then abandoning them.

2. Remember that submissives are not idiots. Anytime the idea of “protecting the poor helpless submissives / newbies” comes up, it makes my skin crawl. It is condescending and inaccurate to think that someone in the submissive or bottom role is any less likely to stand up for themselves than anyone else; any less likely to take proper precautions to protect themselves in the first place; and any less likely to know their limits, know how to defend themselves, and know how to make wise choices. They may be marginally more likely to find themselves in a vulnerable position within a scene, but this doesn’t make them airheads who can’t take a moment to think about relative risk and commonsense safety precautions.

3. Remember that not everyone is fucking heterosexual already. Remember that abuse exists between gay men and between lesbians and among trans people of any orientation. (In fact the only person I can think of whom I would blacklist, if I believed in blacklisting, which I don’t, is a lesbian.) Stop talking about abuse as though it were just for top men and bottom women who necessarily play with only each other. This limits the discussion and leaves out vulnerable people.

4. Take an approach that’s about an ethics of care and empowerment rather than an ethics of protection, defense or punishment. Ask the question: how can we best care for each other within our community? NOT how can we best defend ourselves and protect our own? There is a big difference.

Protection means that we assume someone is weak and they need stronger people to defend their interests. It creates a sense of dependence (on the “weak” person’s part) and righteous strength (on the “strong” person’s part) which in fact is suspiciously similar to the conditions that create and support abusive situations in the first place.

Care and empowerment means that we assume someone is strong and capable, and we want to give them all the resources they might want to nourish that strength, and provide support for them if they need it. It creates legions of strong people who have lots of backup if ever their own strength flags.

5. Ask the question: What can I do that will help prevent abuse? NOT What can I do that will make me feel like a hero? Then stop, and ask it again. And again. And again until you get as deep inside your motivations as possible and away from anything that looks like the desire for revenge, self-important heroism, grandiose visions of saving the world and so forth. Once you get there, keep asking it until you come up with a list of at least eight or ten answers. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you start groaning and saying, “Man, that would be a lot of work / that would be personally challenging for me.” Then make it your business to pick at least two or three of them, and actually take some concrete action. (I’m posting my own starter list next.)

The effective answers, for better or for worse, rarely involve revenge, blacklisting or other dramatic means of the sort. It’s really unfortunate that we seem to have this vision of community as though it were something that could be built and made strong through punishing those who do things we don’t like.

6. Remember that abuse is a really specific kind of bad situation. It always bothers me when people use the word “abuse” to mean “any kind of behaviour I don’t like.” According to a resource I often link to on the topic: “Abuse is a pattern of behavior where one person tries to control the thoughts, beliefs, or actions of a partner, friend, or any other person close to them. Abuse is sometimes also referred to as domestic violence, battering, and intimate partner abuse. Abusers may use a number of ways to control their partner, none of which are acceptable in the context of a consensual, negotiated S/M relationship. These actions cannot be stopped with a safeword and can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse, outing, and defending any of these nonconsensual actions as the way “real” S/M works.”

In other words, forgetting to check someone’s circulation while they’re in bondage might be neglectful or stupid or unsafe, but it’s not abusive. Playing past someone’s limits by genuine accident, miscommunication, or whatever else may be awful, but it’s not abusive. Getting in a fight with your honey and yelling something mean at them is not nice, but it’s not abusive. (Though it might happen within an abuse situation of course.) Assaulting someone on the street is a criminal act, but even that is not abuse. Abuse is an ongoing non-consensual / coercive power dynamic between partners that plays out in all kinds of insidious ways, not all of which even look abusive on the outside. Let’s call a spade a spade, and let’s not confuse or dilute it with related (or unrelated) issues.

***

Tuesday, November 25 at 5:30pm
The Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen Street West
Refreshments. Free admission.
RSVP: j.kopelow@sympatico.ca

Gender Inequities in Health: What Can We Do to Close the Gaps?

Men and women have different needs and challenges in getting health care. Men and women are treated differently when they access care.

What causes inequities? Biology? Bias? Poverty? Health care delivery? How can scientific evidence inform practice and policy to help us close these gaps?

Join leading scientists for discussion and debate.

