At Open SF, I had an opportunity to chat with many different people, and one fascinating couple. They were also presenters at Open SF and we found out that our work goes along parallel avenues. I love that kind of synchronicity!
Evoë of Whole Sex Life, Harold (her partner), and I hit it off quite well. They were there to present on Second Generation Poly with Nick and Maggie Mayhem of Meet the Mayhems. They came to my presentation The Intimacy of Sacred Kink and at the Presenter’s After Party, all three of us sat down and processed and spoke from our hearts about things that my presentation had brought up, it was an amazing, surreal experience and it made my soul sing.
We have kept email contact and Evoë sent me a few interview questions, you can find them here.
Comments and questions there would be most appreciated!
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.
I am still recouperating from Open SF and all the amazing moments I had, witnessed, and luxuriated in. It is a true testament to a growing community that even with all the hard topics raised we were able to look at them, and ourselves with a critical but compassionate eye.
If you attended my presentation, The Intimacy of Sacred Kink, and wish to talk further, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I try to check that on a regular basis. I look forward to continuing the conversation and expect to see a lot of posts in the next couple of days about questions that the presentation brought up for me. Which I will admit is one of the most amazing things that happens whenever I stand up to talk to people about what I do; it always ends up bringing up and showing me new avenues to explore and ponder and try, so thank you for giving me the opportunity to walk my path, together. You all inspire me.
With deepest and sincerest gratitude to Pepper, the staff, volunteers, and all attached to Open SF, and to you, the attendees. Without you, I would’ve just been talking to myself. I do that enough as it is.
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.
I was walking to the grocery store, catty-corner to me and about to meet me on the same corner I’m headed to, is a man who is shuffling along mumbling to himself.
He holds conversations with anything his eyes light upon. First it was the bicyclist going downhill in one direction, “There goes Lance Armstrong and his seven yellow jerseys.” The bicyclist is wearing yellow accents and riding a bright yellow bike.
We’re walking down the hill in the other direction and he passes the flowers, “Linda.” I perk my ears up, my body’s gait changes, I straighten the shoulders because from behind me, I feel a wall of something that’s about to make itself known.
“Gorgeous flowers. Greg get out of the sidewalk. There’s no Greg. Greg’s gone.” Here is where the sob hits his voice, and the pain lashes into my heart, and BURNS all the way through me. “All my people are gone.”
In my heart, all I can hear is the chorus of voices reassuring him that, no. No, his people are NOT gone. I turn back to say this to him, but then, something stills my vocal cords. It’s the voices in my own head, my OWN people, who are quietly looking at me, having joined this man’s people, to tell me to hold still.
It was enough to have heard him, and us. So, I just kept walking, hearing his anguish, living with him.
Where was the ordeal in this, you might ask? No one made you bleed, or cut you, or hit you til you shut down all the parts of you that make and connect and do that spiritual thing that you do, so why is this ordeal?
I ask myself that all the time. I live a life with so much uncertainty- will today be a pain-free day (bad weather and inefficient sleep leave my joints all messed up)? Will there be another problem with my current job situation that I need to overcome (besides the usual, not having one that’s full time)? I breathe in the new day, and I relax myself into it, I try to maintain a fairly regular routine about it, but sometimes, it’s just the day itself that hurts. At night, I’m left holding the tattered remains of my day and wondering how it got so botched.
On those days, the ordeal was in getting through it. And rejoicing in watching the sun dip down below the horizon, watching the clouds drift in across the Bay, the way the room instantly cools and yet brightens, as the sun sets.
The ordeal is in living, the ordeal is in being present and witnessing that living while it happens.