Trigger warning: If you are/have been affected by assault, violence against women, battery, blood, or any of the things connected with that, and CANNOT stomach reading about it, do NOT read any further.
It’s been suggested to me to start with how I’m feeling right now. How I’m feeling is shell-shocked and definitely with some stress cracks and fractures on the surface that go deep, but I don’t know how far down.
My reality is that I am a Pagan nonentity, despite some small notoriety with friends and compatriots in certain areas; kink, paganism, interfaith stuff, etc. I’m still what you’d call small potatoes. That means that I am also a working Pagan. I have a mundane job that kinda sorta pays my bills; but not enough. I say this because it’s background for why I was where I was when I was. If that makes sense.
I was at San Leandro BART station, waiting for a connecting bus to an office nearby for an employment exam. In this economy, we’re all of us; pagan or not, struggling for work wherever we can get it. I was there early enough that my bus was going to be a while. As with most things where I’m in a (self-imposed or not) spotlight, I get nervous with waiting. So I started walking around and working off some of the nerves. Cracking my knuckles, popping my joints, talking myself down from that. I walked towards the entryway to the platforms where Clipper cards are read and passes are inserted to get through. From behind me came the shouts. “Hey! Stop! Get away from her!” I had already started turning and had a visual of the scene before me, a man had bum-rushed a female from behind (a dirty play in ANY book) and knocked her to the ground. Her bags went flying, the crowd surged as he bounced off of her and started kicking and screaming obscenities at her. The crowd separated them but he cut through them as she dazedly tried to stand up. She got to some sort of a half crouch before he was on her again. At this point, I’m now a part of the crowd actively trying to fight him off her. He’s a dog with a bone and there’s no way he’s letting go ever, is what it feels like. Like pushing against the current. But this one was one filled with rage, hate, incoherent, but direct. Anyone who stands in his way is a direct target. I can still feel his hand around my forearm when I got between them as he tried to get to her through me and the crowd. At that point, a larger gentleman (with from what I could deduce some mental incapacities) sacked him. Low and to the midsection, if he’d been in college or professional ball it would’ve been hailed as quasi-perfection. At this point, the woman has run off towards the same entryway I was at moments (was it really just MOMENTS ago?) ago, and the police have shown up and are trying to figure out the situation. I join my voice with others trying to explain to the officer that the person they should be asking questions to is the man on the floor and not the ones huffing and puffing trying to get their breath back. The woman comes stumbling back over, dazed, bleeding, and going into shock. I walk over to her and the officer follows my lead and joins me in talking to her. I can see the goose-egg on the side of her face, lacerations and bleeding on the top of her head and blood in her mouth. She walks over to a column and calls for her belongings. I start to administer first aid, asking her name, checking her eye responses; you know, the things you’re taught to do. My voice is calm, detached. Professional. She steps away from the column and I’m lucky enough to get a hand on her as she starts to go down in a faint. I drop my knee straight onto the concrete and guide her fall. In my head, I thank whomever’s listening that she stays conscious and ask for first aid materials, anything really. She’s in hysterics this entire time. It’s only when I feel the ice in my veins and the breath in my lungs so cold that I nearly want to start coughing that I realize that my first job is to get her to calm down. I make her look into my eyes (are they really mine right now? I wonder…) and breathe for me. My hand (mine?) is placed right at her heart and her eyes widen and she takes those much needed breaths. A few more women join me and offer words or ice packs as I call out for them. I start to work on keeping her with me, to keep the panic from creeping into her voice again.
Then she starts apologizing.
With all the raging love pouring out of me at that moment. I took her chin in my hand, looked her square in the eye and told her she had NOTHING to apologize for. NOT ONE DAMNED THING.
At this point, I have to stop writing. I feel physically drained from everything already written and I need to recharge. I may continue this, I may not. I’m unsure if I can or want to, to be honest, until I’ve processed and worked out some more of the things this loosened up inside me.
I want to take a moment to thank the amazing group of people in Sacramento (and the three women of Fresno!) who showed up and attended my presentation/performance piece/experiential magical working… I’m not even sure what to call it anymore!
