Fierce & Femme – I’m cis. As a young girl, I didn’t understand why long, full dresses weren’t fashionable at school, and while I didn’t want to stop wearing them, I caved to the social pressure. That was the beginning of society’s indoctrination regarding displays of femininity making one a target, and thus, I began to repress the natural femininity that I felt. The year between kindergarten and first grade, I had waist-length wavy hair, which was the pride of my father. I got pine sap in my hair just before a birthday party, and my mother cut my hair very short. The haircut I got made me feel like a boy, and during the party, my own grandfather didn’t recognize me. I was the eldest of my siblings, the role model for my younger siblings, an overachiever out of necessity, and a fairly bright student. I became a single mother at age 17, and by then, I was sure I was “doing girl wrong”. I wasn’t especially promiscuous, didn’t drink or party at that age, and yet I knew I was a fallen woman. People in life would treat me in turns as dumb slut, charity case teenage mom, or “one of the good ones”. For the next decade or so, I survived. I worked, I got my kid to school, I paid rent. I dated, had casual sex, ate psychedelics. I identified heavily with the goth & industrial music scene, so by the time I was a 19 year old working single Mom, I’d fairly well rejected the beauty standard, however I’d also begun to accumulate some stories about myself. Like I was a bitch. Or a dyke/lesbian. I was never very good at blind obedience, to any entity, and certainly not to men in my life. One can’t be young AND smart AND pretty AND femme – the world doesn’t allow safe space for that. I had my first girlfriend and first major crush back then, too, and promptly came out to my mother as bisexual. Combine all of this murky nascent-identity stuff with low self-esteem, depression, an undiagnosed anxiety issue, and an eating disorder, and you have a fairly good picture of why Pretty and I were enemies throughout my young adult life.
I’d actually kind of forgotten about gender, beauty standard, femininity as it applied to me and suchlike by the time I had my daughter. I’m fond of saying the gnostic awakening I’ve experienced in the last few years is entirely her fault, and it is. I did NOT resonate with the role of Mother, or even especially as Woman, as I raised my son. It wasn’t until the advent of this Cancerian girlchild in my world that the Archetypal Feminine made herself manifest in my life. This chapter didn’t show up until I’d been on a path of recovery for several years, had attracted a partner with keen communication skills, who empowered & supported my growth & recovery in any direction, and I’d begun to work on a college degree. It was immediately after her birth that the Feminine began to truly assert itself in my life. I cried more in the week after her birth than I had in probably 2 decades. While my life partner is a sentimental teddy bear type, I was this icy-stony bitch that had been soldiering on since before I could remember. For me to display any BIG FEELS was upsetting to my teenaged son – it was that foreign of an experience. By the time daughter was 18 months, I’d permanently inked a Goddess onto my left arm. The image was to commemorate my connection to all women everywhere, to illustrate how I’d been touched by the Divine Feminine, and how that connection was enduring.
It would be two more years even after THAT before I would begin to identify as Fiercely Femme. Cazadora and I started dating before my daughter turned 2, and it was during our relationship that we identified Patriarchy, Misogyny, and The Man as topics about which we were both passionate, and we discussed them often. In short order, the energy group was started. It was probably in year 2 of GLEE that my outward gender expression began to move incrementally. One of my friends noticed that I tended to choose organic/flowing and/or draped & feminine themes for my GLEE wardrobe.
My path of spiritual study and contemplation had taken a turn towards sacred sexuality, sex and energy, and sexual essence & gender identity. Naturally, I’d have to examine my expression of gender. I have found that the further I go down this path of Authentic Me, the more I relax into a more feminine expression. When I listen to what my body wants to wear, to what outward image feels like it allows my Soul to shine through? I keep finding myself in extra-long skirts, full/sweeping sleeves, organic or curvy prints, brighter and more colors, with a bit of glitter/sparkle/flashy detail. So while I’ve always been Fierce? I can fully represent my Femininity with that Fierceness, now.
Leatherdyke – I’ve always known I didn’t love like the others. As early as 16, I could identify that degradation, roughness, and a bit of pain made sex extra-fun for me. I’ve always known attitudes towards sadomasochists were limited and limiting – even when I harbored them myself! Mixing with the goth & industrial set in my 20’s, along with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, I was firmly identified as a Freak, but not necessarily one of those kinky types. Even as I negotiated a punishment scene featuring anal sex & a crop with my bi boyfriend who played Frank-N-Furter(with whom I had an open relationship)! Through the worst of my using years and before finding Kink In Name, I was in an abusive, toxic, vanilla, monogamous marriage. He’d convinced me that Goth, body piercings, tattoos, Crayola hair, and “rough sex” were silly, conformist means of being “sheeple”, and it would be best for me to greywash all that I felt identified me to become this khaki-wearing, corporate cube jockey, boring & predictable Married Woman. Seems ridiculous, I know, but it was effective.
Finding collarme, bondage.com, Alt, and attending my first munch, were auspicious events in my world. I was VERY concerned that I was replacing an addiction to thrills or excitement (via drugs or escapist eating) with scary/edgy sex. Especially having internalized the shame that I did with my ex, I had pathologized kink in a very real way. I approached kink intellectually and socially, for the most part. I was not oft to play or demo or try out new sensations, especially in public.
