Kink and the Open Road

fetishism

Over the last couple weeks, I have talked about various styles of kink and how it relates to people. Degrees of it vary as much as does people themselves. It can range from being an integral part of your daily life or used to just heighten an experience. Some are more suited to solo play, whereas others are imperative that you have someone else along for the ride. Kink is about the person more than the act, to see how it relates to people I have asked questions of one couple that is in the kink lifestyle and one single person. They will discuss their limits and may even share what gets them going. This will be done in a judgement free zone and only related to you how it was given to me, with a few minor changes for ease of reading. All names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Meet Thomas, a 32-year-old man from Ohio. Thomas identifies as sexually fluid and more about being open to the situation, as opposed to being locked into one type of kink. Being sexually fluid, he cares more for the quality of the person as opposed to their gender. As fitting with many aboriginal cultures, a person can be made up of more than on gender and therefore to limit your experiences with others is a way of going against the nature of things. As such, his sexual life is as open to new horizons, as well.

When did you first know you were into your preferences? I had always had interest in the “abnormal” things that people do. However, I was able to experience it more when I was in my early 20’s

What does kink mean to you?Kink is anything that is considered out of the norm. Although everything can be included in kink.

Do many people know about your kink side?I don’t embellish much about my life to anyone.

Have you ever been a switch or the opposite of our current role? I don’t have a current role that limits me.

What types of kink do you engage in?I used to think I leaned towards the Leather fetish, the more I find out and hang with different people/crowds the more I learn that I don’t have a singular place.

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What are some common misconceptions you have received or heard about kink lifestyle? Kink shaming is the biggest thing that anyone could and does deal with. We are always so judgmental on what someone else is into that we forget that the things we may like may be weird or unusual to someone else. We shield ourselves from seeing that someone else’s “kink” is just as normal.

Do you identify as a dom or a sub? If neither, what is your word choice?I don’t see either because I haven’t explored that as much as I would like. I guess I would be somewhere in the middle due to liking aspects from both sides.

Do you have limits in the type of kink you would engage in? Why? I only limit myself to what I know already. I try to experience everything at least once before making a decision not to participate. Although, not participating doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it.

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Do you engage in group sex or multiple partners? If so, do your kink preferences come up?I have before. Kink, again, isn’t something that I have discussed much, unless it was a primary thing we talked about prior or have interest in.

Do you use safe words? If so, are there more than one? What do you use?There is always a need for someone to allow others to know when you need them to do something. Whether it is a stop word or for them to know that just because you make a certain sound or noise doesn’t mean you aren’t enjoying it, or you want them to stop.

Has anyone ever went over your limits? If so, how did you regain control?I like to plan beforehand and make it known what my limitations are. If it has ever come to the point of reaching a limit, it is stopped and talked about before it goes over the edge.

Do you think your you kink lifestyle will lose its appeal later in life?I hope not. I like seeing the possibilities of new things. However, I have strayed away from what I liked and have wants of getting back to it.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What Thomas shows us is that he believes his life isn’t limited by a set of rigid standards. He sees kink more of a road map to possibilities. A means to heighten experiences shared with others. Life often gets in the way and can change our experiences and even put them on hold. That doesn’t change how we feel about them. Thomas’s view about kink and his life isn’t different than what most people feel and shows how exploring our sexual natures can enhance who we are and introduce us to new experiences we haven’t felt before. After all, sex is about the experience and feelings it creates. Those feelings are heightened by the freedom of the act and how much you surrender to the other person. It comes back to the power dynamic, we already do it, on many levels, and don’t realize it.

As Thomas says, all things can be labeled as kink, it’s all about perspective. What is your perspective? How open minded are you? Where does your kink level lie? It only requires you to detach from your current perceptions and open your mind to the may experiences that are out there for us, as souls, to witness Choose your door wisely.

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What’s Old Is New Again

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So many times, things fall to the annals of history and seem to disappear, leave gaps in what once was. But with LGBTQ, many things that had become passé have come back around and fallen into favor, even if slightly changed. Then there are times that new things spontaneously come into creation and burn bright. Since I have been discussing fetish and its relation to our history, I thought this one fit right in there. I do not endorse and suggest any of these, only open up to you about what is out there. But, at the same time it is important to point out that any of these topics covered here or previously are not bad by nature alone.  It is for you to decide what is good and healthy and what is fun and arousing.

