The concept of health in a broken world

I’m in this endless pursuit of this mythical idea of health, and I’m not even sure what that means.  I picture myself hanging by my legs upside down from a 20ft tall geodome as a teenager with no fear of falling, of my body when I was a dancer and could see the muscles beneath my skin.  I picture being able to climb a tree without a second thought.  But what I don’t picture is how much time I had back then, how I climbed that geodome during a summer where I worked and played outside all day every day.  How I was a dancer in high school where walking home from school, between classes, to the metro to go hang out with friends, was the norm.  How I had time every day once school was over to do 200 cruches each morning and night, and how there was really no stress constantly looming because fuck ups were inconsequential and slipped off the glassy surface of my mind without leaving large jarring scratches.  When I climbed trees with no second thought I was carefree, and time outdoors was plentiful, weekends were jaunts in the woods full of energy that didn’t require caffeine or a sugar high.  My ideas of health are all colored by the backdrop of childhood, lack of stress, abundance of free time, everything falling into place with no schedule.  My ideas of health are colored by an absence of trauma responses and chronic pain.  My ideas of health neglect to remember that half the time I was obsessed with numbers on a scale and numbers of calories burned and eating less then 200 calories a day when I could get away with it.  My ideas of health forget the years where I could go the five days in the school week subsisting on mountain dew and nothing else, and the weekend living on two taco hell burritos and feeling like that was too much.

I want the energy and exhilaration I had in childhood.  I hit puberty so early, so I was this tall and at my healthy adult weight by the time I was a teenager, even a little bit before.  So my whole idea of what this shaped body I have now should be able to do, is based on a concept of a thirteen year old with no cares in the world.  When I try and imagine fitness at this age, I can only picture the lean muscular elderly folk I see running the trails at the park.  They’re in their seventies and eighties and probably in better shape then I’ve been in for over a decade.  I think about the ideal of mental health.  I don’t know anyone mentally healthy.  My generation is all people who are traumatized and fucked up beyond belief because we give voice to the problems of the world and they weigh on us like bricks.  How can you be mentally healthy when watching the rise of fascism and the death of your peers for loving a different gender then expected or being a different gender then expected?  How can you be mentally healthy when you see the earth that you want to reach to for sustenance, becoming a ticking time bomb counting down to the extinction of your species, because of the greed of corporations and the wealthy few in power?  For that matter, how can you be physically healthy when there are another hundred cleanses and fad diets birthed each day?  When you are constantly told that health looks like photoshop lies, and comes from on of the thousand one true ways to decrease in size that is marketed violently and splashed all over any physical or virtual environment you step into?

So I wish I had a conclusion to this, but I’m not there yet.  I’m just at the -the world is fucked and my brain is too, but I need to get to a better healthier place, and that’s hard and I have no idea how, but I’m gunna do it anyway- point.  I do hope to offer more insight if I get there though.


A year in review

I have to say, 2018 was one of the most tumultuous years I have ever faced.  It was jam packed full of big intense changes, and well, human beings are not known for dealing well with change.  I survived though, and it was one of the most transformational years I’ve experienced in my lifetime.  In fact, I would say on a whole, despite some exceptionally hard moments, it was a very happy year with an abundance of personal growth.  So here is my year in review.


I started the year off attempting to do Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project.  I had a whole list of aspirations for each month, and wrote a couple sentences about my day in a journal each night, and every day at the end of the day Kelev and I would check off which out our happiness project objectives we had done well with that day.  It was definitely beneficial, I grew a little from that the first few months, but it really wasn’t a format of doing things that I could keep up with.  Also in January, I took the TEAS and scored in the 99th percentile, securing myself a spot in nursing clinicals. The other important event in January was going with Kelev for his social security hearing in front of a judge.  After three years of fighting for disability benefits this time around, and close to six years or more including previous attempts, he finally was able to get in front of a judge and present his case.  We finished January knowing that we had done all we could, and now we just had to wait and hope for a good result in a few months.


On one of the last days of January, I got a message on a site I’ve been on for thirteen or so years, and actually met quite a few of the most important people in my life through.  I was intrigued and responded back, and in the beginning of February began texting back and forth with Hoffy.  Over the next month we fell in love.  I was cautious going into the relationship, because I had previously decided not to get involved with folks new to polyamory, or people who were not out (about polya, sexuality, etc) because I was not willing to be someone’s secret.  He was so intensely open and honest, with a desire to learn and a completely refreshingly curious outlook without judgement.  I make most decisions based on my rational mind, and I knew the intensity of my emotional connection played a part in me making an exception to rules for myself, but I also knew such intensity was something I so rarely felt in my life and I wanted to explore that as deeply as I was able.  Also towards the end of the month, Kelev and I visited a friend and were taught about a couple new kinks that we had not explored before.  One of them, fireplay, had been a limit of mine for year, not because of disinterest, but out of fear.  I decided this was a year to face my fears, and not only did I learn a little about how to engage in a fireplay scene, but I also took the bottom role and let it be done to me, something I would never have allowed in the past.  It was exhilarating, both facing my fears and having such a surprisingly relaxing experience of sensations.


