This is actually something I wrote a few months back for another project that seems to have gone nowhere. Given that, and the fact that I want to go to bed very soon,
I was actually going to write about another topic, and this one pushed itself to the forefront of my mind. I read a friend’s blog and she mentioned that she had never felt as though she was enough, as a child. She was always supposed to be more, and better, and brighter, and more perfect. I suspect that for her one of the benefits to this community is that it’s a place where people who don’t fit elsewhere can fit.
I don’t know that I felt exactly that way, but I understand what she meant. I never felt like I fit in. There was little “normal” about my childhood.
I grew up in a little tiny town in the middle of a great big desert in western Nevada. My father died after a long illness 13 days after I turned two; I don’t remember him at all. His death and, to be fair, even his life, rather condemned us to fairly profound poverty.
My mother was widowed at 46, with three children, 2, 11 and 13. There was no insurance or savings, there were bills for his dying and his death both. His funeral was paid off over time.
Thankfully, my mother had some college, at a time when a lot of women didn’t. She was a substitute teacher in the school system, and a good one, at least in terms of maintaining control, and carrying out lesson plans, so she worked a lot.
It also meant everyone knew who my mother was. There was only one school in town, so when I say “everyone,” I mean that in a literal sense. Everyone who went to school in my town knew who I was, and who my mother was.
It was difficult to have her as a teacher, but I did, regularly. In third grade my teacher had a heart attack and my mother was the teacher for half the school year. I remember that I never got to pass out papers – a small thing, but you know how those things matter to us academic overachievers – because I would hear that it was because of my mother.
I remember always being asked to understand why I didn’t get what others did – I remember the gym teacher letting me choose in 5th grade. I was good enough to play on an all-stars team for kickball, a rudimentary soccer, but, she said, “You know if you’re on the team, they’ll say it was because of your mother.” I was allowed to make the choice.
I chose not to play, because I knew it would be better. I knew that even if I played, I still wouldn’t fit in.
I was the only kid I knew from a single-parent household. Mark Keeran’s parents were divorced, but he lived with his mother, who had remarried. Cheryl Boak’s father died when she was in fourth grade, but her mother re-married in a year or two.
Everyone else had a father who came home at the end of the day after work. They seemed exotic creatures to me. We were poor, our house was not like anyone else’s, my clothes weren’t like theirs, my mother wasn’t, nothing was what everyone else seemed to have.
I would not choose to relive my childhood. I remember it for how worried my mother always was about money, for how little I fit in or got along, and for always expecting the other students and even the teachers to be mean to me, and rarely being surprised.
A friend, who is a couple years younger than I, went to her reunion at the high school a few years ago. She told me that along with the usual “Most Children,” and “Traveled Farthest,” they had given an award for “Most Changed for the Worst.” I was horrified.
She shrugged and said, “That’s how it is there, you know.” And she was right, I did know.
On the other hand, it’s fairly clear, looking back, that I made a lot of choices that would indicate I never WANTED to be like other people, anyway. That would explain why I moved from Nevada to upstate New York at the age of 20, never having been east of the eastern border of Nevada, to live with a married woman with two sons, a daughter in the process of being adopted, two foster children, AND a husband.
Oh, and I’d never met her in person when I moved.
Then there was my long flirtation with being gay. I spent a good part of my twenties deeply entrenched in a radical Lesbian separatist community. I had Lesbian relationships exclusively until my late 30’s, when I finally acknowledged openly what I had always known, that I wasn’t gay, I wasn’t even really bisexual, I’m really pretty straight.
So, I came in, or whatever the opposite is of coming out, and just when it seemed my life become what one might expect, I jumped headfirst into kink.
And I didn’t just experiment on my own, quietly, though I did that, too. No, I decided to start a munch, to begin presenting and writing, to become involved in events and organizations, and now, almost exactly 15 years after jumping, here I am, still paddling around in the deep end of the pool.
I still don’t belong in a lot of places. I occasionally go to gatherings of my slave’s family and I feel like an alien. They have such different experiences than I, so much easier memories.
I remember listening to the women one evening chatting about the summers of their schooldays, when they lay out by the pool at the country club, and the sororities to which they’d belonged.
I remember summers returning the 5-cent deposit bottles we’d purposely stashed away for just this moment. Substitutes are paid for the days they work and they do not work in the summer. We saved the bottles in winter and redeemed them in summer for grocery money.
I worked my way through college, and went to a state university in a nearby city. For one semester my schedule required that I spend four hours a day either on a bus or waiting for a bus, outside. It was a winter term, in upstate New York. I remember walking in temperatures so cold that if you breathed through your mouth, your fillings got so cold they ached.
They also talked about their children, of course; I have three Scottish Terriers. They talked about their favorite shows, “America’s Biggest Loser,” and “Two and a Half Men.” Finally, perhaps noticing, that I wasn’t joining in, someone said, “What’s your favorite television show?”
“Dexter,” I said, “the show about the blood spatter expert who’s also a serial murderer…” That is, if you’re looking for one, apparently a great way to kill a conversation. They looked at me oddly and almost invisibly closed their ranks, leaving me, as usual, standing outside.
What the kink community has provided me, particularly the smaller Leather community, is a place where I do fit in.
I was telling someone lately that the kink community is an interesting place, in that you can really just decide to DO something, and do it. You want a group? Fine, form one. You want to put on an event? Ok, let me know when it is, maybe I can come. You want to start teaching? Learn your topic, write your presentation and start asking around. You can really build what you want here, and I think that’s unusual.
Most geographic areas that have enough people to make a group worthwhile have already been organized, and you have to work on the sidelines. In the gay community, if you want to work meaningfully for marriage equality or domestic partner benefits, you’re probably going to have to work your way up. You can certainly volunteer and that’s a great start, but there were a lot of people who started volunteering for you, they’re simply ahead of you in the hopper – it’s going to be a while before your voice is individually heard.
In the kink community, it’s much easier just to do it, I think, than it is in most other places. The kink community gave me all those things. I have organized events and contests.
I have organized and lead groups. I have presented at events all over the country. The community really gave me a home to do things I’m good at. Turns out I’m really an excellent presenter. I’m really good at organizing groups and events and bringing people together. I have been especially good at the latter.
I think we all want to leave something behind us. I suppose that’s why people have children. Maybe it’s part of the reason I plant trees and daffodil bulbs, knowing they’ll be around when I am gone.
But, in the end, what I think I am the proudest about leaving behind is the community here in Kentucky. I think I managed to do what I wanted to do the most, to make a place where people felt as though they belonged, where I felt as though I belonged.
I have no doubt that had I never existed, there would be a kink community here, but it wouldn’t look like it does. Maybe it wouldn’t be as accepting or as welcoming, maybe it would have been even moreso, but it would have looked different. I can see my mark on the community, and I am proud of that.
Nearly a decade ago, I ran for an International title, which I lost, probably for the best. My speech was about the Leather community and what it had meant to me. While the bulk of the speech is long departed from my memory, I do remember how it ended.
I had spoken about the fact that, if you looked at me, you would see me as being very isolated in many ways. My parents were both dead by then, my brothers are distant both geographically and emotionally, I was unmarried, I had no children. I lived more than 2000 miles from where I was born. I looked like someone who was alone, without family.
The Leather community, though, gave me that. It provided me a family, a place where I fit in.
I closed with a quotation from Robert Frost, from “Death or the Hired Man, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
Everybody needs a place where they know they can go, and they will be taken in. I found that place for me. I wish you all find exactly the same thing.