ARLENE BIERMAN MD, MS, Ontario Women’s Health Council Chair in Women’s Health, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital & University of Toronto

CAROLYN CLANCY MD, Director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, US Department of Health and Human Services

GILLIAN HAWKER MD, MSc, Chief of Medicine, Women’s College Hospital, Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto

MODERATED BY ANDREAS LAUPACIS MD, MSc Executive Director, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital

Co-Sponsored by CIHR’s Institute of Gender and Health & Institute for Health Services and Policy Research

the wrong reasons for same-sex marriage (or, that’s not the stonewall i knew)
November 18, 2008

Just a few days ago, I got a notice from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an American organization that, in their words, “advances equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression. NCSF is primarily focused on the rights of consenting adults in the SM-leather-fetish, swing, and polyamory communities.”

If I understand correctly, they didn’t write this message themselves; it’s forwarded from a group called Join the Impact, which coordinated nationwide protests against the moves made by numerous states in the past couple of weeks to deny same-sex couples access to marriage. I’ve included the full message at the bottom of this post should you be interested, but the paragraph that made my jaw drop is the following:

“We need to show this nation that we are ONE LOUD VOICE THAT DEMANDS TO BE HEARD! We need to be one organized unit. Our gay pride shouldn’t be something we celebrate one month out of the year. Our gratitude towards the ones who came before us shouldn’t be ignored and wasted away with one party after another. We beg to be given a right that requires responsibility and commitment, yet we, as one strong community, have not proven to this nation that we deserve to be taken seriously! The gay pride parade has become a great party, but it has lost the memory of Stonewall and therefore given the nation another reason to cast us aside as irresponsible. It’s time we come together for debate, for public recognition, and for LOVE!”

This floored me for numerous reasons.

The first piece of my beef with this piece isn’t actually about the piece itself. It’s about the fact that, of all things, it was the NCSF that sent it to me. Let me reiterate what those letters stand for: the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. Sexual freedom. This is not an organization that’s dedicated to policing the moral behaviour of its members in the hopes of gaining approval from the government. It is an organization that’s taken on the far more challenging task of telling the government (at many levels) that in fact, having sex – and specifically, having the kinds of sex of which conservative forces are least likely to approve – is a fundamental human right. They lobby in favour of the rights of swingers, of leather and BDSM people, and of polyamorous people. They’re all about explaining to the world that we kinky non-monogamous people are not immoral freaks, child molesters or dangerous deviants… that we’re fine upstanding freaks, we play among adults, and we’re safety-conscious deviants, thank you very much.

Needless to say, to get a “be more respectable to gain public approval” message from such a group really disappointed me. I really, really hope that they just sent it along uncritically because they wanted to get the message out quickly to garner support for same-sex marriage protests, and as a result, they didn’t take the time to read it too carefully.

The NCSF sent out a press release very shortly after forwarding the protest message. I’ve pasted it below as well. In it, they write,

“NCSF supports the freedom of consenting adults to discover and to practice the intimate relationship structure that best meets their emotional and human needs. We champion the basic human right to do so free of governmental, societal or institutional coercion or favoritism.”

I can’t help but hope that this was a strategic move aimed at reassuring people exactly like me who may have reacted with dismay at the contents of the first message while not cutting ties with the larger purpose of supporting same-sex marriage rights. As stated above, the NCSF’s mission is still one I can stand behind (from my somewhat removed position as a Canadian supporter, of course), but I’m crossing my fingers that in the future the NCSF, in its desire to support a good cause, will not betray its own purpose and throw in its lot with conservative gay forces that are deeply sex-negative.

And speaking of that… on to the meat of the thing.

There’s a bizarre twisting of history going on in the Join the Impact message. It feels more than a little laughable to hear the idea of Stonewall being used to chastise gay people for excessive partying. Don’t get me wrong, I totally know that Stonewall was a watershed event in queer history, and that the riots and protests were most definitely not in and of themselves a party. But let’s remember that Stonewall was a bar. That’s right – a bar. A place where people came to build community, form friendships, and work, yes; but it was hardly a boardroom where the executive committee of the local high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance met up to earnestly discuss the annual strategic plan. It was a place of entertainment, of nightlife. Of partying, of prostitution, of drinking and drag performance and sex.