History is often repeated, but there are occasions where new things can be created from previous incarnations. Roleplay isn’t new to the kink scene, but it has taken on many variations over the many years and even has been escalated based on technology. One such variation is puppy play. Now, ok, I know you are going to say that there has always been a kink scene where people have acted like animals to a master before. They may anal plugs with animal styles tails to create the illusion, but as I said technology has allowed some to go to a whole new level. Puppy play is a healthy mix of BDSM, furry, and role playing. It became a rage in the gay scene in about 2015 and has really escalated since and moved over into the heterosexuals, as well.

So, let’s drill it down to some basics, keep in mind I do not partake in it, so this is an observational view. Puppy play is when one person takes on the role of a pup and the other takes on the role of a handler. The pup, literally, acts like his biological counterpart, while the trainer treats the pup as if he was training one. There are no requirements for special gear, if you choose not to, or can be as elaborate as you would like. Many pups start out with a tail (small anal plug with an outward curved in resembling a dog’s tail), a pup mask (a leather, usually, mask that covers the face and looks like a dog’s snout), and a leash. Some include a harness as well and even have a trainer that may collar them, at some point. After that, it is more about letting go of who you are and getting in touch with your inner animal side. Turning off the cares and concerns of your day to day and responding on instinct and what feels good. Some describe it as turning off your inner monologue, slipping out of who you are, and becoming your alter ego canine.

The key thing to remember here is that this type of play is not driven by sex, in fact there are many pup/trainer relationships that do not involve sex. In many of the same veins that Dom/Sub relationships go, it is about letting go and surrendering, to become vulnerable and open. Our society teaches us that those feelings are signs of weaknesses and so are not wanted. Many who view it from the outside pass a judgement on how silly it may look or weird to their view of normality. But let’s take a different look, how awesome would be to just be? Think about being with someone who actually knows your secrets and will never judge you. You have the ability to play and have fun, without worrying about what bills are due. The ability to have someone give you reassurance and be open enough with them to enjoy each other for the joys you feel with them. These are all things that pups and trainers say they experience. Want to see what it looks like? Check out the Leather Stallion tonight and tomorrow night (Mach 22 – 23, 2019) for the Ohio Pup & Trainer event.

Ok, this one falls in the outskirts of kink and only really fits it due the way having multiple sexual partners or group sex can be considered kink. And it is definitely one that was once really popular, fell by the wayside, and made a resurgence in gay male circles. If you haven’t guessed then let me clarify, we are talking about Gay Bathhouses. Public bathhouses date back into history and were common place in many cultures. Gay Bathhouses, a place where men congregated to engage in male to male sex date back, at least recorded, to the 16th century. First recorded in America was in New York in 1903 where police conducted the first ever raid on a gay bathhouse. They became vastly popular in America through the 1920s and 30s and probably hit their heyday in the 60s to early 80s. Many famous celebrities got their starts performing in bathhouses, and not sexually. Take Bette Midler, she was known as “Bathhouse Betty.” Her cabaret performances in the, then, Continental, in New York city is what gained her iconic status with the gay male population. During this time, she also had backup by pianist Barry Manilow.

During the 60s and 70s, they were fully licensed ran and owned gay establishments and where the quintessential place for gay men to go and be with other gay men, no judgements only carnal desires. Before I proceed, let me say that not all men who frequent bathhouses then and now are gay. This is where the kink can fall into it. There are many heterosexual and bisexual men who come here to throw off inhibitions and conduct in sex that is outside of their normal predilections. Bathhouses took a decline in the 80s as the HIV/AIDS epidemic continued to rise, exponentially. Safe sex practices in bathhouses were almost non-existent and since the disease was new enough that most people hadn’t heard of it, or when it was called GRID, if gave a means to spread quickly. Once “barebacking” and promiscuity were shown to be a large cause of the spread, many people left the bathhouses. As with most things, Gay men aren’t easily swayed from our habits.

