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 So, as you likely know, I am facing homelessness, and have launched a crowdfunding campaign

You can also help me another way. My amazing publisher, Go Deeper Press, has generously promised to give me 100% of royalties of ebook sales for my queer kink erotica collection Show Yourself To Me!

Buy the ebook here, and I get 100% royalties! This goes from now until May 19 or until my YouCaring campaign goal has been reached, so if you have been considering buying the book, now is a wonderful time to do it. 

I am so incredibly moved by the good folks at Go Deeper Press for deciding to do this. The erotica community is amazing, and Jacob and Lana are two of my favorite people in it. 

I have included some advance praise for the collection below. Check out what reviewers had to say here. 

 

“Xan West’s work is fierce and absolutely fearless.” –Simon Sheppard

“Xan West’s Show Yourself To Me proves that the most important sex organ is the brain. Smart, hot, intense stories that are some of the finest erotic fiction around. Xan West’s erotic short stories are so visceral and reach into you so deep they imprint like a new lover. They’ll give you flashbacks to kinks you didn’t know you had.” –Cecilia Tan, writer and editor

“At last! An entire collection of radically queer, deeply transformative erotica by Xan West! No one chronicles queer kinkiness with more passion, skill, courage and talent.”  –Barbara Carrellas, author of Urban Tantra and Ecstasy is Necessary

“In Show Yourself To Me, you will read erotica about characters that are queer, trans, POC, fat, some with chronic pain and/or various dis/abilities (and more). Where has that happened before? Reading erotica that reflects so much of who I am and who my partner(s) are is pretty mind blowing and not something I’ve ever seen published.”  –Wyatt Riot, sex educator

“I love this collection. It’s wonderfully intense in the best possible way. I adored the content warnings in the front. What a great idea!” –Alisha Rai, author of Serving PleasureBedroom Games and A Gentleman in the Street

“Xan West’s work sends shock waves through the imagination that will send any reader over the edge into total sexual oblivion. A writer to watch, love and to be enticed by.” –Shane Allison, editor of Backdraft: Fireman EroticaIn Plain View: Gay Public Sexand Black Fire: Gay African American Erotica

“Stunning stories of power, transformation, and real queers from one of the most talented erotica writers, period.”  –Sinclair Sexsmith, Sugarbutch.net

“Xan West’s gorgeous stories breathe new life into the literary milieu of classic bdsm erotica. They are at turns frightening and earnest, but always true to form and completely hot. Show Yourself to Me is a veritable sexy switch of a collection, and is sure to become well-loved and worn-out by queer leather lovers of every size, gender, and genre.” – Lyric Seal

For more about Show Yourself To Me:

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Beloved Community,

I have been very ill over the last two years, and I am currently facing a high risk of homelessness. I need your support right now.

A couple of close friends helped me put together a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to help me survive, until I begin receiving SSDI. Please consider supporting me by giving what you can, and/or sharing the campaign (there is a widget on the site that makes it easy!). Every little bit means so much.

Here is the link: https://www.youcaring.com/coreyalexander-803881

Thanks for any help you can offer.

Corey Alexander

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I haven't been writing, since the hit and run. But this week, I finally felt up to writing, and have posted two linked blog posts on my website. Both are about the need to make space for tops to be vulnerable and open about their internal experiences and desires, and about community norms that make that difficult. I've been thinking about this for a long time, and I'm glad I was finally able to bring my thoughts together and write.

The first post, I Talk A Lot, But Not About That, talks about how tops may dominate conversations in kink community but they don't generally talk in vulnerable ways about their needs, desires or experiences.

The second post, I'm Not Just Doing It For You, discusses the myth of the selfless top whose main role is to facilitate cathartic experiences for the bottom and has no needs of their own, and breaks down why I find this myth troubling.

ETA: On Valentines Day, inspired by a gift from a fellow erotica writer, I posted a free erotica story on my website that follows the theme of sadistic desire and top vulnerability. (It is from the POV of a stone genderqueer diabetic werewolf sadist, in case that grabs your attention.)
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giant leap
I have been active in the NYC kink scene since 2002, and have learned so much from my time participating in leather community in this amazing city. From the Queer SIG at TES, to the CC4D collective, to organizing programming for Floating World 2010, I have had some amazing experiences in kink communities in this area that I will carry with me always. Thank you to everyone in the NYC area who made an effort to come to kink programming I organized, to see me read my erotica and be there when I taught kink education. I appreciate your presence and contribution more than I can say. As winter fades, I will be returning to California to make my home in the SF Bay Area, a place that I have held dear to my heart for a long time.

I will be teaching one last class in NYC before I move, and it is on a subject that I am passionate about, that hits so close to home for me: stone identity and sexuality. The Lesbian Sex Mafia is an organization that I care deeply about, and feels like the perfect place to present one last time before I leave New York.

Where: The Center, 208 W 13th Street, New York City (room is wheelchair accessible)

When: 8-10pm on Friday, January 18th

What: Stone Sexuality and Kink

Stone is often only seen as an absence, a loss, a problem. This interactive workshop offers an alternative perspective on stone, celebrating the hotness of stone sex and play, discussing the impact of anti-stone prejudice, and ways we all can honor the desires and boundaries of our partners and ourselves.

Who: LSM is a support and information group for all women 18 years of age or older, including transexual and intersexed women who live their daily lives as women and all female-born transgender people who feel they have a connection with and respect for the women's community.

In other news, here are a few recent publications that I'm excited about:

• My story “Ready” (“an extraordinary tale of catharsis and redemption that hits you equally in the heart and between the legs.” –Christopher Pierce) has recently been reprinted in Coming Together: With a Twist, edited by Allesia Brio.

• My vampire story, “Willing” (“packed with dark edges, blood and violence” –Kathleen Bradean) was just reprinted in Coming Together: In Vein, edited by Lisabet Sarai.