Stonewall was targeted by the police for being a gathering place for queers, and the queers who were the most present and the most central to both that targeting and to the ensuing protests were of course the most outrageous ones – the drag queens, the bulldaggers, the sex workers, and the leatherfolk. The Stonewall riots were a reaction to police harassment and violence committed against the most visible and the most marginal of the queers.

Stonewall was not an endeavour to get the world to approve of same-sex marriage. It was not an attempt to make the world see just how respectable and responsible queers were, or how committed to happily-ever-after we could be. It was not an occasion for queers to proclaim “We pay taxes too!” or “I want in on my domestic partner’s 401K!” It was a retaliation against the people who would have stopped the queers from congregating in bars and bathhouses, from wearing the clothing that suited their gender identities irrespective of their anatomy, from walking the streets in safety.

In the decades that followed Stonewall, Pride parades certainly did change from what they used to look like. But they didn’t just change from being protests to being parties. In the move toward apolitical fun, they also changed their target demographic. (Or perhaps I should say, they developed a target demographic.)

With the growing value that queers seem to have placed on “respectability,” parades began to exclude the very outrageous queers who inspired them in the first place. How many times have we heard of leather people being relegated to the tail end of a parade, or denied access entirely, or decried as being “perverts” that bring down the reputation of all the “normal” queers? How many times have I heard people say “I don’t want to be associated with those freaks! That’s not who I am, they don’t represent me!” How many times have we seen drag queens being accepted because they’re entertaining, but God forbid anyone should want to actually transition from one sex / gender to another – then they don’t belong in our group / on our float / in our organizational mandate? How loudly does the absence of queer sex workers in our parades speak of the rejection they experience as being unsuitable as the public face of our community? It is a bitter irony that the very marginalized groups that stood at Stonewall are the ones that today’s queers are most likely to pooh-pooh and exclude.

And even that’s not enough to satisfy the forces of gay and lesbian conservatism. Every year, as predictably as the seasons change or Madonna comes up with a new look, newspapers around the world print vicious attacks on Pride parades penned by gays themselves – gays who think that Pride is a terrible public relations debacle, a disgusting demonstration of the outrageousness we should be hiding so that we can gain public approval, not shamelessly celebrating.

In addition, Pride parades have become vehicles – sometimes literally – for corporate sponsorship and expensive demonstrations of body fascism in which a small minority of people are considered desirable and others are made fun of and shamed. It seems that conservative forces are trying to kill the spirit of Stonewall from every angle imaginable, some factions working from the inside of Pride to cleanse it of undesirables and sell a happy clean gay image to acquire big-name sponsorship from companies enamoured of the “pink dollar,” and other factions working from the outside to trash Pride entirely.

So the idea that as queers we’re supposed to stop having so much fun already and get down to the serious business of marriage… first of all, let’s recognize that the “fun” in question is a very particular sort of fun that is in many ways reserved for a privileged class of people, and that those people don’t bear much resemblance to the people who were at Stonewall, and in fact the business of marriage is also reserved in many ways for people who aren’t much like Stonewall patrons either. I suspect the people at Stonewall didn’t exactly have wedding bells and joint gift registries on their minds when they were throwing beer bottles and high-heeled shoes at the cops who beat them for wearing the wrong clothes, fucking the wrong people or hanging out at the wrong bar. So enough with the self-serving call to respect our elders. Read some history before you go there.

I also take issue with the self-flagellating tone that the writer uses in chastising the queer community. “We beg to be given a right that requires responsibility and commitment, yet we, as one strong community, have not proven to this nation that we deserve to be taken seriously!”

Really? Let’s take this apart a bit. The first two words – “we beg” – made me cringe from the get-go. Are queers in the States begging for same-sex marriage rights? And if so, why the hell would they take that strategy? Begging implies powerlessness, and queers are anything but powerless. The staggering legal, political and cultural victories that queers have achieved (in both Canada and the States, not to mention elsewhere in the world) in barely a few decades are nothing short of miraculous, and those victories were not won by snivelling and apologizing and begging. They were won by dogged lobbying, creative street-level activism, community-funded and pro-bono-staffed legal challenges, and the loud public shaming of influential individuals who stood against full civil rights for queers. The only places that queers have gained rights by being apologetic have been in staunchly conservative institutions like the Church (and even then, only in its leftiest manifestations) and the military (don’t ask, don’t tell, or in other words, we’ll tolerate you if you keep your icky gayness a secret). Marriage doesn’t have to be a conservative institution, but if you approach it this way, you’re certainly working implicitly to keep it one.