The bathhouses of today are vastly different than those of the days of yore. Gone are the days of the many dark, cavernous buildings, many have switched to a high-end spa appearance. Modern amenities and memberships create an air of elegance in the trysts we chase. Take a look at Flex Spas, they have four locations in the United States. Here in Cleveland you can find Flex in the old Art Deco Greyhound building and boasts as being the largest private alternative men’s club in the world. You will find rooms have been decorated as extensively as high-end hotels, they gym/weight rooms are all the most up to date equipment, and the pool spa areas brightly lit take away the old day’s stigma of dark and dank sex clubs. Don’t let all the trendy decor and weight machines fool you, there are fully function playrooms to fill your wildest desires. Find someone you prefer to get a bit more one and one with, they do offer rooms, as well. This creates a modern day luxurious getaway that caters to your every desire. They even offer memberships for more frequent visits. It takes away the stigma of doing something that seems base and dirty and replaces it with a feeling of experiencing what makes you feel good.

Humans have this amazing ability to derive pleasure from so many sources. We can have lives where we can experience our own versions of best version of life and sexual satisfaction. The only true limits are respect, mutual consent, and our own comfort level. If you have the desire, explore your inner nature and see what you may be missing. At the very least, maintain an open mind about what others like and makes them who they are, remember it is their journey as much as it is yours. Above all other things, love yourself for who you are and without judgement. Lighten up, you may just have fun!

The Cultural Impact of Tom of Finland

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Touko Valio Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland

One of my favorite things that expresses the BDSM/Leather subcultures of LGBTQ is Tom of Finland. His highly masculinized homoerotic art really lent a lot of influence to gay culture in the late twentieth century. Many of you have probably seen his images in places before and not recognized the artist. They ranged from the stylized clothed Castro Clones to the full-on hardcore pen and ink drawings. His art has inspired the adult industry from videos down to sex toys. So, let’s take a look at the man behind Tom of Finland and some of his images.

Touko Valio Laaksonen was born in Finland on May 8th, 1920 and died November 7th, 1991 and was best known as Tom of Finland. Joseph W. Slade, cultural historian, has called him the most influential creator of gay pornographic images. He has created over 3500 images that are known to have overly endowed primary and secondary sexual characteristics and either wearing very tight clothing or appear in some stage of undress. By the early 70s gay porn and male nudity had become decriminalized and rapidly overwhelmed the market, it was during this time that Laaksonen saw his change to start mass producing books of his images. By 1973, three short years, his artwork had become so popular that he gave up his office job in Helsinki with an international advertising firm and focused solely on producing his images. He was quoted as saying, “Since then I have lived in my jeans and lived on my drawings.”

Tom of Finland’s fame came at a time with body and sexual glorification was at its heights. This was the time before the AIDS crisis and gay porn had just became legal. There was a sense of reprieve among the gay male population, a time for us to fully embrace the masculinity of what we are and act on it. However, this “clone” model was mostly found in urban centers of larger cities, that same sense of freedom wasn’t granted to the more rural gay male, so these sketches gave a smaller sense of that liberation. This style of art created a dress code for an entire subset of the gay male population and became THE way to identify and advertise your sexuality to others. His artwork also inspired another artist G.B. Jones who went on to create “Tom Girls.” Her work typified strong punk girls and sub-culturally identified women. Jones’ work showed these women other throwing the authority figures that tried to oppress them. Jones and Laaksonen did many exhibits together, as their work played well off each other.

The same style that Tom of Finland inspired went on to inspire more characters. Paul Hopkins was cast as Michael Tolliver in the 1993 adaptation of the sex and third books of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City because of already mustachioed persona he already had. Freddie Mercury even adopted similar dress styles to the masculine creations of Laaksonen. When Laaksonen came to America to do an exhibit of his work, he was shocked to see how much his artwork had already inspired groups of people. As he tended to take inspiration for photographs and real life, this gave further inspiration for his future works. This style carried through the 80s and still maintain large popularity well into the 90s, with the Leather/BDSM groups of the LGBTQ community.