March was a pretty exciting month.  I met Hoffy and our relationship intensified after the weekend we spent together.  I was one of the most wonderful weekends of my life and I was a bit blown away but how much comfort I felt in person with him, as someone who has struggled for a long time with being comfortable sharing space with people.  I also attended my first play party this month.  I went with Kelev first to a rope demo, which was a whole lot of fun, and then to a play party following it.  While I’d experienced several impromptu kink events in the past, this was the first organized one I had attended and it was a whole lot of fun.  I was in awe of some of the scenes I witnessed, one I saw really stuck in my mind because you could absolutely feel the profound connection between the two people involved fill the whole space.  To be honest, how beautifully intense their bond was, and the vulnerability and trust in that scene coupled by an electric energy, almost brought me to tears.  I also tried porcupine quills for the first time, my second experience in bottoming for a scene in many many years, and I was surprised to find that I very much enjoyed it.  It was also my first time getting to that floaty headspace that pain play can produce, and it intrigued me and opened up my mind to the idea of bottoming for more scenes in the future.  I revised my personal definition of myself from strictly a Dom and top, to a Dom with no desire for submission, but a willingness to bottom for scenes to explore all the experiences I am comfortable with in life.  March has a feeling of new beginnings and an exhilarating desire to test myself and experience all I could in life with a curious and open mind.


April was the beginning of the great departure, as I’ve come to think of it.  Since I had left for college at seventeen, I had lived with an increasing number of partners, friends, metamours, and loves.  At the most, I think we at one time had nine or ten folks living or staying for a spell in my previous home, and after buying this home, there were usually four to six of us living here.  I finally hit a point of high stress over the end of last year and through the beginning of this one, where I had decided I needed space and to live with less people.  I also felt for once that I had the place to ask for that.  One of my housemates was talking about moving across the country to be with one of their partners, their partner who lived with us had expressed a desire to have her own place at some point, her other partner who had taken up residence in the basement had not intended to be a permanent fixture here as far as I knew, and our other housemate had moved across the country to move in with us a year prior but with the eventual intent of getting their own place.  That left myself and Kelev, and he has been one of the few people in life I’ve had such a deep comfort with and desire to cohabitate with, that I knew my need for space still allowed for living with him.  Since everyone else was open to the idea of moving elsewhere, I felt for the first time that I was allowed to ask for space, and I had begun doing so months before.  In April my queer platonic partner, James, was the first to move out, getting a place with one of my other partners, Witty, who had been looking to move up to our town.  They relocated to a nice home a few blocks away from mine, which was a perfect mix of being close enough to visit often and offer assistance to each other at a moments notice, but relieving me of some of the stress of a decade of living in crowded homes.  I also got to see Hoffy for another visit in April, which was another intense emotional rush, and really cemented my attachment and desire for that relationship as a long term commitment in my life.


In May I went to my first potluck with the local polyamory community I had connected with.  It was a wonderful experience, I have talked before about how fantastic it was to begin getting close to some of the leaders of that group, and how much it inspired personal growth in my to see them grow as people.  May was really the beginning of all that, and I found a group of people who have become like family to me in many ways.  I also began my nursing clinicals in May, and it was the start of what is a much more challenging and invigorating program then I could have imagined.  I started of with an abundance of determination and I strong desire to do better then I ever had before with formal schooling, in this new venture. May was also when Kelev finally heard back about social security and was granted disability benefits.  It was a fantastic victory after fighting the system for years to acknowledge his illnesses, and I was so ecstatic for him.


June was a busy month, school was in full swing and I was scrambling to keep up with a new program that was more challenging than I had ever imagined, but which I was very thoroughly enjoying.  I was also preparing for the continuation of the great departure, Kyuu was getting ready to move across the country in the beginning of July, and Floof and Bear had begun discussions on getting a place together and started looking at apartments.  I also got to see Hoffy again, his visits had become bright rays of light in my year, always full of an abundance of love and a feeling of safety, coupled with a very exhilarating excitement at the intensity of out connection.  I was by that point struggling quite a lot with knowing that our relationship was a secret though.  It was what I had been afraid of when cautiously getting involved, and he had talked about coming out to family and friends after the first time he visited, but I was still waiting for that to occur.  It was a delicate tightrope I felt I was walking, trying to be honest and open about my emotions, but also not trying to apply any external pressure on a big life decision that I felt he had to make on his own time.   I often felt I was hiding the depth of anguish it caused me to spare his feelings, but I knew that during the few frank conversations we had about it I was blunt, and I felt to continue to address it more often just because it was a constant weight on me, would have crossed into pressuring him on a choice I felt was not mine to make.  After this visit we discussed it yet again and I could see how much he was struggling as well, but that he was strengthening his resolve to approach it soon.  Finally at the end of June he told his parents about his sexuality, and our relationship.  I know for him it was probably a life changing moment.  For me it was a huge sigh of relief.  I wanted to respect how big that moment was for him, coming out is never easy and he had hidden that part of himself for a long time, and experience I couldn’t relate to because I had always been explosively blunt about newly discovered parts of myself regardless of what sort of reaction I feared, so I did not know quite what it felt like to speak that sort of truth after a long period of hiding.  I know for myself, hearing about that moment filled me with not just relief that I was no longer a secret and the deception was over, but also overwhelming pride for a partner who had come to mean so much to me in such a short time.  Seeing someone cultivate courage and face their fears, growing so much since I had first met them, it was inspiring and heartwarming in ways I still fail to describe aptly.  June was already such an overwhelming month of highs and lows, and I was gearing up at the end of it to help Kyuu move out, and Floof and Bear soon to follow.  Then Kelev dropped the bombshell on me that he would be leaving as well.  The whole story there is one for another time, but in short is was a profound shock and one that fucked my up real good for a short bit, but once I recognized that it was not a changing of our connection but simply of our structure of life, I handled it a little better.  The knowledge that it was something he needed to do for both his mental health and the good of his family, helped immensely.  I had always taken the role of trying to care for him in any way I could, so doing what was best for his mental health was a decision I fully supported.  His family as well had made me feel welcomed in a way I don’t even feel my own extended family always has, and their best interests were also of great importance to me.


