Mostly? The beach (aka this week in pictures)

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Gold Rush Days! The loggers and miners competition

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Kids playing in the dirt pile | Log rolling competition

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It’s been gorgeous here. For weeks.

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There isn’t a pride parade, but we did attend the Southeast Alaska Gay & Lesbian Association (SEAGLA) pride picnic!

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Treadwell mine ruins in Douglas

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Sandy beach, near the mine ruins

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Rife’s hands are small, but the leaves here are sometimes gargantuan. They seem prehistoric. This is a cow parsnip leaf, they are wild and overgrown everywhere (and cause rashes when exposed to the sap inside the stalks). | Happy 62nd birthday to my mom!

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Supermoon. I couldn’t capture it with my iphone camera, but it was a stunning sight down the channel from the bridge, just over the Taku mountains, so bright and yellow and looking even more huge because of the moon illusion

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Old growth forest on the walk to Outer Point | Younger forest from the beach

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Outer point on Douglas, the northern most tip of the island

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The boy | & the dog are loving it here

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Alaskan brewing company beer cap with the beach rocks

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There was a thunderstorm after we came back in from Outer Point—this is the storm moving in, it’s only about 6pm so the sun won’t set for four or five more hours, but the dark clouds overhead made the sun far away look so dramatic. Thunderstorms are very rare here! All this gorgeous weather, and that kind of sky … global warming is real, man.

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And then, OH YEAH, Prop 8 was thrown out of the SCOTUS, and the 3rd part of DOMA was repealed! Nbd … !! We went out to one of the bars to meet a high school friend of mine to borrow her xtra tufs where she was celebrating the DOMA news with a handfull of friends. Kimberly + Marguerite made the “equalipussy” (shown here) and hung it, we did shots and talked about marriage and laws and other gay things. | Here’s the xtra tufs I borrowed (thanks V!) to go on a 3.4-mile hike into a cabin on Point Bridget, which is pretty much the northern most point that Juneau’s road extends.

I took SO many photos on the Blue Mussel cabin camping trip, most of which are still unprocessed on my iphone, that I think I’m going to do a round 2 of This Week In Photos … it’s been a beautiful, outdoorsy, adventurous week.

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Little hometown adventures: Hiking, whale watching, beer tasting (aka this week in pictures)

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From last week—false outer point beach in Douglas. My phone was dead, so this shot is what rife took. My favorite beach.

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Downtown Juneau evening walk. “Welcome to Juneau” sign on the cruise ship docks | 10:30pm dinner at the Warf (that’s mint ice cream “grasshopper” pie)

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Perseverence Trail up the Silver Bow Basin, where the first mine in Juneau was constructed. It was warm! | Using the water filter for glacial run off. Probably not necessary, but it wouldn’t hurt. Also, it was delicious.

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Us (bugs love hair product so I have mostly gone naked …) | Waterfall at the end of the trail | Shale

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The view down the basin from a rock slide

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Mica in the rocks | The pool above Ebner Falls

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End of the trail (the bridge was out)

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View from my mom’s house of downtown Juneau | Rearranging the kitchen! Our big home project this week

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Whale Watching! The day was grey but still beautiful | Out on the water

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We saw some amazing things, the whales were so playful and we saw them bubble net feeding, tail lobbing, and even two breaching whales right next to our boat! Unfortunately this is the best photo I snapped, but I was looking with my eye more than photographing anything.

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The different flukes of the whales commonly seen in Juneau | Post whale watching beer tasting & tour at the Alaskan Beer Company

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Bedtime writing. We’ve been reading some of my childhood picture books as bedtime books too, so far we’ve read Space Case and Fog.

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The first week in Juneau and the Northern Exposure kink conference in Anchorage (aka this week in pictures)

I’m behind on the pictures post this week evacuee the Northern Exposure conference took up all of my weekend, and then their after party of adventures around Anchorage took up all of yesterday. I’m on a plane right now heading back to Juneau, so here’s the photo essay version of this art week.

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Pulse! The annual Body Electric advanced women’s retreat is coming up at the end of July, and I’ve been working on it a lot this past week | Rand Leather wrist cuff (review to come)

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cruise ships in downtown Juneau

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sunset looking toward the valley. We watched four bald eagles fishing in the harbor while also watching the sun set around 10pm | the boy mowed the lawn (we’re doing a lot of house chores to earn our keep)

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Mendenhall Glacier | Mendenhall lake and icebergs

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the boy on the sandbar

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rainforest | Devil’s club forest

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Lupine in the meadow on the Boy Scout Camp hike

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Friends walked out to the sandbar as the tide was going out | the boy carved an otter

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From the plane flying into Anchorage … Chugak mountains, I think? On the way to Northern Exposure!

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Welcome to Northern Exposure! | ha ha | Cleis Press’s contribution to the Northern Exposure vendor room

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Epic brunch at Gwennie’s | the Northern Exposure afterparty! We all piled into cars after brunch and took a drive down one of the “most beautiful drives in the US”, Turnagain Arm. This is Beluga point

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Beluga Point

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Beluga point

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the Big Game Wildlife Refuge at the end of the Turnagain Arm drive
Baby musk ox | brown bears

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the Big Game Wildlife Refuge musk ox

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Northern Exposure Kink Conference in Anchorage, AK! And: Judging the International Ms. Leather Contest

NE2013I’m catching a plane tomorrow for Anchorage, where the third annual Northern Exposure kink conference will be taking place.

NE is run by Sarha, who was just sashed International Ms. Leather 2013 at the IMsL weekend and contest in April in San Francisco. I was on the judging panel for this year’s IMsL contest, and while I promise I didn’t play favorites (Alaska rules!), I’m thrilled that my home state is representing the leather community this year, and I’m really excited to participate in the conference she produces.

The lineup looks pretty incredible. Though NE is remote, Sarha has attracted an incredible group of presenters who are teaching on a wide array of advanced topics. I’m particularly interested in the many M/s workshops that are offered, and I suspect I’ll be sitting in on as many of those as I can, taking copious notes. That’s a recent study subject of mine that I am really enjoying delving deeper into. I’m also really excited that Midori is presenting! I have been in classes of hers before, but it’s been many years, and I’m looking forward to learning from her. Lee Harrington is also going to be teaching!

Northern Exposure happens to coincide with Pride fest, so Sarha hooked me up with the folks over there, and I’m going to be teaching Writing Dirty, my skills for writing about sex class, on Thursday night (tomorrow!). I’m up against Drag Queen Bingo, so I suspect it might be a small class, but I hope we’ll have some good discussions and write some interesting sentences. I LOVE teaching writing classes, and often the ideal class number is something like 7-12, so I will be very happy with a small class.

The boy is coming with me. We’ve met at leather conferences before, but aside from IMsL in April, we haven’t actually come and gone from one together. And at IMsL, we didn’t get to play much (you know, just once or twice a day for short scenes, no big epic gang bang like at Winter Fire, no long, elaborate scene like at last year’s IMsL. I’m glad he’ll be there with me. I’m only teaching one class, Cock Confidence, aside from the writing class for Alaska Pride, so I should have some really nice time to play.

(Hopefully I’ll come back with some good stories to tell y’all.)

And, speaking of IMsL.

