Diary of a Darklady
The Screaming Ghosts of Sexual Autonomy
Sometimes the creative voices in my head fly in circles like a flock of screaming ghosts, each frantic to have its story heard. I sit in front of my keyboard like an exorcist, but sometimes the magic doesn’t work. Sometimes the screaming won’t stop and my fingers can’t make out the words. Sometimes I’m rocked by the waves of experience as they crash against my mortality and I can’t type as fast as I can live. Sometimes I just have to tuck my head against the storm and keep walking, confident in my ability to reach my goal, however impossible it may seem at the moment.
One of the great ironies of life is that sometimes the goal that seems most impossible to achieve, the task that seems most impossible to complete, is not the one with the greatest risk of failure. Rather, it is the one with the greatest risk of success. As strange as it may seem to the rational mind, many exceptional people are discouraged from embracing their power and honestly acknowledging and using their gifts. For all our claims to the contrary, the ubiquitous “we” prefers to encourage its children to be average, claiming that to attempt to be otherwise would simply be a cruel disappointment, a pathway to alienation, or an intolerable sign of hubris.
Yet someone has to be willing to shoulder the responsibility of competence and success, otherwise the status quo will never change, the horizon never expand, the true sounds of liberty be heard by only a few. Someone has to be willing to stand up tall enough to be noticed, speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard, steel their heart against inevitable criticism, and maintain their ground against sometimes violent opposition. And yes, they have to be willing to risk disappointment, alienation, and being accused – sometimes deservingly – of hubris.
When we take a stand, be it for a political cause, a romance, an artistic statement, a career, or any other deeply held personally important reason, we effectively paint a target on our chests that alerts our opposition to our location, so they can better direct their attacks. Although many people wish to follow their hearts and minds in matters of conscience, not everyone wants to deal with the hostile responses that doing so can inspire. On the other hand, some, including myself, seem to not only delight in such a thing but feel nearly compelled to do so.
There are many opportunities within the various sex positive, lifestyle identified communities for activist minded people to get involved in the process of creating change. Because of the nature of sexual marginalization, not everyone can run for a title, join a board of directors, or travel the country giving presentations or conducting workshops. But everyone can vote in their local and national elections; send letters to their representatives; laud and chide worthy and unworthy advertisers and media moguls; engage in peaceful protest; support sex positive merchants, artists, and craftspeople; join and contribute to supportive non-profits and charities; attend workshops and other social/educational events; volunteer; engage in discussion with friends, families, and associates; and – most importantly — live a life as honest and open as possible while making it easier for others to do the same.
In the middle of August I stepped aside as Oregon’s official leather representative. Being Ms. Oregon State Leather 2004 was pretty much like being Darklady the year before, but with important differences. Yes, I continued to listen to the ghosts in my head, sort through their stories, and find ways to give them human voice, but I did it within the structure of Blackout Leather Productions (www.blackoutleather.org) and my responsibilities as a titleholder. Along the way, I helped BLP raise money for good causes, met a wide assortment of really cool people, introduced a wide assortment of really cool people to one another, and facilitated the distribution of valuable information and support. I attended events sponsored by groups as similar and diverse as the Portland Leather Alliance (www.pdxleatheralliance.org), Bad Girls (www.pdxbadgirls.net), Oregon Bears (www.oregonbears.com), the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court (www.rosecourt.org), the Northwest Gender Alliance (www.nwgapdx.com), and Oregon Leather Fraternity — and generally had a wonderfully busy and sometimes rather crazy making time.
My final action as the freshly previous Oregon titleholder will be to stand up during the Ms. World Leather (www.msworldleather.com) competition at the end of August and be heard about a political cause, a romantic notion, and an artistic statement that is a major part of my career, as well as a deeply held personal cause: coalition building within marginalized sexuality communities, particularly concerning issues of free speech and responsible sexual liberty. We already know that whatever demons of sensuality plague past Attorney General John Ashcroft, current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and current President George W. Bush have manifested in a growing witch hunt against Internet denizens that dare speak frankly on matters of sexuality. Even as my fingers find words, the current administration’s resurrected anti-obscenity task force, originally developed by President Reagan during the 1980s, is inching as many as 50 Internet obscenity cases through the court system for the first time in at least a decade. The Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York agreed that BDSM photography chronicler Barbara Nitke (www.barbaranitke.com) was, indeed at risk of prosecution under the remaining elements of the Communication Decency Act in spite of the fact that her work clearly passes First Amendment muster (www.wireniusreport.net). That kind of thing frightens, angers, and drives me into action.
When taking action, anger and fear are not necessarily the best allies, although they can certainly be used as fuel. The mind must enter the picture, unless collecting a seething mob is the goal, which should rarely be the case in effective activism. The mind, which can be as passionate as the heart, must synergize and make sense of the heat inherent and necessary for the defense of liberty, but it must also coolly process its own visceral reactions and prejudices, examining and identifying its phantoms so that it can see the truth tangled in the chaos of emotion.
Some may claim this is impossible. I prefer to think of it as a challenge to our notions about success and failure that requires us to rethink them both, to dare to be exceptional, and to dare to embrace our power and gifts. Otherwise, we will succumb to the screaming ghosts in our minds and never truly know where their stories end and our own begin.