The next bit, “a right that requires responsibility and commitment,” just about made me gag. Marriage requires responsibility and commitment? What planet is this writer from? Marriage requires a license and a few words pronounced by the right authority figure. That’s about it. Maintaining a healthy, happy long-term relationship requires responsibility and commitment, but marriage has nothing to do with that – hundreds of thousands of people do that without marriage, and hundreds of thousands of married people do a terrible job at responsibility and commitment despite having all the right paperwork. When you live in the land that’s home to Las Vegas wedding chapels and two-week celebrity marriages that play out in the tabloids, I find it incredibly hard to swallow that anyone still believes that marriage itself is an institution that requires anything of anybody beyond a signature or two. A relationship is what you make it, and that I can respect. Marriage is just paperwork and benefits.

Moving along… “yet we, as one strong community, have not proven to this nation that we deserve to be taken seriously!”

Tell me, what exactly does the American queer community need to do in order to prove to the United States that they “deserve” to be taken seriously? Let’s see. Serve in public office? Serve in the military? Vote? Spend money on queer businesses? Achieve fame and fortune and celebrity? Raise millions of dollars to fight disease? Win major international prizes? Publish books, perform plays, produce films, make music, make art? Make major scientific discoveries and academic advances? Lay down their lives to save others? Raise children? Start businesses? Check, check, check… well lookie here, I do believe queers have done all that and more. But you say that queers have not yet proven their worth. Okay, so what, pray tell, must queers do to achieve the elusive esteem of the American nation?

Stop partying, apparently. No more parades. No more dance clubs. Apparently our penchant for enjoyable nightlife is enough to disqualify us from suitability for officially recognized domestic partnership.

But would putting the kibbosh on club-hopping suffice? Likely not. I suspect that the real answer is, no more sex. It’s not said explicitly, but the implication is clear. Stop talking about it, stop doing it, and above all stop drawing the world’s attention to the fact that as queers, we like to fuck people of the same sex, or fuck with the definitions of sex and gender entirely. We all know that penises slide into men’s assholes and down men’s throats, and that female mouths suck on clits and female fists enter cunts, and that trans bodies sometimes sport (and play with) genitals and genders for which most of the world doesn’t even have names. We use (or at least talk about) condoms and gloves, and we have threesomes and watch porn and buy erotica, we hold amateur strip nights and we go to bathhouses and we have BDSM conferences and leather contests, and we (not only the trans people) fuck with the world’s sense of what’s gender-appropriate both in bed and out of it.

But perhaps if we cancelled Pride, and boarded up the bathhouses like self-hating Larry Kramer wanted us to twenty years ago (and whaddaya know, they did shut down, and AIDS is still with us), and closed the clubs and boycotted the bookstores and lost the leather contests, perhaps then the American government would respect the queers and be kind and generous enough to let them slink into quiet, respectable, responsible, committed marriages that don’t upset the neighbours and that don’t shatter the illusion of American conservative idealism.

The problem is that if marriage really is supposed to be a civil right that everyone is due, then queers shouldn’t have to “earn” it at all. We shouldn’t have to prove we’re respectable or responsible or committed. It should suffice that we are human. Nobody’s holding the heterosexuals to a gold standard of behaviour before awarding them the right to marry – hell, an entire swingers’ culture, a booming porn industry, the eternal sex trade, rampant divorce and even the Clinton / Lewinsky scandal haven’t been enough to cause anyone to revoke heterosexual marriage rights. So why is this writer trying to convince us that queers somehow need to be shining examples of moral perfection in order to qualify?

Next, the writer states that Pride parades have “given the nation another reason to cast us aside as irresponsible.”

