Those moments when we realize that we are always learning are the most humbling and most important for me.
I've been out of the closet since I was 22 and it's safe to say that I'm very secure in my identity and very open-minded about sexuality, which I have explored ad nauseum. I have always carried this open-mindedness as a badge of honor given the often sex-negative society we live in today. Imagine my surprise this past weekend when I discovered a new side of my sexual awareness I never knew existed. I had a sexual awakening.
Fittingly, my sexual awakening happened in the Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend exhibit hall, which was on Capitol Hill and within a stone's throw from the U.S. Capitol. I had never been before so I was excited about what was in store for me, but I certainly didn't think I was going to tap into an unexplored area of my sexuality. To be sure, there was a lot to take in, and I saw many things, (the most intriguing for me was the leather cocoons) which I had only ever seen online.
While casually strolling through the many rooms in the exhibit hall, I found myself captivated with all the live demonstrations going on, especially the wrestling demonstration. Picture two attractive and fit men, both in singlets and both quite obviously aroused, wrestling for passersby as a crowd begins to form. It was certainly a spectacle. Of course, grabbing attention is the point of any expo, but I was completely turned on and it wasn't only because of the demonstration itself, but because I was also engaging in voyeurism. And, I wanted to do more of it.
I love my leather-loving friends, gay and straight alike, but I never considered myself part of their community. When I left the hotel Saturday, I started to think more about this since I had just had such a great time. I had automatically written off an entire sex community early on after coming out (and before, I guess) because I didn't think it could offer anything for me. And, worse, I realized that I had even been critical of the leather community (and more broadly, the BDSM community) for promoting what I viewed as risky behavior. I had unwittingly repressed a part of myself and I had never thought twice about it until just this past weekend.
I had repressed my very own sexual freedom.
I'm trying not to be too hard on myself about it. I am, after all, a product of a society that is still debating the merits of discrimination for certain minority groups, especially sexual minorities. To wit, some of America's most prominent and influential citizens have been instrumental in codifying this kind of oppression through legislation in other countries. Can we say Uganda?
As I reflected on this new awakening I started to drift into the politics of sexual freedom as they currently stand in our own country and what life can be like when we celebrate sexuality and recognize it as a basic human right. In a couple of weeks, many of those at the helm of this movement will converge on Minneapolis for Creating Change, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's annual LGBT equality conference. Included in this conference is a day-long institute dedicated to sexual freedom and the integral role it plays in the ongoing fight for equality.
To keep the momentum going, Team Columbia and VenusPlusX.org will be hosting a free two-day sexual freedom mini-conference right next door at the Hotel Ivy (it will follow the day-long Creating Change institute and is free to the public and conference attendees) and it will include workshops, political caucuses and live- demonstrations. Attending either would be very beneficial for any LGBT rights advocate looking to make an impact.
Educating Americans on how sexual freedom is an essential part of their daily lives that should be cherished and celebrated is certainly a tall order. If, however, the LGBT rights movement can keep sexual freedom as one of its many driving forces, it could have a far more profound impact on society than it has ever realized.