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International Ms. Leather 2013 Sarha and International Ms. Bootblack 2013 bella join the IMsL and IMsBB alumni on stage at this year’s contest and leather weekend

I’d never judged a leather contest before. I attended IMsL the year before, but I’m not particularly familiar with leather contests. I’ve been more and more involved with the leather scene in the past few years, attending more leather conferences, events, and happy hours, and participating in more conversations online about leather and reading up on leather history and culture, but I’ve only recently really come to understand the difference between BDSM, kink, and leather, which, though related, are slightly different.

I’ve been kinky since as long as I can remember, adding sensation play and power dynamics to my friendships, playtimes, and interactions since my first adolescent sexual experimentations, and probably even a bit before that. I’ve considered myself part of the BDSM communities since … well, at least formally since about 1999 when I got my official membership to the SPCC, the Sex Positive Community Center (now the Center for Sex Positive Culture) in Seattle. But I’d only ever really gone to classes or events to gain a particular skill to take back to my bedroom—I never really stuck around in the leather community.

Until recently. Really it was Dark Odyssey that started me on that path in a significant way. I thought I was familiar with leather culture and the kink/BDSM worlds, but when I started teaching more at leather events, I experienced how different it really was, and realized how I’d longed for leather community even without knowing it. I was on the board of the Lesbian Sex Mafia in New York City around that time, too—clearly seeking some more kinky community, not just to support my own kinky efforts but also to immerse myself in and learn new, different things.

I found a lot of what I was seeking at Dark Odyssey, and I found a lot of people who really felt like my people in a new way. (I’m kind of sad to be missing Fusion, which is next week! But it was either Fusion or Northern Exposure, and I’m so glad to be in Alaska right now. I don’t know if I’ll make it to Summer Camp in Maryland in September, but I would really like to. I’ve been two years in a row and I’ll miss it if I’m not there.)

So when I ran into Glenda Ryder, who runs IMsL, at Summer Camp last summer, I was thrilled to consider the possibility of being a judge for IMsL 2013. I knew very little about the history of leather contests, what it pertains, what a judge would do (aside from the obvious, duh), but I’d attended once (and watched almost exactly 20 minutes of the contest) and was interested in being more involved with leather culture, so I said yes.

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The judges judging | The judges brief moment in the spotlight, onstage, when they introduced us

I spent more time with the judges panel than anyone else that weekend, and they were lovely people I’m thrilled to know. (One of my favorite activities was passing dirty fairy tale stories back and forth with Tillie during the contest.) It was great to spend some time with KD Diamond, and Sarah Vibes, both of whom I know from New York, and to meet Woody, the current International Mr. Leather, and hear more about the traditions of leather, fundraising, queerness, and history.

#fullofwomen
#fullofwomen
I spent so much time at the contest part of the conference itself that weekend in April that I barely had time to do much else—I didn’t attend any of the workshops, though I wish I had. I did send my boy to attend a power exchange relationships class called “Exploring and Deepening M/s, D/s and PowerExchange Relationships” taught by Liza and Jody, which was excellent, from what he relayed, and he took many interesting notes and gathered some concepts we still discuss. I also participated in a author’s meet and greet with Mollena, Laura Antoniou, and Tillie King (one of my fellow judges), hosted by Mr. and Ms. SF Leather, where we read some snippets of our work (and got to see many of the literarily-inclined folks at the conference congregate in one place, which totally got me hard).

Oh! And, here’s a quick sidenote: Laura Antoniou read from her most recent book, The Killer Wore Leather, which is a murder mystery set at a leather contest conference weekend. I picked up the audiobook on Audible.com for the long 5-day drive through Canada to Alaska, and Rife and I have been listening to it and really enjoying it. The reader is excellent, and the story is really fun. It’s kind of amazing to see our community through an outsider’s lens, and it’s also a very tight insider’s satire. If you want to know more about leather community, this book is definitely a fun place to start. Full review to come when we finally finish the book.

three judges [me, Tillie, Sarah Lashes] and Glenda
three judges [me, Tillie, Sarah Lashes] and Glenda with our serious judge faces on
I also taught a Flirting & Foreplay class, for which Rife designed a little IMsL flirting bingo card, which was a fantastic hit. I want to do that again, and I think all leather conferences should have a flirting bingo card in their conference bags.

I don’t have tons to say about the actual contest itself, aside from that it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed being behind the scenes but still in an important role as a judge, as someone described it to me that weekend. I don’t always want to have attention on me, but I do like to be important, somehow, so that felt good. I thought the contestants were incredibly well spoken, all had very impressive resumes (and formal leather), and had both new young spunkiness and wise experience from many years of serving and guiding and participating in these communities. I learned a lot.

I’d prefer to go to more classes, and I’m looking forward to being more of a participant at Northern Exposure this coming weekend than I will be working. I hope to have some fun, learn some things, and have lots of conversations about what it’s like to be kinky in Alaska.

I’ve got lots more things to say about Sarha and how she won (she won!) on an excellent platform about outreach to leather in little towns and not just big cities, how she excited (and kinda scared) everyone with her black bear fur lined chaps (where do you think leather comes from, folks?) and how it felt to have my Alaskan identity coming together with my queer and kink identities, too. I could talk about the MC and how unimpressed I was with her racist jokes (just because you “make fun of everybody” does not exclude you from racism). I could talk about the beautiful redhead who had a pet girl on a leash with her all weekend, and a new friendship and relationship that has bloomed from a distance. But this post is already 1600 words long, and it’s time to go to bed, even though it’s 10:44pm and the sky is still light.

It’s going to be even lighter in Anchorage. I’m really looking forward to soaking up all the midnight sun I possibly can.

(Official conference photos by Rich Trove, thanks Rich!, except for the instagram ones taken by me.)

After three states, a pause in Seattle. Now, on to the great Alaska highway (aka this week in pictures)

Well, hi. I’m in Seattle tonight, but it’s the last night here before rife and I and his puppy begin the five-day drive to my hometown in southeast Alaska.

It’s been an incredible journey so far. Though the drive from San Francisco to Seattle could be feasibly done in a (long) day, I took my time and leisurely drove through Oregon, watching the ground change from brown & tan grass and green trees to green grass and evergreen trees. Forest green, I think they call that color.

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pit stop in southern Oregon

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Southern Oregon

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faery sanctuary at Wolf Creek, Oregon

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Black Butte, next to Mt Shasta, Oregon

I had this illusion like I would still be able to write stories and follow up on things while I was on the road. Um, so that has not really happened yet. Which means I haven’t sent a) the dirty story that I promised when you donated some $$, or b) the information about the internship position for Sugarbutch for the summer. Sorry about that. I promise they are coming, and will magically appear in your inbox at just precisely the right moment (for those of you who asked about those things). Sometimes reality checks are fantastic, and I’m observing my behavior and the reality of the situation a lot, trying to take it in and realize what I am actually capable of. I’ll be honest, I miss spending a significant chunk of time each day at my desk, at a computer, but I’m also very glad to be outside, exploring, interacting, adventuring.

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Portland tour! Stumptown & Voodoo Donuts (Joe had to get the pink donut)

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Mt Rainier national park

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Seattle. (Exhale. Nowhere else feels quite like home the way Seattle does.)