I hate to break it to you, but the nation has not cast gays aside as irresponsible because of Pride parades. It has cast gays aside as all sorts of unsavoury things because of homophobia. As in, the fear and hatred of those who are attracted to people of the same sex. You can respectable-ize yourselves til kingdom come and the American public will still be saturated in homophobia. Taking as much homo out of their sight as humanly possible won’t change that, it’ll just gain privilege for the people who are closest to “normal” as gays can get in the first place and create a whole new era where the marginalized – the ones, by the way, that you’d have met at Stonewall – are abused and mistreated by the respectables. Only now, the respectables will include a few married gay people. The rest of us will still be on the outside, and you, oh respectable gays, will have worked to keep us there. Doubtless you’ll also continue to blame us for the homophobia that remains, because, of course, the marginalized make easy targets. It’s simple to blame the freaks in leather, the gender-benders, the non-monogamous, because it’s a lot harder to look at your fine upstanding homophobic work colleagues and elected officials and family members and friends and say, “Actually, folks, you and your bigotry are the problem.”

So, my American friends, go and hold hands with the homophobic straights (if they’ll take you), and beg for rights that should in fact be demanded, and sing Kumbaya if you must, but don’t cloak your demands in the language of Stonewall. That’s just fucking offensive. Obama didn’t apologize for being black before he got elected as President. The least you could do is follow his example and refuse to apologize for being queer when you ask him, and the government he represents, to respect you and give you the civil rights you deserve.

***

Prop 8 Protest – A Call to the LGBTQ Community, Friends, & Family
Forwarded by NCSF

Join the Impact

Prop 8 Protest – A Call to the LGBTQ Community, Friends, & Family

I’m sure all would agree that with the election of Barack Obama, this week has been one of amazing wins in the world of equality! Still, Tuesday night was one of bitter-sweet celebration, as we came together to witness the first black man who will become our president, and watched in sadness as Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, and California all voted down equal rights for all citizens.

We need to show this nation that we are ONE LOUD VOICE THAT DEMANDS TO BE HEARD! We need to be one organized unit. Our gay pride shouldn’t be something we celebrate one month out of the year. Our gratitude towards the ones who came before us shouldn’t be ignored and wasted away with one party after another. We beg to be given a right that requires responsibility and commitment, yet we, as one strong
community, have not proven to this nation that we deserve to be taken seriously! The gay pride parade has become a great party, but it has lost the memory of Stonewall and therefore given the nation another reason to cast us aside as irresponsible. It’s time we come together for debate, for public recognition, and for LOVE!

Let’s move as one full unit, on the same day, at the same hour, and let’s show the United States of America that we too are UNITED CITIZENS EQAUL IN MIND, BODY, SPIRIT AND DESERVING OF FULL EQUALITY UNDER THE LAW!

On the steps of your City Hall on November 15th at 10:30am PST /1:30pm EST, our community WILL take to the streets and speak out against Proposition 8 and all of the other pro-equality losses that we have faced in our lifetimes, in our parents’ lifetimes, and for many generations before us. WE CAN’T DO THIS ALONE! WE NEED YOUR HELP! We need organizers in every major city to work with us and get out the protest! I know you’re all tired from all of the work you’ve done for this great election year, but I’m
asking for one more push! Let the country hear our voices together. Let them see that we are a strong, adamant, and powerful community that deserves equal rights, and CAN’T BE DEFEATED!

Go to Join the Impact to find the location of your local protest: http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/?t=anon

Send this post to everyone! We have one week and must react to the pro-hate votes cast against us! Let’s help our LGBTQ friends, families, neighbors, and each other to IMPACT this country with a demand for our basic human rights! Join the cause, join the voice, and JOIN THE IMPACT!

***

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom

Prop 8 protests heard around the country

November 16, 2008 – This week, members of the BDSM-leather-fetish, swing and polyamory communities joined protests in cities all over California against the recent passage of Proposition 8 which outlaws same-sex marriage. In addition, dozens of NCSF board members, staff, volunteers and Coalition Partner representatives attended protests staged nationwide on November 15th by Join the Impact.

NCSF urges community members to go to http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com to submit your photos and stories about the demonstrations.

“NCSF has close ties and relationships with LGBT organizations and has always supported equal rights for everyone,” says Susan Wright, spokesperson for NCSF. “We support gay marriage not only on behalf of our own LGBT members in our communities, but also because marriage is a fundamental right that shouldn’t be denied to anyone. These protests are an important way to show the world that we stand up for those
rights.”