The month of great change.  July is when the big changes actually happened, Kyuu and Kelev both moved out in the first week, and Floof and Bear were gone by the middle of the month.  I was alone in my home, living by myself for the first time in my entire life. I was concerned, I spent many hours alone in my parent’s home as a teen and it had led to suicidal ideation,  depression, self destructive habits, and worse.  I was also concerned I would love it too much, become so comfortable in my aloneness that I wouldn’t want to go back to living with others.  Neither really happened.  I found a lot of joy in my time to myself, it was refreshing and invigorating, the breath of fresh air I really needed.  I did a lot of introspection and worked on myself during that time, and I felt more -me- then I had been in many years.  I empowered and reclaimed myself, and I also found more joy in my relationships with others now that I could truly be alone.  I was also lonely at times, it was a feeling I savored sitting with calmly and accepting. I was looking forward to when I would transition to living with others again, while also treating my time to myself as a glorious vacation and a time to grow into my own skin once more.


Whee vacation time!  In August I went to Hawaii with my parents, the first trip with them that I had managed in a number of years.  It was a magical life changing trip, I fell in love with the climate and the people there, and oh goodness the food.  I miss the food, I miss it desperately deep in my soul.  I’m a food oriented creature and I love putting raw fish in my face, and Hawaii delivered that in spades.  I also decided it was a chance to challenge all my fears.  I’m afraid of heights, of mechanical failures and depending on human made objects (cars, roller coasters, ski lifts, airplanes, etc), of being underground and being buried alive, of swimming in deep water without assistance, and of ants.  I went zip-lining,  walked across wood and rope bridges high up in massive trees, explored underground lava tunnels, went snorkeling with dolphins with no life jacket, and made friends with a wide variety of insect life including a good many tiny ant friends.  I honestly wasn’t really afraid, I had decided to challenge my fears and somehow that decision to face them helped to nullify them.  Things like being on a wind rocked wood and rope bridge a hundred feet in the air which would have triggered an intense panic attack before, but I had resolved to be a different person there, a person who forged ahead bravely and somewhat recklessly into any adventure I could get my greedy hands on.  I took a bit of that person home with me.  When I got back, I left again a couple days later on a second vacation, this time a trip to Ithaca with James. It was the first vacation of my life that I have planned and budgeted for entirely on my own, with no assistance from my parents.  We explored Ithaca, hoping it might be a landing ground for out intentional community, staying in an ecovillage there and visiting another.  We also met up with Hoffy, all three of us touring the ecovillage of Ithaca together and hiking through state parks.  It was a lovely experience, though we decided that it might not be the place we would eventually settle in.  Coming back from vacation, I started my next semester of school, though I was tired from a break that was more adventure then relaxation.


September was exciting.  I was adjusting to living on my own, and finding that my relationship with Kelev was all the stronger for the change. We went to our first concert together, Alice Cooper, and it was a thrilling experience!  I enjoyed the York fair, the food truck festival, and struggled to keep up with school during a semester of high stress and low motivation.


At the very beginning of October, or maybe the last couple days of September, I got two new housemates.  My longtime queer platonic love and friend Raichu and their partner A. moved in, ending my three month experience of living alone.  I was grateful to be around people again, I know three months does not sound like a long time for living by yourself, but it was enough for me to get a feel for the experience so I could say I had done it once in my life, and then to move forward.  Their coming certainly heralded moving forward.  I had been talking with them over the years about forming an intentional community, and we had begun more serious conversations about it starting in the spring, along with James, Kelev, Hoffy, and a friend of theirs.  They took the leap and moved back from the west coast, so we could begin planning out our dreams and then manifesting them into reality, so our community could begin construction over the next few years and we could come home to it within the next five, or so we hoped. I’m sure if I didn’t also mention that the new Halloween movie came out, Kelev would be distraught, since that was likely his biggest event of the year.  We went to see that and it did not disappoint.