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Greenlake, one of my favorite Seattle parks | Polaris Leather Family crest, who so graciously put us up this entire week | sunset from the Edmonds-Kingston ferry when we made a quick jaunt over to the Olympic penninsula

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Seattle forest view from a dog park

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Shilshole Marina | boy on the friend’s boat | the Chittenden locks, where the man-made ship canal connects the lakes to the sound

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At the poetry benefit show for Tara Hardy, which blew me away. She has been one of my great life mentors, and she’s recently developed a pretty severe auto-immune disorder (among, it seems, some other things). The community rally to support her has been huge, and I just happened to be in town when a community fundraising show was going on.

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Fremont (Center of the Universe) | University of Washington! the dog in the quad & the broken obelisk

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Coyote Grace at the Triple Door in Seattle. If you aren’t listening to their music (and you’re a fan of smart queer poetic folk-country), you are missing out.

Rife and I mapped out the drive between here and southeast Alaska this morning, and I think it’s going to take about five days, but we’ll be stopping at some beautiful places, including Takhini Hot Springs near Whitehorse, YT, which used to be a family vacation for me as a kid and which I haven’t visited for probably twenty years. It’s such a beautiful drive and I’m really looking forward to seeing the Rockies and the continental divide and the mountains and forests of my childhood.

I ran into a friend tonight (I run into a lot of people here) who asked what I was up to, and I said I was on my way home, mentioned that my dad died last year and that my mom was about to retire and his estate still needs a lot of work to settle, and that in addition to the help I can offer, I’m going through a big transition (breakup, move across the country) and sorting through “stuff” and making order out of chaos sounds so healing right now. I still seek and need integration time. That’s the purpose of this.

And while I still feel like that is just out of reach, it’s been incredible to spend a week in Seattle, to visit my godson and my favorite people and old and new friends, to go around to many of my old haunts, to introduce my boy to my people and my many Seattle reference points, and to just feel the earth here for a while. My parents both went to my alma matter, too, and spent many years here … I’m just so comfortable here. Which, to be honest, is part of why I left—I liked it so much, but it was the first place I really landed after leaving home, isn’t there some better place out there for me? Turns out, after criss-cross traveling this country for the last four years, there’s not really. Sure, many other cities are wonderful, but this one still calls me.

I have SO many more thoughts and things to write about, I have been scribbling like crazy in my notebook about posts and outlines and theories to flesh out. Still working on the follow through, the preparation it takes to hit that “publish” button.

But for now, tonight, it’s time to call it a day and get some rest before putting the car in drive and aiming north.

For more shots not published here, check out mrsexsmith on Instagram & follow along in my adventures.

Transformational experiences and why I’m not in New York this weekend

So, I put this big call for support out there, and you responded—you responded! Thank you! My paypal account is still pinging me occasionally! I am working on a dirty dirty story to send some of you as additional thanks—and then I have barely written this week. That’s because I’ve been eyeball deep in another job of mine, which is coordinating workshops for the Body Electric School.

I’ve been working hard to get the Celebrating the Body Erotic for women workshop in New York City off the ground. It starts tonight and runs through the weekend. The coordinator of these workshops, in addition to being the contact point and the marketer and the one who does all the recruiting to get the workshop to fill up, is also the person who makes sure the space is all set up with the right supplies and objects for the staff and the facilitator to come in and do their jobs of holding the circle strong and bringing the participants through the healing journey.

I’ve done a lot of these workshops by now. I can recite the order of events and what supplies are needed for each ritual off the top of my head, can give alternatives if things are missing, I know the storage locker combination by heart. Also, I like this job. It doesn’t pay much—it barely covers expenses, really. But a big part of the “payment” of this job is attending the workshop as a staff person, being one of the people who holds the container for participants to come into and have a transformational experience.

I love guiding people through transformational experiences. This is probably one of the biggest reasons I’m a top, and feels like a deep calling in me. To encourage releasing trauma, releasing pain, healing wounds, letting things go, and moving forward with more clarity is perhaps what I am most interested in, for myself and for others.

So I won’t be at the CBE this coming weekend. I’m really torn and sad about that. It was my choice to hightail it out to the west coast in April, and I am so glad that I did; I couldn’t stay just to make sure to be there for this workshop, I needed to leave. But I feel guilty that I didn’t finish my commitment, that I am relying on other people to do the work I was supposed to do. My job with Body Electric is changing, in part because I left New York, and in part because I’m getting burnt out. Coordinating is a somewhat endless job done out of love of the work, not out of motivation for compensation. If it was my only volunteer job, that’d be one thing, but my other two main jobs (Sugarbutch and BUTCH Voices) are mostly volunteer as well. I’m trying to figure out how to do these jobs that I love, this work that I love and that I think is so valuable to contribute to this world, and still be able to afford to live.

In some ways, though, I’m relieved to not be visiting New York. From my own personal emotional standpoint, I don’t know if I’m ready to go back there. There are some friends I miss and adore and want very much to catch up with, but for now I’m going to have to do that via Skype and phone calls. It’s hard not to see that city as just full of heartbreak right now, as accosting me at every corner with memories of happier times and being with someone I still love deeply and have so much pain around.

And I’m glad to be focusing on the future, focusing on the west coast, focusing on making friends here, focusing on how to get my work fluid and, well, working.

But I’m still sad to miss the transformational experience that is CBE. It’s such a beautiful process, and I coordinate because I love to be inside of that process, not because I actually get paid. And I coordinate because I get to have those blissful minutes at the center of an energetic vortex, where I can really relax into it and ask the universe or the earth or god or whatever it is to take away a chunk of the pain that I’m still holding on to in my body, to dislodge it and carry it away, back out to sea or out to the stars or out to wherever it goes. I have pursued healing in a lot of different ways, but still, there’s nothing else like this experience.

So I’ll be breathing deep for the circle and the CBE all weekend.

To go back to the thank you at the beginning for a moment, I want to tell you that from the donations that you’ve given, I have:

  • Paid my hosting bill for the next two years
  • Paid an editor to look over an ebook compilation of 16 short smut stories that I’m working on getting together
  • Paid one of the staff folks to take over for the Body Electric workshop this weekend
  • Bought an e-course package I’ve had my eye on about utilizing your online business (except way more fun than that sounds) and taking your work to the next level

Thank you for making that possible. I’m really excited to keep writing for you, to keep elevating the work I’m doing. Donations = more smut for you to read, I promise. Thank you.

Shadow Comforts

“Put nothing between yourself and your grief.” —Tara Hardy

So I get raw. Strip away that which makes me numb. I try to substitute something else, unconsciously, until I realize and strip that away too. Showering feels good, turning up the water just a little too hot. That wakes me. Movement feels good, but I am so sluggish I can rarely remember to do it. Like my brain tricks me to stay still and not feel. Close and collapse and tighten, it silently urges.

But I don’t want to.

It’s so much easier to push it down, push it away. Easier to numb out the heart. Easier to harden. In some ways, I wish I was that kind of person. I miss the ability to turn things on and off. Or—can you miss something you’ve never had? I am envious of it. Want more of it in my own life. Want a little light switch on the back of my neck. That’d make for an interesting tattoo. I have enough marks but sometimes I seek more needles, more things staring at me, yelling, you survived. Marking time passing. Marking a different state, so I can remember that things always, inevitably, change.