• “Missing Daddy” ("breathtaking foray into extreme sex"--Paul Russell) will be reprinted next week in Best Gay Erotica 2013 edited by Richard Labonte.

My work has been published in over 20 collections, including: Best Lesbian Erotica 2011 & 2012, Backdraft, Hurts So Good, Best Women's Erotica 08 & 09, Leathermen, Frenzy, Daddies, Men on the Edge, Cruising for Bad Boys, Pleasure Bound, SexTime: Erotic Stories of Time Travel, Best SM Erotica 2 & 3, I Like to Watch and Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica.

I hope to see you next Friday night at LSM!

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I devoured Sassafras Lowrey’s debut novel, Roving Pack. (I pre-ordered, so I got it before the official October release.) I tried to savor it, but it was not a small bites book, not a go slow on the first read experience.

The prose is achingly simple, stripped down and transparent, with an intensely compelling central character and a universe drawn in immense detail. The kind of prose I love. The kind of prose that makes me think—I can do that; writing doesn’t have to be fancy and confusing, it can be approachable, it can be real. The kind of prose that carries me away on the story.

I fell for Click and felt for Click—or rather, felt with Click. Sometimes so intensely it was too much, and I needed to put the book down for a bit. Click and I come from different cultural contexts, in so many ways. (Click exists in a straight-edge queer leather gutter punk community in PDX in the early 2000’s.) And, yet...some of this novel hit very close to home, reached into sore places for me. And it wasn’t gentle about it.

Roving Pack is precisely detailed in the way it weaves in some painful realities of queer leather life. For that in particular, it is so deeply needed, in so many ways. It gives you a visceral feel for very specific experiences that are not often discussed at all, much less there on the page in a novel that is steeped in the reality of them. It gets right to the gut of them, and so I’m going to speak from that gut as I write about it. I’m about to get specific about a few threads in the novel. So if you are the sort that avoids spoilers, stop reading now.

For us genderqueer folks who don’t fit the traditional trans narrative and are struggling with/against community norms, pressures and expectations around what makes you “legitimately” trans, us veterans of gender border wars…this book will break your heart in the ways it illuminates this reality. It left me in shards, not wrapped up nice and neat, not hopeful, but oh so raw, and that bold choice was so frustrating and real…and I’m not sure what I think of it yet. I will tell you that it sucked to leave Click in that moment. Beyond that, I’m still thinking about the way it ends, and don’t know where I will land on that.

For those of us who know what it’s like to want abusive and neglectful parents and family members to just leave you the fuck alone, and who grapple with the fear that comes from being stalked by those who were supposed to protect you but instead inflicted harm that still is unending with the stalking…this thread is woven very tightly into this book. It is part of the context, and part of the story, but doesn’t take center stage much of the time, in a way that I found eerily familiar. This aspect of the novel haunts me. Because that’s the reality of this experience; it is part of the every day, and then it flares up and takes over, and then it fades again into just part of life. If you know this experience, this thread may trigger the hell out of you. And it may feel like someone finally got it right, put it down the way it is. Probably both.

For those of us who came to leather so deeply hungry to submit and be wanted that our hunger drove our choices to some hard and traumatic places…this book savors the details of that experience, with all of its erotic charge and real danger, the intense vulnerability and need, and the exploitation, heartbreak, and abuse that can and often does happen in those circumstances. It illustrates how complicated abusive Ds dynamics can be, how much they can feel normal and even valued in kink communities, how intensely they can include love and desire. Click doesn’t simplify hir experiences with these two Daddies that left hir broken and orphaned. Ze insists we hold hir yearning and desire, hir pain and confusion, the way hir life and sense of self intertwined with both the care and the abuse ze experienced in these relationships. The boot shaped bruises on hir heart are bared for us to see in sharp detail, and they don’t let us distance ourselves from them in easy ways—we can’t just call it abuse and leave it at that. We are forced to hold the complexity.

It is this last thread that I am especially grateful for. Most writing about leather is how to, or intended to get you off. It is rare to see anything that focuses on leather relationships in the real world, and these are at the center of this novel, both Click’s relationships with hir Pack, as well as hir Daddies and casual lovers. I treasure that. But I particularly treasure the way that Lowrey unflinchingly describes the complexity of abusive and neglectful D/s relationships, from the inside, particularly Daddy dynamics with their specific intensity and play with identity and dependence.

I can only imagine how hard it was to write this. I know it was hard as fuck to read it. And. As a survivor of this kind of D/s relationship, it was invaluable to see it reflected in print in a real and complex way. It felt affirming to have this be part of Click’s reality, and have it be as big as it was, and yet not the whole story. Because that’s the thing about trauma—it is huge and ripples all the way through our lives, and it also is not the entirety of our lives, or our consciousness about them, it’s not the only priority or the only story, does not take over everything, even if it sometimes feels like it will.

We don’t talk about abuse in leather communities very often. I know, because I have felt the backlash and the desperate welcome that comes with being someone who does talk about it. It is so important to have these conversations from a complex and compassionate place, and Roving Pack is a vital voice in that endeavor.

In Roving Pack, Lowrey does what I need from queer literature; ze unflinchingly tells an insider story, one rife with specificity, that documents a very particular queer leather culture in a very particular setting. I am very glad that this book is out in the world, doing its essential work.

(cross posted on tumblr)

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I just read Being Real, by Wheelchair Dancer. It’s worth reading, and pondering, as is her blog in general. (I particularly recommend her latest piece on Being Pushed.)

 

I am particularly struck by the ways that part of what she talks about building disabled identity around a disability that is fixed, unchanging. Not one that cycles in and out or that flares and subsides, not a progression of changing and intensifying impairment/pain, not disability that strives for/moves towards remission or lessening impairment/pain. A different disabled world, a different disabled understanding, from mine. One that I have no personal experience with, have no way to really understand.

 

My experience with disability is all about change, all about chronic conditions that ebb and flow, flare and subside. Even my experience of endometriosis was one of cyclical and increasing impairment and pain, and then one of surgical intervention that basically eradicated symptoms. In short, of change. This idea of a fixed bodily state to build a disabled identity on is one that is outside my experience.

