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Leather Power
Leather & vanilla power dynamics
Coming out 
5th-Nov-2007 10:55 pm
dspride
Me (in June): "I don't know whether to mention our relationship to other people, aside from my partner and friends."

leatherprentice: "I'm not sure how to advise you, Sir."

Me (in July, after posting about my writing apprentice at my professional blog): "I don't know whether to post about the leather aspect of our relationships."

leatherprentice: "I'm not sure how to advise you, Sir."

Me (in August, after posting about our protocol at this blog): "I don't know whether to link this blog to my professional site."

leatherprentice: "I'm not sure how to advise you, Sir."

Me (in October, with a leather book in the works): "Darn it, my professional and personal life have a paper-thin barrier between them. But I really don't know whether I want to come out as a dominant."

leatherprentice: "I'm not sure how to advise you, Sir."

If this all sounds like incredible paranoia on my part (I mean, I do have one of the biggest leather history sites on the Web; it's not as though my professional interest in leather is hidden under a rock), you have to place this in context.

In July, while I was in the midst of working at the M/s Conference, and was giving serious consideration to coming professionally out of the closet, I received word from a friend that a certain watchdog group had taken a dislike to some of my writings on the topic of adult attraction to minors. My stance on that topic has never changed since I first addressed this issue as a journalist in 1997: I don't know enough to comment on whether historical pederasty was primarily abusive, but I do believe that there's too high a danger of abuse from adult-minor sex in modern times. Because of that, I recommend that men and women who are attracted to minors receive societal assistance to refrain from having sex with minors and to refrain from viewing illegal photographs of minors.

This was too weak a stance for the watchdog group. That group had decided, on the basis of my writings, that I was a sexual predator and had posted a Web page which warned that I was a danger to society. One of the evidences they produced for me being a predator was the fact that I had an "interest" in BDSM.

I nearly laughed when I read that part of the accusation. As you can gather from my entries here, my interactions with leatherprentice are so close to vanilla that they'd put most BDSM folk to sleep. But then I sobered when I thought of what this group could do with a few blog entries where I chattered on about my "boy."

To complicate matters, the master who trained me was very disturbed when he learned a couple of years ago about my writings on adult attraction to minors. While he understood why I'd written what I did, he figured that those writings would provide ammunition to people who believe that leatherfolk are predators. He therefore urged me to remove all references to those writings from my professional site, lest the leather community be tainted by my association with such matters.

So I slammed the closet door shut again last July, both for my sake and for the leather community's. In the past, this would have been fairly easy to do, for nearly every contact I made with the leather community could be justified as professional research.

But now that I have a boy (I say, bravely using that word), matters aren't so simple.

I'm currently Friended at my professional MySpace page by leatherprentice's leather club. I'm listed in their Top Friends, presumably because of my association with him. And next year, when I return to the M/s Conference, I'm likely to have leatherprentice half a pace behind me, following my every command.

I don't think I can pass off my attendance next year as purely professional. And I didn't even try to do so this year; I mentioned leatherprentice when I asked questions at workshops, because I was a new dominant in desperate need of advice.

I've already had one case a few days ago where someone used my professional name in a comment here because they didn't realize I was in the closet professionally. Why should they, when my professional Website is littered with references to leather? The longer I try to keep this up, the more likely it is that someone will accidentally out me in a situation where I can't go in and screen their post (as I did in that case).

For me, the deciding factor is leatherprentice. Though he hasn't made a single complaint about this, I know that he must be experiencing difficulty in helping me to keep in the closet; he's very much an out-of-the-closet person himself, so it doesn't come naturally to him to censor himself in this way. We belong to the same online fiction community, one that includes a fair amount of BDSM literature, yet he's felt obliged to pretend there that he's nothing more to me than one of my many readers.

(When I sent this post to leatherprentice ahead of time, his comment was, "I hope I haven't been pressuring you to come out, Sir." My reply was, "No, it was just the opposite. I couldn't figure out what the heck you thought I should do." So I went with my own judgment.)

I still don't want to thrust my leather life into the face of any of my readers who prefer not to think about such matters. And I still worry greatly about the impact of my coming out on others: on the leather communty and on my family, especially my apprentice, since his name might get dragged in the mud.

But at this point, since my leather writings appear under my professional name, and since I attend leather events as a sir under the same name, I think my being outed online as a dominant is inevitable if I remain in the leather community. So my only choice is to take myself completely out of the community or to choose my own timing for coming out.

