Thursday, July 30, 2009


Last night I finally met Father Tony in the flesh. For once I was hardly nervous about meeting a new person, because I've known Tony through online interactions and I've had the sense that we'd get along famously. I think my instincts were correct; I certainly had a lovely time. Tony is one of those amazing people who excite by proximity and potential. Around him I felt carefully attentive, like a miner panning for gold, bending my senses to catch flashes of new insight and perspective. When will casual conversation suddenly lead to a story of the Vatican, or a new angle on politics, or some elusive artistic concept? With Tony, I felt as though every haphazard tangent could lead to a vein of wisdom and humor.

The cherry on top was also meeting David, who immediately impressed with his perfectly balanced fashion sense, and charmed his way right into my heart with stories that ranged back to when he was only four years old. Beauty will save us, indeed! I look forward to reading his blog and getting to know him better.

The impetus for our meeting was Tony's next project, the upcoming Bilerico-NYC blog, salon, and online magazine. I'm in a bit of shock that I have been asked to contribute to this project. The group of writers Tony is assembling is intimidating and humbling. If I stop to think about it closely, I get very nervous and begin to doubt myself. So instead, I've decided to simply be thankful for the opportunity, and forge ahead as fearlessly as I can manage.

Tony currently contributes to The Bilerico Project's national blog, as well as his own blog, linked above. I recommend checking them both out, and of course you should be waiting with baited breath for Bilerico-NYC!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

In which I disagree with a luminary.

A big brouhaha has been going through the leather world and for the first time in a very long time, I feel compelled to comment.

Chuck Renslow, President of IML, has declared that nothing will be allowed in the vendor mart that tends to promote or advocate barebacking, i.e., bareback porn.

For this Mr. Renslow has been widely and loudly lauded. The sycophants of political correctness are shouting a loud "AMEN" at the sermon. So caught up are they in self-righteousness that they don't see the insidious destruction of a fundamental principle of democracy and a turn to the dark side of conservatism.

To begin the discussion, I refer you to a Merriam-Webster's definition. Liberalism is: (c) a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically: such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class).

Queers and liberals are usually outraged when conservative Christians attempt to ban books with "gay themes" in order to protect their children from making what they believe is an unhealthy choice. We call this censorship--a constraint on civil liberties and freedom of expression--something we usually abhor.

The situation is somewhat different with STIs and HIV, of course, as the consequences of the choice to bareback are more scientifically concrete and less about culture. But the idea behind the comparison is the same--one group is deciding what is best for others to read, see, or know.

This edict that bareback porn will not be allowed at IML is an admission of defeat. The powers that be have failed to educate the community at large into making the healthier choice. Having failed to persuade, despite piles of money and decades of work, the freedom to choose is now taken away.

This action is not progressive or liberal, it is the essence of conservatism. By stooping to censorship, we have become what we most decry. We have violated a principle to which we expect others to adhere.

Yes, sometimes the results of the principle of free speech are hard to swallow. Sometimes the consequences are sickness and death. The principle of freedom of expression--our civil liberties--were bought with the lives and blood of thousands. It's an American principle, generally believed to be worth dying for.

I have heard the argument that IML is a private event and can set whatever policy they choose, which is true. However, in his letter, Mr. Renslow says, "We believe that it is our duty to inform and educate." In other words, he's using his position to influence the public and set public policy. IML cannot state its intent to influence the public and then retreat behind the defense that it is a private event. This is not an invitation-only party held in a basement, and pretending that it is in order to escape criticism and the scrutiny aimed at public policy setters is a specious and ineffective tactic.

With all that said, I know that this cannot have been an easy decision. I understand why it was made. I, too, want my brothers and sisters in leather to live long and healthy lives.

But while this policy may be for the best, it should not be lauded. This decision should be mourned as the sad last resort, and understood for what it really is: an admission that sometimes the conservative approach is necessary in order to achieve the greater good.

All leatherfolk lost some freedom today. I hope the upside is worth the sacrifice.