The Pride Badge

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Yesterday, I was doing one of my favorite things, getting paid to talk about beer.  I was having a lovely day, out in the sunshine, chatting with really rad people.  And then suddenly, I was faced with a situation I was not prepared for, a seemingly nice man with whom I was chatting with showed a very ugly side of himself.  I was shocked, horrified, and in that moment, I felt all the importance of pride month and why there is still so much work to do.  While the following story may seem insignificant to many of you, I think dismissing these small offhanded comments shows apathy, and we as a society need to do better.  And for my part, writing a post that clearly defines my position on equality, in that I believe every adult, consenting, human should have the right to love whom they want without judgement, hatred, or bigotry. 

Pride Badge

So here is the story that sparked this little thread.  There is a beer app called Untappd, and this seemingly nice man in his 50s was showing me a few of his recent badges and favorite beers.  We had a few laughs, and the conversation was pleasant overall.  As he was working through my samples of beer, he picked his favorite and added it to his recommended beer list.  When he pressed that little button, a badge popped up, and that’s when I saw him for what he really was.  The badge was decorated in bright rainbow colours, with the word pride printed boldly in the middle.  He immediately exclaimed that he “was not fond of that one, wished he could delete it, but shhhhh don’t tell anyone because that could get him shot!”

I just stood there, shocked, and completely silent.  Did this man just admit to me that he was homophobic, didn’t support pride, and was actually worried that he would have violence inflicted on him for sharing this view?  What the hell?  Without any reaction from me, the guy thanked me for the beer and left.  It was over as fast as it began.  For him, it was a passing comment, that he inappropriately shared with a stranger.  But for me, it left me with a true uncertainty for those around me.  A day later, I still have this terrible feeling in my gut, that there was so much more to that sentiment.  And I am horrified to imagine that there are so many out there just like him.  Of course this troubles me.  How could a badge that means so much for so many, also illicit such hate and spite from another?  Why, are we so polarized on this issue as a society?  What can possibly be gained from hate?  Why is there still so much fear from a group of people that have actually done nothing that I am aware of, to deserve it?  Oh, that’s right, we as a society still fear sex.

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Pride Parades

When I have been a spectator at my local pride parade, it usually feels like an incredible celebration that I feel like to be a supporter of.  I feel so happy that people are coming together and proudly proclaiming that freedom and love go hand in hand, decorated in bright colours.  Even as a child I would get really overwhelmed at parades, and when I went to my last pride day, it was no different.  I had to choke back tears as I watched all these beautiful people, proudly marching down the street, in unity. 

I am sorry to say, I’m not sure I fully understood all the backhand, snide comments, that people who are openly LGBTQ+ have to face every single day.  For me, this was but a disgusting moment in my life.  And please do not misinterpret what I say next.  I chose to be offended by this man’s comment.  I could have just ignored it, dismissed it, and gone on with my life, choosing battles that directly affect me.  But the reality is, I don’t think being apathetic or just ignoring these comments is working.  I was silent in that moment, because I was shocked, and truly did not know what to say.  I didn’t have the words to educate, stand up for what I believe, or to give the guys head a vigorous shake.  I felt powerless.  I say I believe in equality for all humans, but here I am, admitting that in those precious moments that followed his outrageous behaviour, I just hoped he would vanish from my sight.

The Takeaway

What I do know, is I am thankful that this app has a badge that proudly supports pride.  And that it brought to light this man’s prejudices.  And I hope that the next person he shares this story with is better equipped to educate him.  To show him that equality and diversity actually make us a better society, and provide us with a richness far beyond what our comfortable, close minded beliefs default to, a fear of what we don’t understand.  And I hope that someday soon, we will not need pride month, because we will just all be equal human beings who celebrate our diversities on a daily basis with the mantra, you do you, and let me do me (or all of us in a big consent fueled group doing each other!). 

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Breaking Free From Gaslighting

Gaslighting

First off, I am a survivor and not a victim.  I say that out loud to myself from time to time, because I find it helps me regain my power and control over the situation that I found myself in a few years ago (sorry I cannot give a specific timeline due to circumstance outside of my control).  Why did it take me so long to come out and write about it?  Because, it was difficult for me to put a label on it, and publicly address what happened to me, especially as, until recently, many of the people I considered extended family read my blog and knew this man.  The silly thing is, the fear of not writing this post, is a key reason why I need to.  I need to break any and all control that my former mentor, and confident has/had over me, and I need to do it from a place of serenity and autonomy, and try not to let the fear of him getting upset and isolating me any further (I still am keeping his full identity anonymous as this is about healing and not about starting a witch hunt). This is my experience as I am Breaking free from gaslighting.