I hereby choose. Here's my professional site. Here's the leather section of it.
Comments 
6th-Nov-2007 02:12 pm (UTC)
You know I had a similar realization about the inevitability of being outed. In my case, it was realizing that the circles of people who know about my trans history will have some overlap or connection to the circles of people who know me through bootblacking. I was told that my trans status was a topic of conversation and rumor throughout the region where I live. And my options were very similar - stop doing something I love or choose to go headlong into whatever comes. What came was love, honesty, and leather brotherhood. Here's hoping the same happens for you.
13th-Nov-2007 08:26 am (UTC)
(*Cough, cough*. It's a good thing I've decided to come out, given my total inability not to post under my other LJ name.)

"Here's hoping the same happens for you."

Thank you very much for your good wishes - I only wish these coming outs didn't all cluster together. Back when I entered the leather community, I had to come out to the community as a leatherperson at the same time I revealed my gender identity. And last month, I ended up telling my parents about my gender identity. (It wasn't coincidental timing; the watchdog group outed me in their article. I'd mentioned my gender on a handful of forums before, but never when my full name was attached to the post, much less my full birth name. So I figured I'd better tell my parents before they Googled me and found out that way.)

My parents' identical response, given in separate conversations: "We knew that long ago." Why am I always the last one to find these things out?
7th-Nov-2007 07:33 pm (UTC)
Congratulations! It sounds like you do know what you want to do.
13th-Nov-2007 08:27 am (UTC)
(Dr. Jekylly turns back into Mr. Hyde.)

Thank you. :)
8th-Nov-2007 12:05 am (UTC)
Being out about your preferences is not exactly what I'd call 'thrusting' your kinks in the face of your readers. While I do admit that a professional life is a hard road sometimes, in the great scheme of things, none of it really matters. Think of it this way...how many more readers would you attract (points to self) if your being in the lifestyle was common knowledge?

Honestly.

How hard was it for you to get to this particular place in your private life? Did it take work? Did you get frustrated? Square pegs. Round holes. Nothing fit?

This is the way I see it. Leg up the next guy, you know? Being in the closet and out of the closet is a matter of fear of consequence. Of course, I do not pretend that there aren't those times when true peril is at hand, been there, done that, but the other good times, fulfilling times aren't found behind the closed door...so to speak.

I find it kind of funny (I do apologize) that people (watchdogs) can make such mountains out of mole hills, and really, don't they have some real problems to solve? Real issues to address? Gimme a fucking break already.

Morons.

Again I did it with my character...*laughs*...that sounds naughty, doesn't it. Ah well, we are pretty much the same guy.

Hank
13th-Nov-2007 08:31 am (UTC)
"Think of it this way...how many more readers would you attract (points to self) if your being in the lifestyle was common knowledge?"

Good point. :) The thing is, though, I like being able to talk about my apprentice on my professional blog without my vanilla readers squirming in their seats. So I may maintain my "don't talk about this in semi-vanilla space" stance for a while longer. I figure the really interested readers will find their way to this blog via the leather section of my Website.

"How hard was it for you to get to this particular place in your private life?"

Let's see . . . thirty-five years of work? Yes, that's about right. The really big push came when I discovered the fan fiction community and discovered that I could blatantly write about DS without the results being ethically appalling. (Well, okay, we won't count this guy. He's on the edge.) After that, it was just a matter of inching my way out of the closet door.

I still feel . . . I don't know. How would you feel if you were a square peg surrounded by round pegs, and everybody watching you figured you must be a round peg too because you hung out with round pegs? That's how it feels sometimes, since I don't do most of what's associated with the leather community. And yet what I do do (clear hierarchy within a personal relationship) isn't practiced much these days outside of the leather/BDSM communities and Southern Baptist marriages, so I don't want to say, "No, I'm not one of them." I just want to say, "Don't mistake me for a round peg!"

"Again I did it with my character..."

Yes, well, I posted two replies to this thread under my professional name; not until I got to you did I notice that I wasn't logged in under my leather nick. You must make me hyperconscious about double identities. :)

On a separate topic: I'm rather shy about starting e-mail conversations with readers, and even shyer about writing to authors I admire . . . but I've been dying recently to get to know you. Would you mind dropping me a line? Nick has the address I use when I'm off the Web (which I will be, for the rest of this week).
13th-Nov-2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
*laughs*

35 years is about accurate for me too, give or take.

Lawnville. Nice.

Well, I am a round peg surrounded by square pegs at every turn, so I get where you are coming from. I don't have a whole lot of need at this point to be explaining myself to anyone nor, thankfully, do I care so much about what they think. Like you, I figure if they are interested enough, they'll ask. If they ask, then here's hoping they've got a broad enough mind to handle the details. But, really, everyone that's stayed close to me can handle it on a variety of levels, and those that couldn't slipped quietly into the past. No harm, no foul. I do understand that all of this is quite the thing to wrap ones brain around.

I've requested your email address. Until then I must go and contemplate Dom's inner thoughts over the past almost two weeks that he and michael have not been speaking. I told nicki that he'd post this afternoon.

Hankster
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