Mercedes Allen

Kink: My Last Closet

Filed By Mercedes Allen | October 11, 2013 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: BDSM, BDSM/kink, coming out, kink, National Coming Out Day

I don't really like to say how old I am, but I have to admit being around in the late '70s and early '80s, when the general public -- and even gay and lesbian people themselves (where I lived, anyway) -- questioned why people should ever come out of the closet. "It's peoples' own business what they do in the privacy of their own homes," went the typical comment. "Why should anyone else need to hear about it?"

Well, we know the answer to that now, and have seen the benefit of coming out: gone (well, going anyway) are the days when people could be arbitrarily fired, ejected from homes, shut out of an inheritance, prevented from raising or seeing their children, etc. just because they're gay or lesbian. There are now far more opportunities to meet and connect with people who are truly compatible with us, without having to move to the three or four gay ghettos on the continent. We can restructure our lives to live openly, rather than having to abandon our families and hometowns in order to find a place where we weren't suffocating.

We can breathe, out from under the thumb of vilification, and live proudly among the rest of the world, defining for ourselves who we are and what that means. (I say this as someone who is bisexual or omnisexual, and will therefore add that we're not completely there yet.) We can't always hold hands or show affection in public to the same degree that heterosexual couples can, so we're not "there" yet either.

But by coming out, we were able to confront and defuse many of the old myths about predation, "recruiting," "loose morals," "unhealthiness," and more recently -- though my thoughts on this are nuanced -- choice.

We've seen this evolution begin with transsexual and transgender communities over the past decade as well, although there is still far to travel.

But today, if you talk about coming out as kinky, that's still the first thing people say: "why should it be anyone's business?"

In some ways, I agree: it's really no one's business what I do on my own time, if it's negotiated clearly, done ethically, is risk-aware, and happens with a mature, informed, and consenting partner. Even in coming out kinky, I'm still not about to give details of how I identify (domme, sub, switch, etc), or what I enjoy doing. That's my business and that of my intimate partners only.

Even so, I've reached an impasse where I can't really continue on as a writer, blogger, or anything else, if I have to be closeted on this point.

Leather FlagMy interest in leather was one of my worst-kept secrets when I first started blogging (a conflict with some friends over this point was, after all, one of a few ways this Mercedes became all Dented and Blue). And for some folks in this venue, the whole thing will seem sort of ho-hum, anyway. But as years progressed, I've felt incredible pressure to either hide it or else be less visible, lest I affect the overall image of trans and/or LGBT people in general -- even though queer leatherfolk are a minority, not the majority.

There have been pressures to become political, to be a "spokesperson," or do things like try to start a national trans* organization, and maybe now people will realize one key reason why I've been reluctant to be a public face for those things. I've already significantly stepped back from writing and advocacy partly because of the 9-to-5 necessities of survival and partly because of external social pressures to go into the kinky closet. Even when I've drawn from my experience or knowledge of BDSM, I've felt the need to do so using weasel words and excuses for knowing what I want to discuss. The fact that I feel a need to do this at all probably says something about the current I perceive myself to be in.

I'm sick to death of closets.

And that's part of the reason for coming out. Being kinky gives me some perspective that is still missing from the conversation on trans, LGBT and intersecting social justice issues.

  • While my friends and acquaintances know of my deep commitment to social justice, equality, and decolonizing activism, I'm sure they don't realize how I came to those perspectives because of BDSM, rather than in spite of it.
  • The guidelines that one learns in how to do BDSM ethically translate beautifully to managing relationships or achieving gender equality in ways that people typically don't realize.
  • Understanding the politics of personal power exchange provides several deep insights into activist movements, organizing and inequality in general, and the way that individual power is either (consciously or unconsciously) surrendered to or stolen by a larger group.
  • The ways that interpersonal dynamics and expectations change depending on the genders of dominant or submissive partners during a power exchange say something fundamental about social attitudes about sex and gender.
  • Social attitudes toward BDSM reveal some fundamental realities about the human drive to make war on sex and to use shame as a tool of political control and power.
  • Although I've touched on it briefly before, I strongly believe that far from being meaningless whims or abhorrent behaviour, "fetishes" provide a far more significant window into both individual and collective realities than anyone has been willing to say thus far.

To me, these are important discussions. It's hard to walk away from those conversations for fear of sabotaging my potential to be an effective activist... and instead, over the years, I've nearly abandoned writing and activism altogether, as a consequence.

"By coming out to ourselves, we free up the energy we spent keeping a part of ourselves hidden" - Patrick Califia.


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