I have thrown myself into shadow comforts. Films, tv shows, food, alcohol, sex, power. I even started smoking again. Quit now, once I left New York there wasn’t quite the need to regulate my anxiety so daily. I caught a cough the week I came here and didn’t shake it for long enough to stop wanting them every couple hours. I wonder if the same will happen for a drink. Still, in the evening, when I’m done working, when the boy comes home from work, I crave a little something in my glass. Something liquid and smoky to sip on. Ice cubes clinking.

I lied. I do want to.

But I’m trying not to. I’m trying to be aware. My brain that is seeking aliveness, awakeness is sometimes at odds with the part of me that screams, I can’t feel anymore of that stop just make it stop I don’t care what I have to do just stop. Take a deep breath. Feel down into my feet. It will pass. It’s probably temporary. Just wait, and feel it, and be still.

Those are the easy shadow comforts. There’s also Facebook, reading things online but not really reading them, being way too busy, sleeping until noon. I am on entirely too good of terms with all of those habits these days. I am not good at being still, but I’m not good at moving either. I’m not sure where my aim is, so I’m not sure how to move. The apartment where I’m staying has an arrow on the wall above the bed and I stare at it when I can’t sleep. How do I become an arrow? How do I find a target at which to aim? How can I make myself sharp enough and strong enough and capable of riding the wind enough to find something close to center? I filled out a form today for a coaching session with a I’ll-make-your-business-better coach and it asked, Where are you now? Where do you want to be? … That’s kind of what I need to figure out. Sometimes I think, I could do anything, if I only knew what it was.

But grief is a fog, something that envelops, “its tropical heat / thickening the air.” Something I am choking on, sometimes without warning. I’m all fine, thin sunny air with lemons and lemonade and ocean breezes through the leaves making the most pleasant sound, then I get a flash and I’m on the floor, searching for that one foot of air that isn’t already black. Floundering. Grief. I don’t know what happened. It feels like a before and after, the landscape devastated, muddy brown everywhere. The rage bubbles up like the electric tea kettle water which is probably done in the kitchen and now back to cold. Push the little button down again and make the blue light appear. Does twice-boiled water have any benefit? I’m floundering now. It doesn’t matter. Either way, I will make some tea and get another sweater because I haven’t been able to warm up at all today.

I’m trying to listen. What does my body need, what do I need, what do I want, what would feel good. Maybe not even good—nice. What would feel not like a football thrown by a pro straight to my chest. Anything but this. Anything but this. “Shadow comforts say, ‘Come home to your life.'” wroteJen Louden. I’m trying to come home. I know there’s a boy and some fresh vegetables, even a bit of chocolate, my most important things. Funny how little I have discovered that I really need. Thirty boxes in storage waiting for an address, four suitcases from sublet to sublet. I don’t need much. I’ve been looking at photos of myself all afternoon and now I feel the ghost of me behind each of these lines. My own image is starting to come into focus. I already know the answer to all of those questions. I don’t know what that means, but I know it’s true. It’s not time to sit still. It’s time to move. I have already purged. I have already fed myself full, gorged on honeysuckle and lavender ice cream, water with meyer lemon that puckers just right, all of my favorite things I am letting myself indulge in. I don’t know what else is going to happen, but I know I’m heading toward home. The compass of my body is telling me it’s time.

Let’s have some shots of joy, shall we?

DSC_1825I’m getting some new headshots done today by the talented Meg Allen, with the aim of reflecting me as a little bit more west coast and a little more joyous.

All the recent headshots of me, while technically beautiful, like this one by Kristy Boyce, which is one of the most gorgeous shots of me I’ve seen, have me looking so … miserable. The agony just seeps through and it’s depressing. I can’t use it for much. “I don’t mind earnest, or stern, or serious—I play all of those things a lot, and it kind of goes along with the bad-ass-top thing I am portraying,” I wrote to Meg this morning. “But these just look … sad.”

I keep thinking about this head shot of Sherman Alexie’s from a few (10?) years back—he’s open mouth laughing and it’s gorgeous. I remember being captivated by it when it was on the back of his book Ten Little Indians, and thinking how it was so unconventional, and also had so much deep joy.

alexieI don’t know if I can occupy some joy like that, but I’d love to try for some levity and some (deep dark, mischievous, shadowy, BDSM-style) playfulness, at least.

So that’s what’s on the agenda for today.

Seven years ago, I started this project named Sugarbutch

the very first Sugarbutch avatar
the very first Sugarbutch avatar
Once upon a time, I was struggling to become a butch. My first girlfriend called me “Sugarbutch” and it stuck. Though my college girlfriend and I talked the talk of gender and sexuality, we were stuck in lesbian bed death—not that lesbians own bed death, exactly, any couple of any gender or sexuality can go through spells or years of time where they aren’t having sex, but lesbians have a particular corner on that market. (I have some theories about that, for another time.)

We were together four years, and had sex six times in the last two years. Six times! I counted! I was going crazy, tearing my hair out with desire and want, getting off in secret and feeling guilty, feeling depressed and anxious and unmotivated. I wasn’t writing. I couldn’t write anything without writing I want out of this relationship but I wasn’t ready to face that. I couldn’t get sex off my mind. So I decided that anytime I wanted to have sex, I would either go to the gym, or I would write erotica.

… So of course I wrote a lot of erotica (and didn’t really go to the gym). At first, the writings were all what I wished we’d done, what I was daydreaming about.

avatarYou did this little twist with your hips this morning that made me want to press you to the wall, hard, and take you right then.” … “Mouth open eyes closed, fingers pinching your nipples, working every lingering inch of me inside you. It didn’t really happen this way but it could have.” … “I can’t even hold a conversation with you anymore because every word in my mouth is clouded with why are we not kissing right now?

I started writing things, sentences, syntax that I actually kind of liked. And as I started breaking through, I started discovering what was inside the block: a deep unknowing—on both of our parts.

I was struggling to become butch, but I was also struggling to become myself.

So I did what I knew to do with writing I kind of liked and was afraid to own: I put it online. I wanted to study myself, more than anything else: to study sexualities, genders, and relationships. To make a graduate study of these things, to read all the books and read all the blogs and listen to all the podcasts and ask all the facilitators I could find what their best philosophies are for these tricky topics. It became a sanctuary, a writing prompt every day, a practice, a deepening of what I knew about myself and how to be me in the world.

It has been a personal study. This place has been the place where I’ve become me.

with Rachel Kramer Bussel during the Sex Bloggers Calendar photo shoot, 2008. first time I showed my face online
with Rachel Kramer Bussel during the Sex Bloggers Calendar photo shoot, 2008. first time I showed my face online
Of course, my college girlfriend (here known as “The Ex”) and I broke up. When I started writing and telling the truth to myself again, I couldn’t stay. It was a mess. I didn’t know how to leave. I didn’t know that not having good sex in a monogamous relationship was enough of a reason to leave, but I now do believe it is. I fell in love, hard, and got burned. I started healing, and grieving. I dated and explored and studied, I wrote and wrote, I started teaching. I fell in love again. There’s a lot more to all of those stories, but you can mostly read those for yourselves in the archives.