 

She says: “I'm also surprised by a new awareness of how much I relied on my body… I saw myself as a confident series of muscles, bones, metal and wheels.” I remember the intensity of shock when I first realized that I could not control my body, could not count on it, the level of fear and despair and self-loathing that came alongside it. How hard it was to accept limitations, impairments, to treat them as real, to treat my pain as real, to realize I couldn’t gut my way through it, couldn’t actually “overcome” it, and most intensely, that it was not the constant I thought it was. (Yes, that experience and my understanding of it was deeply impacted by internalized ableism.) That first experience of it was so fucking intense, and one I went through without supportive community that really got disability, without a deep analysis of ableism to help me unpack the ableist thinking that I was doing in that moment.

 

The other reverberations, as things kept changing, as I kept changing, were not as jarring as that first experience, though they still held shocks. The jarring part about those was much more in the social meaning, in the ways that medical systems responded, the shock in those moments of acceptance of these new conditions as real, the intensity of ableism I experienced in myself and others. I had already been jolted out of taking my body for granted, what I could do for granted, my capacity for granted. Though there were still shocks to be had, still things I took for granted, the big game changing shock had already occurred…I was not coming from as deep a sense of surety in my own body.

 

My experience of disability has not felt fixed or sure. The shock of newly acquired impairments have reverberated through my life multiple times. The changing nature of chronic conditions continually inspire cycles of fear of intensified impairment that my current life cannot hold, that would mean more and intensified change. And, change is what is constant, the changes keep happening, I keep needing to shift my life in response to them. I have been taught that, again and again…that when I start thinking I’m in control of a chronic condition, it changes, it flares, it does something new and unfathomable. It surprises me, shifts the ground under me, changes the air pressure around me. It feels like what I keep hearing from the depths of my disabilities is this message: “you can’t know me, you can’t control me, I won’t stay still for you.” It all feels deeply temporary, even the things that seem like they may be still and stay still for a bit.

 

I have other changing senses of myself, which feels like they give me more experience with this, perhaps a further capacity to sit with continual change. I was gender fluid for about 10 years. Even though I’ve been fairly constant in my gender (at least comparatively) for almost that time, I continue think of my gender as changing, temporary, in flux, not to be assumed or counted on to stay the same. My size has also shifted throughout my life, many many times. I have not been anywhere close to thin for most of it, but how fat I have been has changed, quite a bit, over time. And I do not assume I will be the same size, in fact, I assume my size will change. My body has changed a lot over the past 5 years, as I’ve been on T, and that is yet another continual experience of bodily change among many. I think that shifting in these ways so much has given me a large capacity for changes in myself, and a general sense that I expect myself to change, in core and basic ways that many people do not expect or are deeply afraid of.

 

She says: “I will have to start with the idea that my body is beyond my control.” I want to control my body. I want so deeply and desperately to be in control, and to feel in control, both. This is not a surprise—I am deeply interested in control, particularly in being in control of myself. It is a central part of my sexuality: control, consent, exchanging control, creating opportunities to demonstrate self control. It is a core part of my emotional armor, my stone. Control is a big deal for me. I have a deep and abiding desire for it in all arenas of my life. And I find it intensely frightening to feel like I am not in control.

 

I am reminded of a novel series* I continue to reread that describes a character (equally invested in control) grappling with a new metaphysical ability, who wanted to be “in control” of it, but what that really meant was actually that she wanted to get rid of it, to be able to shut it down. The novel series talks about a different interpretation of control: needing to get close to the power, make friends with it, create relationship with it, work together with it. I wonder sometimes if my desire to be in control is about wanting to shut it down, get rid of manifestations of my disabilities…or if it’s about creating relationship with them, getting close to them, knowing them, working collaboratively with them. I am sure that the first is not possible, even if I fantasize it, and I do…and I know that’s ableism at work in me. I think of the second description as one that is mutual partnership…and cannot reconcile that with the concept of control outside of deep negotiation and conscious use of power. Can I negotiate a D/s relationship with my disabilities? I’m not sure I can, that I can get to that kind of communication…especially since what I get in a general sense is this insistence on un-knowability.

 

I am used to being in relationships with TAB folks who move through the world thinking of their temporary able-bodiedness as permanent, not fathoming the likelihood of acquired disability in their lives. I’m not the best person to have around to maintain that thinking, I poke holes in it a lot. But, I do think that there is often an unshakeable certainty that folks feel in what their bodies can do, that fathoming that as temporary is hard to hold onto, it slips away, hides, is a scary thing to hold and sit with.

 

Most of the disabled folks in my life (and I don’t really have disabled community) experience the kind of chronic, changing disability that I do. I had not thought of disabled folks counting on their bodies as unchanging. (I am not assuming that this is the case for Wheelchair Dancer; I don’t know if it is, or if there is more complexity there for her. But her work made me realize that there might be a whole bunch of disabled folks out there who see their bodies as constant, their disabilities as fixed.)

 

It feels like this could be a deep important difference between folks who are disabled in ways that feel constant, and folks who experience ever-changing disabilities. Like the way we think about our disabilities, the way we experience them in the world, the way we deal with medical systems, the way other people respond to us, the way we form our sense of selves as disabled, could be substantially different.

 

I have felt, in my very limited experience of disability community here in NYC, that folks with chronic changing conditions (like me), are not considered when thinking of disability, are not part of the stories or the conceptualization of disability… particularly for psych disabilities, and disabilities that are not immediately apparent, but not just those. If that is not just my experience, but a deep part of disability culture here, then working toward a wider diversity might mean grappling with this set of differences around changing/constant. I do know that to really be in community with me, connected to me, is to sit with the constant change, to see the ways it reverberates, to know how it shapes my experience of disability. The community I wish I were part of is one where that is part of an understanding of how disability can work.


*Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, by Laurell K. Hamilton
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(Spoiler warning, in case you have not seen My So Called Life, the “Self Esteem” episode, I discuss major plot points)

 

 

(Spoiler warning, in case you have not seen My So Called Life, the “Self Esteem” episode, I discuss major plot points) )

 

I had this yearning today for the analysis of this to be more complicated even in this show, for an imaginary of “treated well” to be bigger than not “treated badly”, bigger than the absence of exploitation or dehumanization…for there to be an imagined possibility of a mutually caring, careful, intentional, respectful, and consensual relationship which includes attending to each other’s needs. So that self esteem was conceived of intertwining not just into resistance toward being “treated badly” but insistence on striving toward that imagined possibility.

 

I work in the field of intimate violence (and have for about 18 years), and the imagined opposite of violence (being “treated badly”) in much of that field is usually named as equality. That paradigm doesn’t work for me (equality is not my focus as an activist either). In this context it feels too simple, it makes no sense in a relationship involving BDSM, and it tries to imagine a relationship where there is no power differential, which I see as unrealistic.

 

I see focusing on the absence of being “treated badly” as being tied to what a close friend would call “a failure of imagination”. As a survivor of intimate violence, I can get stuck this way, where what I focus on is the absence of danger, as a litmus test for a relationship that works for me. (Don’t get me wrong, physical, emotional, spiritual sexual and financial safety is deeply important to me and needs to be part of my relationships. And, safe is not the end or even the baseline I want, I want more.) When I get stuck this way, I am not imagining the possibility that I could insist on more, dream of more, experience more, evaluate my relationships differently. I'm working from a paradigm of scarcity, where abundance doesn't feel possible.

 

What I am certain of, is that there is a space, a substantial distance, between absence of “bad treatment” and presence of the kind of treatment we want/need/yearn for. And that it’s not enough to insist on not being “treated badly”, and to set that as the baseline for our lives and relationships. I’ve done it, and I’m pretty clear that it does not feed the kind of self esteem I want fed in my life and my relationships. Starting from that baseline is diminishing, and building relationships without investing in an imagined possibility of more than that, whatever kind of relationship, will not actually get me (or, I would argue, any of us) what we need or want. And will not actually feed the kind of self esteem I want for myself and the folks I care about.

 

Insisting on more is similar to the kind of sexual and play consent I invest in…where it’s not enough for me to want an absence of no, I want a presence of yes. I want to honor desire, yearning, need, want…and to push us all to imagine the kind of sex we may not even think we could get but deeply want, the kind of play that we deeply desire, the kind of relationships that may seem like over-reaching, but could really meet our needs, the kind of community/society/world that we intensely yearn for, even if we aren’t sure how to get there.

 

If you were to name what you desire, yearn for, want, need, beyond not being “treated badly”, what would it look like? What shape would it take? How would you recognize it? How would you know if it were missing?


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I came across this article about "femme flight", by a femme who has decided that she doesn't want to be with butches anymore after going to the national Butch Voices conference last year...

The misogyny she names is real, and a huge problem. One I care a lot about. I'm glad she names it.

I will also say that I found the comments about stone to be difficult for me as a stone identified person, and as someone who cares deeply about a non-pathologizing vision of stone identity. I found the focus on competition to also be troubling:

"Also, a lot of you assume or imply (or, in the case of one prominent presenter, explicitly state during a talk) that as a femme I am choosing between you and men. I'm not. I'm a dyke, and I'm too tired of having to explain that to you guys, of all people. When I am choosing between a butch and someone else, the someone else is another woman. Maybe you find it more useful to continually frame the dialogue as a comparison of butches to men because of course you’ll always come out ahead in that scenario. The real comparison that I make is very different. I compare you to other women — women who are available to be touched, who don’t need me to contort myself into a caricature trophy in order to feel okay about themselves, who are just plain considerate instead of having a hero complex and calling it “chivalry;” women who are willing to receive what I want to give — who will let me take them out and treat them for dinner, who will let me pleasure them, who will give me room to enjoy being a dyke as much as they get to enjoy it."

I don't think of femmes who are into butches as choosing between butches and men; I try not to think about it as a competition for lovers whoever are the players. And that narrative encourages transphobia, I think. Competition sucks, and inevitably fucks us all over. I get how angry she is, I know she was deeply disrespected. And, I am hurt by her choices here.

It feels like stone folks get tossed under the bus all the fucking time.


hmmm

Aug. 31st, 2010 06:45 pm
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I thought I might have found a home for the open letter I wrote to the attendees of last year's butch voices conference (about the schisms at the conference and my feelings about that), but I have not.

It was originally written for GO:TNG, but got lost in the internet ether and so was not considered for that work, which just came out. I submitted it to a feminist journal.

No luck, though. I got a nice rejection letter from them just now: "Thanks for sharing this with us. While we find the ideas you're exploring here important, unfortunately your letter happens not to fit our overall vision for our upcoming issue. We hope you find a publication home for it soon." I think that's a rather sweet rejection, as they go.

This does leave me a bit disheartened, as I am unsure where to send this so it can actually make it out into the world. It feels time sensitive, like it needs to make it out there soon. I wish I knew a venue that made sense.

Any suggestions?  

roundup

Jul. 7th, 2010 09:40 pm
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I got an email today from Graydancer about the GRUE award I just won, telling more about it and what it's intentions are. Here are a couple excerpts.

"The idea came to me, honestly, as a bit of a tweak to the trend I'm seeing (and perhaps you see too) of events asking more and more of their presenters while compensating them less and less. So, when one of the Unconferences ran a bit of a profit, I decided it would be neat to do something even more unconventional.

The event organizer and I came up with a candidate for the first "We Think You're GRUE-vy" award. Since regular conferences tend to bring in presenters to teach and don't pay them anything, it makes sense that an UNCONFERENCE would pay a presenter who didn't attend the event at all. Excellent logic, don't you think?"

