Outing or underground? – Similarities between BDSM & LGBTQ

Monday, June 24, 2013

“Outing or underground?” is part of the series on BDSM and society

Imagine that you would be fully accepted as you are. That would be great, wouldn’t it? Can you sense how strong, relaxed and sheltered you would feel, if you did get the support of those you love? And there is nothing wrong with aspiring this: it is perfectly normal to wish to be accepted and cared for just as you are. Unfortunately, for the most of us kinky folks - and for quite a few LGBTQ as well - our every day reality is sometimes quite different: we are faced with rejection, pathologizing and on occasion even threats.

What does this mean to us? What does this mean to you, as a kink, aLGBTQ or both? Well, belonging to a not accepted group is tough and for that reason some of us are forced to stay underground and keep an essential part life hidden and wrapped in the cloths of secrecy. In this blog we look at hidden truths and naked lies. Living a double life, by sheer necessity or by our own choice, is in a way a distortion of reality; of how you really are. In this particular blog we search for approaches on how to choose the way that offers most benefits for you, in being yourself. I am sure you have earned it. Absolutely.

Is kink a private matter?
Depending on who you ask inside the leather scene, kink is either regarded a private matter – after all, how you prefer ‘it’ is really none of their business – or, on the contrary, it is definitely something that belongs to their public profile. Like that Harley Davidson driving Master clothed in thick black leather and piercing through you with his demanding eyes. It is obvious what he wants and clear that he will get it.

Which of the two above options is the best, one or two lives, is hard to say; it will depend on your character and the context you live in; is your community, your culture and your relationship open for you outing your kink, or not? Staying underground or outing yourself is nothing but a consequence your own choices, given the circumstances you are in. It is up to you and your living environment how you can live.

When I live in a relationship with a vanilla partner, I show more reluctance about displaying the true role that kink plays in my life. When I play with kindred folk, I let more of it out. This is not only a matter of ethics, but just as much a sign of respect for your partner(s); give to each of them, what belongs to them in the way they wish it. And in return you may expect to meet a similar kind of openness, as meeting respect and openness with respect and openness is normal civilized behaviour.

However, in reality this expectation proofs more to be based on wishful thinking as on confirming experience. There is always the famous exception, but in fact, most people who are not kinky themselves tend to show reactions towards BDSM that do display a close conformity to their own set of ethics; and those are likely the sort of ethics that regard BDSM as strange, unfamiliar and scary (or in case of religious bias, even as sin or outright evil).

Now, when we are honest, we have to admit that indeed some of the things we do can look very scary; not only is much of the context of BDSM play aimed at creating some sort of suspense and tension, but also the actions are bewildering to individuals that do not understand the mechanics underlying BDSM play, like how funny pain can be or how our power exchange is (ideally) embedded in a safe, sound and consensual praxis.

However, because they are not understanding, liking or accepting our ‘thing’, this does not automatically render our preferences, urges and actions into something immoral, wrong or sick. From one perspective one could argue for this assessment, from another perspective it is clearly a matter of freedom, liberty and identity. What does actually divide us is our view on what is right. Is there a truth regarding BDSM & LGBTQ and how can we be sure of it?

The Duality of Choosing
To put it from the start, I will not lead you on the slippery path of philosophical theories on truth, nor in the confusing maze of (religious) ethics. There are certainly many things to say and needed to be said in these areas, but at the end it will turn out to be arbitrary anyway. Some will be in agreement with what I argue for, others won’t. Overall, the question will perhaps not be to choose for this or that point of view, but rather why we have to choose and divide at all.

With truth - as in right and wrong - it seems that we can discover a similar diversity as we find in sexual urges and preferences; yes, there is seemingly a binary position we can make with regard to our sex organs (and is the mind one of them or not?), but we also find a pluriformity of options on how to experience our naturally appearing sex in- and outside of our head.

For the majority of our fellow human beings, many common dualisms - like e.g. the male/female distinction - will feel as a natural and logical option. But since we realized that there must be around 50 shades of grey, we discovered that the world is not black and white and that it perhaps has never been; not the world is dualistic, as it seems, but the way we look at the world ultimately creates our (dualistic) experience.

This is a very important distinction, as it shows that you - for yourself, inside of your head or inside a safe circle - can have a full self-awareness and self-acceptation towards your sexual orientation or gender identity. Even when the outside word is hostile and intolerant; you can and may always be you, hidden inside or out in the open.

Luckily the – predominantly post-Christian - world is evolving. A large minority in the West does not regard dualisms and rigid categories as the only valid view on sexuality. As a result we differ with regard to gender issues, we differ in respect to the meaning of the vanilla/kink duality and in BDSM play many of us even differ considerably in what makes it work for us: Diversity - and particularly sexual diversity - appears to be part of the human condition.

From the above it may be obvious that I do not endorse gender binarity, nor in general tend towards a dualistic approach with regard to gender identity, sexual orientation or practical preferences. Instead I advocate a non-dualism, which offers the freedom to accept binarity as the genuine experience of many people as such. However, this is done without setting their praxis or opinion as the (indubitable) norm. Free and open societies do tend to show the multifacetedness of human sexuality, whereas rigid and disclosed societies do not; their truths can only be binary; which brings us back to truth again.

Being true? Reasons for (not) concealing your urges
The ethics of the society you live in, and particularly their ideas with regard to LGTBQ, BDSM and fetish, will greatly contribute to your sense of security. Above all, when it comes to publicly showing that you differ in your gender-identity or sexual preference, compared to what is regarded as mainstream. If general ethics is repressive to your urges and inner being, going against them can be a dangerous endeavour; therefore think before you ‘kink’.

However, morals as such, do not necessarily have to end with the situation that a different view on what is to be regarded as good and acceptable, automatically must lead to a casting out or condemning of everyone that is different. As in any reasonable praxis, an enclosed and tolerant society may simply opt for granting each individual freedom of (gender/sexual) expression, as long as it is not against the laws or against the will of one of the participants.

Just as we, just as Sir Cameron as queer sadist, may enjoy such freedoms, we similarly should be at least sensible for others for having less freedom – seen from our perspective. It may be a nuisance to steadily argue with those who disagree, but at least you should be able to state the rationality of wishing to live your life as you are.

In this regard, it may be fruitful to see if you in your contacts with others can find a common basis with regard to human rights and the rationalization of individual expression. What we have seen above about the connection between dualism and truth, will be important here; as those who make use of a dualist approach often serve themselves from an either/or kind of argument in which you – per definition - are wrong. In my view a sensible advance to counter such contradiction, is the call for evidence and the rationality of their views, after all a belief is nothing but a proposition, whereas self expression is a human trait.

Take care of yourself and protect your rights – Sir Cameron

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