Somewhere along there, I started asking myself: “Now that I got everyone’s attention, what do I have to say?

I’ve been puzzling through that, trying desperately to make a living to enable me to keep doing my work these past few years, which is part of why you haven’t heard as much from me. I’ve been trying to come into integrity, into integration, bringing who I am offline together with the vision of myself I came to know through words. I’ve been struggling to create myself a life I can settle into, one that is sustainable, that can last, that can feed me and carry me into the work that I know I have to do in the world.

I haven’t figured that out entirely, yet, but I am getting closer. My life has been radically restructured in the past year, and I need some retreat and some quiet and some inner work so I can feel into what the new mission of my work is here beyond my own personal liberation. Telling my own story has been and will continue to be an important part of it, but there is more to it than that. I seek structure and vision in a bigger way, and I don’t quite know what that means yet, but I can feel that I’ve been moving steadily toward it.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for all of your comments and support. Thank you for your emails (even when I don’t have time to write back as thoroughly as I’d like). Thank you for coming to my workshops and buying my books. Thank you.

I love my job.

7thbirthdaySome of the other anniversary posts:

(The anniversary of Sugarbutch starting was Monday, April 29th, but that was my first day after a long 6-day training and the day before I left for a two-day trip to Madison, Wisconsin, so it took me a few days to get to it. Now I’m hitting “publish” from an airplane 30,000 feet up, zooming back to the Bay Area. We live in the future.)

Trans Women Belong at Smith, BUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls, and Lots of Other Things To Tell You About

I have so much to tell you about. My arrival in California, sunshine, really good kale and well all of the vegetables here really, my feelings and grief, surviving heartbreak, what it’s like to have skipped the very end of winter and the very beginning of spring and moved on to full-on blooming, how the fog rolls down the San Francisco hills, that I’m staying at a place without indoor plumbing and electricity and cell service and wifi, how I really like staying at a place that relies on candles and one small solar outlet to charge my cell phone, how I am grateful to be staying at a place with chickens and mud and daffodils and raccoons that stole my cereal last night but how much I marvel and am grateful for the two warm showers I’ve taken this week, how forget-me-not flowers grow everywhere here, how easy it is to keep falling in love, how I’ve been getting re-focused on work, how I recorded the first audio file that may become a podcast that might be called Butt Buddies with my good friend Amy yesterday, how many events I have coming up in the near future including University of Tennessee Sex Week (can’t believe I haven’t written a press release about that yet) and UW Madison and judging at IMsL and another tantra training and a Lambda Literary Award reading of Cheryl’s book since it’s a finalist and the IMsL Bawdy Storytelling and maybe that’s about it.

But I don’t have time to write a big feelings post about everything, so meanwhile I have a few small things to share.

I was at Smith College in Northampton recently and they—students, faculty, alumni, and community supporters—are fighting for trans inclusion. The group Queers & Allies (Q&A) has started a petition, and I encourage you to read about what’s going on and sign it.

Also, if you are in or near Vancouver, BC, there is an amazing exhibit coming up. SD Holman has been collecting a series of butch portraits—she took my photo at the BUTCH Voices Portland regional conference in 2010—and now, her photos are displayed on Vancouver bus stops everywhere with the caption, BUTCH: Not like the other girls. She’s also got an exhibit of these portraits April 9 to 25. Here’s an article and more information about that.

Wish I could be there, but April is pretty damn busy in my world. I’ll be all over the country and working a lot. I’m really excited to keep refocusing on work and writing, and I have so many ideas and things in store for Sugarbutch.

Carrie’s Story, Slow Surrender, and Other Things I’ve Been Devouring To Distract Myself

So. Yeah.

slowsurrender carriesstory

I’m reading a lot. Light things, but well-written things, because I need something to completely occupy my mind that I don’t have to really think about. I’m journaling most days, but not writing anything worth reading, just a lot of purging. Emotional vomit. Navel-gazing, which I used to sometimes think was a good thing, self-insight, self-reflection, but now seems trite and self-indulgent. I’m waking up and most of the time going to sleep. I’m staying up late and then not being able to wake early. I’m waking early and not being able to get back to sleep. I’m reading reading reading on the subway at the cafe on my breaks when I can’t sleep anytime I need to try to stop thinking all the thoughts that are circling circling circling like predators. Like hawks. Like something big and heavy that you see from far away and it doesn’t look that bad but when they get close your pores start to shake. You start sweating and your pupils dilate. Those kinds of thoughts are still stalking me. All the things I did wrong. All the ways I have doomed myself. All the things that I could’ve changed didn’t change am never going to be able to change. Reminding myself that I am not doomed. Telling myself over and over again that I did the best I could we did the best we could no one is at fault no one is at fault. Sometimes I even believe that. Loss happens. Errors of judgment happen. Perfect storms of chaos happen, all the best movies know how if any one factor in the plot would have slipped out of place, it wouldn’t have happened that way, but that the universe conspired somehow to shatter that rain of misunderstandings and missed connections and opportunities down upon our heads. But I try to remember that sometimes all of creation is conspiring to shower us with blessings too. Could that be true? Could I really believe that people are fundamentally good, at the core? It’s what I say I believe, and most of the time that belief is not tested. This is when I need faith. Hope.

Hope is when you look out the window and you go, ‘It doesn’t look good at all, but I’m going to go beyond what I see to give people visions of what could be.’ —Anna Deavere Smith

I don’t think I can tell the truth yet, because I don’t yet think I know what the truth is. There’s not just one capital-T Truth anyway. There are many truths. My truths and your truths and our truths are perhaps three different truths. I think I’m done believing in objectivity. I don’t think it’s possible. I distrust people who start sentences with, “Objectively speaking …” How can anyone see objectively? Sometimes I can squint and look at things sideways and sometimes, just sometimes, I can take myself out of the way of the experience for a glance, a frame, a whisper of smoke. But usually only long enough to get one thought, one perspective, not long enough to really grasp the three-sixy view.

I don’t know what happens next. I know I keep trying. I know I keep writing and striving and crying on my sister’s couch in the mornings. I know I stare at the tree’s brittle branches scraping against this window in the wind and wondering which will break off and which will make it to bud and which buds will pop open to that baby green spring. Oh right, it’s springtime now, isn’t it. When things long dormant start to wake. When things waiting waiting for this freeze to thaw start to tentatively uncurl and test the air.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. —Anais Nin

It’s such a risk. Everything is, from this cup of coffee to that service I just cancelled to the appointment I made for next week. No one really knows if next week will exist, but now that this week is here, we proved last week that next week existed, and I am trusting that’ll keep happening, until it doesn’t. That’s all I can do, anyway. I think I have some more trust in me, though it’s thin. I’ve been paving the roof of my mouth with it for months. It leaves a coat all sticky like too too sweet honey. Makes me crave mouthwash, some salt water gargle to cut the aversion of the over-sweet. Some crumbs of sourdough bread. Good thing I’m heading west, back to the salt water where the sun sets over the ocean instead of over the land. Somehow, it has always seemed more correct. And in the absence of light, I’ll look east.

Power in the silence. Power in the sound of a lover’s name.