November was the month of Thanksgivings.  Our polycule had our celebration early and it was a wonderful gathering.  Almost our whole group came, Kyuu visited, coming from across the country and staying for a week.  James and Floof and Witty and Kelev were all there, and my partner Shara also came up from Philly which was wonderful.  My parents were in attendance as usual and were incredibly helpful with making the food and being as fantastically accepting of our eclectic little polycule as always. We missed Hoffy, who couldn’t manage to get off work to come down for the weekend, and Kwik, who is up in Canada and had not yet made it down to visit.  And James brought his new partner, a gorgeous badass goth, Nikki, who has now become a dear part of our family as well.  After first thanksgiving, I had second Thanksgiving with Kelev’s family.  It was amazing being able to host them and cook for them, and it reminded me again of how much they have always accepted me and welcomed me, which I appreciate beyond words.  Then Kelev and I celebrated eight years together, going down to Baltimore where he chose a trip to the aquarium for our day of celebration, and I chose the Hard Rock Cafe for our dinner following that.  I also had my first clinical experience with patients, which was terrifying up until the moment it began, and then morphed quickly into a fulfilling but somewhat anti-climactic experience after all the fear and hype.


December began with my birthday, and I managed to not have a crisis as I realized I was now only one year away from thirty.  I wondered how, looking back as my life, I had lived so much in a mere twenty nine years, and at the same time how I still felt like a bumbling teenager most days and was close to hitting my thirties.  December has been a chaotic month.  I untitled one of my dynamics after a period of personal growth that led to me realizing the pressure of a title was often instrumental to me pushing people away when I couldn’t handle the expectations I put on myself in certain types of partnerships.  I also had confirmed the ending of a few other dynamics prior in the year, though they were ones that had really just morphed from romantic or sexual shaped to more platonic friend shaped, and it was just a discussion and confirmation of that.  I also began a new kink dynamic with Kelev and one of the amazing folks I had grown close to in the local polya community I found towards the start of the year.  That took a lot of thoughtful communication and soul searching, because I am hesitant about new titles and dynamics as a whole, though I do understand the increased importance of titles in kink related dynamics for the structure it helps to provide when that level of trust and structure is needed.  I also shy away from triad shaped dynamics because of problems with couples privilege and so on, so there was a lot of unpacking to do before that took shape.  During that, I was able to be incredibly vulnerable with D., the other person I got involved with, and had a bit of a breakdown/breakthrough with her, and with help from Raichu, that led to a much greater understanding of myself and how I approach relationships and experience attraction.  That is something to address more in depth at another time, but it helped grow an intense closeness that was already developing between us, and I’m grateful for it.  I also completed my year of sobriety that I had decided on last December 1st, and while I have continued to refrain from drinking, I was fulfilled knowing I had proved to myself I could accomplish that, after the years of increasingly productive moderation that followed my decent into alcoholism and beginning of recovery.  I also chose as my challenge for this year to write daily, and thus far have been successful in that, another path that has led to increasing introspection and personal growth.


There is so much more I can say about this past year, this really just scratches the surface.  There are many events large and small that I left out for last of time and stamina to write about them all, or because I cannot even remember the wealth of experiences this year held.  It was the most impactful year of my life thus far I believe, or certainly high up there in the ranking.  I go into this next year full of joy, appreciation, and hope, eager to see what new changes and experiences are waiting.

When kink coincides with trauma

I’ve been into kink for as long as I can remember.  Thinking back, I was writing erotic dungeon stories involving seduction and torture before I even understood how to get myself off.  I drew terrible kinky sketches long before I had considered exploring another human’s body on my own.  I’ve had people say that my interest in kink must be related to trauma, and I won’t deny, I’m a person who has been through rape, sexual assault, abusive relationships, and violence fueled of bigotry.  The funny thing though, is my love of kink and the seeds of interest in engaging in bdsm, began long before any of that trauma.  And no, I did not have a traumatic childhood, I was raised in a stable middle class home, never disciplined with physical violence, did well in school, and so on and so forth.  So for years I was so proud of being able to declare that kink and my trauma were unrelated, after all I had definitive proof in the terrible scrawled pages of werewolf sex stories, woven together with a good many of the fetishes I maintained later in life.  Those happened first, so nope, trauma and kink have no intersection for me!

Well, a funny thing happened in the more recent years, I realized there was a connection.  Yes, I was kinky first, but then I went through some rough shit.  I was cheated on, I dealt with codependency and abandonment issues, I suffered through emotional abuse and some physical abuse, I was raped and sexually assaulted, I was treated as less than human for being a queer trans man and dealt with violence and threats of violence.  And in the past few years, I’ve developed some new kinks, or gone farther down the rabbit hole with others.  I noticed it first when a partner cheated on me, not the first time I was cheated, but I had just gotten out of the dynamic with my ex-fiance where cheating played a part in his departure, and that was a particularly brutal emotional roller coaster.  Then a very stable partner broke relationship agreements, and while the whole incident was something of a miscommunication, it was momentarily very painful before we sorted it all out, and it brought up the larger betrayal I had just experienced. Suddenly I found myself fantasizing about catching a partner cheating and the sting of that betrayal, or of cuckolding, being made to watch a partner with someone else in something of a negotiated consent but feigned nonconsent and hurt scenario.  After the incident with miscommunication, I struggled a little with insecurity and jealousy.  Once the fantasies squeezed their way into my brain’s meat space, that disappeared.  I didn’t think much of it quite yet.

Then I noticed a humiliation fantasy popping up.  Now in real life, I’m a strict Dom, and I do not like to be humiliated or play a submissive role in any way.  Suddenly though, there was a fantasy in my mind related to humiliation and cuckolding, that revolved around me lacking a specific body part (psst…it’s a penis).  I don’t have a lot of bottom dysphoria, but there is certainly some, and I was confused as why the hell my brain would present me with a fantasy that seemed hell bent on triggering worse dysphoria, and more importantly, why the hell I enjoyed it?