I enjoyed traveling by rail and see it as an effective way to travel, the feel of the train moving with me and the calm rush of one vista after another was a soothing way to get where I needed to be. I definitely want to do that again!
The space was amazing, the fire was perfect, and as the night progressed and the words tumbled from my mouth, I felt that moment where the audience and I are on the same trip, we reach the same milestones, the same moments, the same realization; that something has changed in the way we view those around us, and those outside of this moment, and maybe it only lasts a day or two, or maybe it lasts for the rest of our lives, but we had it. We tasted it and found it to be pleasing. That was what I’d hoped for, and getting that was worth all the travel and time.
Afterward, as we were sitting around and talking and just enjoying the company, I got a chance to interact and get to know in a closer level these people who’d let me traipse into their community and into their mindset and play around with whatever I might find there. I found landmines, beartraps, pitfalls, stones in the path, and yet beauty in dancing around wondering if the next step would sheer a leg off or not. And I did, I can’t say that I wasn’t affected by you all, because that would be lying. What I can say, is that I enjoyed it, every moment of it, down to the winds that would rise up unexpectedly. Because they fed those moments just as much as when the winds were silent and all we could hear was the crackle of the fire, and my words.
Thank you for sharing those moments with me, it was a pleasure to do so!
If you need to reach me, for a reading, to talk/process or if you have a question, please don’t hesitate: here.
Thank you, all of you, for sharing these moments with me. You left more than just money on my nightstand, you fed my soul.
When a presenter is actively sought out to speak at a conference there is a joy and a trepidation that happens. Joy in being sought out, but trepidation that the expectation of what you can do has already been set. At least, that’s how I felt when organizer Juana Tango contacted me about Open SF. I had watched with interest on FL as talk about this conference started making the rounds and as a polyamorous person, had decided that I wanted to attend if it didn’t interfere with Desire, which I am on staff for. That fear was assuaged when it was decided by my Beloved and I that our honeymoon expenses would be covered by the same amount we spend on working and attending Desire so with heavy hearts we said we’d see our beloved Desire tribe next year. That meant that when Juana Tango asked me if I’d be interested, I was free and available.
As a presenter, it is hard to balance the needs of the conference with the needs to keep a roof over one’s head. As a new conference, and new to the Bay Area for presenting, not charging a speaking fee was the most equitable solution I felt for both parties. They were still able to get some amazing keynote speakers, Tristan Taormino, Yoseñio Lewis, and Ignacio Rivera were amazing both as presenters and in their keynotes.
Another stumbling block for me as a presenter/attendee was the fact that as a Queer of Color (QoC) I am more than willing to discuss what this means in all my different communities. So, not only did I present my “Intimacy of Sacred Kink” but I also participated in a panel discussion named, “Poly “isms”: Addressing Multiple Marginalizations in Non-Monogamous and Kink Community” with Virgie Tovar, Stacy Reed, and Invisibleank, to talk about the experiences we have had as People of Color in the different alternative sexuality communities here and in the broader areas we hail from that was moderated by Irene McCalphin.
Why do I bring up all this backstory? Because most of the media has been silent on the aspect of the conference that made the biggest impact to the attendees; the inclusion and hard work of making sure that marginalized communities in the majority society (which I define as heterocentric, cissexist, gender normative, male-dominated, and white) were represented.
This article from an attendee has a clear focus (and they’re an awesome blog to follow, IMO) but all I can hear is that the experience was one where the gaze was very much on the things he was interested in seeing and hearing and does justice to the presenters but only notes the keynotes and presenters he attended; all white. Which is not a bad thing, it’s just a thing. But, in a way, it also speaks to the experience of a person who isn’t of color and already subject to marginalization by the majority society.
This article does slightly better, but by drawing the focus on the ideas of communication no matter what expressions of sexuality happen in a relationship (kink, poly, etc.) while diminishing the idea that there was a presentation (which they mention) on kink, race, and class by Ignacio and Yoseñio, it lends credence to this being like any other typical conference. The article even asks that question in the beginning, “One of the first questions that arose was whether such a conference was even necessary. Isn’t sexuality something that comes naturally to most people? Does it need to be taught? Don’t people figure it out for themselves?” The producers, presenters, staff, volunteers, and attendees certainly felt that the answer was an enthusiastic YES! Because while sexuality is a personal thing, it is also a very political thing when it is not a part of the majority society, and therefore, being able to ask the questions of privilege within a sexual community, and how to deal with that, is important and necessary work. I’m not saying that it isn’t fun, sex is one of the most fun things out there, expressing my sexuality (in all its vast ways) is my life’s work; but I don’t live in a vacuum, and I can’t pretend that my sex isn’t informed by my experiences as a woman-shaped genderqueer of color of Mexican heritage of a lower working class/immigrant family. Even when I’m by myself, who I am isn’t set aside just because I have a Hitachi between my legs.
A big part of my willingness to participate in Open SF was Pepper Mint and the rest of the staff were willing to challenge themselves during the process of creating a line-up. In talking to him about it, he (I am using the gender pronoun I have seen most often applied, and apologize if this is incorrect.) talked about how there were people on staff originally who were upset and dropped out when the focus became less about the ‘fun’ stuff and more about the ‘hard’ stuff. A shame to have lost them, but at the same time, it meant that walking the halls of the host hotel I didn’t feel like I needed to wrap the flags of my intersections tight around me like a cocoon to shield myself from the White Male Gaze. I attended caucuses and presentations where the question of, “How do I make this work for me as a person of color?” wasn’t answered with there is no change because lalalalalalala I don’t see your color, but with careful thought out consideration for what that means in this country. And that, is a success to me.
Maybe I am biased because I attended more of the presentations by people of color than not, but for me, as a queer of color, as a non-gendernormative person, as a woman-shaped person, talking about how this body and the steps it takes as political acts, are a respite for a world-weary view. I grow tired of being the ‘one and only’ in a room full of people who when they step out of the dungeon space, or the cuddle party space, appear for all intents and purposes to be the majority society. I can’t do that. So, I live my full poly, kinky, pagan, genderqueer life, that’s a political act in itself. But, Open SF, gave me a platform to show me that I am not alone, and that the majority society types who inhabit these same spaces, now know I am there too. And I’m not going away.
For Ordealists, one of the big discussion topics centers around knowing when. When did you know that Ordeal was for you? When did you decide to mix kink with spiritual practices? When did you do this for the first time? One of the things that has always come naturally to me is answering not just the when, but the why that attaches to it.
Why I started in Ordeal is more about where my path was going (and what it’s start was) then anything one person/deity/spirit said or did to and for me.
I grew up Catholic (that’s a common enough start for many pagans, isn’t it?) with a strong cultural tie to the Church. However, I also grew up with a lot of superstitions and beliefs that weren’t taught at Sunday school or from the pulpit. A lot of my early childhood memories are of sitting with my mom and staring at the angels and saints and the Crucified Christ and the statues of Mary and ‘talking’ to them. It was one of those things that one shares in the enthusiasm of youth, yet, my mom always made sure to hush me about it. The less I said, the better in her book. That attitude forced a lot of my ‘incidences’ to be spoken to no one. I spent years cultivating an understanding and a spirituality that connected me to Saints that had strong experiences with the Holy Spirit. Teresa of Avila and her physical experience of the Holy Spirit was a strong motivator for me and still is.
In her own words, ‘I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.’ – The Life of Teresa of Jesus, autobiography
My early encounters with angels, saints, Mary, and Christ Crucified were solidified when I turned 13 and experienced the pain of crucifixion in my own body. The agony of a crown of thorns, lashes to my body, the piercing of nails, and a spear into my lung at such a young age, marked me as a stigmatist, but left no discernible physical symptoms. It is the one quiet secret that I have kept for a long time; that I belong to this small group of people, and yet have no desire to speak of the experience, for mine is nothing compared to others. For I am made nothing when the pain and agony of Ordeal happen.
When Ordeal happens, I simply cease being for me, and AM for something outside of me; stronger, larger, more powerful but infinitesimally present. These quiet stillnesses that come over me, that are distinctly not me, that is why I’m willing to do Ordeal, to use it (wisely and conscientiously), and to enjoy the process. That is my first step in my own start towards Ordeal.