I mentioned in a previous post (insert link from post) taking about my first adventures into gay bars and trade nights at the bar I frequented. From there I was entranced with the dress style of Tom of Finland and the leather community. I mimicked it in my ways, adopting leather pants, chaps, harness, hat, tank tops, and cutoff jeans. As I moved away from Virginia and into North Carolina, I was exposed to a whole new type of gay bars. I went to the Woodshed and the Charlotte Eagle. The Woodshed was a Leather Bear bar and the Charlotte Eagle was like every other Eagle, Leather/BDSM bar. These places took the leather fetish wear to a whole new level. Here I saw larger trade shows that included props like St. Andrews Crosses and barber chairs. Things that seemed literally ripped from the artwork of Tom of Finland.

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inspired by Tom of Finland

Being introduced to these images early had already fed my lustful desires and when I was seeing them carried out in living color in front of me, only added to them. The dress style fascinated me, and the acts being shown caused immense intrigue. While I, myself, may not be a fully participating members of the BDSM community, I do appreciate the aesthetics of the culture. As the years have progressed it does seem that the influence of Tom of Finland has waned, somewhat. The leather community has gotten away from many of the aesthetics and only kept the basic core. It is why I feel it so important to remember the roots from which we came. May Tom of Finland and Touko Valio Laaksonen continue to be fuel for young and old masturbatory fantasies alike. If you have never experienced his artwork, there is no time like the present to become a fan.

**Trailer for the Tom of Finland Movie**

 

 

 

Fetishism Fun For ALL

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In the last post, I talked about the Hanky Code and some of their meanings. Boiled down to basics, it started as a means for gay men to recognize one another and to quickly ascertain the types of sexual activities they liked. Most of which speaks to fetish, in some way or another. At quick glance it would also give you the ability to know whether they person you were cruising was a top or a bottom. For the most part, the Hanky Code has fallen by the wayside, but you can still remnants of it. Men will wear red jockstraps or harnesses outlined in a specific color that others will recognize. Again, pointing towards the fetish arena. After all, it is nice to know that you can identify someone that has similar interests as you by simply looking at them and what they may be wearing.

Fetish is “a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc.” Merriam Webster defines it as “an object or bodily part whose real or fantasized presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression.” We do know that fetishistic behavior is normally in men and 30% of the men polled report fetishistic fantasies. Studies also show that the largest percentage of fetishism surrounds feet coming in at 47%.

So, let’s take a look at some of the more common fetishes; Fetishism is when you become aroused by something that has been in close personal contact with another person. This could be clothing, electronics, or any other object. Katoptronophilia is the fetish of having sex in front of a mirror. Perfect for those who seem to be too focused on themselves. Knismolagnia is the fetish of gaining arousal by tickling sensations. A vastly popular fetish, voyeurism is where one derives sexual joy by watching others engaged in intimate acts. One quick search on Google will show you how popular it is. And if you are Googling your desires then you may actually have the fetish of Pictophilia, where porn or pornographic images are what gives you sexual arousal. Try swinging a stick and not hitting someone with varying degrees of that one. Mentioned above, if you have a thing for feet then you are known to have Podophilia, where you are aroused by licking, sucking, nibbling, and caressing someone’s feet. The last two we will mention are much more common than many would like to acknowledge. The first is Urophilia. This is your fetish if you like giving or receiving golden showers. And lastly is, Swinging. Pretty self-explanatory, you get aroused and get off by being with other consenting adults, couples.

Now for a few that aren’t as common as those listed above. Cuckolding/Cuckoldry is the fetish where one receives sexual arousal by watching their partner being aroused by and having sex with another person. Part of the allure comes with associated feelings of humiliation and/or rejection. My Little Pony Sex is a fetish where “bronies” are males who sexualize the TV show as well as watch character inspired cartoon porn. Or, to go even further, dress up and roleplay sexual scenes as My Little Pony characters. Pedal pumping/Revving is a subset of the foot fetish where one is sexually aroused by someone wearing boots, high heels and pumping a gas pedal in a masturbatory manner. I once knew a guy who always wanted to watch me drive my jeep and kept begging me to pump the gas pedal. I never got the understanding of why flooding my engine was so climatic for him.

