Not Queer. A Little Kinky. But That Doesn’t Count.

Yesterday, I said this:

“Being poly and kinky, yet cis and straight, is a weird space. It’s like, I’m not QUILTBAG in any way, but I’m still on the fringe somewhere.”

I should have clarified (but then again, it was a Tweet): I’m not on the fringes of the LGBT/QUILTBAG experience, and I think it’s important to clarify that I’m not. In the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting, we had a spate of white cisdudes feeling upset for some reason that they couldn’t feel personally included in a horrific mass murder, trying to erase the gayness to make this into a universal assault that they could participate in.

One wonders if they show up at strangers’ funerals to proclaim, “This is a tragedy for me, as I was also a human!”

Look. It’s okay for you to be upset at an atrocity without having to mark yourselves as a participant. You can mourn deeply without nudging your way to the front of the procession.

(You can also argue, as I know people will, that I’m stereotyping cis white dudes, but of the fifteen or so comments/posts I saw trying to hijack the discussion, all of them were dudes, and of the ones who seemed to have an ethnicity – which is hard to tell on FB/Fet/Twitter – all were cis and white. So, you know, one has to wonder whether it’s endemic to the community, or a sampling error.

(So if you’re a frothing white cisdude, you might wanna take a moment to ponder that your stereotypical behavior is currently perceived by many minorities as “melts down the minute the conversation does not center around them,” and take a moment to ponder whether you’re actually behaving in the way that people say you’re behaving. Because one of the things that triggers white cisdudes fastest, in my experience, is labelling them as “white cisdudes,” because good Lord a lot of y’all really get angry when someone labels you – even if that description is actually, literally, factually accurate.)

Anyway. The QUILTBAG experience is one that I don’t experience, and it would be wrong to say that I do. I think part of being a decent human being is recognizing that there are certain experiences that are not truly universal, and trying to tune into those aspects are significant.

Which goes beyond QUILTBAG. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up Muslim, or Southern, or female, and I think that attempting to translate your experiences to go, “Oh, yeah, I get what you’ve been through, it’s just like what happened to me!” is like those idiots who come up to you at a funeral for your beloved relative dying and go, “I know just what it’s like to lose someone you love, my cat died.”

Sometimes, you just have to leave people to their own space and acknowledge that there are overlaps, but it’s not the same.

Yet there are overlaps.

As someone who’s polyamorous and kinky, I’m also at the fringes of society in some ways. Being openly out affects the jobs I can take. As someone who’s poly, I’m an uncomfortable representative for everyone else who’s poly in the world. (And though my relationship with my wife is rock-solid, there’s always that worry in the back of our heads that if we divorced, we’d then be held up as proof that this poly shit doesn’t work.)

As someone who’s kinky, there’s stuff I’m not comfortable talking about in public sometimes, as people tend to misunderstand, and I’m often a little nervous that some day a great spotlight will shine down upon me – in the form of greater media attention than I’ve ever received – and the stuff I do completely consensually will be reviled.

And there’s that overlap, so I feel what happened at PULSE very clearly. Kink clubs have not been the traditional targets of maniacs (mainly because they’re often the bastions of straight white folks), but if someone shot up a kink convention or a dungeon, I’d feel that so personally that it gives me shivers now. I’ve seen mothers lose their kids for liking to be tied up, even if there was nothing sexual about it. I’ve seen folks lose their jobs for being outed as dominants.

And as usual, I have two sorts of essays: those where I wrap things up neatly in a big bow and tell you about the wise conclusion I’ve come to, and those where I just sort of toss all the balls in the air and shrug.

I’m shrugging.

I’m not going to try to hijack the experience of QUILTBAG folks, but I’m also hard-pressed to say that there aren’t areas that are very similar. I don’t want to be the white cis person who comes in to make it all about me, but there are also places that poly and kinky overlaps with gay and bi and trans, and I think we can strengthen ourselves as a community by uniting those experiences properly, even if it’s only as a way to crack open the window wide enough to peer in and go, “Yeah, I get it.”

Because anything that increases empathy is good. Anything that increases solidarity is good. But anything that erases someone’s unique identity, particularly at a time of mourning, is bad, and that’s a delicate line that I’m never quite sure how to handle properly.

And it’s just out there. It’s messy. You don’t want to be that person at the funeral. But you also can acknowledge, if only internally, that this small facet of yours lines up with someone else’s, and do something good with it without inadvertently weaponizing it.

That’s all.

(And before someone complains, and I know they will – as a cis straight dude, yes, I absolutely believe there are central experiences to that experience that are unique to them… Particularly during dating, where I often feel that people don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for guys who are trying, although schmuckily, to figure out how to get intimacy in a world where frankly, so many men are trying to date women that it’s a larger problem than people often admit to stand out in the crowd. But that’s something I’ve discussed before, and will doubtless attempt to do so again.)

1 Comment

  1. L
    Jun 16, 2016

    I’m a queer kinky poly white cislady. I’ve been thinking a lot, since Orlando, about the intersections of the kink community and the queer community. I belong to both. On the surface, my queerness is more visible. I have partners of different genders, and I broadcast my bisexuality far and wide — but I don’t talk about kink much except with my partners and friends who are also in the community.

    Nevertheless, as far as my social life is concerned, I go to more kink events than queer events. And yet, this takes me to gay venues: my city’s most popoular monthly fetish night happens at a gay club. All of my kinky friends, queer or not, felt the impact of Orlando because we knew it happened at the sort of club we go to. We are the sort of people who go to gay clubs, whether or not we’re queer.

    And something interesting about reporting on Orlando: it’s often assumed that all the victims were gay. But, we don’t actually know that. Straight people have probably always been going to gay clubs — because they have queer friends, or because they’re kinky and gay clubs offer them refuge too, or for whatever other reason. You’re absolutely right to point out that straight cisdudes shouldn’t get to claim this tragedy, and I really, really appreciate that message coming from someone straight. Thank you. Personally, speaking as a queer woman, I think it’s understandable for anyone who goes to gay clubs to feel personally affected by this. Given that straight people go to gay clubs, some straight people who are aware of this tragedy know that it could have been them. That it could have been their queer friends who they go to clubs with. And it hasn’t bothered me to hear that sort of sentiment from the kinky straight cisdudes in my social circle. Though I also understand and support queer people who it DOES bother. That’s 100% valid, for the reasons you outline here. And also because for queer people, it’s part of a larger pattern of violence that many straight people are unaware of, or at least can ignore more easily.

    Til now, I just haven’t heard a lot of discussion about this intersection of identities with regard to this tragedy, so thank you for starting that conversation, and doing so in such a empathetic and thoughtful way.

Leave a Reply to L Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *