Sunday, March 22, 2015

Why I Freaked Out And Left The Munch Last Night

Note: This essay has to do with the local kink community (although it talks about problems that are found much less locally) and has reference to some really uncomfortable kinks, including references to rape play and violent race play. Venues, names, and very specific stories not relating to myself are not mentioned due to typical munch etiquette.  When I use phrases like "man in a dress" I am specifically referring to actual men in dresses and not trans women.

So although I want to get this out there, I'm also aware that I'm taking a bit of a social risk in even writing this if it happens to be read by any of the involved.  The thing is, the kink community has a very bad habit of taking any open talk of systemic problems within the community and labeling them "drama" to avoid actually dealing with them.  If you were triggered at an event and say something about that, it's "drama."  If you mention a poor response to a sexual assault in the community, it's "drama."  So something tells me that the statement "your policies are transphobic and you're probably pretty transphobic too if you defend them" will probably be taken by that community, crumpled up, and thrown into a wastebasket marked "DRAMA" to be ignored or possibly used as another piece of evidence as to why they need their transphobic policies to begin with.

To start the story off, I've been in the kink community in at least some capacity for maybe seven or eight years, mostly with online involvement as well as a little in-person stuff through campus events, largely because I lived in the middle of nowhere.  A couple months ago I moved to an area with easy access to not just one munch but three munches in addition to two high-profile play party groups, a different group specifically for bottoms and switches, and a local chapter of a national organization for people in full-time consensual M/s relationships, among others I am less aware of.  It was one of my goals to go to these so that I could get an "in" in the local community and cease to be that rando on FetLife practically nobody has actually met in person.

What started this mess (or rather, this particular part of the mess) is that as soon as I started associating with local people on FetLife, I started seeing their events and organizations.  One of them consistently has not one but two transphobic policies.  They are:
  1. Must wear "gender appropriate" clothing (seems to be limited to public events)
  2. Must use bathroom of "biological gender" (seems to be a universal rule)
I contacted one of the organizers to ask about this, and she responded back that the reasons they hold this policy include (words in quotes are her own words):
  1. We live in a conservative area.
  2. The policies are put in place by venues, not the organization.  They cannot find a venue that would not have this policy.
  3. Some "flamboyant" people were using women's restrooms "in drag" and making "actual women" uncomfortable.
I asked why, if the problem was so specific, the policy is so far-reaching.  She hasn't gotten back to me on that and I suspect she won't, having possibly already taken my concern and thrown it into that aforementioned "drama" wastebasket.

I was considering just not going to the munch last night for a variety of reasons, many of which admittedly had nothing to do with this, but much of it was centered on the fact that I expected the person I was talking to about the transphobic policies to be there and I quite frankly didn't want to see her face last night (either she wasn't or she looks significantly different from her picture).  I finally decided that I'd probably be fine, maybe I'd meet somebody new or something, and so I went.

And it was fine at first.  It was a small enough group that I wasn't ignored, and we had great conversations before the presentation.  And just in case any of the people in attendance are reading: Unless you're responsible for the policies I'm talking about, none of what happened was actually any of the attendees' faults, not directly anyway.  Rather, hearing people talk about the play party in question with its ludicrous "biological gender" bathroom policies and the sorts of things that go on there just flat out pissed me the fuck off.

Because here's the thing:  We are talking about events taking place specifically for people to have kinky sex, often with and/or in front of strangers.  So basically what you're telling me is this:
  • You're able to find a venue that will allow you to construct a St. Andrew's cross, tie a naked person to it, and whip them with a flogger but unable to find one that will allow visibly trans women to use women's restrooms.
  • Your clientele is expected to be comfortable with people (consensually) choking and closed-fist punching each other during sex but God forbid a cis woman is uncomfortable with trans people using the restroom in her presence.
  • Somebody can wear a collar that says "slave" on it attached to a leash but if a man wears fishnets that's just too far.
  • You can find space where a man can (consensually) act out a rape scene that could easily be confused for a real rape by bystanders, but you couldn't possibly find somewhere that wouldn't object to a crossdresser temporarily using the women's room.
  • The area is conservative which is why trans support groups have been able to hold meetings at a fucking Denny's in a pinch but an open kinky sex group couldn't possibly find a bar or restaurant that won't object to trans people who need to take a piss.
  • All of this gender conformity is so goddamn important that you would enact a policy so broad and sweeping that if really enforced would mean I'd have to use the women's room.  Because somehow that would make women so much more comfortable.
I feel like it should be self-evident why with these things in mind this is bullshit, but I have a few things to close on.

First I need to acknowledge that there's no way that these policies would actually be enforced for me.  Transphobic bathroom policies were not written to keep fully integrated trans men out of men's rooms, and if I show up in drag they will probably treat me with the same level of bullshit they would treat a visible trans woman or a crossdresser.  The problem is that I don't want to be the exception to a shitty, transphobic policy; I want the policy to stop existing.  It's not just about me and my comfort, it's about knowing the local community would easily sell out their own for a paltry amount of social acceptance and then chant ludicrous reasons why this is totally reasonable.

Second I should mention that this has nothing to do with "kink shaming" or painting your kink as morally better or worse than transgenderism or crossdressing.  I wrote a while ago in the essay "When 'Kink-Shaming' Really Isn't" that I'm an exceedingly open person when it comes to accepting other peoples' kinks.  I talked about plantation play parties and Nazi themed scenes and rape play... all of which are used as coping strategies by a not-insignificant number of oppressed people and people with a history of sexual assault and all of which are not necessarily indicative of being an actively dangerous person to non-consenting individuals.  It has to do with the ludicrous assumption that these policies have something to do with valid discomfort or venue demands or "the area is just conservative" among people who seem to have no problem finding space to act out things that are significantly more socially unacceptable in the vanilla world than a man in a dress, among people who are expected to uncritically accept wildly violent play.

Third, even if the original reasons for these policies were totally reasonable (and they are not), the fact that they responded with such a widely-sweeping policy over what was likely not a widespread issue is telling of the kind of regard they have for trans issues in general.  There could have been other ways to word this policy that wouldn't have been so transparently transphobic, but they chose to go with that instead and continue to defend it.

In conclusion, listen, I know it's hard to find places for your events, but this is fucking ridiculous.  In doing so, I can't imagine this community is safe for practically any local trans person.