Typically, fetishes do not have a preference to sexuality and are found in LGBTQ and Heterosexual people. That being said, there are subcultures of fetishism that are popular in the LGBTQ community, but in more common tongue would also be called “KINK.” Kink is more about how you have sex as opposed, specifically, to what causes your arousal. Kink uses props, where fetish replaces with props. With gay men, many of the kink fetish scene revolves around a subset of clothing fetish. Here you will find Leather, BDSM, underwear, cowboy, spandex, and rubber. It should be noted that wearing leather does not automatically make you part of the BDSM culture. For many, the act of wearing leather is what exhibits power for them. The smell, look, texture, and how it feels offers a sense of heightened masculinity or the appropriation of sexual power. BDSM can include leather as well as spandex and rubber, from there the specifics can go even further to types of BDSM like mummification. Mummification is where someone is placed into a cocoon of sorts, using products like a body bag, duct tape, saran wrap, pallet wrap, or any other movement restricting substances. Gay men aren’t the only ones who partake in BDSM, though they are the most visible, there are many lesbian and transgender BDSM groups out there. Pat Califia was the first transgender to openly identify with the leather community in 1978. Califia was a co-founder to Samois, a lesbian-feminist BDSM organization in San Francisco from 1978 – 1983.

Under the Leather/BDSM umbrella, there are three types of fetishes we commonly see together, bondage, underwear, and orgasm control (better known as edging). Bondage tends to be more of a dominant/submissive type fetish where one partner restrains the other. It can be accomplished as easily as with the belt you are wearing or more elaborate utilizing St. Andrew’s crosses, straps, and gags. Once bound, you can incorporate other fetishes like orgasm control. Your partner is help in restraint and unable to prevent you from edging them to close to climax and stopping multiple times. Underwear fetish is the sexual excitement caused by the view of person intimate garments such as panties, jockstraps, stockings, underwear, bras etc. It can be two men being close to one another only in their underwear while viewing each other and other forms of stimulation, which in turn can also lead to things like orgasm control. This fetish includes fresh undergarments as well as used ones and for gay men, it seems to have a larger audience around jockstraps. Watching men put the on or take them off, wearing them in some state of undress, and as well as used jockstraps.

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More recent times has shown a growth in a fetish dealing with masturbation. Many clubs are popping where men come together with other men, heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, to share in the experience of mutual masturbation or just being around other guys having one off. A quick internet search showed that there are also groups of women who enjoy the same sensations. There are organizations all over the country that cater to people who want to enjoy this type of experience, take the group Cleveland Jacks. They are an all-male group who create a safe environment for men to do what comes naturally. If you are looking for leather and BDSM, check out the Leather Stallion Saloon, the oldest operation gay bar in Cleveland, Ohio. They have been the home bar for the leather and bear communities and host for many social clubs, groups, and sports teams. And if you are just looking to see what all kinds of kink/fetish is out there you may want to have a look at The Academy – Cleveland’s Premier BDSM Dungeon and Playspace. The Academy was created as a gathering & play space for ALL of the kinky people and groups in N.E. Ohio and surrounding states – ages 19 and over. It is a safe place to show your freakier side and not worry about judgments from others. You can be as mild or wild as you like, clothing is optional (in the appropriate places). Come out and give them a good once over.

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Each of us are wired differently and each of us have things that get us to a point of enjoyment. As long as it does not cause psychosocial distress for the person or persons involved, it can be a healthy addition to your sex life. As with all things, moderation is the key. If you are just starting out in any fetish, be sure you set and follow your limitations. If you are engaging with someone else, make sure there is trust and they know your limits and when to back off. A good resource to check out if you are new to BDSM can be found over on Submissive Guide. As with all things, have fun and practice safe.

