I should start with everything that has gone down for me since we last saw each other, yes?
Dark Odyssey: Surrender was amazing and I am so thrilled to have been able to present with the talented and beautiful soul that is Yoseñio V. Lewis. We did a lot of good work at our workshops and I hope to go back to another Dark Odyssey event.
Had a successful and amazing time hosting the FIRST EVER PoC HOSPITALITY SUITE AT PANTHEACON. We’re working on being there next year, with more food (like we didn’t have enough?) and some room specific offerings. If you’re interested in donating to the cause, the link is here, please donate if you are so able and moved.
I am currently slated to present at CatalystCon in September. Yoseñio and I are once again co-presenting and the title is, “But Wait, There’s More! Exploring the Intersection of Race, Class, Ability and Sexuality and Desire“. Info is here.
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.
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!
Dear nameless woman,
I’m sorry. I don’t know what else I could have done. Maybe if I had rushed downstairs I could have helped you from your attacker, or found a way to assist you in gathering your things and taking you somewhere safe until the police arrived.
All I did was call 911 and request police assistance with an altercation. I described him, you, your vehicle, and the threats I heard him make to you; that he’d kill you, run you over, beat you, make you hurt.
I knew those words, I carry them under the skin everywhere I go. But still, I reported; as calmly and clearly as I could to the person taking the report. I gave my name, but requested that I not be called. And I don’t know why they called me, twice, but I didn’t hear the phone. I was too caught up in my own head, feeling those words and the menace behind them and knowing that they are being said somewhere to someone else, at this very moment. ALL THE TIME someone is being hurt, raped, murdered, silenced. I know all these things.
I’m sorry, I feel like I did nothing. I did nothing to try and save you myself, nothing but dial and talk.
I watched you run off, screaming and begging for someone to hear you on a street where cars go by regularly, watched in the odd silence as the minutes ticked by, and the words tumbled from my lips; height, build, description of clothing, hair, coloring, etc. Yet, as the words fell into the ears of the operator, my body felt the mark of his threats made reality.
I’m sorry, I hope it was enough. And I’m sorry if it wasn’t. I’m sorry if what I do will never be enough. I’m trying with all I have.
Please forgive me.
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.
1. Raising funds for the Pagans of Color hospitality suite at Pantheacon next year. Goal is 1000$USD through WePay. Click here to donate.
2. Intersectionality. As a person of color, from a low-mid to low working class, female presenting, able-bodied presenting, nonheteronormative, nongendernormative, non-Abrahamic religion practitioner, and in a relationship with a female, there are many things that I know aren’t counted in my favor. However, I can enjoy the intersections and the work inherent in each, strive to make injustice a thing of our collective pasts, and live an authentic life. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t days when I feel like crap and want to give up and crawl under a rock and wait for it all to be over. . . I have plenty of those days. Some days though, much better than others.
3. There have been days here in the Bay Area lately that have been cold and despite the sun the warmth just doesn’t sink into my bones. On those days, I grit my teeth and move as best I can, my joints are swollen and stiff, sometimes they lock up and won’t move. On those days, I’m grateful for tea and my wonderful cats (how great to use the plural again) and I am glad to not have to be at a job where I would be required to move much more swiftly than I am able to. But then I remember that I have expenses and I have bills (like we all do) and it hurts to not be able to pay them as quickly as I wish I could. On those days, I try to remember to have compassion for myself. Compassion for myself then emanates and becomes compassion for all who are job-searching, and for those who have jobs, and for those who work at finding others jobs, or manage the job market. . .the world.
Sometimes, this job, this being that coalesces sex and Spirit, it isn’t sexy in the way we’re conditioned to see sexy. But it can be highly charged and motivating, and make our breath quicken, our lips purse, and our sex throb a bit. Why?
Because, better to eat of the forbidden fruit of knowledge then watch it rot from ignorance.
At least, that’s what my morning meditation showed me. What might you see?
This article* has opened up a lot of my misgivings in talking about my sexwork as another service I offer.
In talking about sexwork, the first thing people imagine is something like Pretty Woman, the next thing people imagine, almost simultaneously is a woman on the corner who is doing it to feed some sort of drug or alcohol habit. I am neither of these things. If anything, I am a person who is more closely tied to a courtesan of the Medieval Ages. I know and learn many different skills (besides bedroom or sexual skills) and have a broad range of knowledge in a variety of topics, because I want to be a companion for the time I am asked to share with someone.
If I could get more people to understand this work by seeing past the Julia Roberts or the innumerable faces arrested for doing these acts on public streets, I would want them to think of it more along the lines of Inara Serra of Firefly; but we diverge into fantasy so seldom in real life. Where her clients were mostly affluent, rich, upper class, I am interested in the working man, the ones who are working day-in, day-out and do all the usual day to day grind and need a respite. For an hour, for a night, for as long as they have need of me.
Can I be those other two examples? Sure. That goes without saying. Part of the work entails becoming a blank canvas, something the other person can draw on, can imagine what they need onto me, without touching into that core sense of who I really am, because they don’t need to see that part of me, they need to see what they WANT to see. Sometimes that isn’t pretty, or even appealing to me. But it’s not about me. It’s about the intimacy that is created with a fictive person, with someone who isn’t really there.
A therapist is someone who is there, but it’s like the trope of the disembodied voice that parrots back to us what we say, because sometimes we need to hear it from something outside ourselves in order to really get at whatever it is that’s troubling us. So much of that ability to just give back and gently prod more from a client revolves around remembering that who you are isn’t more important than who is before you, that takes a willingness to look deep into yourself, to see that part of you that you don’t like at all, and still be okay with who you are. There is so much power to be gained from that process. . .
I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface of this topic, and I will definitely be exploring and expounding on it, as I continue to talk things out and tease out the ideas in my head. Right now, it’s one very large ball of knots and twists, but I’m a patient sort and I like unraveling, in so many ways.
*The original author of the article, Stanley Siegel has been summarily fired from his column (after inexplicable censoring of this article and others), and would appreciate your support.