"Now, it's very important that you use this money EXACTLY in the way it's intended. It is designed to be spent...on making your life better. Whatever that takes. We all know it's not easy being a presenter who gives to the community as much and as well as you do, so this award is designed to make your life a little better, in some way...Seriously. Buy yourself chocolate bonbons, or comic books, or let it help you buy a pretty new blade (I hear you teach an incredible blade play class, and I hope to see it sometime). Or to put food on your table or pay your rent. It's your money, and there is no accountability needed. One of many lessons I've learned from Lee is that money is just another kind of energy, and this is the GRUE's gift to you."

There is something really moving about this kind of recognition for my educational efforts. I can't quite put it into words; I feel honored to be chosen, but it's more than that. I came to kink education with an intense passion for preventing the kind of ignorance that contributed to my own fucked up and abusive early experiences of BDSM--that was the main reason I started doing this. (You can still see the roots of my initial drive in the subjects I teach, the messages that are core for me, and the very lengthy handouts that frequently accompany my classes.) It was about abuse prevention through knowledge sharing, about offering concrete resources to folks who didn't have access to information. It was never about the varying social benefits to being an educator, or about money--I did not dream of getting paid or even breaking even. I've been teaching and working to organize kink education for 7 years, and it's only recently that I started wanting and needing to break even, and ideally get paid. Most of the time, I settle for breaking even, and because of that, I have had to say no to potential teaching opportunities in this past year. I love teaching, especially the kind of teaching I do about kink, sex, and relationships. I am a teacher by training as well as by passion, and while I use my degree at my day job, I am not able to bring my entire self into the room, not able to teach from the deep authenticity I bring to kink education. I bring my full self to the table when I teach kink: my politics, my experiences, my passions. And I have definitely learned that being authentic and present is a key to my effectiveness as an educator.

I get a lot out of teaching, and it also takes a lot of energy. Energy is scarce in my life these days, and I am very aware of how I choose to spend it. It is very gratifying to know that my teaching inspired people in this way. It will help motivate me to continue to do what I am doing.

There is also something really moving about the way that this description of what the money is intended for, and how I might use it, sees the complexity of our lives, and offers it openly. This is often what I intend to communicate with a gift--use it however you need to, for whatever will help or make you feel good. Those of you who know me well or have been to my Upping Your Mean Factor: Working with Physical Limitations class know that I often talk about spoons, a metaphor used in disablity activist communities for the limited resources that many folks with disabilities and chronic medical conditions are working with. As someone with limited spoons, this kind of gift feels particularly powerful to me.

I will also say that the talk about my bladeplay class inspiring the award makes me really happy; I love blades, and I brought a number of things to the development of that class, it's one of my more woo classes, and also one of my most practical, it is focused both on the physical and psychological aspects of play, and is filled with my deep passion for blades...a great mix of me and what I bring as an educator.

Additionally, it is most definitely an honor and a thrill to be the recipient of an award given for education that has been previously given to two such highly talented and well respected educators as Sarah Sloane and Lee Harrington.

This makes me think about the ways that we treat educators in our communities, and the things I can do to try to recognize the hard work educators do.

award

Jun. 11th, 2010 11:32 pm
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The new @Ropecast is up! http://bit.ly/bgPTZi (it announces the We think you're "GRUEvy" Award that I won)

It feels great to be recognized for my kink education efforts. Thanks, Boston GRUE!

ummm

Jun. 6th, 2010 07:15 pm
tgstonebutch: (Default)
It seems that I have won the "We Think You're #GRUE-vy" award, according to Ropecast. A big surprise. At the GRUE, they choose someone in the community whose work they respect and say thank you with (usually) a cash prize. What an amazing thing. 
tgstonebutch: (Default)
I want to put this story into context, before I tell it. I found the International Ms Leather event to be exhausting, illuminating, and difficult, mostly because of my own personal context, more than anything about the event itself. I took a couple of kick ass classes at IMsL, found the vending to be great, and enjoyed hanging out with my friends quite a bit. That being said, one of my more memorable moments ocurred late in the event, with me rather exhausted and low on spoons, and feels particularly relevant today, as it's blog against disableism day.

For several reasons, I had downtime late in the event, and spent it alone in the lobby downstairs that was near the dungeons. I sat in a comfortable chair, and spent some time in solitude, some time with buddies. I was sitting and eating my sandwich, chatting with a couple folks, when a person approached saying that there was cake somewhere, and did I want a piece. I asked what kind of cake, and she showed me hers, and I looked at it, and decided that it was not worth the trouble or the spoons to eat the cake, that my sandwich was probably all the carbs my diabetic system could handle at the end of an event weekend where access to high protein low carb food was rather limited, and I was already running low on spoons for various reasons and did not want to spend them on cake. I thanked her politely, and refused, which she was rather hurt by and said it was very good cake. So, I launched into a very brief explanation of my relationship to things with sugar, naming my diabetes and need to make judicious choices and really decide whether it was worth it in terms of my health, to eat a couple of bites of cake, and assured her that I was certain it was very good cake. She was mollified, and left. One of the folks I was chatting with then asked about what I was eating and was it ok for me to eat that (a question I get very very frequently, because being a diabetic seems to invite people to judge my eating choices--without a lot of information about diabetes or my health--and decide that they clearly know better than I and can ask me to account for what I eat). I answered that question in a way that shut down further questions but was polite, and hoped I was done being diabetic on display.

But oh no, I was not. A person who I did not know, who had been emptying out the food from her room about a half hour earlier, from whom I had accepted some peanuts, approached. I do not know her name, she did not know mine, we literally had not said more than a few words about peanuts to each other. She asked me if I had said that I was diabetic. I said "yes", in a tone that clearly illustrated that I did not know why she was asking such a presumptuous personal question nor why she was inviting herself into a conversation of which she had no part. She said emphatically that she had to tell me something, that a family member of hers was diabetic, and she had something important to tell me. I said, "please don't," clearly, definitively, and politely. She started again, and I repeated my "please don't." She said not to worry, it was positive. I repeated my "please don't". She continued to try to tell me, through what I think was a total of about 7 increasingly loud and firm "Please don't"'s.