*

Book notes: Excerpt from Carrie’s Story, when her dominant says he’s going to sell her at a slave auction. Cleis calls Carrie the “thinking readers’ submissive.” Cecilia Tan about the Slow Surrender series: “I would call it the “BDSM billionaire” genre, also known as BDSM romance, also known as “If you liked 50 Shades of Grey, you might like this book.” Buy them through my Amazon store and you’ll toss some pennies my way—see the store for more of my erotica recommendations, too.

What Dyke Looks Like: Photographer Kristy Boyce is Visiting NYC

When Kristen & I were in Toronto for the Unholy Harvest kink conference in October, we had a photo shoot with Kristy Boyce who is doing a project called What Dyke Looks Like. She’s a professional who had a vision, and Kristen and I were at her apartment and out in an alley in many different settings in front of many different backdrops with all kinds of light and flashes and fancy things to help her complete her vision. We had a blast.

 

 

These are just a few of the shots—there are many, many more and I’m excited to show you even more. Kristen looked so hot and there are so many of her in lingerie and a bomber jacket and looking badass and epic.

All this is to say, Kristy is coming to New York City! She’s shooting folks here this week, 8-15 January, and is specifically in need of subjects who are dyke-identified. If you might want to have your photo taken, contact her directly to make an appointment: [email protected].

Inner Emotional Landscapes and the Sublimity of the West

“Emotional landscapes / They puzzle me / Confuse …” Bjork sings in “Joga.” This has long been one of my favorite songs.

I am in love with the western United States, the pacific northwest in particular. If you followed my column on Eden Fantasys about my love affair with New York City, Mr. Sexsmith’s Other Girlfriend, you may remember that I also wrote often about visiting Seattle or San Francisco or other cities and my ongoing draw to being out west.

There are amazing things about living in New York City, like the Public Square and the community and the lack of bullshit and the lack of people offering you sliding scale energy work when you’re crying on the subway, and in a hundred ways, New York has been the diamond I’ve cut and formed my adult self against. Not a lot of things have been hard enough for me to form against—Seattle certainly wasn’t. I wanted something more.

But the actual geographic land over here … has never quite been enough for me. I drive outside of New York City and into the Adirondacks or the Catskills—places people call mountains over here but that I tend to call “mountains” or, more accurately, hills—and into the rolling baby green hills of pastoral New England, and I can’t really separate the cliche picket fences and porches and quaint mailboxes with this puritanical moral ideal of the nuclear family, sexual shame, and policed gender roles.

The west, though … the Rockies … I have such a different relationship with the earth when I’m over there, when I’m looking at towering peaks on my morning commute, when I see the canyons and the deep green forests, the earth cut by water and carved out by glaciers. I feel so much more at home, so much more connected.

It’s in part because that is closer to my landscape of origin, that is closer to the drama of Southeast Alaska where I was literally created, birthed, and grew up.

But it’s partly something else, too. I think it’s partly because the grandeur, the sublimity of the west looks a lot more like my inner emotional landscape than the pastoral, serene east.

I talk about my “inner emotional world” or “emotional landscape” frequently. Lately, I’ve been talking about how many earthquakes it has endured, how much instability is in there now. Sometimes it helps to visualize the earth cracking apart, splitting, the magma of the earth spewing forth to destroy whatever structures I’ve put into place, like in that Joga video.

I like to talk about my emotional world in geographic metaphors. I’ve been deeply shaken this year. I’m still trying to clear the rubble and rebuild. A friend of mine recently said that she thinks the apocalypse—the impending end of the Mayan calendar, uh, tomorrow—actually is “all the hard stuff all at once” for everybody. It’s certainly true for me: the power dynamics in my life have dramatically shifted, my relationships have shifted, I woke up after a couple of months of being unconscious to find myself buried under a mountain of shit out of which I’m still trying to dig myself.

The sublime nature of the western United States matches my inner emotional landscape so much more than the east.

And if you’ll forgive the comparison, being out in the east feels incongruous almost in a transgender type of way—that my inner self does not match the outer surroundings, and I feel a serious disconnect. When the outer landscape matches my inner landscape, I feel integrated and whole in a much more comforting way.

Perhaps I should be aiming for more inner peace, inner calmness, such that the pastoral landscape surrounding me could be a goal, rather than a reflection. I don’t know about that. I’m a student of buddhism and tantra, and those lineages say that it’s not so much that I think our inner selves are peaceful, but that we separate our divine nature Self from the monkey mind self that is often chatter chatter chattering.

I don’t think a dramatic, sublime inner emotional landscape is bad. I think it’s real. I love being deeply in touch with emotions, experiences, divinity, the universe, energy, god, myself—whatever you want to label that. Lately, I have been incredibly reactive, moreso than I usually am, since my inner world has been such a disaster, but I usually have much more space between my reaction and my response, I usually have more control over my ability to respond, my response-aiblity if you will, and I am using all of my tools to lengthen the space between my reactions and my responses. (Meditation helps with that practice immensely.)

I’m getting better. Slowly waking up. Bringing myself back into alignment with these paths, my callings, my desires, following my goals, containing my time and energy and emotional landscapes. But I miss the west. I miss the mountains and valleys and deep lakes and rainforest. Sometimes I wish I was a better visual artist, that I could actually draw out an inner emotional landscape map, full of trails and paths and adventures, with maybe even a big X right over my heart to mark the treasure.

One Year with Rife

There have been so many things going on with Kristen for the last few months, and I’ve been doing so much traveling, that I haven’t quite had the time or focus to put this up, but I’ve meant to since September.

In September, Rife and I celebrated one year together.

  

 

Clockwise from top: Picking raspberries near Summer Camp in September; surviving the Fusion hurricane at Ramblewood in the barn; playing guitar in the hammock at Summer Camp; looking at jacaranda flowers in LA in May; one of the first shots he sent me in January of this year when I told him I took boxing lessons.

We now have a formal contract about our D/s and power dynamics, and I’ve been really enjoying how that has pushed me as a Dominant to keep exploring, to get in touch with what I want, what would feel good for me, what I may need at any given moment, which, as much as it may seem like being the top or dom or daddy forces me to be in touch with that, it’s really easy for me to get caught up in being more of a service top, doing things for the other person, doing things I know they like, focusing on them and their pleasure. Especially because I still identify pretty strongly as stone.

He and I have seen each other almost a dozen times in the last year—our visit for our anniversary at Summer Camp in September was #10, and this visit in Houston is #11. Things keep deepening in beautiful ways, and he and Kristen are friends and metamours, and I feel incredibly lucky and blessed. He’s added so much to my life and sense of self and my style of topping and dominanting, and he’s so much fun to play with, so easy to be around.

As much as it is incredibly difficult to be in an open relationship, I don’t know if I could close it again and be monogamous—at least, not at this point in my life—and I’m so grateful to be exploring with both Kristen and Rife. This summer and fall have been incredibly difficult for me emotionally, and they have both been so important as I’m trying to navigate these surges of emotions and difficult readjustments in my family of origin. I’m trying to keep bringing my love and compassion back to Kristen, too, as she keeps deepening and exploring with other people. I’m so grateful to have survived this past year, to have learned all that I’ve learned, to be moving through it deeper.

