Here, Borrow My Hanky

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So, my last post was about my own struggle with body positivity and how I have started trying to deal with it. I think the next step is to talk about being sex positive. To do so, we will have to look at several topics and even revisit some history. It is important to think about because I feel the LGBTQ community often times goes down a dark avenue when it comes to sex. It is used as a means of bypassing connection for the physical feelings it provides. It’s time we take sex back and approach it from a health mentality. Before I go that far, I want to dive into some view on fetishes and how we used to identify one another. So, my dearies, set down, pour yourself a glass of your favorite beverage, and let’s talk.

First stop into fetishism is the Hanky Code or flagging. Now some of you might be thinking “what the heck is he on about,” well Mary, the hanky code was used as a means to identify homosexuals and the sexual proclivities at a quick glance. See a hot guy walking passed in a pair of tight wranglers and you happen to notice that he has a light blue handkerchief hanging out of his left back pocket you would be able to quickly ascertain that he preferred to receive oral sex from his partner. If you happened to be someone who preferred to give oral sex, you knew you already had an in. Neat huh?

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No one really knows where or how the hanky code started, some say that it originated in San Francisco shortly after the gold rush era. It was a time when women were in short supply so during square dances one man would wear a blue bandana as a signifier that he would be the male or lead during the dance. Then there would be a man wearing a red bandana that would be the female or follower in the dance. They would be worn around their arms, hanging from their belts, or in the back pockets. It is also believed that the modern version of the hanky code started in New York around 1970 or 1971, a journalist of The Village Voice joked that instead of wearing keys to signify someone was a “top” or a “bottom” that they should just use different colored hankies. Others say it started in San Francisco at adult stores. However, Alan Selby, owner of Leather ‘N’ Things in San Francisco, claims he wrote the first hanky code. Selby says, “their bandana supplier inadvertently doubled their order and the expanded code would help them sell the extra colors they had received.” So, he created the first hanky code, printed them onto cards, and gave out with each purchase.

From the first cards printed, color meanings have expanded to include just about every color or style of cloth imaginable, Where you wear the hanky is as important as the color, Typically, any hanky worn in the left back pocket indicated you were the “top” or the “aggressive”, whereas the right pocket meant you were the “bottom” or the “passive.” Think giver and receiver, if the terms still leave you a bit left out. The hanky code was very popular for the BDSM community but as it relates to fetishism, it was found in all aspects of our community. For example, a lavender hanky meant you were either a drag queen or into drag queens. There is not one definitive list and it has changed a lot since its first appearance. What we do know is with the advent of the internet, the hanky code has grown and expanded because people have become much easier about discussing their fetishes with others of like minds, online. It has also progressed to include accessories to show the same meanings, like harnesses or singlets.

According to Leatherpedia.org  the hanky code is a perfect example of the theory called Symbolic Interaction. It is defined as “Symbolic Interaction is defined by applying meaning and value to people, places or things. It is a counterpart of instincts where we are born knowing certain information. SI is learned through experiences.” It basically means we put meaning to specific things to give it a value for us. It is not limited to only the hanky code but can be seen in religious iconography or even brand specific merchandising.

I am sure you are wondering how in the fuck do I know so much about this topic, do I use it, or am I just a weird freak. Well that would need a little history lesson to explain some of it. When I came out and started going to the bar near my hometown, I was unbelievably naive. If you asked me about leather culture and gay men, my knowledge would have been limited to what I had seen in Police Academy when they always seemed to end up in the Blue Oyster Bar, so needless to say it was lacking. The bar I visited was called The Park and the last Saturday of every month used to be Trade Night or Leather Night. It was when the BDSM group would come out with their boys on leashed dressed in leather chaps, harnesses, and jockstraps. You would see hankies tucked into their waistbands or belts of a wide variety of colors and often more than just one. As arousing and provocative as it was, I had no clue to the meaning, other than it was fueling my lustful desires. Thankfully, after I started dating, I had someone I might be able to ask what the hell was I seeing. I was embarrassed when I asked, but I had to know. My boyfriend at the time did have a bit of knowledge about it, due to some of his particular fetishes, so he schooled me and then promptly took me to the gay bookstore the very next day. Forever more my world was changed. As for being a practitioner, the answer is no I do not participate in the hanky code. That being said, I should probably wear an orange hanky in my back-right pocket since it indicates “not now, just cruising.”

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Take a look at the code and see what trips your fancy. If you want to put it into practice, grab the hanky of your predilection and head on down to the Leather Stallion on a Saturday night. Just be ready for what may happen if you are advertising. At the end of it all, it is about fun but always be safe. Make sure you tell your partner you are just testing the waters and not ready to jump double fisted into the deep end. And always, play 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.