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All The Queen’s Men

Last night I experienced one of the most spectacular shows in all the drag I have seen. All the Queen’s Men made their eastside debut last night at ALL AXS and they knew how to bring the show. This amazing group rolled into town, took over the bar, and left the crowd begging for more. And, like I said, the best Drag King show I have ever had a chance to see. Their energy definitely took over the crowd and they knew how to work it. And they were part of the amazing shows that Billy Welker is bringing to his customers to make ALL AXS the most inclusive and friendly place to be in Willoughby.

Angelica Arkett, Terri Mann, Mr. Ohio King All-Star Matt Cockrin, and Santana Romero make up All the King’s Men.  If you have never been to a King show, then it is definitely something you need to experience. Sure, Queens can turn a look and duck walk across your wallet for tips, but Kings show the sexy side of male performers that both men and women fall for. My own experience with King shows were back home in Virginia and while they were fun, they were nothing like the show I experienced last night. Angelica was a captivating host, kept the audience engaged with her quick with on fleek lip syncs. Terri Mann is the MAN behind the show and just left you wanting to open your wallet for him. Your current reigning Mr. Ohio King All-Star Matt Cockrin gave you smoky intense and soulful lip syncs that just made your heart skip a beat. Santana Romero brought you flavor and rhythm that made you want to move your hips to his beat.

This group was crowd interactive and boy did the patrons eat it up. Many times, they were dragging the women to their feet to sweep them up in their intensity, while Angelica entranced the men and left the swooning. For some it this was their first ever show and for others it was their first ever King show. No matter which they were All the King’s Men treated them like familiar lovers, giving them more and leaving them wanting. High energy and captivating was the theme for each half of the show. The crowning performance, for me, was Terri Mann who performed a song mashup of 30+ songs, talk about turning it out.

I would like to say thank you for All the Queen’s Men for coming out and making an awesome Tuesday night at All AXS. You guys were incredible, and I loved the show. If you missed the show, never fear they will return, and don’t quote me, on March 25th. If I am wrong, I will update this post with the correct date. When they return, make sure you are there with your dollars out and ready to have an awesome time.

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Barely Body Beautiful

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Disclaimer, this is a hard post for me to do.  I make no apologies for it, as it is a means of self-acceptance and growth. If you have strong feelings over it, then it has achieved its purpose for both of us. Hopefully, you will grow as I am trying to. Thank being said, let’s proceed.

My last post has got me thinking about self-image a lot. A friend shared his story of how his acceptance came to him, we are both about the same age and I wondered why my experiences are so much different. I fully understand that our journeys are ours and based on the choices we make, the cultural ideals that are forced upon us, preconceptions we develop based on our understanding, and so many more. As we build up walls to protect ourselves, we don’t think about tearing them down. We let others place constraints on us and we never outgrow them. The question, really, is why?

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When I was born, I was a skinny kid. I had a lot of allergies and I never really put on a lot of weight. I remember going to the doctor a lot, mainly for all the allergy tests, but there were other things. I was put on medication to help me put on weight and remember taking iron pills. At some point, it worked, I started putting on weight. Most of me growing up was being a chubby kid. I remember getting picked on and being called so many things. Fat was among them, a lot of weirdo, and even many that called me faggot. I knew early that I liked guys more than I did girls, but I also learned to hide it. It was already bad enough kids calling kids faggot when they didn’t understand the term, but if they knew I like guys it would be added torture. I never picked on kids for being overweight, after all my sister and I grew up with a mother who was larger. She taught us that all people were beautiful, but I never really learned that it applied to me. By graduation I was a large guy and I hated it. Throw that in with the fact that my hair was unruly, and I still had a “bucky beaver” overbite, I truly hated being noticed. I was much more comfortable hiding. Because I was trying to fit in, I dated And my preference was usually larger women. I am sure there are psychologists that would love analyzing what that meant. I joined a fraternity and decided that I hated how I looked. I started starving myself and when I ate is was usually ramen noodles or just macaroni and cheese. I cut my hair short and walked almost everywhere I needed to go, especially to and from work. And it worked, I lost a lot of weight.