And I’m so grateful to have this sexy leatherboy submissive creature who does things like bend a coat hanger into a long U shape or strip the thorns off of a branch and then put them into my hands and say, “please.”

Happy anniversary, my sweet boy. I’m very excited to see what our second year will bring.

Thanksgiving in Texas

I’ve been in Dallas with Kristen’s family for the last few days for the Thanksgiving holiday. We did a Dirty Queer Sex Tour reading on Tuesday that Lillith Grey helped put together, which was fantastic—it is so fascinating to me how each of the Dirty Queer Sex Tour stops have been so different. I think (hope aim for) it reflects the local culture well, which is great, because as much as I’d love to introduce the Say Please book around to all the different folks who might be interested in it in all the different cities, the cultures of BDSM and queerness are actually slightly varied depending on where you are. Having interacted with those cultures primarily on the internet for the last oh, fifteen or eighteen years, I didn’t really know that until I started touring more. And when I go around and visit colleges in various different cities, I get a small taste of local culture, but usually it’s more like the local college culture, which isn’t quite the same.

I wish I could explain how each of the readings were different, but it’s hard to put my finger on it exactly. Sometimes it seems like one is more butch/femme, one is more genderqueer, one is younger, one is old school, one is more trans focused, one is darker in material and content, but I also don’t really want to generalize that specifically about identities, because I don’t really need to draw the conclusions that therefore the city that that reading was in is therefore more trans or genderqueer or butch/femme. But the differences have been big, and are really interesting.

This particular reading was at VerLes, and they have a really great selection of leather goods and whips and percussion toys that I kept fingering and coveting while I was there. We did a giveaway for a beautiful photograph from one of the readers, CR Kirven, and a dirty cross stitch that Lillith made, and a copy of the book, and a few other goodies, and it was a blast.

Thanks to photographer Amy Price for these beautiful photos from the Dallas Say Please reading! I don’t know if that Facebook link will work but I think it will—check it out. We had a beautiful sexy lineup and the store looks so pretty.

Lillith and her partner Synn (who is the 2012 International Ms Leather!) took us around to the Dallas Eagle and to the Round-Up, which was a gay boy bar (with very mixed company) that has two stepping and line dancing pretty much every night. Kristen and I don’t really know how to two step (though I did okay following while Synn led, and I led Kristen around the floor in a circle at least once), but we have taken some east coast swing and it was so incredibly fun. She and Lillith and some of their friends also had so much fun line dancing. I did a few songs—but when they get really complicated, it’s so hard to keep up. We vowed to go out to Big Apple Ranch more frequently.

Oh and speaking of IMsL—it’s official, and I can announce it now: I’m going to be a judge for the 2013 International Ms. Leather contest! So I’ll be in San Francisco in April 2013. 2012 was the first year I attended, and it was very memorable and fun, and I definitely felt like the folks there were my people. I’m really looking forward to meeting more of the folks who make the contest run and to seeing behind the scenes a little bit—always my favorite way to see an event.

Kristen and I did a lot of other things in Dallas, aside from hang out with her family and eat delicious food, like go around to Kristen’s old haunts, her favorite restaurants, her high school, her old house. It was great to see where she came from. I love having a sense of a city. We rented this little zippy car, some Volvo sports car that I didn’t even know existed, not that I’m really a car person, and it was so fun to drive. Driving around a city gives me a much better sense of it and I loved that I got to experience it.

I didn’t get any gigs in Dallas, aside from the Dirty Queer Sex reading, but maybe I will get some interest from some of the local colleges and come back another time.

Kristen and I are better. Things have improved since that big explosion and I think that couple’s therapist will be helpful. I’ve been containing my feelings much more, haven’t been lashing out, haven’t been quite so wildly all over the map with my feelings. Or rather, I have still been, but I haven’t been showing it as much. This is not quite the same as bottling them up—it’s more like, I know that bringing things up to Kristen doesn’t result in greater understandings right now. I’m making note of things that are difficult or upsetting, and trying to breathe through it and put it aside at the moment, and work through it later with the couple’s therapist or some other moderator because Kristen and I can’t seem to get out of our patterns well enough to actually discuss things to a healing conclusion lately. It’s not a long term solution, this lack of sharing, but it is a temporary solution, and the most important thing right now is to stop fighting. It does seem to help to just not share my feelings—and to not talk about the other people that she’s dating. There are still some issues here, things I don’t know how to resolve, but our couple’s therapist basically said that right now isn’t the time to resolve them, isn’t the time to go into the deep patterns and try to rewire them, because we’re both feeling so defensive and attacked, both feeling pretty wounded, so we need some time to just be with each other and be kind and take time to do things that feel good before we can get to a place where we have enough energy and patience and flexibility to do more excavating and fixing of the patterns and ruts that we’ve developed.

I still don’t know where that will bring us, ultimately. But I am trying to breathe and focus on the “healing power of pleasure,” which is one of the core Tantra principles. I keep asking myself, and Kristen, whenever we are stressed or overwhelmed with all these emotions: What would feel pleasurable for your body right now? I think that focus has been helping us relax and enjoy each other.

I’m in Houston now, and I’ll be visiting Rice University on Thursday, but aside from that I’m visiting with Rife. We’re outside of the city actually, on his family’s ranch, and at the moment, he and his dog are out doing something with the horses, a little practice training, it looks like. I’m sitting in the very pleasant breeze looking out onto a pasture with beautiful old trees and a wind chime nearby. I have a cup of coffee and my pen and notebook and my computer (and wifi!), and the only things on my agenda today are some hours of work, some reading, some walking around this beautiful land, some play with Rife, some good food, some stargazing later if it’s clear. The more time I spend away from cities, the less I seek to go back to a city. I love the grass under my bare feet, love the sounds of the wind in the trees and the birds and the chimes. I’m soaking up as much of it as I can.

Gaga Feminism Giveaway Winner

Thanks for all the great book recommendations and thoughts in the Gaga Feminism interview blog tour thread, folks.

Someone commented, “I’m just kind of surprised with all the thinking you do on gender studies and feminism you are uncritically endorsing gaga feminism.” I’m not sure I’d say I am “uncritically endorsing” gaga feminism—but I did like reading the book, I think there was a lot of interesting content, and a lot of things to think about and chew on. I’m not sure I agree with everything in the book—but hell, I don’t agree with everything I wrote on this website. I don’t think that I have to agree with everything. I still think it was worth reading and interesting, especially the parts about how gender studies and feminist thought are evolving to include a less binaristic view of gender, the indicators of that in popular culture, and how we as queers and genderqueers and other outlaws can continue to encourage that binaristic breakdown.

I’m not a theorist, so I’m not going to go through the whole book and write up the parts I think need broken down further or that I disagree with. It’s kind of an interesting intellectual exercise to do so, but frankly, I don’t have time. I’d rather be having kinky scenes that I can write about later, or writing love letters, or planning for my next classes.

So! Hey, there is a winner of the giveaway …

Congrats Emily! Thanks, Beacon Press, for providing the books.