NCSF supports the freedom of consenting adults to discover and to practice the intimate relationship structure that best meets their emotional and human needs. We champion the basic human right to do so free of governmental, societal or institutional coercion or favoritism.

###

A joint Project of NCSF and ITCR: The Foundation of NCSF

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is a national organization committed to creating a political, legal, and social environment in the United States that advances equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression. NCSF is primarily focused on the rights of consenting adults in the SM-leather-fetish, swing, and polyamory communities, who often face discrimination because of their sexual expression.

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom
822 Guilford Avenue, Box 127
Baltimore, MD 21202-3707
917-848-6544
media@ncsfreedom.org
http://www.ncsfreedom.org

an incomplete timeline of sexual diversity – part 2* (and apologies, and dessert)
November 13, 2008

Did I skip my usual Monday post? I totally did, didn’t I? Yeesh. Well, it’s been a stupidly busy week that kicked off with a drive back from Kinsgston (after establishing that the Mamas and the Spawn and the brand-new wriggling pink squeaky sweet Spawnlet would be just fine if we left), a 12-hour stop in Toronto, and a god-awful early-morning bus ride to Montreal. And I’m still fighting off the deep-lung cough from hell so I’m under the weather to boot. Three weeks and counting… maybe I should go see a doctor. The bois’ union did make a motion strongly in favour of that not long ago. And I admit I didn’t feel too good about taking coughing breaks during the workshops I gave today – though they seemed to go well regardless. I got to light someone on fire today, and poke needles in someone else. Whee! Who would complain about that, I ask?

Anyway, my apologies. I’ll get back on the ball next week. For now, I give you a Thursday night post.

Oh, before that – on a totally unrelated note – there’s a restaurant called Juliette et Chocolat on St-Denis St. a block or so north of Ste-Catherine St. in Montreal. They serve a dessert called the Balsamico, which is an absolutely decadent balsamic vinegar and raspberry dark chocolate brownie. It ranks in the top three desserts I have ever had the privilege of tasting. If you are the sort of person who, like me, can’t quite decide whether chocolate or sex is the higher pleasure, you must – MUST – go eat this dessert. There. I have said my piece. Let the sexual deviance continue.

*Here’s the second instalment of three, originally written in April 2007. I actually originally split this timeline into five pieces, but that was when I was posting on a near-daily basis. As it stands, at twice a week, longer and richer is okay in my books, hence the three-part split this time around.

***

Bear in mind that this list is particular to Montreal in some ways, in that I’ve focused on Quebec and Montreal history. Here’s another intalment, this one starting with Stonewall – because that is a pretty darned good place to start, all things considered – and covering the ’70s.

I also figure I should mention that I don’t think I’ve done an adequate job of including pieces of trans history in this timeline. Not because I don’t know anything about the history of transgenderism and transsexuality, and not that I haven’t included some dates… but it’s really complex and diverse, and varies greatly by geography and other factors. I could mention the emergence of sex reassignment surgeries after WWII, the creation of the Benjamin Standards, the publication of Stone Butch Blues, the Kimberley Nixon case, the death of Brandon Teena, and the founding of various trans organizations, but I feel like I would need to put a lot of thought into this to make sure I was doing it justice. I’ll endeavour to take that up as a project for a future timeline. In the meantime, I’ve included a few bits here.

***

Here are a few more juicy dates on my sexuality timeline. First, though, one thing I forgot to mention last time… at the start of the Vanier lecture I made a point of explaining two things. One: that I’m a staunch feminist, and that my particular preferred flavour of feminism is the sex-positive kind, which I define as follows.

“While sometimes the social, political, economic and interpersonal circumstances in which sex takes place are not ideal, sex-positive feminism is feminism which incorporates the belief that at its basis, sex in its many forms is a good thing.”

Two: that there’s a list of common issues that may be faced by people who fall into the bottom categories in Gayle Rubin’s sexual pyramid. Anyone who’s familiar with the queer coming-out process has probably heard of, or can easily imagine, most of these, but I believe they’re common to most sexual minorities rather than being particular to those on the LGBT spectrum. They include prejudice, violence, job loss, child custody loss, medicalization, pathologization, self-hatred, depression, drug use, higher risk for suicide, rejection from cultural and religious communities, etc. Of course, there are also advantages to being there: self-knowledge and self-discovery, freedom from mainstream constraints, love, sense of community/tribe and tradition, support, friendship, potentially progressive political views, and of course satisfying sex!