After awhile, once my feet and spine and head and breath were in kinky spaces on a regular basis, I accepted a position on the Ann Arbor TNG Board. Having been identified as a non-conformist Freak in my previous life, when I’d hear about Leather, or 24/7 or Protocols or Rituals or Old Guard, I’d kind of glaze over. I was invested in being a Freak, an Outlaw, an Individual. Of course education, community, and safe space were important issues to me, this idea of One Twue Way to do BDSM was pretty repugnant.
Along the way, I began to be drawn to the Ordeal Path, whatever that was. It seemed to be a set of folks that were into testing themselves through catharsis. They talked about milking personal insight and wisdom from the trials in life. That they don’t exactly wish struggle upon themselves – but that they’d developed a taste for the awareness these trials wrought, had found blessings and gratitude after the storm passed. These folks seemed to be talking about recovery, but using consensual pain to facilitate it. Without having a formal Ordeal scene, though, how could I know?
I met BearWithMe, had my daughter, and found GLEE. I still considered myself simply a sadomasochistic kinkster, not a Lifestyle 24/7 type, and still very much a beginner. Through exploration of concepts surrounding intimacy, sexuality, pleasure, pain, growth, relationships, energy, container, connection, my ideas about the spirituality of sex began to become re-oriented. I began to identify as a Sacred Sexuality Priestess, one whose Purpose here is to bring Spirituality and Sexuality back into a holistic frame with one another.
This Freaky Lover Person I thought I was had taken on greater implications. Again I considered Leather. By now, some of my kinky role models were Leatherfolk. Lee Harrington, Mollena Williams. Two years ago, MzWolf was attending her second GLEE at the Farm. I had had a vision which I asked her to help me realize. I needed to bleed for my Dark Mother Lilith. I’d had a vision while engaging in sex magick that I would bleed. I would be whipped and I would bleed, and then I would be Hers, because we wanted it to be so.
Still, Leather represented this stodgy, stuffy, rote and boring way of expressing deviant sexuality. It struck me as a paradox – how can this decidedly “alternative” idea/culture/’scene’ dictate the right way to do deviant sex?
Lilith represents those who do not fit the overculture – the forgotten ones, the unpretty ones, the unwanted and broken ones – they are Her people, and therefore My people. Mine to minister, mine to heal, mine to welcome and embrace. It is unlikely that Lilith has not been working in my life this entire time, to show me how Individuality and Free Sexual Expression are not supported or cultivated by our contemporary culture. It is unlikely that the ecstasy I felt while writhing on those darkened dance floors wasn’t due to the seduction between Lilith and I. It is unlikely that it wasn’t Lilith who whispered to me as I vigorously fucked & bruised my lovers.
In the two years since I formalized my connection to Lilith, there has been much contemplation on the form we call identity, ego, self vs. Self. Stepping into Being Big versus becoming a pure vessel for Divinity. Essence versus desire. Passion versus craving. I’ve been slowly migrating my identity and purpose to being one of stewardship and being of a higher calling over this time as well. As I described my bafflement at this turn of events in my life to a former partner-in-crime from those Rocky days, she flatly stated, “well, if you’ve felt The Call…”
If I were of an Abrahamic faith, I’d be able to attend seminary, to go on sabattical, to seek retreat when my spiritual fires need re-fueling. The services I render to my congregation would keep my family and I alive and reasonably-appointed without clamoring or quantifying what I provide.
But my path is decidedly not that clean or white or sanctioned. My path is fringe. Freak. Outlaw. Deviant. Grey. That is what defines me as Leather. The resistance I felt to Leather, the impingement upon the authentic expression of my sexuality was in this appearance that there was But One Way to do kink, and that was this Old Guard Leather way. Rather, Leather as I’ve come to understand it descends from the gay leatherman scene, who based their protocols largely upon biker clubs, who based their protocols heavily upon the military. None of those conventions particularly resonate with me. (The outlaw biker clubs, on the other hand… gimme mafia porn any day…) I’ve learned another story about Leather, though. About being willing to be visible as outside the normative culture. About wearing your sadomasochistic heart as garb. About embodying an image which deviates from the overculture, and defining what that means for you and your Tribe.
It has become evident to me that Leather can also be about the spirituality of BDSM. That it’s about living to a higher standard, about embodying an impeccable method, about approaching deviant sex with an attitude of Dignity and self-possession. THAT resonates.
My sexual orientation is another tl;dr post entirely, but it is clear that I do BDSM because it feeds my Soul. Even when feeling frigid and asexual, BDSM appeals aesthetically, intellectually, theatrically. I have found much spiritual juice in surrendering to discomfort; be it physical, sexual, intellectual, emotional. For general purposes, I will no longer engage in sadomasochistic romps with cismale-identified folk. There will always be Tribe with whom I’m willing to exchange sex or pain energy, regardless of gender or genitals. I will only bottom to cismen in extremely RARE circumstances. On the rare occasion I do Power Exchange as a bottom, it will only be with another Lesbian/Dyke/Sapphic Lover, and my preference will be to seek female or feminine submissives as well. My personal politics have intersected with my genitals in such a way that I’m no longer willing to accommodate a cis-het-man in my sex life under any circumstances. For most intents and purposes, my sexual identity is that of Leatherdyke.