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.

Having Enviable Courage and Strength…

Often overlooked in our LGBTQ community is the Transgender community. In this administration where much of the legislation being changed, seems to have a direct correlation to Transgender rights, I feel it is important to be able to share some of their stories. It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight this administration before it removes any more from us and we lose all the progressions we have made. We have already seen the Trans ban that has been passed by this administration, we cannot rest until every right being taken away from us is returned. That requires us coming together as one community, no matter our points of view. Each of us live our lives on our own means. We are forced to make a living and must, in doing so, be ready to fight how it best serves our greatest good, do not judge someone by their words as much as their deeds or actions. Remember that I share stories of our community and how we/they live in it. Names are only changed when asked to do so, words are only changed for spelling or ease of flow. So, join with me as I share their stories and let’s celebrate their fight and stand with them. Be supportive, without judgement.

 

I would like to introduce you to Arianna Jade, a 28-year-old transwoman who lives in the Cleveland area.  She is an unabashed and unapologetic voice for trans people to their lives on their own terms. She is as comfortable with who she is personally as she is in her porn career. Arianna doesn’t live by the definitions of others, whether it be her personal life or her professional career. To use a quote from one of her social media pages “Accept no one’s definition of your life but define yourself.”

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Tell me about yourself. Name, age, where you live, and what you do.

My name is Arianna Jade Devor I’m 28 I live in Cleveland Ohio from Miami FL and I am a Veteran of the Air Force and I model. I am also a transgender pornstar. You can find me on Instagram at itsariejade, Facebook, and if you like, on my PornHub channel.

What does transgender mean to you?

To me, transgender means defying the “normal” gender roles and expressing yourself how you truly feel inside your heart, mind, and soul. Being your true authentic self despite the hate and prejudice you will face for this choice. Keeping true to yourself and most of all having an  enviable courage and strength for doing so.

What are some common misconceptions you face about Transgender men and women?

That trans women are gay and trans men are lesbian, that those who judge us think we are all weird or have something wrong with us.

How should someone ask a Transgender person which pronouns they prefer?

I like them asking me, directly, what pronouns I prefer.

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Do people ask you if you have had any surgeries and how does that make you feel?

Yes, and I, personally, am comfortable with it. I have answered many questions to inform people about my breast augmentation procedure, to a whole spectrum of people.

What are things that we should avoid doing with Transgender person?

Just be considerate and sensitive to how they feel. Everyone’s comfort level is different, and boundaries should be respected.

What has been the hardest part of your transition so far?

Realizing I don’t needs another people’s acceptance, if I am to accept and love myself. To be transparently honest about me.

Tell me about your normal day? – being a parent of a Transgender child/ Transgender person-

I get up. Walk the dog, do my makeup, pick out my outfit. You know the same things everyone else does.

I am a cisgender Gay male, and always want to know how to be a better ally for trans*individuals. What are some things I can do to aid in trans* visibility and helping to create a safe environment, based on your personal experience?

Talk to us, call the representative of the Trans Community at your local LGBT Center, and get active in our community. We have tons of cool events and social informational groups to offer.

How can people best support Transgender children?Let them make choices for themselves without judgement

Do people question your sexuality when you tell them you are Transgender?Most assume, as a trans female, I only like men. In reality I’m a pansexual, I don’t limit my choices to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.

In a couple of your vids you have the label she-male or tranny, why do you choose that as a label?

I got into porn, with a gay porn company, after I left  the military in 2014 and I also escorted on the side. I am passionate about my career in porn, even more so I’m now comfortable with my body. I choose labels for my videos based on popular tags  used in transgender porn searches or that is part of a role play being acted out. And hey, check out my PornHub channel.

With stars like Scarlett Johansson being offered a role as a Trans man in Rub & Tug, what are some common misconceptions about Transgender people portrayed in Hollywood?

Oh, this is a triggering question as the way Hollywood portrays most trans surpasses offensive and goes straight to derogatory and demeaning,

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What gives you strength day to day?Knowing how far I have come in my short 2-year journey, living as my true self

Can you describe for me why it is important that our laws and people treat each other equally?

Because no one ever got anywhere being mean to someone look at history it proves peace prevails and we are stronger united as one.

There is no one way to live our lives. To say that how one person chooses to be is wrong and is no different than those passing laws that affect us daily. You may not agree with word choices that others use to survive, but it is a means of raging against the very system that forces us into little boxes. Arianna lives her life with the strength and conviction of a fighter, making her own choices. She doesn’t ask for approval, only the breadth to be able to make them for herself. It is a lesson we can take from her, no matter our view points. Arianna shares qualities of some of our early pioneers; the ability to walk their lives without fear of acceptance of others and to blaze their own trail because it is the only way forward. Even Marsha P. Johnson did not start out to be a fighter or leader, her life wasn’t a golden image of who a trans person should be. She simply lived. We can ask no less of our fellow brothers and sisters.

