The Importance Of Being Visible

The Importance of Being Visible

I want to extend the deepest thanks to every trans/gender non-conforming person who has shared their personal stories through my blog. Each of you are a string in the larger fabric that is the LGBT community. Your stories are more important than any of us realize, the difficulties you have experienced are the similar to others and could be the difference they need in feeling their own worth. To each of you who reads this, remember that you are part of that fabric as well. I hope that the stories and information I share can be of some use to you. I hope that you realize you are not alone in this world, there are others like you and have went through very similar things. We have survived through sheer force of will and determination. Lean on us for the strength you may need, there are those of us who give it willingly.

With all the huff and hype the media and political figures put out, they want you to think that transgender people are a new concept. That their interests only became more relevant after marriage equality started. We all know that trans people have been part of human history since the beginning, just like lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. The battle for transgender rights has been a long, hard struggle and activist Samy Nour shows just how long this battle has been going on. “Imagine how the conversation would shift if we acknowledge just how long trans people have been demanding equality,” he says.

Having these talks with people is never a comfortable situation, and it shouldn’t be. When things become comfortable, we tend to overlook what causes issues and try to gloss over them. Being an advocate for a community will always be that struggle to make others understand what is outside of their normal views and lives. It is how we prove that each of us has worth and is just as meaningful as the next person. LB Hannahs is a genderqueer parent and shows how they manage and negotiate the discomforts of everyday life.

The more our stories get in front of people, the more it forces them to realize that they already know someone like you or me. This puts a face with a label and forces them to look at us in a differently. It is harder to hate groups of people when there is emotional attachment to them.  And educating them on how long the struggle for acceptance and equality has been going on will hopefully change their minds. It is left to us to be the stewards for the next generations of LGBT people. How we choose to fight today will affect how they live tomorrow. The struggle still starts with the education of our community. If we don’t understand the struggle, there is no hope of being able to unite and fight.

Again, thank each of you for trusting me with the stories you have shared. It has been my honor and privilege to share them with our community. My hope is to keep doing this for as long as anyone has a story they want to share. It is a means for you to be visible, even if you choose not to disclose your name. Your story is the important part of visibility, that is what can and will affect another someone else.

Where The Wild Heart Roams

So, I was having a moment of writer’s block and unsure what topic I wanted to cover next, it is still a good month before Pride season starts and didn’t want to burn that out before then. A new friend of mine suggested I write about her and her lifestyle, never wanting to turn down a chance to write about someone from the Cleveland area, I was a bit intrigued. When she shared with me her story, I admit I was a little hesitant. After all, this is something I only have passing knowledge of and isn’t specific to the LGBT people. Since I am more about capturing stories of the counter and subcultures of the area, I call home, I said why not. Let’s try it and see what we can do with it.

So, we are talking about furries and if you are like me, most of us only have a cursory knowledge of this subculture. We have seen them at Comic-cons, on TV shows, and have heard or even watched furry porn on PornHub. *No judgments here* But do any of us truly understand who they are and what they are about? It’s much easier to just go with what little information that we have about them. Thanks to the above-mentioned friend, I started doing some research into them and will share her story later. Let’s get a little groundwork out of the way first, shall we? The furry subculture is represented by anthropomorphized animal characters. That boils down to giving human qualities to animals. They are people who dress up in some form of a fur suit and become animals with human intelligence and facial expressions. From just wearing a tail and maybe ears to a fully formed animal suit that looks like the fursona. What is a fursona, you ask? Essentially, it is the personality of the animal that you are portraying, name, emotions, appearance, and behaviors of that animal.

Fred Patten, furry fandom historian, says that furries were born at a science fiction convention in 1980. A drawing from Steve Gallacci’s Albedo Anthropomorphicsstarted a conversation about anthropomorphic characters in science fiction. This evolved to groups meeting at sci-fi and comic- cons and progressed into fury suits paying homage to those characters. Though there are many who feel that this started much earlier thanks to works like (1973) Disney’s Robin Hood, Kimba, (1965) The White Lion, and (1972) Watership Down, this would date its origins to much earlier. The 1980s gave rise to the first furry fanzines and by 1989 there had been enough interest generated that allowed for the first furry convention to be held. This convention was called Confurence 0 and was held in Costa Mesa, California. The 1990s brought with it access to the internet and suddenly furry fans from all over were able to meet and discuss their love for all things furry. The first newsgroup for furries was created in 1990 called alt.fan.furry and later lead to the virtual environments called MUCKs.

