Hardy Haberman - Keynote Speech - Oklahoma Kink Weekend - July 20-22, 2018 - Oklahoma City, OK.
There is a curse that is often attributed to the Chinese,
“May you live in interesting times.”
As far as I can find there is no proof that is is Chinese, but it certainly rings true in these “interesting times”.
Interesting times indeed.
We have a country that seems deeply divided by racism, homophobia, xenophobia, classism, and just about every “issim” and phobia we can imagine. Where did it all come from?
Well, a lot of it is driven by fear. Fears that may well have been bubbling beneath the surface of our society. Fears that have been recently stoked by factions that are willing to use that fear for their own personal gain. It is the “go-to” tactic for politicians appealing to citizens who are easily motivated by their resistance to change.
It is understandable. These are people who thought they knew the rules. The same kinds of rules they have followed all their lives. Lives laid out and modeled in every story they were told as children, in every school they attended and in every job they held, in every TV show they watched. Rules clearly set out like instructions on a package of cake mix.
Step A, empty contents into mixing bowl.
Step B, add three eggs and 1 cup of water, 1/4 cup vegetable oil.
Step C, mix well,
Step D, pour into pan and bake for 25 minutes at 350.
They follow rules for their family. Get a spouse, have children, get a dog and buy a house.
They even follow rules in their religions. Follow the commandments, pray to the right God and get a ticket to the afterlife!
Lives that are based on clear specific steps and rules, and when those rules are changed, or the traditional ways are threatened by new knowledge or influences, it causes fear.
Fear that something will be lost forever! Usually, that means a loss of privilege or status and that can be scary.
Interesting times indeed.
In the kink community we also have interesting times.
We are seeing divisions that are splitting us apart. Divisions driven by fear similar to that which is driving the divisions in our country.
Gender non binary
And more every day.
So many divisions?
So much change.
So much change!
Change! There is the root of the fear.
This is not going by the rules!
We are being divided by fear of change.
Fear of change, when what we actually have are emerging identities. People are finding themselves. People are creating new identities or growing into ones that they have denied for so long.
Our community is changing and it’s coming from within, as it always has. The difference is, this obsession with rules. Rules.
I’m not talking about common sense, like playing safely, having a safe word, respecting limits and gaining consent. No these rules are something more.
Rituals, status, protocol, traditions, paths, instructions,
Today we are obsessed with finding a codified list of instructions, like that cake recipe. How to do “Leather”. Step A, B, C.
The way it way done by the Old Guard, the Elders, the traditional Houses of Europe, the mysterious path.
Whatever, it’s a search for rules.
And here is the truth. They don’t exist.
There is no grand book of protocol, no scroll with the clear path to “Mastery” or “Leather” or whatever.
The things and practices we indulge in today were developed by tribal wisdom and trial and error.
Do you think the first guy who stuck his fist up another guys ass was following rules? He was exploring, experimenting and the Top and bottom were working together to create something new. They were evolving what sex meant and what sex could be.
At the root of it all is that three letter word, sex.
Why do we do what we do? It feels sexy, it gets us wet or hard, it gets us off!
It might not always be about fucking or orgasms, but there is an element of sex or erotic energy in all of it.
It’s not about technique or skill or practice, though those are all worthy, but without sex, it’s just a hobby, like stamp collecting or a sport like golf.
The sooner we all realize we are all living out our fantasies on the fringes of what the rest of the world considers normal or even possible, the sooner we will find unity. We all take our pleasures and passions with our partners in ways that most folks are afraid to fantasize about.
So instead of talking more about our divisions and fears I want to talk about something I believe our community and our country needs right now.
A revival of our spirit.
A revival of our passion.
A revival of our community.
A revival is not about turning backwards. And we don’t want to go back.
I know some folk believe it was better back then, whenever “then” is for you. You hear stories about ,” back in the day”
Let me assure you it is better now than “back in the day.”
Back in the day if you were gay you lived a double life, straight during the day and gay at night.
