As I discussed in Friday’s post, I attended the OpenSF Conference here in San Francisco this last weekend. It was a fantastic conference, and the organizer, Pepper Mint, did an astounding job. I attended sessions and workshops, all dealing with different types of non-monogamy and the struggles that non-monogamists experience. I learned so much that my head is still spinning.
Tristan Taormino did the keynote speech on Sunday morning. She disclosed some very personal stories, and brought the audience to tears multiple times. One story, about three men who live in a “triad”, and are in relationships with one another was particularly poignant, and as she spoke about one man’s mother finally reaching acceptance with their non-monogamy, I witnessed several people sobbing. They want their families to accept their relationships too.
I have been a fan of Tristan’s for quite some time, and I have enormous amounts of respect and admiration for the work she does. Near the end of her keynote speech, Tristan issued a call to action. She spoke about privilege, and how important it is for someone who appears “normal” to everyday mainstream society to give back to the marginalized communities they identify with by coming out publicly as a member of that community.
Our lives, the way we live them, open possibilities for people around us. We are role models, whether we like it or not. Our silence will keep us where we are. Telling the truth about our values, our chosen families, will shift the dialogue, will create change. – Tristan Taormino
I am certainly a privileged person. I am white. I am a cisgendered woman. I have attended college. I live in a city that is defined by its acceptance of everyone. I am not in danger of losing a job, my boyfriend, or my friends by speaking about my experiences and who I am, though I do remain both nervous and terrified of my family’s reaction.
I have been the direct beneficiary of the bravery of so many other people in the marginalized communities I identify with, and yet I have refused to speak publicly about my membership in these communities. So, as I take a deep breath, I am going to come out to you all. Right now.
I am kinky. I enjoy BDSM style sex, with spanking, restraints, blindfolds, collars, whips, paddles, corsets, and addressing my partner as “Sir” when we are engaging in this sort of play, either in public or in private. I find it all very exciting, and it is part of who I am. With the encouragement and love of the BDSM community, especially the staff and owners of Wicked Grounds, I have been able to express these desires in clear terms and fulfill them with partners. I am a happier and healthier person for it. I am kinky.
I have experienced an open relationship. During my year of singlehood, I dated a married man, with his wife’s explicit permission. It was, in many ways, the healthiest and most supportive relationship I had in that time. I never experienced jealousy of the relationship between Thomas* and Diana*, on the contrary, I knew precisely where I stood with both of them. The liberation from wondering about the future of the relationship allowed me to enjoy our dates fully, and engage in a friendship with both Thomas and Diana that remains to this day. I am still in awe of the love, respect, communication, and nurturing that are the cornerstone of their relationship.
Thomas and Diana have been married and involved in BDSM for years, but they both prefer the dominant role, and they chose to open their relationship to accommodate their desires that their spouse couldn’t entirely fulfill. Thomas was the first person that I explored BDSM with, and I cannot imagine a better person to help me fulfill all the desires I had kept suppressed for years. He was kind, patient, and encouraging, and I cherish my memories of that time. I am so completely content with my experience that I have recommended Diana as a potential first BDSM partner to one of my closest friends. As a personal note to Thomas and Diana: Thank you so much for giving me permission to write about our shared experience, and encouraging me to do so. I was moved to tears at your acceptance of my request, and your continued excitement and support in my personal journey. You are amazing allies and friends.
My boyfriend and I are considering non-monogamy. At the time of writing this post, we are still unsure what that non-monogamy will look like, but the OpenSF conference has given us the tools, the language, and the support of a community as we explore this space. Our relationship and interpersonal communication has already improved dramatically. I promise to update my readers as we continue the negotiations, and will discuss the different styles of non-monogamy in another post.
I have answered Tristan’s call to action, and I am now issuing one of my own. It is so incredibly important that those of us who have the privilege of appearing mainstream to publicly proclaim our membership to the marginalized, demonized, and ostracized communities who have given us so much. Showing to the world that “normal” people are a part of these communities, that members aren’t some scary nebulous “other”, will pave the way for acceptance. Stop hiding in a closet and being ashamed of who you are. Come out. Our world will be brighter when you do.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.