On to the dates… this time with some Canadiana starting to appear.

1928 Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness was published, with a foreword by Havelock Ellis on the topic of inversion and how the phenomenon should not be cause for hatred or offense. The book was banned. It is still in print today, and considered the first lesbian novel of all time.

1929 On October 18, women were finally declared “persons” under Canadian law. The historic legal victory was due to the persistence of five Alberta women — Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards. The battle started in 1916. From Murphy’s very first day as a judge, lawyers had challenged her rulings because she is not a “person” under Canadian law.

1948 Alfred C. Kinsey published his first study – Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male – and in 1953 followed it up with Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female. The books were dense scientific text, the result of thousands of in-depth interviews all over the USA, and the information therein blew the lid of America’s ideas about sexual purity. The movie Kinsey (released in 2005) still upsets people today. Kinsey created the Kinsey Scale, where 0 is completely heterosexual, 6 is completely homosexual, and his belief was that most people fall somewhere in between.

1948 – 1959 John Willie published Bizarre, the first North American SM and fetish-oriented magazine. It contained letters from subscribers, art that’s still typical of SM outfits and fetish imagery today, and such gems as bondage photos guised as jiu-jitsu “don’t let this happen to you!” ads. (I just got my hands on a hardbound boxed-set reprint of the entire series, and it is indeed bizarre… and thoroughly fascinating.) The magazine’s publication coincided with the development of gay male SM communities in San Francisco, a major port city where many ex-military men settled after the war. These communities were often based on military codes, biker groups and strict hierarchy.

1951 The Mattachine Society (the USA’s first noted gay rights group) was founded. By 1960 it had only 230 members.

1955 The Daughters of Bilitis (the USA’s first noted lesbian rights group) was founded. By 1960 it had only 110 members.

1967 On December 21 the young Pierre Trudeau, acting as Justice Minister, introduced his controversial Omnibus bill in the House of Commons. The bill called for massive changes to the Criminal Code of Canada. Trudeau made an appeal for the decriminalization of homosexual acts performed in private, telling CBC TV reporters (in a now-famous quote) “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” You go, girl.

1969 Beginning on June 28, shortly after the death of Judy Garland (the actress who played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and a noted gay icon), the Stonewall riots were a series of violent conflicts between New York City police officers and groups of gay and transgender people that lasted several days. The clash was a watershed for the worldwide gay rights movement, as gay and transgender people had never before acted together in such large numbers to forcibly resist police. The riots inspired related protests all over North America… these demonstrations in turn led to the creation of Gay Pride celebrations worldwide. Nowadays, in North America at least, Pride season is about parades and parties, but their origin was as protest marches in sympathy with Stonewall.

1970 Canada’s first gay liberation group formed in Montreal, called the Front de la libération homosexuelle.

1972
Gay McGill was founded. The club began with only a few dozen members. It grew exponentially and is now one of the most influential queer groups in the city; it was renamed Queer McGill in 1998, to better reflect its current diverse mission.

1975 L’Androgyne, Montreal’s first gay, lesbian and feminist bookstore, opened with a collective government, many members of which were from Gay McGill. It closed in 2002, as many queer and feminist bookstores have done due to the expansion of Chapters, Amazon and other major chains – sadly, since queer bookstores are cultural institutions, not simply businesses.

1976 Gay Line is founded, and is still in operation today, 7-11 p.m. every night (514 866-5090).

1976 The first known case of AIDS is discovered in Africa – though there was no name for it at the time.

1976 Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality was published in French, (1978 in English). It is the most widely referenced text in queer theory today.

1977 Quebec becomes the first province to legislate prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, thanks to the efforts of the Front de la libération homosexuelle.

1978 Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute was founded – in the same time period as many other women’s studies programs in universities and colleges all over North America.

1979 Janice Raymond’s Transsexual Empire was published – a book renowned for its explicit hostility towards transsexual women (former men) and rejection of them from women’s and feminist communities.

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