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What is Gaslighting?

When I first read about the term gaslighting, I dismissed it as the latest buzzword.  A trend to label behaviour that was most likely a form of abuse and required a person to just get out of the situation.  For the most part, I dismiss labels, and by doing that I feel that I can be more fluid and not allow them to define or trap me.  However, as I recently discovered, I needed this term in my life, to come to full terms with what was happening to me, and just how bad things were about to get.  If you want a fuller description of gaslighting, please check out this link, but for the context of this post it is someone who never apologizes without making you feel guilty.  It is someone who makes you feel isolated and that everything wrong is your fault, and claims to love you unconditionally with caveats that are completely unachievable.  They lie repeatedly, refuse to take any personal responsibility, and what for me was even worse, they tell everyone that you are the crazy one.  Honestly, there were times that the magnitude of how cruel the whole situation was, I could barely catch my breath.  And being isolated from all my family friends, and not realizing how deep the isolation actually went, I would naively turn to them for help and end up making an even bigger hole for myself, by proving that I was the crazy one who was off kilter. 

All I can say, is that even though he tried numerous times to turn my partner against me, and drive a wedge between us, my partner has the most incredible B.S. detector I have ever met and he called him out for exactly what he was, and what he was doing to me.  Without my partner, I may have crumbled and gone crawling back to this man because I honestly was left with, a feeling of complete nothingness. 

Where Am I Now?

While I still feel the weight from time to time of this person’s years of abuse, and occasionally find myself asking if I am stupid or weak, I have far more good days than bad. I have incredible friends who ensure I do not feel alone, and are happy just to sit in silence sipping a beer with me if I need to, sometimes it’s not enough.  There are moments, that I dream about him, and honestly wake up believing that things are back to how I idealized they were when I was younger.  I feel this incredible calm, that maybe this nightmare I have lived is over, and I am free.  I go back and forth between fantasy and reality, sometimes worried that I will never know the truth.  I am not fully free of this man, and for my mental sanity, I have to just accept that for the time being and continue to find peace in what I can control.  And that, is how I move forward with my life, and how I can forgive myself for living so long with the mental hell of my past.  

And please, out of respect for me, and my families privacy as I continue to work through this difficult time, do not guess who this person is, or try and reach out to that individual.  There is zero good that can come from that.  And I have learned that the only person that I can control is myself.  I am not looking for apologies, answers, or even acknowledgment.  I am simply taking care of my own mental health by writing this very painful post out, and continuing to heal with purpose.

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Trust, Privacy, and Openness

For all my openness and blogging and social media, I am at the core, a private person.  I have trusted many, and been burned just as often.  It hasn’t make me more cynical or guarded, just more aware of those around me.  I don’t let people in easily and when I do, well, I still maintain a bit of coldness from time to time.  It is sincerely not a trait I am conscious of, but upon the days interactions and reflections I can see moments that I wish I had been a little more inviting.  Overall, I know I have the largest inner circle of my entire life, and I have truly incredible people with whom I love dearly.  And what’s more they are people I have chosen, and am lucky enough that they have chosen me.  But let’s get on track here, I find it difficult to navigate between trust, privacy, and openness.

 

I keep many aspects of my personal life under lock and key, especially things that I have struggled with, or currently am struggling with.  And to be a little more specific, I tend not to discuss things that really suck but are out of my control.  I don’t want to whine, or bitch about my very absent family.  I don’t want to lament the fact that my step dad is now visibly absent from my life.  And I certainly do not want to go on and on about how I just don’t have the income that I feel is proper for where I want to be in life.  Instead, I keep these things to myself, and just keep picking away at them.  I work on my perceptions, my reactions to these nagging voices, and I keep doing what I love, which is writing.

 

Is the outside perception that I am fake or cold because I don’t talk about my problems?  Perhaps, but the thing of it is, I just don’t know where that line should be.  I am find sharing about 2 minutes of my problems with my friends and loved ones, but then I just want to move on.  I want desperately to discuss adventure, and all the wonderful things about our lives.  I don’t want to dwell on what cannot be immediately changed or fixed.  I have my problems, as I know those around me do.  I work hard at fixing them, little by little and just don’t find talking about them will ever solve the issues.  Because there are things that cannot be fixed by words or actions.  There are many things that are out of our control and it’s more important to learn to cope, accept or even just not sweat it when push comes to shove.