When I first started to write about furries, I went under the impression that it wasn’t specifically tied to LGBT people. It is interesting to note that 1.8% of the US population self-identify as bisexual and 1.7% self-identify as homosexual, according to a 2011 study from UCLA. In furry fandom, by contrast, four surveys show that 14-25% identify as homosexual, 37-52% identify as bisexual, 28-51% as heterosexual, and 3-8% identify as alternative sexual relationships. It is reports that it is predominately male-oriented, with reports being roughly 80%. With these same surveys, approximately half identify as being in relationships with 76% of those being other furries. Sexual aspect of the fandom revolves around furry erotic art and cybersex. The term YIFF is often times referred to sexual activity or material, in the fandom. These same surveys are shown to report that roughly 94% of the male respondents have watched furry porn, while roughly 79% of the female respondents watch it .The media does tend to focus on the sexual aspects of being a furry more than those who do not engage in it.

Many furries agree that the community has been misunderstood and it is not about sex. According to an article on CNN.com posted on November 14, 2018, the furry community is largely annoyed about how they are portrayed in mainstream media. Most feel that the depictions of sex fueled parties of people in furry costumes is an unfair depiction. Most feel that it is about letting out a side of them that is often times held down by their day today. These same people want you to know that it is not all about wearing the fur costume. Rod Stansfield says that “If you honestly believe that furry fandom is about costuming, then you’ve missed the point, saying furry fandom is about wearing fur suits is like saying ‘Star Trek’ fandom is about wearing pointy ears.” Stansfield is the co-founder of Confurence and, himself, doesn’t own a fursuit. The median often depicts the bright colorful costumes as the standard for the furry fandom. Pocari Roo , Barton Fox, and Stormi Folf are some of the best known furries who host YouTube channels devoted to discussing furonas, affordable suits, and general knowledge of what it means to be a furry.

Furries are more than just dressing up in fursuits, though that is a big part of it and those are called fursuiters. There are conventions, dance events, and more. The growth of the community has even gotten to the world of academia. There are continuing research projects at furscience.com that tracks attitudes and backgrounds of the furry community. They have even developed their own terminology:

Greymuzzle – older member of the furry community

Bronies – a subset of the furry community that are fans of the My Little Pony franchise.

Therian – someone who feels an intense spiritual identification with a nonhuman animal.

Babyfur – someone interested in age play, young, or childlike characters

Milfurs – furries who are or were members of the military.

A large percent of the furry community are gamers (video, board, and computer), into anime, science fiction, and fantasy. There are bars that host furry parties and yes there is even talk of the new LGBT inclusive bar, All Ax’s in Willoughby, have a furry/cosplay night.

As within the LGBT community, many of the members of the furry community come from a bullied background. In essence, their fursona allows them to detach from their reality to one which they control how they feel and interact with others. It mirrors a lot of the kink subcultures, as well. It is a means of healing the psyche, a way to compartmentalize their pain. It becomes a means to heal the trauma they have in their lives. It allows them to retake control from a life where they may feel they do not have the needed control. It is also a means to step away from who you are and express a side of you that may not be as easy to show. The furry world is without boundaries, in it any creature can exist as long as the mind can create it. What that character is like strongly depends on the person that is part of it. It can personify the best qualities of who we are or the more repressed. As there are few boundaries, furries, in part, are more accepting that their human counterparts. As such, it becomes a place that many feel they truly belong and have no fears of judgement.

Many times, our perceptions are clouded by the notions of others. Media can shape our views before we have a chance to learn about it. It is a safe bet, that for many, furries fit into that prejudged mold. Since many hide who they are from those they do not trust, you may never know that someone is a furry. We are all people and have the same driving need to belong and feel safe. This transcends sexuality, gender identity, and subculture. It is a basic human need and if not given can create negative behaviors in a person. It is as essential as the need for touch and love. Point is, don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their fursuit. Inside each of us beats a heart that is wild and wishes to roam with those just like us.

LGBT and Sex Ed

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We are fully aware that history shows LGBT are more sexually active at a young age. It also shows that gay men have been fairly indiscriminate in the past, when it comes to sexual conquests. Lesbians have always been joked about bringing a U-Haul to the first date, implying that they are moving in shortly after meeting a new person. Even bisexuals are accused of being over sexually active because they can play both sides, in effect having their cake and eating it, too. Is any of it true? Yes, there are probably kernels of it throughout, even while the larger parts may be exaggeration. The bigger problem lies in proper sex education, our identities and experiences are never discussed. Also, we do not have anyone to turn to that would help us navigate some of those more sensitive questions. Current times show this is changing, but it’s at a snail’s pace in comparison to the need of it.