One of the times I was almost sexually assaulted but managed to escape the situation before the assault occurred, was when I was sleeping.  A few years later I was assaulted while sleeping by a partner.  Well what do you know, my brain decided the next in the series of fucked up fantasies I would develop, was of someone having sex with me while I slept or was unconscious.  At this point I noticed a trend, though I had already been wondering what in the ever living fuck was going on with my brain???  Then it clicked.  I realized that after my brain turned the trauma I experienced into fantasy, I actually felt better.  Now I had no desire to really explore these things in real life, and certainly I knew that any of these without very explicit negotiated consent would be beyond fucked up.  But letting them rattle around in my brain and zing right to my sex drive, was somehow cathartic.  Not a by the books way of dealing with trauma, but it was working.

Then I remembered a conversation I had many years prior with a partner.  He was heavily into impact play, but he had also been abused as a child.  I tried to carefully negotiate our scenes, worried especially about triggering that trauma.  And I asked him one time why someone who experienced that and had been profoundly fucked up by it, now found enjoyment in being beat.  He explained to me that being able to consent to a scene, having the control to say “yes, I want this” or “no, you need to stop” was empowering.  And in a scene he had the knowledge that there was a close trusting relationship between himself and me, that I cared for him and was doing what I was doing out of mutual enjoyment and love.  At the end of the scene he knew I would hold him and tell him how well he had done, how proud I was, and how much I cared for him.  It didn’t heal all that trauma completely, but it was cathartic.  It helped rewrite the script of something that had destroyed him, into one of something he was choosing with love, one where he was embraced at the end after holding the reins of power the entire time and being able to say stop the moment he didn’t want it.

So, I’ve realized that I don’t need to wave a flag of pride that I’m a “normal” kinkster, one of the undamaged and unbroken ones.  I don’t need to be proud that my kink came long before my trauma and try and justify no connection between the two.  Kink is normal yes, and it isn’t something that is born of us being damaged people, but it is okay if the two are connected.  When my trauma and my kink finally coincided what happened was I began to heal.  We are allowed to heal in whatever ways are most comfortable, and if consensual exploration into bdsm is a way that works for you, that is completely valid.  My brain decided to show me that it was a way that worked for me, whether I liked it or not, and I’m grateful for the cathartic release.  It did what years of therapy couldn’t manage to, it made me feel better and it helped me move on.

Prescriptive versus Descriptive relationship titles

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about labels and titles in a relationship.  I know I’ve talked before about titles in this post but that led to me thinking about my particular relationship with titles, how I feel about them and why.

I’ve discovered, or already knew but confirmed, that I do not like prescriptive titles.  I do not enjoy getting close with someone and deciding -we are going to be this word to each other specifically, that is just what it is-.  I don’t like being someone’s boyfriend, I’m not keen on the idea of being someone’s spouse, except in the case that it’s necessary for the legal benefits it confers (and that would have to greatly outweigh my hesitation there). I don’t like the decision that myself and another person have confirmed that because we right now have a certain dynamic shape, that we now are -that- and intend to continue being that for the long term with all it implies. Prescriptive titles often come with specific expectations.  In monogamy for example, the boyfriend title would come with the expectation of sexual fidelity.  In polyamory, I’ve had folks who expected that because I was their boyfriend, I would drop everything to be with them when they needed someone at 3AM.  I mean sure, I usually will do that, but sometimes I will not, sometimes I need my fucking sleep as much as you need me to listen about your latest problem with your other partner.  And the fact that I’ve been told “that’s what a good boyfriend does” as though having this word means that I can either be succeeding or failing to live up to the title, but they do not feel their friends are equally failures for not being there at that time, that makes me shy away from those.

I may often take the boyfriend shape, but I do not want to make it official in a way that heaps the constant expectations on me, especially the subversive hidden ones that don’t get discussed, that most people never even realize they have. The other thing with prescriptive titles is the idea of a break up.  When you’ve made a big decision that you and someone else -are- this thing, this word, then deciding it no longer applies is a whole ordeal.  People tie up a lot of their identity in being someone’s boyfriend/girlfriend/lovefriend or wife/husband/spouse.  To suddenly change that is often traumatic for most people, they feel they are losing a part of themselves.

