The question I've been asked over and over again at these NACA Trade Shows I've been attending is, "What exactly are your speeches about?" This question is usually asked by the college student or adviser with the crinkled forehead and unsure smile, half curious, and half afraid of my answer. Which brings me to the point; why am I here doing this at all?
At the root of the question is the reason why people who are kinky, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, feel as though they can't explore that side of themselves. This is a subject which I refer to as "kink shame". I'm lucky enough to have been born and lived without ever feeling the guilt or shame associated with being turned on by something a bit alternative in the bedroom; my friends never fail to remind me that not everyone is lucky enough to have lived this way. Before someone can explore this whole side of themselves, they have to be able to accept and affirm it for themselves first. In this way, becoming kinky or practicing kink requires a process similar to coming out. This leads me to my philosophy on kink in general - being kinky is as much a part of someone's sexual identity as their orientation is.
So you have to come out to yourself as kinky, yeah? It's a kind of second coming out to those of us who are gay or lesbian. When I think about the world of BDSM, leather, rubber, etc. I truly believe that by total volume, there are more straight kinky people in the world than there are gay kinky people, but among those separate orientations, the proportion of kinky straight people, by percentage, is probably SMALLER than kinky gay people. Kink is a much bigger part of gay culture than it is of being straight. Why?
Because we don't have to leap that far.
Gay men have always had a sort of fun and airy attitude toward sex than straight people, in large part because for us, having sex, even vanilla sex, is a true rebellion against the societal norm we are constantly judged against. It's exactly the thing that we are oppressed over and the thing that the haters hate us for. In the words of Margaret Cho, "If you're oppressed over who you fuck, you're gonna kick up your heels and FUCK!" Making things even easier for us is the fact that gay men already came out once. To do so again, over our kinks, isn't as far of a leap to jump in most cases.
Straight people don't have this luxury afforded to them. They aren't oppressed over who they fuck, it's just over HOW they fuck. Missionary position is still the expectation among most straight people. Anything different makes you (supposedly) deviant, wrong, and mentally ill. Coming to terms with being kinky is the first time a straight person will likely struggle with this kind of conflict in his/her life. This oppression, the oppression that a gay man has already overcome, is enough to make a straight person retreat back into the kinky closet and attempt to ignore that part of him/herself for a few more years. Out, gay men have the foresight to know that ignoring it won't make it go away. Couple this with a lack of prevalent resources (there is nothing as prominent for straight kinksters as Recon, Gearfetish, or Manhunt are for gay men), and it's easy to see why the proportion of kinky gays is bigger than the proportion of kinky straights.
So why am I trying to do these speeches?
Sometimes the biggest contributing factor to someone's comfort level with themselves is seeing precisely that quality in others around them. Living with a quality that you think makes you think you're mentally ill is an unhealthy way to lead your life. No one should have to carry that burden, and no longer should we have to carry that burden ourselves. Remember when that lawyer got fired in New York a few weeks ago? The only way unfair treatment like that will stop is for all kinksters in the world to stand up and say, "STOP, this is wrong." The kinkster who's in the closet won't do that. The one who feels empowered and belongs to a community is not only leading a fulfilling, joyous life, but will also feel empowered enough in themselves to stand up along with us as we chant, "STOP, this is wrong." And one day, we'll be able to live in a world where we don't have to use fake names and we don't have to be scared of losing our jobs because of what we do behind closed doors.
Instilling confidence in those who feel powerless helps individuals, groups, as well as the kinky community as a whole. The way to do it is to teach people that it's okay to love yourself, enjoy and express your kinks, and not to fear dancing to the rhythm of your life.
Because if there's one thing I know how to do well, it's kick up my heels.