 

But again, there is a nagging voice in me that wonders if people think I’m phoney for not bitching about my life.  If perhaps, I have set a standard that they feel uncomfortable getting real with me, until I get real with them.  Is this all in my imagination?  Am I simply rationalizing a fear that is all in my head?  Honestly, I just don’t know.  So I am putting this out into the world with earnest hope that the percolation process will help me find calm, or even acceptance to a shortcoming of mine that I often fear.  That real, terrifying fear that when people learn everything about me, they will leave…

 

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Sex Censorship: The Modern Book Burning and The War on Women

Make no mistake, the internet is experiencing a very scary purging of sex content in the form of sexual censorship.  With the closure of Backpage, and Craigslist personals (US only, Canada still seems to be available) sex workers are being put at risk.  And by risk, I mean pushing them out of the safety of the internet and directly onto the streets.  This is terrifying.  And this doesn’t just stop at sex workers.  For example, YouTube is now removing entire channels dedicated to sex education and the cloud has been deleting entire profiles, videos and images specifically targeting escorts and sex workers.  We are moving into the dark ages where we are again running and hiding from the word sex.  We are reaching a critical climax with the technological information purge, or what I feel is the modern book burning.  And if you are thinking you are not affected, please don’t stop reading as there is more!

With SESTA-FOSTA in effect, third party websites are now liable for the content that is written, shared and promoted on them.  While the guise of child endangerment and trafficking pushed it forward, the real victims are sex workers.  They cannot use platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Switter etc to promote and screen their businesses and clients, putting them at extreme risk of extortion, their very physical safety, and their means of income as sights like Paypal are liable under this new law as well.  Which ultimately will push these workers back onto the streets or worse.  And yes, pushing out sex workers has a negative effect on all of us.  It’s called the oldest profession for a reason.  History has shown us time and time again that humans will find a way to have their sexual needs and desires met, one way or the other.  To fight this, is futile and recently we were reminded just how dangerous it is which I will touch on shortly.  And with the legal threat of third party liability, sex workers will move to the next safe place to advertise, and that will most likely be on dating apps.  That’s right, dating apps like OK Cupid, and Tinder will be the next targets.  So, do you still think this doesn’t affect you?

This censorship is so far reaching that even taking pictures of sex toys may/will result in discretionary removal, blocking and/or just banned.  And as of today, Twitter will start to remove all nudity that elicits arousal.  Are you freaking kidding me?  This is censorship at its worst because it is subjective.  Is there some big review board somewhere that will review nudity to see if it gets someone hard or wet?  Internet freedom is not under attack, it is no longer a thing.  Again, if you think this doesn’t affect you, you’re just not listening.  If you cannot even take a picture of a sex toy, where does that line end?  Can you not take a picture of condom to promote and educate safe sex?  And honestly, there is no end in sight, and no clear picture of who makes these determinations.

So what’s next?  Where is the internet headed?  Where are we as a society going to end up if we cannot embrace healthy sexual discussion and acceptance.  Oh that’s where it’s headed, straight into fear and outright hatred of sex and women.  Are you ready to read about the real world ramifications of the breakdown of sex positive speech, availability, education and just general knowledge?  Well, ready or not, Toronto women were just attacked by a 25 year old man, on the street, by a van of all things.  And why? Because he was part of a group called the Incel Rebellion, which is short for “involuntary celibate”.  This is a group of violent men, who have slurped up the Kool-aid that women are the enemy.  That we should not have autonomy over our sexual rights and body, and that men have every right to get laid, by whatever means necessary, including rape.  Yes, you read that right.  I will be honest, I have a lot of difficulty researching this group of men, and my stomach turns just thinking that these predators are a part of our society.  It’s bone chilling and I cannot go into more detail without tearing up.  So research this subject with caution.

How can women be feared this much?  Why are we losing our autonomy at such an alarming rate?  How as a society can we attack sex workers, and allow organizations that promote bodily harm to women to continue?  Where is the poison that started this all?  And how the fuck do we fix this?  I want to say that with education and compassion the next generation will be better than us.  But, I don’t think we can, as an equal society wait that long.  Women are dying.  Sex workers, have reached the point of desperation and are taking their own lives.  Men, believing they have “rights” to us as objects has resulted in death, all over North America, and honestly I couldn’t research beyond that.