The Femme Conference in Photos


Kristen’s Friday Femme Conference outfit


Jessica Halem hosts FemmeSpeak, the spoken word night


Fran Fucking Varian reads at FemmeSpeak


my outfit for Saturday


Kristen + Liz from Rhino Girl Media + B


Maggie (of the Femme Show) & Dora, both organizers with MadFemmePride in Boston


Shilo McCabe’s hanky flowers for flagging at the vendor room


flyers for Summer Camp at the femme conference play party, featuring artwork by rife


Bulldagger caucus, organized by Sasha T. Goldberg


butch butts after post-bulldagger meetup coffee


Kristen + Jessica Halem in lace at the FemmeWerq performance night


wait, how’d that photo get in here? our hotel bed was comfortable …

See You At the Femme Conference

So I got my hair cut at Tomcats, Kristen painted her nails with black-white-and-blue stripes and a red heart (wonder what that means?) on her fourth finger, the car is full of gas, I’ve perused the schedule, I’ve got a list of folks I want to make sure to connect with, the catsitter is booked—I think this might mean I’m ready for the Femme Conference tomorrow.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals in attending, or my purpose in going. I’m not presenting anything, not doing any official workshops or meetups or events near the conference. So aside from going with the intention of having fun (which I definitely am), and supporting my femme girlfriend by both showing up, participating, and learning things about identity (which I am eager to do), what do I want to get out of it?

I adore identity theory. I love the way we construct ourselves. I love these labels, despite the fact that labels seem oh-so-gauche right now. I love the history of butch and femme (and butch/femme) and I love how the queer communities are exploding gender in all 360* directions right now.

The first Femme Conference I went to in 2008 was themed “the architecture of identity” and I wrote up just about everything I learned about that when I got back. I am still so curious about what constructs femme identity. Earlier this year, in New York, as preparation for the Femme Conference, there was a femme event here called Beyond Visibility, and I am really curious about that, too—about what femme identity issues there are beyond the ever constant issue of being recognized and visually categorized as queer.

I’ve written On Femme Invisibility & Femme Invisibility & Beyond—I don’t want to give the impression I’m not sympathetic to that issue, I get that it is a huge hurdle. And I also know, from femmes in my own life who have been exploring femme identity for a while, that they get bored with that issue and want to move on.

So what are the other issues around femme identity? What is beyond visibility? What else gets discussed at a Femme Conference, anyway? I know plenty of that stuff isn’t exactly for me, as an ally and someone not femme identified, but as someone who loves the construction of identity and how these identities in particular work in this current culture in this current era, what else is going on?

I suspect the Mean Girls topic is a big one, considering some of the conversations I’ve had leading up to the conference. I know there are some topics like cultural and racial diversity, sex positivity, and parenting that have come up, but those seem fairly universal and not necessarily femme specific—then again, what is the take on those through a femme lens? I’m sure there will be many, many other interesting things. I have been kicking around a theory about the connection between masculine privilege and femme invisibility, maybe I can see if I can hash that out any further. Autostraddle has a great write up today called Beyond Lipstick that I want to read over again and think through. And I’m sure there will be dozens more things to ponder and chew on, once I get there.

My goal is to have fun, first and foremost. To support my girlfriend. To connect with the people that I know and adore and don’t get to see very often. To hopefully attend some good sessions and have some good conversations, to meet some new folks with interesting things to say. And to continue being curious about identity building theory in general, and about femme identity construction in particular; I’ll do my best to take copious notes and write up some thoughts about what happened and what I learned when I get back. (You can always follow my twitter feed @mrsexsmith to hear my immediate thoughts.)

And, oh yeah: to appreciate the brilliant firecracker amazingness that is femmes.

See you at the Femme Conference!

On Bruises and Lasting Marks, Guest Post by Kristen

Written by Kristen. Follow her on Twitter @kitchentop.

I love getting marked up. I love the little dark fingerprints that fade to yellow on my upper arms, the purple signs of a shoulder bite, the teeth marks on my inner thighs. I don’t crave pain the way some masochists do. I like rough sex and I like when Sinclair brings it all to me, when they hold down my chest with all their weight while their cock’s inside, when they pin my arm behind me without worrying about whether they’re yanking too hard. I like deep, hard punching, especially across my wings, my shoulder blades and upper back, and I like a spanking, and I like when the feeling of floating, when I know I can handle more.

But what I really like are the bruises, bigger and more colorful in the light of day. I like the memory of what we did last night blooming on my skin as I strip for the morning’s shower. I like a big bouquet of them, spread across my shoulders and neck and thighs, proof that someone wanted me so badly they had to grab and bite and sometimes break skin. I like to show them off; when we lived apart, I would text Sinclair pictures of my bruises and we’d both shiver a little at the memory, and sometimes they post them here for the rest of the world to see.

There’s a funny competitive thing among kinky people – “Look how badass I am! I can take more pain than you – just look at the bruises!” – that I sometimes fall prey to. But it does feel like a badge of honor, a symbol of how far I went, how difficult it can be to let your mind go so that pain and pleasure meld and you can’t tell the difference anymore.

And for me it’s something more: yes, I chose this. My feminist boyfriend gave me bruises because I explicitly consented to them, because they made us both feel good, and I am allowed to choose that if I want to. In fact, with informed, aware consent, I can choose whatever I want. It might not be something you would choose for yourself, but that’s real choice, isn’t it? If I can choose to satisfy my desires with freaky shit you’d never want to do, or get a full-sleeve tattoo or plugs in my earlobes, I’m actually thinking through what I want – and getting it – instead of going along with what the world says I should want.

Bruises take work, to give and get. That giant purple mass on my upper arm required consent, negotiation, and enough endorphins (probably generated by some orgasms) that my body was primed to receive pain, courage, and hard biting. That splay of dark angel wings on my back probably took an hour, strong arms, a carefully timed warmup, and significant exertion. They are not evidence of anger or victimhood; they are evidence of skill.

Happy 29th Birthday, Kristen

Kristen turned 29 years old yesterday.

We both attended a Body Electric workshop over the weekend—I’m completely wiped and Kristen is energized and tender, so we kept it pretty low-key. We had a very small gathering of a few folks over for cupcakes and champagne and fancy cheese, Kristen received a few sweet gifts, and generally enjoyed ourselves and each other’s company.

There’s a love letter coming, but meanwhile, I want to say happy birthday to my amazing girlfriend. I love that we get to explore and experiment together, and I feel so lucky to have found someone so willing to love well, work well, and grow well with me.

I love you Kristen, thank you for sharing these beautiful years of your life with me. I wish you big dreams and explosions and fireworks in your 30th year around the sun, and I’m so excited that I get to be there with you, here and beyond.

RodeoH Boxer Brief Harness Giveaway! Leave a Comment to Enter

It’s Sugarbutch’s 6th anniversary! So let’s have a giveaway.

The RodeoH brief harness has been hugely popular since it was released last year, and they’ve just released a grey boxer brief, too. They are comfortable, easy to pack with, machine washable, and pretty fucken adorable, so it’s no wonder that everybody loves them.

Want one of your very own? Leave a comment with one blessing for Sugarbutch’s anniversary or one thing you love or your favorite post or something you’d like to see me write about or a comment with something else entirely to enter the contest. You must leave a legitimate email address in order for us to contact you to get your mailing address and boxer brief size.

I’ll pick a winner from the comments at random on Monday, May 7th.

Thanks, RodeoH!