When I left college, I was down to almost a size 34 waist and could wear large t-shirts, keep in mind I am 6’4, so being skinny wouldn’t be the best look for me. I was content. I came out fully when I left college and was pretty popular with other men, finally. None of this ever changed the fact that I still hated how I looked. I hated being in any state of undress in front of people. The only time my walls every came down was during sex. I could get lost in my own head and the pleasures two people could cause, that I didn’t really give it a lot of thought. The moment it was over I was up and immediately getting dressed. I have worked a lot to try and change that and have made small progresses. I can now be shirtless around people I am completely comfortable with, if I am home alone, I have no fears of being nude. But I still dislike how I look. I don’t share full body pictures with anyone, so this post is a HUGE undertaking. But putting it up is a step in the right direction. I am scared of how people will react and comments I may get, but this is for my personal growth. It has to be done.

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The Bear Community was going to be a place I thought I felt comfortable. After all, statistics say that the Bear Community makes up 14 to 22% of the gay male population, so I felt they would be accepting. The subculture started to rise because of a large number of gay men who did not fit the stereotypical gay mold; skinny, perfect hair, hairless chest in many cases, often overly flamboyant like a twink. But after being around the Bear community for a while, I learned that there was much discrimination amongst them as well. There is a group that I hung out with in Virginia and was THE Bear Community. I went to a few of their dinners and when they had events at the bars. Many of an underwear party was visited and they were always fun. What I started to realize was the segregation among them. The so called “muscle bear” types often didn’t associate with those that were more of the “chub” type. The ones who claimed to be “hyper-masculine” did not talk to those that showed any effeminate traits. I would hear the hushed tones of “He isn’t a ‘real bear’.” After going to many of their events, one of the council members approached me and asked me if I had thought about joining and if I did, I needed to come to their Bear Run because the sex parties were off the chain. When I declined to come to the run, he said it was probably good since I wasn’t a “Real Bear” either. I was good enough to be asked to come, but because I turned it down now, I am not good enough. It was then that I decided I wouldn’t be a part of the Bear Community. Even now I see the Bear Community rife with discrimination, minorities are often not tolerated at events, unless you show up to the sex parties you are often not considered a part of the group. If you aren’t butch enough, you don’t get to be in their little group. It’s too much, it is hard enough being myself with all of the negativity I feel towards my own image, I don’t need the added weight, pardon the pun.

Five years ago, I took pics around the time I was getting ready to turn 41. I wanted to see what I looked like shirtless and you can see two of them here. There are pictures from this year that are much less clothes. I have put on weight since they were taking five years ago, and shame fills me. Why should I be filled with shame, I didn’t do anything wrong. I only ate and got older, both of which are things I cannot prevent. It is even worse when I see pictures of myself, that other have taken. It is true that photographs show us everything that we do not see, mostly about ourselves. Each time I see one, there is a new thing that I hate about them. You would think that with age I would start to care less about what people think, the truth is as I get older, I surround myself by fewer people so as not to get judged.

We are told from childhood that we shouldn’t care what others think, there will be someone who loves us for who we are. I met one once who did not care of my imperfections, he loved me for my heart and soul, as I loved him. Since his departure, my walls have become thicker, my mask more painted to hide away from others. I am tired of waiting for this “someone” that may be out there. I must start loving what I have and realizing that is the medicine or magic I need. Each of us are truly beautiful and amazing creatures. That is the lesson we need to learn, not waiting for someone to validate us. I have a million imperfections, but they do not make me less of who I am. I cannot wave a magic wand and make it all disappear and suddenly we can be how we want to be and be loved for it. Just know, if you are reading this, you are not alone in your dark thoughts. You have the strength to endure the torment others put on you and there are people who will stand by you, remember to ask for help when you need it. You may be surprised how many are going through the same issues that you are and simply do not show it.

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Community At Odds

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After a conversation with friends at the bar, last night, this seemed all too relevant. I had been sitting on this article for a while trying to decide if I wanted to post it or let it set for a later date. Sometimes the universe tells you that something is more important than you thought it was and I guess this is one of those synchronicity moments.