Often, broken record works. In my experience, if you just say it enough times, they flag, realize what you are saying, and stop, and one of the keys to getting through is to not vary your language. I made a valiant effort with my please don't's, but clearly the broken record was not having the desired effect. She kept on trying to tell me this urgent thing that was so important to her. I had spotted the dungeon rules posted on the wall behind her head at about the 5th "please don't", and by the 7th, I had given up on the broken record actually working. It clearly was not going to. So I thought I would try something culturally specific to leather community to grab her attention and shake her out of this. I said, even more loudly, so that surrounding clusters of people could hear, with a firmer more emphatic tone, to try to engage her social embarassment cues, "I do not consent." It had no effect as far as I could tell, because she kept right on, rolling over my wishes and trying to tell me her very important thing. So, I tried again, this time staring her right in the eye and saying very clearly, "Do you understand that I am safewording?". (I should tell you that the event safewords--posted behind her on the wall, in fact--were, as they often are, "red" and "safeword", and if you do not know, a safeword is a word you use to stop people from doing what they are doing during sex or BDSM, and such a widely understood term that most leather people will literally freeze what they are doing if they hear it, whatever the context.) She, however, was unfazed by my clear and obvious and at this point even more pointed and not as quiet refusal of consent to listen to the thing she had to tell me, because she kept on going.

I gave up. I had refused consent 9 times, in a very clear manner, and was faced with either leaving and giving up my very comfy seat, cursing her out, yelling at her, or letting her say what she clearly was not going to be stopped from saying, and getting back to my conversation. So I stopped interrupting her and trying to stop her, and kept her gaze with a clearly hostile look on my face, and let her say it. She did, probably with less detail than she might have otherwise, and with considerable emotion. I believe that she was on the verge of tears as she sprayed her pitying bullshit on me about how I should live life to the fullest, that I could have a good and happy life. I waited her out, glaring, until she stopped, and I let a pause grow. Her face fell as I was not responding in the (perhaps grateful?) manner she expected. She then seemed to realize that perhaps she had possibly done something not ok and offered a tentative half assed apology. To which I responded, "Thanks for the peanuts," and then turned my entire body away from her to indicate the conversation was over. She left, and one of the folks I was chatting with (not the one who asked about my sandwich) signed "I'm sorry" to me. I sighed, and finished my sandwich, realizing that she had eaten the spoons I could have spent on that cake, damnit, which definitely would have tasted better.

I am struck by the way consent is a stated and intense value in leather community, and yet clear statements of refusal to consent can be steamrolled over unselfconsciously in a leather community space. As my best friend put it that evening, it is an important illustration of the way that we need to deepen and widen our community understanding of consent and what it means. This woman clearly thought (or perhaps felt is the better word, because it seemed fairly clear that she was not thinking too hard, given the social context and her ignoring the community specific refusal of consent) the depth of her need to tell me this overrode my statement that I did not want to hear it. I am lucky, that I knew that there were at least 7 people at the event that I could tell the story to who would get it, and get all the layers of it, and one of them had even witnessed it, and respected my right to handle it as I saw fit. That is a newer thing for me in kink community, and something I am very happy to know, that I have allies and friends who get the way ableism works. And I also knew that there were even more people in my life who were not at the event but a phone call away, pretty much every person that is significant to me, that would get why it was fucked up. Which is about more than just consent, the over the top refusal to respect my consent aspect of it just emphasized the other fucked up aspects of it, really.

That experience did not end my IMsL. I went on to joke with friends, to witness a gorgeous scene, and, especially, to entice several other queers into singing showtunes for me, all of which improved my night considerably.

ETA: I have been thinking further about this. One of the things that I keep coming back to in the story is the moment where I said for the first time that I did not want to hear it. When I tell that story to people, they are often surprised, and gasp a bit, as she did when I said it. (I have often been tempted to tell the story without ever revealing the thing that she "had" to say, because that ain't the point.) That moment, when I refused to hear it without even knowing what it was, is a bit shocking to people. I knew whatever she was going to say was going to be presumptuous and fucked up, with a set up like that it was obvious. At least one person said to me: "but weren't you curious to know what it was?" I had no interest in hearing what a random stranger had to say about my diabetes, especially when there was such urgency to it. I knew it was going to be fucked up. There is something in that, in cutting her off before she got to say it, before I even knew what it was, that she could not fathom why or how, and thought she knew that once I heard it I would feel differently. There is something about a complete refusal to listen that breaks intense social rules and is shocking. As if as a person with a disability, part of my social job is to be the screen for people to project their shit onto, and I'm supposed to let them do it and not try to stop them before they do or interrupt them while they are. Something to ponder.
tgstonebutch: (Default)
I was writing to a friend about the Butch Voices conference, and thought I'd put some of it out here.

I wish had hot stories of conference sexy goings on for you. I know that collectively we were the hottest queer spot in the universe this weekend, and I loved watching hot queers flirt with, cruise, dance, connect, and play with each other. I wish that My experience of the conference forefronted some of the incredibly sexy folks I shared My weekend with, and all the trouble that we collectively got into.

Instead, right now, I feel stretched thin and squeezed dry, sore and bruised hearted, and have an intense case of conference drop.

There were moments of joy and good connection, and a number of them involve someone I anticipate will be a new friend. He is a treasure, and was a great hit with My best friend, who is also rather picky.

I feel like I did important work, was the catalyst I hoped to be for many people and for the culture of the conference.

There were quiet moments that fed Me, mostly as I sat and listened to folks like [livejournal.com profile] bearsir  and Ivan reach into My heart and hold it gently, doing their important cultural work that makes Me so glad to know them.

By far, the class workshop impressed Me the most. It was skillfully and carefully done, amidst many derailing attempts, and I was so impressed that 40+ people showed up for it, and many brought their willingness to be open and vulnerable.

