There Were No Closets In My House
When I saw a post on livejournal about National Coming Out Day, I realized that even here in my sex-positive, queerluscious, kinktastic office, we hadn't talked about the fact that today was National Coming Out Day. I think the key sentence in kproche's post is that "Everyone's situation is different." I talk about that to people all the time, in my work life and my personal life and the vast sphere of interactions that encompass both.
Yesterday I was at The Upper Floor at a fetish brunch party, and a service submissive came over and asked me, "Suzanne, what name do you want to use for the shoot?" The members in the livechat wanted to ask me a question. "Suzanne Forbes", I told her, "I have no stage name or scene name". My young lover and I were sitting on a couch next to a couple, one of whom was masked, and we chatted with the masked top about his reasons for not wanting his face to be filmed. He said, cheerfully, "I posted my Folsom pictures at work, but this might be a little too much for my office." Everyone draws the line between public and private in a different place; everyone gets to draw exactly the line that they're comfortable with.
Last weekend, I was in front of a club in SOMA having sex with a hot girl in a coffin while a camera projected it on a wall for the crowd of onlookers. The coffin sex was actually a performance art installation by monochrom about the relationship between public and private. Talking to a reporter about it the next day, I gave him my name and the site I work for, and explained that I was actually at the event for work.
Every time I do something like that, every time I use my real name in the context of my sex life, I think about how lucky I am. When someone tells me what name to tag a drawing with, and they look slightly rueful at having to use a scene name or nickname, I always say, "I totally support your privacy choices. Everyone's situation is different, everyone comes out about different things to different people at different times." I know that I have a very unusual position, in that I have a life where my public and private spheres are completely transparent to each other. I know I'm particularly unusual in that I've lived this way my entire life.
Because my parents were sex-positive and queer-positive and my father was actively practising BDSM, and I grew up in Manhattan, it never once occurred to me to feel odd about my sexual feelings and desires. I drew ropes and gags on the princesses in my Little Golden Books, and nobody said a thing. I didn't play doctor with my boy and girl friends—we played "Joy of Sex", with visual aids, and my father let us have his room on nights my friends stayed over. (Which is going way too far in the other direction, and hideously creepy, but also meant I knew what it was to sleep naked and intimate with a boy or girl whose body I had touched by the time I was 7, and I still don't think that's a bad thing.)
My father, who is a douchebag I haven't seen in decades but got some things right, took me to the Stonewall Inn and told me what happened there when I was very young. Because we lived in Chelsea, which was a gay neighborhood in the '60s and '70s, and I walked to school through the West Village, I knew the hankie code by the time I was ten. When I had sexual feelings for my female classmates as well as the male ones, I was aware that my feelings might make the girls uncomfortable, but the fact that I had them seemed as natural as breathing to me. Because among my parents' friends the women had short hair and the men had long hair and wore dresses, and my best friend as a child was a boy with long hair, gender fluidity seemed natural and beautiful to me.
The first time I kissed a girl in the street was in the East Village, on a summer night when I was fifteen. She didn't care what anyone saw or anyone thought either; I remember that it felt like flying, like we were so free. What does it feel like not to have that? What does it feel like to be judged by your parents or your community or your friends? What does it feel like to be hated for being queer? I don't know what it feels like to be hate-crimed, but I know what it feels like to be judged, to be different, to be a freak; at some level, everybody does. Every human being has had that moment of feeling taboo to the tribe, other, alien, not-enough, less-than, rejected, shamed, excluded. So it seems all the more appalling that some "humans" make it their business to foster that feeling in queer youth deliberately, to make the entire world a matrix of toxic not-belonging to them.
I've lived a life where I've never had to hide who I am, what I do, and what I Iike; not everybody has that choice or gets that lucky. Since I'm like a Kinsey 1.5, my life choices haven't led me to a place where I had to personally bear the impact of hate on my own relationships. My BDSM kinks are the most widely-known, almost-totally-mainstreamed kind; I've never had the experience of needing to seek out interactions that society still judges or reviles. I live here in the Bay Area, where I can watch the tall young men I spent the night with kiss each other goodbye in the street in the Mission. Since I have been truly fortunate that way, I want to know it is like to have suffered prejudice and hate-crime for your orientation and desires. Tell me what hurt you, and how we can help you heal, and what I can do for you. How can I be your voice, if your situation is different? How can we all move towards the day when the world is a safe place for everyone to come out?