I still remember my sex ed class, in high school. It was talked about on the first day that at some future point, the class would be divided between boys and girls for a couple days. Then it wasn’t mentioned again until it was closer to time, the week before Our teach told us that the boys would have one class and the girls would have another, if I am not mistaken, during that time the other side of the class got gym or a free period. You couldn’t teach boys and girls together; it was out of the question. They were afraid it would cause issues discussing those private parts of our humanity. We each went over the same chapters, only difference was in relation to our sexuality. It was an awkward experience, the penis inserts into the vagina, semen impregnates the egg, then conception. There was no talking about feelings and experiences. What puberty really feels like and how it can affect you emotionally. And that was just for “normal” heterosexual sex. Any mention of LGBT was met with deviant behavior and considered not normal. It is no wonder we grow up with sexual and mental dysfunctions.

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According to HRC.org The GLSEN 2013 National School Climate Surveyfound that fewer than five percent of LGBT students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBT-related topics. Among Millennials surveyedin 2015, only 12 percent said their sex education classes covered same-sex relationships.” When I was in school, all those years ago, there were none. We should have the same right as our heterosexual counterparts, it is essential for understanding sexual-orientation and gender identity. We need the kind of information that would allow us to make informed and educated decisions about safe health practices and even to see positive representations of same sex and transgender families. After all, most LGBT youth grow up with the stigma that we are to be feared. Having families who are adamantly opposed to our lifestyles, who in turn do we have to turn to for help and understanding?

GLSEN shows there are five ways to be inclusive about sexual education for LGBT people, four of which are actually the worst ways and one positive. Sounds horrifying to think that there are far more ways to be hurtful to our LGBT youth than there is positive. But is it really? The first way is the ignoring approach, simply do not teach it. It is far easier to not talk about LGBT and healthy relationships than bringing it up. Many teachers feel that it isn’t something that would affect their students. The second way is the demonizing approach. Here you would mention LGBT people, but you would show them in the negative light that many people still feel is the only way to view us. They would prefer to tell you how bad they are and unwanted. Telling only of the solitary life they will have and how their families will kick them out. The third way is stigmatizing approach. This is the more passive aggressive approach, they don’t directly tell you they are bad, instead it is only talking about them when talking about them while teaching about risky behavior. How their sexual activities will lead to STIs and ultimately AIDS. The fourth bad way is the transgender-excluding approach. This approach will talk about lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and any non-heterosexual types, but refuse to discuss the validity of transgender people. Giving them no respect and negating their existence. However, it is a new trend that it is taught in a more positive approach. This is the LGBT inclusive approach; it is not left to a paragraph or even a chapter to discuss. Instead you see aspects of LGBT people discuss in all parts of the curriculum. Giving a positive view of life and love, encouraging the students to see them as normal parts of society. It challenges the modality of on gender binary focus, allows for growth of the individual by no relegating the topics of gender identity and sexual orientation to special topics.

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The Trevor Project  offers some great resources about sex education. They are as beneficial to anyone who comes out as they are to the LGBT youth. The first link I would like to point it is for Scarleteen.com, on this truly awesome page, there are many offerings that can be beneficial to LGBT youth. Some deal with dating and parents, some address the topics of being asexual and they focus on various ideals of sexual identity and orientation. Then one that sticks out to me the most is on their recent crush list called; Going Solo: The Basics of Masturbation. If you have read any of my blog, before this, you will see all to quickly how I talk about body positivity and being comfortable with who you are. Masturbation is a topic that isn’t covered, in depth, in most sex ed classes. And if it is, it isn’t usually given a positive light. Add on to that how our parents reinforce to us that is will cause bad things to happen to us like blindness and insanity, we treat it as a dirty little secret. The truth it, it is something that should be discussed more openly. After all, it is the first act of sex we typically experience. Before you drop this article to click over to the Scarleteen, be warned that it is not a how-to manual, nor will you find pictures. It is a reaffirming article about how masturbation is natural and healthy. It offers insight into why fors and how comes. It dispenses with common myth and even offers why it is a necessary part of life. We should be open with our partners about our own sexual health and to know that we must know ourselves and this is one way you get to know who you are.

A couple other really awesome links is Sex Etc and the Trans youth Sexual Health Handbook  Sex Etc is an info site that covers a vast array or topics, you can find things about birth control, STIs/AIDS info, body image info, abuse and violence info, and information on relationships. It is worth a dive through to read some of their pages. Many of their pages are divided up between stories for contributors, FAQs with general information, and other external resources for information. Again, this is a page that offers information that is as helpful for a LGBT youth or someone who is 35 and just coming to terms with their sexuality. The trans youth sexual health handbook is written by a group of 16-24 year old transgender youths who, as they say, “who have been there, done that and bought the t-shirt.” It came out of a need for information to help those who are just starting their journeys in understanding who they are. It is a means to create body positivity and acceptance in yourself. It covers relationship topics, sex, and even talks about hormone therapies. They are based out of Europe, so some of their links may not be of use for phone numbers, but the information and link they provide are definitely a wealth of information.