I think that of My classes, the stone one went the best. I could feel transformation happen in that room, and healing, was so glad for the balance of stone identified folks and our partners in that room, and was very impressed with the way folks were so willing to be present and open and listen to each other, and most especially to trust Me and My ability to lead. I was the most exhausted, running on the least spoons, and was probably the most vulnerable and giving of Myself in that room than I was all weekend, and would do it again in a heartbeat, even with all the things it has meant for today and meant for the rest of My yesterday.

The misogyny workshop I led was the hardest, the most bruising, and the one that went the worst of the bunch. And yet, I still think that there were many valuable things gained in that room, and do not doubt that it will ripple out into people's lives. I know this from the feedback I got, as well as My intuitive sense of how things work with this. In general, misogyny felt like it was one of the largest collective wounds in that space,  and I think that the only thing that might have been harder would be to have done a workshop on trans inclusion activism, or to have been the one responsible for facilitating intergenerational dialogue.

I am not wanting to give you the impression I was not fed by this conference. I was fed mostly in the small moments of flirtation, appreciation of femme fine feathers, in making boys blush, and in lying in a dark room talking quietly with this person I think will become a new friend. I literally felt like I was on all weekend, and had very few breaks from that (that one was one of the better ones), in a way that I think is likely to bring a bigger drop tomorrow than I am already feeling today.

I was given some of the most immediate and moving feedback to my teaching efforts I have ever gotten, and I treasure that, and treasure the  vulnerability that came with the butches and transfolks and genderqueers sharing their hurt spots with Me and showing me how they were a bit more healed by my class, or entrusting me with further questions. And I treasure the femmes who went out of their way to meet my eye and thank me for the things I said about misogyny, for doing the misogyny workshop, and for speaking out in a public forum about the deep need for inclusion of trans women as a core feminist cause in our community.

I did get to go dancing some, and dancing with My best friend is absolutely one of my favorite things. I am very glad for that, even with the fact that I used muscles that I have not in a while and have some physical aches to go with my emotional muscle aches. I love the way we move together, and loved moving through much of the conference with her. Her support and company were so necessary, and I love her deeply.
 
One of the physical things that is going on with me today seems to be about My body seeking to cover my heart. I can feel My shoulders aching from being hunched, my chest feeling closed, the back of My neck and My upper back aching from being hunched over. I feel tender and protective of Myself and My butch heart and throat today.

We need so much healing in our communities, and that was so clearly illuminated for Me this weekend. I saw so much, and learned so much, and will continue working on these things in our communities. Right now, I'm going to rest as much as I can so that I will be up for that work. I am so glad that I went, and worked as hard as I did, and I would not change the decisions that led Me here for this experience. Right now, though, I'm going to nurse My bruises and sore muscles and rest up. I am on vacation, after all.

tgstonebutch: (Default)
Well.  Some folks in kink community are invested in beeing seen as "normal" and "just like vanilla folks", and think that oppositional identity politics in kink communities will only damage "our" ultimate goal. 

I have a very different politic, and it has queer antiracist roots.  I am not interested in assimilating.  I would not want to be normal, or just like vanilla folks.  And I think that folks who are invested in such things have a very different set of goals than I.  Equality is not where My focus is.  It doesn't come close to My end goals. 

My politic is oppositional at it's core.  But it's not oppositional to people, it's oppositional to systems.  It's not kinksters vs. vanilla folks, it's queers vs. oppressive systems of power.  I don't actually feel an affinity to all kinksters...I feel an affinity to kinksters who see their kink as a way to understand and disrupt systems of power, and as a way to claim bodily and sexual autonomy in opposition to systematic oppression and violence.  I feel an affinity to folks who are politicized around their sexual identities, who want to fiercely claim pleasure and bodily autonomy as part of that opposition.  Folks who get that we cannot escape power, that it's neccessary to understand it and the ways it plays out between us in our relationships and casual interactions, and find ways to be responsible with our power and privilege, including in the bedroom, the bathroom, the dungeon, or the alley (or wherever else we fuck and play), and also in our families, homes and communities.

As I wrote a while back in a comment on this post, "For me, the most important thing about queer is that it's not just a way of thinking, it's a *political* way if thinking. And more than that, it's a way of thinking, seeing, and doing, and living that is oppositional to, critical of, and disrupts systems of oppression, heteronormativity, gender binaries, misogyny, transphobia, self hatred, bodily disconnection, sex negativity. To me, queer demands rawness, demands being yourself and recognizes that you give up a lot of privilege in order to get be your self, celebrate yourself, and hopefully be celebrated, honored, and loved for being authentic to your complexity, contradictions, desires, ferocity, and insight."

I wonder about folks that are invested in assimilation.  The gays that just want to get married and be seen as normal...how many of them are privileged in a lot of other ways?  The kinksters that just want to be able to keep their kids...how many of them are privileged in a lot of other ways?  What is the payoff for assimilationist poltics for folks that are oppressed by multiple interlocking systems?  Is there one?

In My trans queer disabled experience (despite My white privilege and My class and educational privilege and the ways I'm read as nondisabled), even if straight kinky folks could keep their kids, that would not help Me keep Mine, or really help Me much at all.  It would do basically nothing that I can see to assist My community of friends, allies, and family, many of whom are oppressed in areas where I have privilege.
tgstonebutch: (Default)
I was at a show on Christmas eve, in which a band I enjoy, The Shondes, played a song that was explicitly anticolonial and pro Palestine.  Did I mention it was a Jewish event?  Standing there in the front, hearing the words "Free Palestine", and the cheers and the boos behind Me, I was incredibly moved by them taking this open and public stand in this space that was so mixed politically.  The song itself made Me cry.

