Coming out kinky: How much should people know?

by Race Bannon

The Mr. SF Eagle 2019 contest, held on November 3, crowned Manuel (Manny) Ojeda (center). The other contestants were Shado Welch (left) Noah the Milkman (Noah Berlove, right). Emcees for the evening were Beth Bicoastal and Lance Holman. This is the first of seven local  contests leading up to the Mr. SF Leather 2019 contest in March 2019. Photo by Dot
The Mr. SF Eagle 2019 contest, held on November 3, crowned Manuel (Manny) Ojeda (center). The other contestants were Shado Welch (left) Noah the Milkman (Noah Berlove, right). Emcees for the evening were Beth Bicoastal and Lance Holman. This is the first of seven local contests leading up to the Mr. SF Leather 2019 contest in March 2019. Photo by Dot  

We're a month past National Coming Out Day, but the issue of coming out is something that anyone within the LGBTQ communities struggles with 365 days a year. Even the most out of us still confronts a situation at times when our minds wrestle with whether fully exposing our true inner selves to someone is wise in the moment.

As we approach the end-of-year holiday season, a time when many of us will sit down across a dinner table from our biological and other extended families, the same coming out struggles may yet again emerge.

As it is for being LGBTQ, so it is for being kinky, which includes the kink subsets of being a leather person or generally adventurous with our sexualities and relationships. For the kink-identified among us, decisions about how much we tell our families, friends, co-workers and others about such intimate sides of ourselves aren't always easy.

Setting aside the topic of coming out as kinky for a moment, let me discuss another aspect. How much should the public in general know about who we are and what we do? The question of coming out to our family and inner circle and how much the average non-kinky person should know about us kinksters are closely related.

Kink education abounds these days. It's everywhere, it seems. Go to just about any major leather or kink event anywhere in the country and you're likely to encounter a plethora of classes and workshops about what we kinksters do and how we function as humans playing at the edges of norms.

I could and have made the case that at times I think we're over-educated to the point of creating kinky automatons doling out sensual experiences and crafting identities that too often parrot a sameness to it all, but I won't do that here. I'm not in any way against kink education. It's something I often do myself. Don't take my stance as being anti-education. It's not. But the abundance of it all often leads to a sense that more information for "everyone" is always a good thing. I think that's misguided.

Your mileage may vary, but when I consider how much education to give someone about my sexuality and erotic identity, I ask myself questions about which of three purposes I'm targeting.

When you come out to Leather events, are you more or less out? Here, attendees at the 2018 Mr SF Leather Contest, held in March at SOMArts Cultural Center. Photo by Rich Stadtmiller  

Do I want to provide information and education to someone within our already at least somewhat informed leather and kink ranks?

Do I want to provide such information to select people for whom I'm hoping it will give them enough fodder to consider embracing such sexualities themselves?

Or do I want to simply provide adequate information to a scene outsider so they know enough about me and our kind to understand us a tiny bit better and therefore leave us alone in peace to get our kink on without judgment or opposition?

The first two questions apply to anyone who's already an erotic explorer or who you sense, based on your assessment, might want to be. The third question applies to everyone else, and this last category likely includes most of the people in your family, co-workers and other social circles.

These "non-kinksters" (for lack of a better word) do not need to know the specifics of what we do. They just don't. All we want from them is a basic understanding of what we do and why we do it, and to make dialogue and awareness prevalent enough so that we kinksters can do what we do undisturbed. That's it. We really don't need anything else from them. To ask for any more is to invite problems that don't need to occur.

For most people to whom you may or may not come out, you don't need to do any sort of deep dive into the intricacies of your sexuality or relationship dynamics. Keeping any information that you choose to reveal at a high, generalized level is sufficient. Specifics just aren't necessary, and if they're requested, you're justified not being fully transparent.

Think about it. Should a child turn to their parents and ask them for the details of what they do in bed? No. So why should they -or anyone else- ask that of you? Keep it simple and avoid the sensationalistic.

Of course, you must decide if it's necessary for you to come out at all regarding your kinky proclivities. If you're a weekend warrior who occasionally dons some leather or fetish gear and engages in some bedroom slap and tickle, why would exposing that to anyone except those you're likely to engage in that with add to your or their social comfort? If someone wants to know something and you deem them open-minded and welcoming to the information, go for it. But otherwise, it's not really anyone's business but yours.

Then there are those of us who live more open and public kink lives; writers, educators, titleholders, business owners and employees, event producers and staff, club and organization board members.

In these cases, I think coming out is often a wise decision. Functioning as highly engaged kinksters from within a closet can be a source of continual stress and concern.

Certainly, in some cases, being out might indeed be a prerequisite for being able to do a job properly. Leading from within a closet isn't exactly an ideal set-up and it's not recommended.

In this hyper-connected world, anything that lives on the internet or in print is essentially forever and discoverable. Operating with this realization from the start can thwart a lot of uncomfortable situations in the future.

Everyone determines how out they want to be, as LGBTQ, leather, kinky, polyamorous, or in a kink-configured relationship. Hopefully you now have some material to make your own coming-out decision process smoother.

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist.


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