This has to STOP!  And it has to stop now.   The war on women must end.  And the book burning of sexual content, information and education has to be eliminated.  And RIGHT NOW!  This is a human crisis.  It’s not men versus women.  It’s a poison that is infiltrating our very ethics and morality, and we need to find the antidote.  Being shocked, silent or dismissive is over.  For my part, I will continue to post nudity on my blog and on my Patreon page, and proudly!  I will continue to blog about sex, relationships, sexuality and non-monogamy.  I will continue to support sex workers and my community of sex positive individuals.  I will not be silent.  And neither should you!  As I tweeted today “Things are not looking good right now for freedom of expression, from the female perspective.  We need to do better.  I hate being right about it getting worse before it gets better… how much more can society fear sex and women?”  Join the conversation on social media.  Talk to your friends and loved ones.  We cannot silently watch women die as our freedoms are ripped from us!

Sometimes My Fears are Ridiculous: Swing Club Edition


Or
My First Fear About Local Swing Clubs Has Come True…
When E and I dipped a toe into the Lifestyle (attending swing clubs) the understanding was that we would not attend any event that was local.  This would be our vacation only experience.  And over the past 4 years we have attended parties in LA and surrounding area.  And at the same time putting a bunch of clubs on our wish list to every city we visit.  Being Canadians we originally picked LA as our first foray to ensure that it was an anonymous venue filled with people that we would never see again.  That was an important aspect for a few reasons. 
The first being, if we made a mistake no one would see us again.  I refer specifically to protocol or the like.  The second was the freedom to do whatever we were comfortable with, and even to take a few chances because we were never going to run into these people again.  And the third, was it was exciting to have events that we would look forward to sometimes up to a year in advance.  But then a funny thing happened.  On our last trip to LA, for our annual New Years Eve adventure we ran into a couple we had chatted with the previous year.  And just like that, the taboo of not knowing anyone was gone.  It was replaced with an element of excitement and a strange comfort at making friends within the lifestyle that we could run into again and again.  So we re-evaluated and decided to try and replicate this sensation in our own backyard.
When we got home we spent a great deal of time finding a local swing club that best suited our needs.  Sure enough we found one, and attended their Valentines Day Party.  It was packed and we knew no one from the outside world.  It was fantastic!  This quickly became our monthly pastime.  We would find a theme that suited us, brainstorm a few costume ideas and get cracking.  We discovered that wearing fantastic or creative costumes was the ideal ice breaker and we love dressing up!  And of course it should go with out saying that once the ice is broken, the clothes can come off!  But here’s the thing, we were still quite anonymous.  We had crossed the hurdle of running into someone a second or third time from the lifestyle, but I was still leery about running into anyone from our vanilla lives.
And then it happened, only four months later.  I was looking at the guest list and sure enough we knew a couple.  And it was a former colleague of E’s.  Someone that we had partied with a bit and he had a very good working relationship with.  Well frick, now what do we do?  Message them, say hi?  Pretend we didn’t notice until the party?  Or just let it ride?  I wanted the latter, just to pretend I had not noticed that they were coming, where by E wanted to send a teasing but friendly message.  As luck would have it, they messaged us first.  Simple, and friendly, “Noticed you are attending on [date] and I’m sure you noticed we are as well. We thought we would reach out and perhaps head off the inevitable awkwardness. 🙂  It’s unexpected to run into someone you know in a situation like this and we just wanted you to know we understand the need for discretion for all involved.  If we don’t get a chance to chat Saturday we hope you have a great time.”  
Even with the kind e-mail I was not comfortable running into them at the party, and part of the reason was the theme.  If the ladies showed up without underwear and proved it, 10 bucks would be taken off the cover charge.  Nothing like running into a person from the outside world without underwear on!  It is almost reminiscent of the advice my grandmother once gave me, “always wear clean underwear just in case you get hit by a bus”.  Underpants allow you to engage in normal society.  You don’t question why, you just get up everyday, put fresh ones on and go and interact with fellow members of society.  So let’s just take them off and run into people you know, it will be swell.
As the title suggests, on the said night of the party we ran into them, said a quick and friendly hello and just like that the bandaid was ripped off.  A situation that prevented me from exploring the lifestyle locally for so many years was absolutely without incident.  We joked about not wearing panties, poured a drink and went our separate ways. E and I laughed about the interaction, and shared a few meeting someone you knew stories with other couples that night and really that was it.   
As I get older, I reflect on all the fears that held me back from new experiences, and I am so grateful that I have overcome such a large number of these.  Including within the non monogamy lifestyle.  I know I have E to thank for a lot of the encouragement, seeing his bravery and the example he sets, and sometimes him just calling me out for being ridiculous.  With age, confidence and wisdom I know there are many more barriers that I will break down, well except for spiders.  Cause fuck spiders!  Bleh!