This issue is the elephant in the room that many ignore, pretend does not exist.  And with good reason; it is one that continually splits Jews...I remember in the 90s when I was in a Jewish antiracist activist group focused on defeating anti immigrant legislation.  We did not end up succeeded in the effort, and perhaps the coalition would have split, but there was talk of us continuing to do antiracist action as a collective...and then we splintered.  Israel was one of the main reasons that we split, and I know this is just one of many examples. 

I found it very brave for this group to take this stand, in a room full of Jews, and am glad that I was there.

These folks have interesting and valuable things to say about Gaza, and Israel:
http://takingsteps.blogspot.com/2008/12/schoolyard-on-fire.html
http://thatlittleblackbook.blogspot.com/2008/12/do-not-forget.html
tgstonebutch: (Default)
"It's funny...how gossip can burrow under the skin.  You can't make it go away, and you can't answer it."       
          --Tamora Pierce

How do you respond to gossip about you?  How do you respond to gossip in your communities? 
tgstonebutch: (Default)
That's one of the things that poly does (at least for Me)...offers new questions, framed in a way that honors all our relationships, not just the romantic/sexual ones.  At least My brand of it.  I've been thinking a lot about connection, relationships, and ways that I do them, and mulling over these questions.

So, when a relationship ends, I generally want a mourning period.  Part of what I seek is psychic space.  Part of what I seek is emotional support from My existing relationships (the ones I generally seek support from).  Part of what I seek is a resting/recovery period.  A friend recently talked about breakups being kind of like surgery recovery.  You may have even wanted it gone, whatever this thing is that has been cut out of your body, (perhaps it was even toxic for your system as in some surgery) but your body needs time to get back to center, to recover, to regain resilience, to build up your immune system, to take care of itself after the invasion of the surgery, to heal the open wounds.  How do you honor the relationships you are still in while in this space?  How do you honor your commitments to others, your love for others, when you are in a place of healing, mourning, and recovery?  The breaking of one connection can impact other connections, on a psychic level, can raise doubts, can make you more sensitive, can create intense needs and gaps, can shatter systems you have built in your life.  How do you manage all of the stuff that may impact in your other relationships?  The ending of a relationship can create psychic space, particularly after your mourning period is ending.  How can you honor that others may wish to be more involved in your life now that the space has been created?  One of the ways these questions uniquely come up are in casual play/sex relationships...where there is not intense emotional vulnerability...what if that's what you are potentially bringing to play/sex in the aftermath of a breakup?  How do you manage that?  Another way these questions come up are in friendships/family; how to honor those relationships and their needs?  How to titrate how much need/pain is ok to bring based on the boundaries of the relationship, how to make sure that you are not shifting the balance of mutuality, how to make sure that what you are asking for is within the boundaries of the relationship?  With other partners, how to honor the way that your mourning may be experienced as hurtful or an expenditure of your focus and energy that they may feel slighted by?  If your breakup has you feeling distrustful, depressed, or pessimistic, how do you honor that some of the folks you are in relationship with may be negatively impacted by that, may feel like the reality of your relationship with them is being ignored/dishonored by that, or may have needs that go unmet because of that?

I feel like these are things we rarely talk about, and I think they are important.  I welcome your thoughts.
tgstonebutch: (Default)

Vitals
======
 

What: A no-limits sex-positive gender and sexuality unconference.
Why: To inspire a creative, interactive and open environment where  
everyone feels comfortable talking, learning, and being inspired by  
all kinds of sexuality.
When: March, 2009 (exact date yet to be determined)
Where: NYC (We're still looking for a venue! Can you help? See 'Get  
Involved,' below!)
Who: Everyone
How much: Free (as in beer as well as freedom)
 

Details
=======
 

KinkForAll is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people of  
the kink, queer, sex-positive and related communities to share and  
learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions,  
presentations, and interaction from all participants.  (It is inspired  
by the BarCamp community.)
 

ANYONE WITH SOMETHING TO CONTRIBUTE OR WITH THE DESIRE TO LEARN IS  
WELCOME AND INVITED TO JOIN. When you attend, be prepared to share  
with others. When you leave, be prepared to share it with the world.
 

A KinkForAll is a special kind of gathering because there are no  
spectators, only participants. Attendees must give a talk or a  
presentation, help with one, or otherwise volunteer/contribute in some  
way to support the event. This is called sharing and we like it. All  
presentations are scheduled the day they happen—there are no pre-
scheduled presentations or keynote addresses. The people present at  
the event will select the presentations they want to see.
 

Anyone can present, on any topic related to sexuality. You do not  
necessarily have to teach a new skill or idea. You might share an  
experience, review a product, or read a poem. The goal is to start a  
discussion, make connections, and exchange knowledge. Presentations  
promoting specific commercial products or companies are discouraged.
 

Learn more about what to expect at
http://kinkforall.pbwiki.com/WhatToExpect
 

Learn more about the event guidelines at
http://kinkforall.pbwiki.com/TheRulesOfKinkForAll
 

Get Involved
============
 

We need your help in spreading the word. Please help by participating.  
Here's how:
 

1. Get excited by reading the ideas on http://kinkforall.pbwiki.com/KinkForAllNewYorkCity
2. Add your name or handle to the list of participants
3. Join the mailing list and introduce yourself by emailing kinkforall@googlegroups.com
 

If you have access to a venue, or know someone who has access to a  
venue, please email the kinkforall@googlegroups.com mailing list with  
that information.
 

Still have questions? Read the Frequently Asked Questions at
http://kinkforall.pbwiki.com/FrequentlyAskedQuestions
 

or email kinkforall@googlegroups.com for more details.
 

KinkForAll Online
=================
 

Participate online before the event at your favorite social networking  
web site.
 

Homepage: http://KinkForAll.org
Google: http://groups.google.com/group/kinkforall
Twitter: http://twitter.com/KinkForAll
Identica: http://identi.ca/kinkforall
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/KinkForAll/40066342762
 

All primary organizational efforts are being coordinated via the  
mailing list. Join for free and help turn ideas into realities!
http://groups.google.com/group/kinkforall

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