Pride will be starting in a few short months and it’s the time when we are supposed to look back at our history and celebrate the advances we have made, honor those that have stood up at the Stonewall riots, and plan towards our futures. It is meant to be a time of solidarity and celebration. The problem is that is not the case within our community. Each of our individual groups are segregated along the line of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, queer identifying. Inside of each of those group we further divide ourselves, twinks and bears, dykes and lipstick, and so on and so on. From there it goes to division based on minority, body shaming, fetish shaming, and even worse shaming others for how they dress. We fight to get the respect we feel we deserve from our heterosexual counterparts when we don’t even oblige ourselves that same courtesy. The question is why?

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From a very young age we are exposed to judgmental mindsets, we are introduced to the word perfection without relation to what it means. Media presents us with unrealistic mindsets of “perfection”, skinny, perfect hair, skin, and eyes, clothing from the hottest designers. Kids truly have it rough. Combine this kind of torture with dealing knowing you are different from the others. Not only do they have to worry about being judged because their clothes are not like their friends or they may be a bit overweight or they have glasses, now they are bullied because they maybe a young LGBT kid. Feeling they are truly alone in the world and no one understands what they are going through. That is some rough shit to have to live through and many do not. Teen suicide among LGBT youth is higher than other teens.  According to The Trevor Project  LGBT youths are three times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual youths are and they are five times more likely to have attempted suicide than heterosexual youth.

As we grow and age, we start to meet others that appear like us. We are introduced to more LGBT people and start to feel comfortable with who we are, and we start to believe we have a place that accepts us. All too often this isn’t the case. We quickly realize that our differences keep us just as divided as we were before. Scroll through any dating app and you can see the divisions and the shaming that goes on. “No fats or femmes, masc 4 masc, and straight acting for similar. Sure, we all have our specific tastes and preferences, but shaming others isn’t the answer. Nor should any of that prevent you from reaching out to someone and just talking.

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All of the judgments we deal with from our childhood on weigh us down. They shape how we view ourselves and define our worth with those around us. It shapes how we interact with people and view ourselves. I stand in front of the mirror, daily, judging myself harshly. “If I can just lose this much weight…” “If only my thighs looked like this…” “If only this perceived imperfection wasn’t here…” “Why can’t I be endowed like this porn star?” Many of which are unrealistic goals and many more aren’t healthy to try to achieve. We are left with the fake sentiment by so many words that there are people out there that will love us for who we are or if they can appreciate us for what we are we don’t deserve them. These come from many of the same people how make similar judgements. I recently read a tweet where a user was stating that he cannot understand why anyone would want to wear a jockstrap or a harness. They are not attractive, and he would never date someone who wore either. Here is that shaming mentality again. You would be so vain as to not consider someone worthy simply because of garments they wear? You may not agree with a particular fetish that someone has, but that doesn’t make them any less of a person or worth dating. What elevates you to a better position? Being overly critical of someone for a fashion choice is much more unattractive than a jockstrap.

There are many things that I am confident in myself over but looks and build are not among them. I stare in complete awe of those that have the courage and not give a fuck mentality to be themselves in front of others. The ones that do not give a single thought to how they are perceived, because they are happy with themselves. I am one of those larger almost bearish types of gay men, however I do not have the body hair that many have That leaves me with feeling less than those I am attracted to. Because my lack of hair and larger build, I know I may be repulsive to the more in shape guys that I also find attractive. Where does that leave me? At 46 I have mostly grey hair and beard, a trait that I have carried for almost 20 years. I started going grey in high school and take after my grandmother who was mostly grey in her 20s. This leads others to believe I am older than I may be, so less desirable. Are these feeling mostly in my head? Yes, but does that make them any less real to me.

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I know how exhausted constantly thinking about my negative emotions make me feel, I cannot even begin to imagine how someone who is transgender feels in our world. Our community is tortured enough by those who feel we are already less than equal, why should we carry this over to how we interact with each other. I am not saying we should have a Utopian society, that too is unrealistic. We should, however, work towards inclusion and acceptance of one another. Use our strengths to lift us up from our low spots, use our fellowship to guide us and shape our futures into a safer environment for our future LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We have lost a large chunk of our history to the devastation of HIV/AIDS, let work to make sure we don’t lose a larger chunk of our future to the suicide of our youth.