 

This kind of information is important, hell to everyone and not just LGBT people. Our sex education classes in America are lackluster in covering enough topics to safely help us assess our own mental well-being. These are part of the reason there is such stigma around things like sexual kink. Without understanding what drives us and our desires we fall back on the judging because it is different mindset. If more care was taken in some of our earlier education, we might just adjust better in our adulthood. I feel this is a really good addition to the last two weeks of discussing other kinds of sexual activity. It is a means of broadening our horizons to be more inclusive of one another and also teaching that we are not bad for taking part in things that others don’t talk about openly. Take some time to find out who you are, read a few of these links and question yourself and your desires. We need better education of our LGBT youth so that they may become better adjusted to a world that already has enough stigma and hatred.

 

Newbie Notions for Better BDSM Play

So, we have spent the last couple weeks looking at kink, how it is defined, types of play that are out there, and interviews with Clevelanders who participate in the various forms. The bigger problem is where to find information that is positive and healthy, if you want to venture into this type of play. Often times, people will venture to clubs to see what options there are and can get caught up in what is going on before they are ready to try anything. It is good to have someone help you navigate those waters, show you where to begin, introduce you to the options so you have a better idea of what is out there. This article will try to give you a starting place and offer some beginnings into the scene. Hopefully, create a foundation on which to start.

First, we will look at a couple videos designed for the newbie. Someone who has limited or no knowledge into what may be out there or all the terminology. As with everything I post, I ask you to view it with an open mind and without judgement. While these are narrated by heterosexual presenting people, the information is still valid. This first video is about common misconception new people have about BDSM.

This video shows three women (two bottoms and a switch) and some common misconceptions they have seen new people make when entering the scene. They also have a n array of social media to help you out and their informative YouTube Channel.

They next video shows the Top 5 types of play for beginners; this list is based on the opinions of Evie Lupine.

Evie Lupine also runs her on YouTube channel that discuss various topics of BDSM/Kink. She touches on aspects that people may not think is dangerous and explains them in a no-nonsense fashion to be informative as if you were talking to your friends about it.

It is also important to note that while you may be into this type of play that you may encounter people in your life that are not. Or on a different side, have much different kink that you do. How do you handle that, what kind of discussion should you be having? Here is Watts the Safeword and a video he put out called Kink Discordance with Dan Savage. Dan is a well-known sex columnist (Savage Love) that is featured in Scene magazine, here in Cleveland. Take a look at this video for some helpful advice on how to handle the times that your kink doesn’t seem to line up.

I mentioned in a previous post (insert link) that one of the most important facets of BDSM is aftercare. It is oftentimes not discussed or simply over looked. This part of play is what helps reinforce the trust a sub has to the dom. It provides stability and the needed disconnect to allow their minds to process the sensations they are going through. Again, I give you Watts the Safeword and his video Aftercare – (After Kink Care).

The last video I will leave you with, for the weekend, is a 10-minute documentary about BDSM. This video is produced by Danni Bear and the only reason I hesitate to include it is because it does depict some very intense forms of BDSM kink play. If done inappropriately it can hurt someone very badly. Please do not attempt unless you are with someone who knows what they are doing, have a safe word in place, and trust your partner. Use this video as a form of information into the history of BDSM. Ultimately, I am not held responsible for any information or acts depicted in this video.

Sexuality isn’t a topic that, we as Americans, talk about very much. In school it is glossed over in our Sex Ed class, which is primarily left with the biological functions of sex between a cis male and cis female. The emotional responses are never fully explained. Types of sexuality and orientations are left out of the core curriculum with hopes you will get the information somewhere else. Most of what we learn about our sexual natures are left to hurried furtive discussions with our friends, movies that are always jaded to one aspect or another, and the limited knowledge our parents have and comfort levels of sharing.  That leaves us guessing and trying to understand the best way we can, and we fail in our attempts. There is no solace, no one to pick us up and offer us our aftercare. As a society we need to learn to be more accepting of ourselves so that in turn we can be more accommodating to those different from ourselves. Sex and sexuality are as beautiful as they are complicated, it is meant to be experienced and navigated from a place of trust and safety even though it isn’t always safe. We focus on the negative, so I leave you with this statement. Sex is messy, sex is good. Don’t be afraid to explore who you are and what you like, do not let others dictate where your desired should fall.  Get out there and have fun.

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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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.