On Bathrooms and Acceptance and Why Kink Events are Important

Yes, yes, it’s been far too long since I’ve blogged. Mea Culpa, dear readers (all six of you). So here’s a somewhat rambling, disjointed blog because shit’s been rolling around in my head for far too long.

K keeps me delightfully busy and I’ve also started a new job in a new city  (as of three days ago) and will be moving to said new city in 10 days. So instead of packing, I’m blogging. Because no one procrastinates quite like me!

We also attended TESFest in New Jersey last weekend. It was K’s first major kink con (I don’t really count the Fetish Flea where we met – that’s more kink-light). He was nervous at first. Really conflicted. Because he was attending in his role as the head of the first aid charity he runs. I tagged along to help as a sort of liaison between his staff and the kink community. The reality was, every one of the five staff members he brought were either already kinky as fuck or embraced it wholeheartedly at the con. He told me later that it was one of the best cons he’s attended (and he’s attended over 200). He also said my being there as both a volunteer first-aider and as his dominant was a really good thing.  *happy dance*

TESFest draws some of the biggest names in kink – not just from the East Coast, but from all over. K met one such person (a well-known author, author, and holder of multiple leather titles) when he walked by the First Aid table near the lobby. K chatted with him briefly and explained his conflicted emotions. In 30 seconds, the man summed up his philosophy of D/s and changed K’s entire outlook on it. Things just clicked and fell into place in his brain. I wasn’t there so I’m not sure exactly what was said, but from what K was able to relate to me, it was very similar to my approach and what I’ve said to him in the past. Somehow, hearing it from someone outside our relationship made all the difference. It was as if it was suddenly validated for him. I don’t much care why, but I’m grateful it did, because it allowed us to make some serious progress in our journey of D/s during the remainder of the weekend.

K also remarked that what helped him feel more comfortable in his submissive skin was meeting and seeing such a variety of D/s couples who were so obviously happy together and fulfilled each other. I realized that he hadn’t really met many other submissives (of any gender or orientation) and TESFest allowed him to talk more in depth and observe at length a delightful cross-section of the kink community.

The weekend has allowed him to more fully accept himself as he is which just makes me all kinds of stupid-happy for him.

Kink events like TESFest are more than just play parties. They’re more than just opportunities to see friends you don’t see any other time of the year. They’re more than naked pool shenanigans and amazing rope scenes. They’re more than amazing classes about everything imaginable (and some I never thought I’d see….waterboarding, anyone?). Kink events, especially the ones that take over an entire hotel, are one big puddle of acceptance. People relax, walls come down, masks come off. People meet others who are like their innermost, secret selves. How cool is that? When people don’t have to try to conform to society’s or family’s or workplace expectations of sexual identity, gender orientation/fluidity, etc… what emerges is some really awesome, PRESENT people. And that matters. There’s a reason people have “con drop” after such an event – they run on a euphoric high all weekend long – because they’re accepted for who they really are, even when that changes during the course of the event. To return to a world where you know you won’t be fully accepted and have to put a mask back on and retreat behind a wall is depressing.

And that brings me back to the topic of bathrooms as promised in the title of this post.

As I watch with incredulity the utter insanity that is unfolding in the US surrounding transgender folks using a bathroom of their choice, I can’t help but think about every major kink event I’ve been to. Because you see, they all do the same thing – they print out a sign that says “Gender Neutral Bathroom” or better yet, simply “Bathroom” and tape one over every gendered bathroom sign in the hotel/con space.  The result is that there is never a line for a toilet. I’ve had conversations with male-bodied folks who were using a urinal while I (a female bodied and identified person) washed my hands at the sink. Hell, I’ve given a male dominant a giant bear hug in front of the sinks while two other men were using the urinals and another woman was in a stall. I’ve watched male hotel employees not even blink when I walk out of a stall in what they know as the men’s bathroom the other 51 weeks of the year. It simply doesn’t matter. Literally hundreds of people using whatever fucking bathroom they want to use – choosing to use a stall or a urinal (regardless of external genitalia) and not one incident of assault or harassment.

It makes me think that the world would be a better place if everyone simply accepted everyone else’s gender and sexual orientation and outward appearance. Because none of that crap matters one bit in the end. What matters is how we treat each other.

I want to be careful to not paint kink events as some magical utopia. While they certainly can be for many folks, not everyone is on the same page with what’s OK and not everyone communicates things well. And sometimes, people are just jerks or irresponsible, sadly.

Was TESFest perfect? Heck no. Were some people unhappy with other people? Undoubtedly. But the differences resulted largely from miscommunications and differences in what is considered polite/respectable behavior. Now, I heard some serious allegations of “issues” that arose during last year’s TESFest. And I sadly think that they resulted in some groups of folks not feeling as welcome and accepted, but I could be misinterpreting what I gleaned from the snippets I heard about. What I do know is that TESFest put in place new policies and a team of folks to help people work through differences in a healthy way. Which is a good thing. Learning from our mis-steps and omissions is how we grow and evolve.

We humans are imperfect beings, for perfection is an illusion. Our species does not always act with honor and integrity – these are values that must be taught, modeled, and consciously strived for. But we do have an amazing capacity to grow and change – we are not static beings. We have great capacity to evolve during our own lifetimes. But to do so requires removing the masks and walls we build and be open and accepting – of others, of otherness, of ourselves. And when I attend a kink event like TESFest, I am re-energized and such philosophical musings seem far less abstract.

Be kind to yourselves.

Be kind to each other.

It matters.

You matter.

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