I do like descriptive labels.  I like discussing with someone the words that seem to describe our dynamic.  Not one word, words plural.  There is no one I would consider a partner who is not also a friend.  As a relationship anarchist, I don’t consider friend to be a lesser descriptive word, simply a different one. Partner to me implies a connection that shares a possibility of romance feels, and a greater likelihood of physical intimacy.  Friendship is platonic for me for the most part, though there have been some exceptions.  Partner also for me is something that I use sparingly, for people that have a level of longevity and intertwinement in my life or an intent for such that is more constant and steady then most of my platonic friendships.  That is not to say friendships don’t have that, but for example there may be a financial intertwinement in my friendship as I give a friend money to fix their car one time, but one of my partners and I share finances monthly in taking care of the needs of our cats.  The thing with descriptive titles is we use the ones that are suited to the time and situation.  I’ve spoken of Kelev before, a person who holds a very central roll in my life.  We often cohabitate, we have pets, we share sexual intimacy, we got to each others doctors appointments, we share a bank account, there is a lot of levels of intertwinement there.  Sometimes when we’re joking around at the grocery store and elbowing each other while exchanging sarcastic remarks, and we run into a person I knew from one of my times in college, I might introduce him as my best friend.  It conveys the dynamic we are sharing at that time, it gives the information necessary for that interaction and is most accurate to what we are sharing in that moment.  If I go with him to the doctor and the nurse gives me a questioning look when I follow him back for a procedure to hold his hand, that “who the fuck are you look?” because people don’t expect two masculine presenting people, especially of such varying ages, to be together, I say “I’m his partner”.  It conveys what I need to at the time, that by their normal ideas of societal privilege being centered on one main romantic relationship, that I deserve to be there, I have that right.  If I say I’m his friend, I’m usually asked to wait behind, despite him wanting me there to offer comfort, and my comfort is just as effective regardless of what word we gave them.  It doesn’t matter that the intimacies we share that are tied to partnership for how I define it aren’t relevant in that moment, it’s the word that makes the most sense to convey who we are to each other in the way they need to understand.

With descriptive labels, when the dynamic transitions in a way that one of the words no longer applies, it often just falls from usage more naturally.  Since we’ve discussed that we are using words as they are relevant, though ones that we have consented to and feel apply, if the dynamic shifts and a word drops from relevance, it also just drops from usage.  Often there is a discussion, I love communication and being open and checking in about ALL the things ALL the time, but I’ve found it is less of a traumatic change.  Also in regards to expectations, I’ve found this leads to less unrealistic ones.  With descriptive labels, what we are doing is allowing for actions to occur and the words to follow, rather then deciding on the words and changing our actions to fit them.  That usually negates the problem of “your actions aren’t measuring up to this word we’ve decided we are”.

Another thought I had that crystallized this for me was related to my focus on honesty and authenticity.  I had a titled partnership with someone in my life that I recently untitled.  I realized that the title, regardless of whether pressure was put on me or not from the other person, did come with some unspoken expectations of behavior.  I was not measuring up to those, there were things I simply did not feel a want to do regularly or consistently enough that the word partner made sense to me.  Like I’ve said, some of the associations I have with the word partner, even as a descriptive word but especially as a prescriptive one, is a certain constancy or consistency. When I was not acting in the way that partner implies to me, in a dynamic where partner or boyfriend was a prescriptive title we had decided upon, I felt inauthentic.  It felt like I was lying to refer to that person with those words at a time where I wasn’t fulfilling the expectations of that dynamic.  I was not meeting many of the needs and wants that person looked for in a relationship of that sort, so with the title, I either was a shitty partner, or I was using a word that was quite dishonest to what we were.  My response was to recognize that and un-title things.  Thankfully I tend to relationship in all forms (platonic, romantic, sexual, partnership, friendship, lovefriend, queerplatonic, etc) with people who are accepting of fluidity and change, so this was received in a compassionate and understanding way.  We spoke of how we would use descriptive labels with others to describe things accurate to how they were with us in that moment or in such a way as was relevant at the time.

Now I understand that this may seem like splitting hairs.  Does is really make a difference if you are using a prescriptive or descriptive title?  Ask most people (especially a monogamous or hierarchical polya person) how they would feel if their partner were to remove that official label and the expectations that came with it, and no longer be obligated or beholden to that role.  The same people who say that it doesn’t make much difference, are in my experience often quite upset at that suggestion.  Words have power, and so do the contexts we use them in.  My goals are to have flexibility in my relationships, to allow for fluidity and for each dynamic to stretch out into whatever role is most comfortable and makes the most sense at the time, and to live an authentic and honest life. So, I take how I give those words power and what power I allow them to have over me, very seriously.

The secret to coming out and not getting eaten alive

Almost everyone in the LGBT+ community has a coming out story. Many polya and relationship anarchist folx have coming out stories as well.  Hell, even furries have coming out stories. Whenever you discover something about your identity that just –clicks– and explains all these squiggly-wiggly little feels that were fluttering around deep inside, and your world just radically shifts because you’re no longer alone and there’s a word for that! then there is a potential coming out story waiting to happen.  I won’t go into why labels are important to identity, that is a rant for another time, but it’s safe to say that those of us in often marginalized communities really value these words for our identity.  They give us the acknowledgement that someone else has felt this before, enough to make a term for it.  And once we have that term, once we can use language to crystallize in our minds what was already there and view it through a clearer lens, we often want to express that. We have a part of ourselves that we likely ignored, repressed, erased, neglected, or shut down, because we didn’t know it was allowed to be a thing. Suddenly it is a thing, a real thing, there’s a word for it so it must be, and we can see ourselves in it.  We want those who love us to acknowledge the part of ourselves even we might have been afraid to before, to accept and provide support or reassurance. This is just fundamentally human, but it turns into “coming out” because we quickly realize that these things about us that we may have repressed are in fact –a big deal– to some people, and their whole concept of us may change radically, so telling them because this big moment.

I have a bunch of coming out stories, since I have had quite a few marginalized aspects to my identity over the years as I’ve discovered myself (bi, pan, gay, queer, genderqueer, trans man, polyamorous, relationship anarchist, etc), but I’ll pick one to go with.

The first time I came out to my mother about being polyamorous was on the ride home from college, on my first college break.  I had been in polya type dynamics before, but I didn’t have a term for it, and also did not share as much of myself with my mother as an early teen, so I don’t think she was aware.  When I told her about my new dude and that we were polya, she told me I didn’t know what love was and implied that it was an excuse to sleep around.  She accused me of being horribly unfair and unloving to my dude, as though he didn’t have the agency to consent to that kind of dynamic and was forced into it, because who would agree to that willingly. I remember passionately ranting the whole two hour ride home about what exactly I thought love was.  I could spend two hours describing all the things love meant to me, so clearly me being non-monogamous was not because I did not understand the many aspects of love. By the end of the conversation she had stopped telling me I didn’t know what love was, maybe because she actually listened to my passionate rant, maybe because she just wanted me to shut up, though I chose to believe it was the former.  My ways of relationshipping have continued to evolve over the years and I’ve been able to be very open with her about them, though I’m still not sure if I have complete understanding or acceptance from her or my father.  At the very least, I can have all my partner’s and parents together for thanksgiving every year without incident, so that is something. So compared to the reactions many folx get when coming out, I was pretty fortunate, I wasn’t disowned, just invalidated, and things have gotten better from there.

Parents, friends, and the workplace and three big arenas where folx feel they have to come out, that it may be essential that others see them as who they are.  When I had my first really career related job, I did not “come out” to my employers. I had been around groups where I was completely open about all of me that it has stopped being a thing I thought about. The first time I censored myself and then realized only after the words left my mouth, I referred to someone that I always called “my partner” as “my friend”.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it after.  As someone who is extremely honest at all times about everything, to the point of not just telling the technical truth, but trying to give the most absolute and clearly understood and elaborated on truth, it really ate at me.  I could have justified it as yes, this person is also my friend as well as my partner so technically not a lie. But to me that was a lie, that was an edit that I put in there out of unconscious fear of backlash in my workplace, where I couldn’t escape it because I needed my job.  For me, nothing is worth feeling deceitful, so I promised myself I would not do so again.  The next day, when talking about the same person, I referred to them as my partner.  It was clear in the context of the conversation that this long distance partner I was talking about was not the same live in partner I frequently rambled about.  I didn’t come out with a big announcement or parade, I just was honest, in the context of a normal conversation, in a way that made it seem commonplace.  I didn’t act like what I was saying was anything out of the ordinary, because for me, it wasn’t.  There was no shock, no deviation in the conversation, and from then on whenever it was relevant to talk about my partners, I did so just as openly as I do among any other group.  After a time, my office manager did ask me what being polya was like because she was curious, but even in a workplace of mostly conservative folks (they almost all voted Trump and I heard a whole lot about Jesus if that gives you an idea), I didn’t experience any real kind of backlash for being polya. It was the same way with being gay and a trans man just for the record. I just spoke of myself normally, and if something that highlighted those aspects of my identity was relevant to the conversation, I didn’t tailor or edit my words.  I just was myself and treated those marginalized aspects of my identity as completely normal, and therefor, so did everyone else.

I had learned that little secret before, but that experience really emphasized it for me, because it was the first time I was really around folks who had views that so heavily opposed my own, and some of which involved thinking of those aspects of my identity as wrong or sinful.  If you don’t come out with a fanfare, but just act like those parts of you that society may not always accept, are normal, –because they are– then most people will follow your lead. Doing it that way allows them less room to object.  You are the one talking about things in a completely commonplace way, you are not announcing it in a way that they might see as inviting opinion, and that aspect of you identity is likely just a side note and not a centerpiece in the discussion it comes up in.  That puts the onus on them to make a big deal of it if they are going to.  They suddenly have to be the one that stops the conversation, derails it, and initiates making a fuss.  I’m not saying there aren’t some people who won’t do so, but people are a lot less likely to feel comfortable doing that, then attacking you if you make a big announcement of it and give them a platform to give you an earful of exactly what they think.  This isn’t a full-proof method, especially with folks like parents who are close to you and may feel they have license to criticize and comment on anything you say, regardless of the context.  But the folks who are going to really flip their shit, are going to do so regardless of how they find out things about it.  Those kind of douchenozzles may be beyond saving, and that’s unfortunate, but they are just teaching you that you are better off without them at all.  Your run of the mill reasonable person (those do still exist don’t they?) is going to be averse to picking a fight where they are the instigator though, so approach these things with normalcy and sprinkle them in during casual conversation where they would come up anyway if you were being completely honest, and they likely won’t have time to mount an attack before the conversation has continued on. You also then have mentioned it, and they didn’t get a chance to express displeasure or tell you all about how you’re going to hell, so since they’ve already not objected once, it would be harder for them to do so when it next comes up.