In Chaos We Find Resiliency…

Often overlooked in our LGBTQ community is the Transgender community. In this administration where much of the legislation being changed, seems to have a direct correlation to Transgender rights, I feel it is important to be able to share some of their stories. It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight this administration before it removes any more from us and we lose all the progressions we have made. We have already seen the Trans ban that has been passed by this administration, we cannot rest until every right being taken away from us is returned. That requires us coming together as one community, no matter our points of view. Each of us live our lives on our own means. We are forced to make a living and must, in doing so, be ready to fight how it best serves our greatest good, do not judge someone by their words as much as their deeds or actions. Remember that I share stories of our community and how we/they live in it. Names are only changed when asked to do so, words are only changed for spelling or ease of flow. So, join with me as I share their stories and let’s celebrate their fight and stand with them. Be supportive, without judgement.

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Today, let me introduce you to Belle Ursa, a 22-year-old business owner in Tremont area of Cleveland. Like many others I have interviewed, Belle wants you to understand that day to day lives are no different between Trans/Gender Non-conforming people and Cis-gender. We all eat, sleep, work, and have the same worries. Belle is co-owner of Amplio Fitness and focuses on mind, body, and spirit of the LGBTQ community.  Make sure you check it out and support our community business owners.

Tell me about yourself. Name, age, where you live, and what you do.

My name is Belle Ursa, I am 22 years old currently living in Tremont! I am the co-owner of Amplio Fitness in Rocky River and I am also a certified Health Coach! My business focuses on the LGBTQ community, specifically the Trans community in order to provide health and fitness services. https://ampliofitness.com/

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https://ampliofitness.com/

What does transgender mean to you?

To me, Transgender is any gender identity that is different from the one you were assigned to at birth.

What are some common misconceptions you face about Transgender men and women?

There a lot of misconceptions, but I think some of the common ones are usually based in a medical context. A lot of people believe that the end goal of every Trans person is to get “the surgery.” A lot of the times its true, Trans people do want to get gender affirmation surgeries, but there are many people out there who are fine with just receiving hormone therapy or even no medical interventions at all! There is no “right” way of being transgender, there is no end goal or perfect example. It’s just changing different aspects of your life until you are comfortable with who you are and how people perceive you.

How should someone ask a Transgender person which pronouns they prefer?

Just like the question phrases it, you just ask! I know it can be awkward to ask but trust me when I say it’s much more respectful to just ask rather than guessing. By asking you are not only breaking down the social habit of assuming someone’s gender based on physical appearance (which is rooted in transphobia anyways), but you are also giving the individual complete control of how the world sees them. They have the power to claim their identity, claim their pronouns, and decide how they are perceived. Sometimes straight up asking pronouns out of context can be extremely harsh, so if you meet someone for the first time, I suggest introducing yourself and your pronouns first like so: “Hi! My name is Belle, my pronouns are she/her/hers” and then usually people follow suit. This lets folks know you’re “down with pronouns” and you’re not here to pre-judge anyone about theirs!

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Do people ask you if you have had any surgeries and how does that make you feel?

Yeah, all the time and it’s completely uncomfortable. I divulge my journey when I feel like it’s important. If it helps someone or can educate people at the right time, I like to talk about myself. But that’s on my time and it’s my decision. Often times people ask me questions because they want to satisfy their sexual curiosity or know very private things because they want to feel special and at that point, I’m not longer a person to them, but a mystery that they want to “solve.”

What are things that we should avoid doing with Transgender person?

Assuming pronouns/guessing.

Asking private questions, especially one’s related to their bodies or their medical experiences.

Not paying them for their labor (i.e. education, vulnerability, expertise)

Tokenizing them in work situations

Using slurs

Using the terms Tranny, Transgendered, Transgenderism, Transsexual

Gatekeeping on what a trans person “should” be.

What has been the hardest part of your transition so far?

