Note: If I misquote you, do not attempt to stab me. I may, in fact, be a ninja.
A week or so had gone by since my arrival in Seattle, the Emerald City, and prior to that longer still I had left Victoria and my home. The same way I had arrived into the scene in Washington, touched its surface, and made my presence known; the time had come for me to leave, not unlike the same way I had first entered it. The stories, the conversations, numerous and rich in their content, are blurred in memory at the time of this writing. In that I could recollect mild fragments of them, speaks for itself – that their presence in my life, though brief, is still memorable.
Seattle is a place of artists and with such artistry there comes both a desire and thirst for imagination. The need for relation in a vast world, vibrant with culture, is essential for the preservation of one’s sanity; awash with rapidly changing trends, the scope of such things can be dizzying and hypnotic, confusing even the most broadminded of individuals. Here in Seattle, this proves to be quite true – the physical side of the Emerald City develops at a constant, and with it the people as well.
Studying the shelves of the Center’s library, I am initially spellbound by the out of print fetish magazines, followed by the personal sections amongst the many volumes in their collection. The dated classified sections featuring amateur photography advertises locals across the United States. These magazines date back to the early 1980’s and even then, such interests to the alternative culture were perhaps once considerably more taboo than it is today. When it occurred to me that this was the pinnacle of social networking back in the day, it became evident what a privilege it is to live and have the technology and the developing acceptance to fetish in this age.
Even then, despite these advances to the scene at large, there remained an air of uncertainty towards its direction and its future. The LGBT movement has progressed well over the course of the last five to seven decades, enabling the debate for marriage equality, and even then there remained considerable threat and injury to those that identified with it; in days long past, there was a time when such things were considered a treatable illness, a mortal sin that condemned men and women to discrimination the likes that are rarely ever seen today – the kind of stories that rallies everyone, in light of the horrors others may have endured.
I thought, by God, how unimaginably difficult it must’ve been to have been a part of this culture back in the day; that even at present, the alternative is still seen as one of the most taboo of lifestyles, how challenging it might have been years before. That the media should at times sensationalize the theatrics of the scene, these people within those listings must have lived in a constant shroud of fearfulness and secrecy. How fortunate that I should be alive, to be present within these archives, and reflect on such fatefulness to be here at this time.
The very building from which I stood, from where I had been present to witness their events, represented the incarnation of a community brought together. It represented a sense of relativity, that people all across are welcome with open arms, and also reminded that they would never be alone or reviled because of who they are. Simply having been allowed to see and to encounter its residents, to learn about its history and development, I felt very very small indeed.
“We’ve had the media, a while ago actually, try to do a story about the center. They called it a private sex club and all of a sudden, everyone was going berserk about it. I mean, good heavens, no! A private sex club in the middle of nowhere?” The kinkster chuckles at this, adding, “Everybody was all like, meh. By the time the story came out, practically everyone had heard about us.”
“Of course, that didn’t stop the initial storm. No, far from it, a radio show did a lengthy segment about the center, going relentlessly on about its premises and the seedy aspects of what took place inside.” He shakes his head in disappointment, massaging his temples as he does. “What does the Republican media love most about stories like this? Not the morality of it, but the fear that tax dollars would wind up funding some depraved orgy.”
“Here’s the best part. People started calling up the news centers and the station, started identifying as part of the scene, dismissing these allegations by simply pointing out a simple fact: We are a non-profit organization.” The deviant I’m talking to chuckles again at this, gradually breaking out into quiet laughter; a scene takes place not more than a few feet away from us, meaning that our conversation should not interrupt them.
“They look into it and shit. The paper that published the story pulls it off the shelves faster than you could imagine. Look it up on the web one minute, the next minute its gone. They apologize, naturally, and the person responsible is fired from their job. The point is, the minute they realized the truth about the center, fuck maybe even the realization that its entirely non-profitable, just proved more than enough for them to handle.”
“The fact that people could get together, no matter how fucking twisted they might be under societal terms,” He gestures the quotation marks with both hands. “Organize, even donate their own savings, fund enough money to buy an actual building, is something that even within the various lifestyles is unheard of. To a Republican newsgroup, a fanatical traditionalist, that kind of thing makes them lock their doors at night but frankly who amongst us gives a crap?”