Aside from the pustulent analspheres who would find any excuse possible to attack you anyway, most folks seem to react well to this approach.  There is one big downside, which is that for some, the aspect of coming out with a big flourish is a matter of pride.  It is a way to show that yeah I’m heckin’ proud about this cause I am a fabulous magical beast and nothing you can say will change that fuckers! And you know what, if that is what is best for you, do that thing! If you need another way that is more subtle and seems to met good results for those who are really concerned about reactions though, then here it is.  And there is big upside about just being so super casual and acting as yourself, not officially coming out but just letting the parts of your identity that people do feel they must come out about just come up as normally as your favorite sportsball team or what you’re doing that weekend.  When you act like it’s normal, because as I’ve said, –it is-, you help normalize it for others.  Thirty years ago if a masculine presenting person mentioned his male partner in the office, it would have been received very differently in most places then it is today.  Treat your -shiny and unique but still part of the normal variation of humanity identity pieces- as normal. Remind the world they are normal.  When we normalize all those things, we continue to make it easier for the next generation of lgbt+ and polya and other marginalized folx, and that is worth doing.

From the mouths of Queerios – the difference between offensive speech and humor as coping

“the day I poured heavy cream up my vagina, I definitely stained some body’s shirt”

I’m not sure the conversation that spawned that statement, but it happened last night as we were gathered around cake and laughing at absurd things. That wasn’t the first strange nonsensical things that’s come from conversation with the oddball quirky group that makes my polycule and network of close friends, and it won’t be the last. Some of the others things said though, in fits of humor and good will, may at times border on offensive and problematic in another context. I wish I could have remembered an exact quote of something of that nature that would have better applied to the subject of today’s post, but heavy cream and vaginas and shirt staining stuck with me, so at least I could open on a slightly absurd but humorous note. But what I would like to speak to is the quality of speech in marginalized groups as opposed to in general society, and how it does at times cross into the realm of things that may be problematic or offensive.

I remember as a kid when the passion of the christ came out and the next day there where swastikas spray painted on my synogogue. I remember older members of the congregations who had lived through the holocaust, sobbing in fear. These days, under our new Commander in Hate, we suffer much worse then spray paint on sanctified walls. And when among my polycule where I feel safe, I occasionally make jew jokes about myself.

A few months ago at the supermarket I was wearing one of my many shirts sporting a pride rainbow, and an elderly gentleman felt it was an invitation to tell me how us gays were going to hell. That wasn’t the first time I’d heard something of the sort, and it wasn’t even close to the worst thing I’ve heard. In fact, it was quite friendly compared to some of my experiences. Imagine when someone telling you that you’ll be damned for all eternity is considered quite friendly… And my queer platonic life partner and I are constantly making gay jokes about eachother. A typical response to certain outfits and behavior when we ask the others opinion is simply “Gaaaaayyyyy!!” If someone said that to me on the street, I might be tempted to imagine melting their face off in a vat of melted chocolate (no, no, that would ruin perfectly good chocolate), but from my fellow queerio it is a good natured complement.

So is it simply a matter of intent? My QP means it as complementary when teasing me about things that society uses to marginalize and oppress, but your typical cishet standard humanoid would usually mean it as an insult. I don’t think it’s just intent though. After all, I’ve heard too many jew jokes that were amusing when coming from my mother, a sassy New York jew, that raised my hackles when they came from well intentioned Douchebag McGee in the bar. But he was just trying to be funny he whines, having no idea I remember those painted swastikas and women wailing. No, it’s not about intent, it’s a deeper issue of marginalization versus shared pain and healing.

When I hear a joke or dig that targets marginalized community coming from your standard human who does not face marginalization, or possibly does in some context, but not that context, what I’m hearing is someone who does not understand the shared pain and suffering. They know that their token gay friend may be cool with them making gay jokes, they have “permission”, but they don’t understand the actual experience of being gay. They don’t intend to harm, they intend to be funny, but they don’t have the cultural context of being queer to recognize if their joke is adding to the pain and suffering of that marginalized person in the moment. They also don’t realize that while they may think they are showing their gay friend “Hey we can joke about this cause we both know I’m actually cool with you bro”, they are also showing the rest of society “Hey its okay to ridicule people for this and I’m getting a free pass, so your problematic behavior is okay too”.

When I hear a joke of that sort coming from one of my fellow queerios, I’m hearing a different message. What’s being said underneath that humor is “we’re all suffering shared pain here and barely surviving, and if we can turn that pain into laughter and throw our ability to still laugh and endure in the face of those who harm us, we can survive another day”. I’m not saying that marginalized folks cannot be problematic when joking about themselves. And certainly it’s problematic when it’s about a seperate marginalized group you aren’t a part of. But even when just targeting yourself, I’m sure it’s possible to be problematic, because while you might find it cathartic, you still may be harming your compatriates in that oppressed group without realizing it. And I would hope they would speak out and call out those who do so, because when this is done among marginalized communities I don’t think the intent is ever to cause more pain. We do it though because humor is a coping mechanism, and because we are empowering ourselves. We are taking what they throw at us as knives and daggers and turning it into laughter.

I don’t know if it’s okay, or it’s right. But what I do know is the quirkiest shit comes out of our mouths, and sometimes that shit does skate into the territory of taking digs at the marginalized groups we are part of. And when any of my queerios shouts “Gaaaaayyyyy!!” at my outfit, I laugh and swell up with pride. Because yes, we are really heckin gay, and we are laughing and not apologizing for it, and those who threw that shout at us to harm us before, can’t do shit about it.