Back in the day if you were into leather, you were a subset of a subculture that was already hidden. You cruised parks and bars and abandoned piers on the West Side of NewYork, or rest stops on highways and picked up horny truckers and businessmen. If you did actually play it was in a garage, or a back room at a bar.
Now that sounds pretty hot, and frankly it was, but memory is a funny thing. It is selective.
It lets you forget getting busted by vice cops cruising the tea rooms just to entrap you. I let’s you forget about bars getting raided and spending the night and a lot of money getting out of jail. It lets you forget about loosing a job and family and friends because you were now a “sex criminal”. It lets you forget about getting beat up and robbed And not being able to go to the police because you were Queer.
It lets you forget watching friends waste away from a disease that nobody understood or wanted to talk about. It lets you forget having to take care of friends and lovers who were dying in hospital rooms covered in their own feces because the nurses were too scared to clean them up.
Selective memory is a dangerous thing.
It is why so many people in our country want to go back to the days….
back when America was great.
Was it? Want to go back those days? The days of segregation, of women being subservient to men, the days of a country that worked pretty well for white, straight, cisgender men but was not so great for everyone else.
A day when people with different colored skin “knew their place”. A day when Jews or Muslims or anyone but Protestants could be blamed for anything, and besides “they just looked different”. A day when a limp wrist was the punch line of a joke and transgender folk were invisible or worse, looked upon as oddities.
They were not all good old days for everyone! That America was really not so great.
So when I say revival, it’s not about turning back the clock of history. It is about reviving our spirits, our culture our vibrancy.
It’s about restoring the vigor the fervor that brought us this far. It’s about reviving the spirit of exploring and change and the rebelliousness of our sexuality and our lives.
Everyone in the Kink community whether they know it or not is making a radical political statement. We are refusing to follow the rules as to what constitutes sex and what constitutes love and what constitutes family. In the eyes of the world we are radicals and to try to masquerade as just like everybody else is a lie.
I want to revive that rebellious and playful spirit that has driven us for so long. I want my Leather brothers and sisters to have a revival of the fire and passion that fueled our community.
Look where we have been.
Kinky folk have been around since biblical times. Look at the story of Samson and Delilah. Big strong he-man and yet over and over he tells Delilah how to bind him and tie him up. He always escapes and then tells her another way to do it. He pushes the limits until she finally figures out it is his hair that is his power. Oops!
I see that story and I see a really pushy bondage bottom who is into edge play! He has to call on God for his safe word!
More recently we survive Stonewall and the early days of the sexual revolution. Hell, we were the vanguard in that struggle.
We survived the dark days of the AIDS epidemic, and not just survived, but thrived by finding new safer ways to have sex based on our kinks.
We have burst into the mainstream with performers, and into literature and into modern culture.
We are a force that doesn’t even know it’s own power.
We communicate better, we embrace our fetishes and sex, we create extended families of choice, families that are unlike any created before. We are powerful.
We take concepts like bondage which most folks think of as restrictive and we find in it, Freedom. We take implements of torture and make them sex toys! We are a people of transcendence.
We are magical!
It’s time we revived that spirit. It’s time we revived our community.
We cannot let our differences and diversity divide us. That diversity is what makes us stronger.
It means reaching out. Understanding others identities and kinks. It means respecting and honoring each individual and their choices. It means lending a hand to our brothers and sisters when they need it, and it means defending them when they are attacked.
Just as our nation so desperately needs a spiritual revival so do we. I believe we can do it. We can all thrive together and we can do it without denigrating each other.
Differences, diversity, change and innovation have always been what made our nation stronger and the same is true for our community.
We can do this if we believe and turn that belief into action.
We can do it for our nation at the ballot box and for our community face to face.
But we can’t do it by dividing and sniping and picking each other apart. We need a revival.
If we truly are that magical people then we can perform miracles.
Are you ready?
Are you ready for a miracle?
Are you ready to be that miracle?
Then join hands, rise up and get busy and let’s really make these interesting times!
©2018 Hardy Haberman all rights reserved – reprinted with permission