For me I think it was finding the courage to stick to who I am. In my experience when I came out the comments were often really passive aggressive like “Are you sure you want to do that? What would other people think? It’s going to be hard. It’s so expensive.” Most of the time I suppose these concerns were rooted in people caring/worrying for me, but it was a terrible way to interact with me coming out. I felt no support. I just felt doubt and fear which then piled onto my already growing sense of insecurity and anxiety. It was also a little insulting because it felt like people assumed, I didn’t think about these things daily. It takes so much strength to come out and for people to not react in a positive and loving way is awful. It’s soul crushing. There were so many times I wanted to quit. I wished I didn’t have to go through this. But I think that’s also where the magic of Trans people come from. No matter where their journey takes them, they almost always experience hardships and backlash for who they are and, in that chaos, we are able to find resiliency and magic that fuels our compassion for ourselves.

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Tell me about your normal day? – being a parent of a Transgender child/ Transgender person

I think this is a little weird of a question. My normal day is like any others. I get up, I do things like go to work, I eat, I play with my animals, I sleep, I watch Netflix. Just because I’m a Trans person doesn’t mean that may day have to be revolutionary different than anyone else’s. Sure, there are small changes like maybe I have to take medicine, but like 80% of the population takes some type of medicine or vitamin with their breakfast so…

I am a cisgender Gay male, and always want to know how to be a better ally for trans* individuals. What are some things I can do to aid in trans* visibility and helping to create a safe environment, based on your personal experience?

Support Trans business (hello my fitness studio is Amplio Fitness)

Pay trans people for education

I think you’re involved with ALL AXS bar in Willoughby, right? Try putting on a Trans night or hire Trans DJs etc.

Educate yourself, look into articles and vocabulary so the burden doesn’t always have to fall on a Trans person

Educate and advocate to your cisgender allies. If you hear something say something. Correct misunderstandings you see, defend a trans person in public. Be a vocal and visible ally.

How can people best support Transgender children?

Oh, love this question, my research in college was about the emotional and social development of Trans adolescents. Basically, you know how bullying can cause children to have higher rates of negative social and emotional development like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, intimacy issues, etc.? Multiply that by like 300% for Transgender/Gender non-conforming kids. The more non-passing they are (i.e. the more out of the box they look) the harder their isolation and bullying is and the higher the correlation with mental health issues they face. Children identifying as Trans/Gender Non-conforming need friends and family who support them, they need to find other people who identify the way they do to understand that they are normal, they are valid, and that they can grow and become successful adults. They need policies and rules in place that protect them. They need schools that educate the whole institution about their identities to start creating a more accepting environment. They need teachers who advocate for them. They need classroom policies in place that protect them. They need bathrooms that they can go into and be safe. I literally have so many thoughts about this lol, but we can convene later/more in depth if you want.

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Do people question your sexuality when you tell them you are Transgender?

Not really, I mean it sometimes doesn’t go hand in hand. Like sexuality is based off gender in a way, but not vice versa. To whom I am attracted to plays zero roles in my gender identity.

What gives you strength day to day?

Myself and my freedom that I have worked extremely hard for over my life. I’ve been transitioning “officially” for 4 to 5 years now but I’ve always been gender non-conforming ever since I was a child. My entire life I’ve been told no, I can’t do certain things, I’m not allowed, and my strength comes from being able to prove everyone wrong. To live as myself, authentically and without regret. If I can do that and I am still alive today, I have the strength to do anything I want.

Can you describe for me why it is important that our laws and people treat each other equally?  

Because I should not be able to be murdered. No one in my community should be murdered because of who we are. Laws influence society and society dictates how we exist. Most trans people I know have been verbally harassed, physically assaulted, or worse because of who they are. Do you know how many people report it? Little to none because of how poorly it is received. I’ve gotten statements like “Well you deserved what happened because you deceived them of who you really are,” meaning they saw me as a man and that I was just “pretending” to be who I was.  You know I’ve seen some court cases where a man who murdered transwoman claimed the panic defense and got away free because of the simple fact that courts and society often times don’t see trans-people as a valid identity? A woman was MURDERED because a man assumed, she was cisgender and her biology was different and… he…walks…away. Some people claim “Oh she should’ve told him” but do you not see the fact she was murdered for being trans was THE REASON WHY SHE WAS MURDERED? Again, I can go into this in much more detail, but I don’t know how long you want my responses.

Thanks for this opportunity to share my experiences and thoughts!

Belle shows us that while our journeys may be fraught with hardships, we must endure and gain the strength those situations give us. Life takes courage, facing each day as the person you are takes courage, it is these steps that foster strength in us and allow us to move forward. Our words and actions, as small as they appear to us, can be beacons for others. Always fight for what you believe in and never be satisfied with what you are given. Her story can give each of us knowledge we did not have before, while our stories are different, taking cues from others can give us new perspective on how to better handle new situations. Support and understanding of our fellow brothers and sisters is what will make us strong. One voice and one vision.

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.

 

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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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.