Did you guys celebrate? “Not really. We just gave each other a pat on the back, dismissed it, and went back to what we do. That’s our kind of normal.” Normal is relative, I replied. “Exactly.”
The most fascinating discovery I found, browsing through the aging pages of these personals magazines, came in the form of missing snippets. The thought that two people might have gotten together, even started a lasting relationship with their mutual fetishes, brought a smile to my face. Somewhere out there could be an aging kink couple, still together after all these years, not unlike our neighboring cousins in the LGBT scene.
“Humans are social creatures,” Another deviant tells me, watching a scene take place nearby. “Everybody wants and needs to relate to someone else. The most difficult thing about doing that is acceptance by others which, if you ask me, holds no weight in the long haul. Being comfortable with what you do, with how you live, is more important than meeting the expectations of everyone else.”
“We try our best to create a platform for everyone.” She adds, smiling brightly as she does. “A long time ago, I was just a newcomer to the scene and these days I pay it forward, I support the center because of the service it provides. Nobody should ever live thinking themselves as crazy, repressing their own identity and orientation.”
One of the last events that took place before my departure occurred during a play party, where a membership ceremony for the Red Dragons motorcycle club took place. Standing within the throngs of both its club members and party goers, I studied the procession taking place, noting the familial bond between each of its inductees. These men and women, varying in age and experience, shared within themselves a bond invisible to human eyes; laughing and joking together, congratulating one another, their behavior resembled a family rather than friends, like brothers and sisters.
I speculated that such a closeness for one another, culminating in that highlight of their friendship and comradery, would only truly be known to those who have been part of it. It proved difficult not to bask in their livelihood and harder still not to smile from watching their interactions with one another. Theirs is a group, like many others stretched throughout, built by mutual love and respect for one another – a solid, unbreakable foundation.
“For me, the appeal of the scene are the physical side of things.” One other woman says to me. “But beyond that, I have found a community that is more accepting and more open minded than any other I’ve come across. There is no shame in simply being open about who you are here within this scene. I’m free.”
“I have found who I call my extended family, my brothers and sisters, and for them I am proud to be a part of it.” Momentarily she turns towards her Master, playfully sticking her tongue at him. “People fight in every scene you come across, there’s even people who despise the owner of the place, but by the end of the day if someone threatens the center and the people who are part of it – expect everyone to band together and put a stop to it.”
Having befriended the librarian in the days of my visit, I am given the most wonderful back massage (and thank fuck, because my back was stiff as a board), she feeds me chocolate truffles while perched on my lap.
“What you’re doing is brilliant. I envy your trip and going off into the world.” An older Dom tells me, squeezing my shoulder firmly. “Godspeed, my friend. Fly that flag wherever you go and remember that you’re always welcome here.”
“You’d better come back, damnit.” Another female bottom tells me, scribbling in my notebook of signatures. “I’m threat number 32, because if you die on your trip I’m going to hurt you in ways that will resurrect you again and kill you promptly.”
“These people are part of my tribe,” One other woman tells me, embracing her arms around me gently. “You are now part of that tribe. You will always have a place here, no matter where it is you are, no matter how far away. Don’t ever forget that. You have a home here.”
“Be safe, masked gentleman,” I shake hands firmly with another Dom. “Tell the world about us, likewise tell us about the world.” He pauses for a moment, adding, “Hell, tell us that in person when you come back.”
Seattle, you are the fruit of a growing yet strong community, born from the labors and compassion of those before and present in this lifestyle. You provide resources to those young and new, grant them an atmosphere of tolerance, and promote awareness through learning – the very nature of compassion – is embodied by all of you. In that you have not only brought together this culture, united the surrounding movements, will forever be something worth fighting for.
It has truly been an honor to have been able to learn about your history, about the people that have and are part of it, and likewise to have been able to share you as part of my own. I carry with you proudly in spirit with me in my travels and promise someday to return again. Until next we meet, take care of one another and keep fighting the good fight.
Goodbye, Emerald City.
Next Update: Arriving in Portland & KinkFest 2013