We are not men disguised as wolves. We are wolves disguised as men.
– Jinroh the Wolf Brigade
When I first entered the lifestyle, new to the culture, there was admittedly a lot of fear and uncertainty. So great was that amount of fear for being exposed as ‘one of those’ that at my first event, roughly back in 2007, I donned an actual mask.
The first mask was a gift from one of my mother’s friends. It was a Chinese theatrical mask, beautifully hand crafted, each of the colors symbolizing a different emotion or attitude. It was the mask of the Monkey King, a legendary character of classical mythology, widely renown from the story of The Journey to the West.
Ironically it made me stand out in appearance in contrast to the numerous kinky folk at my first party. I recall the hypnotic state that I was in, mesmerized by the numerous debaucheries that took place, trying to fathom the mind set that enabled these people to engage in the activities that they partook together. A woman being put beneath the flames of a fire play scene; people wrestling naked, laughing as they did. It felt surreal, watching through the lenses of the eye holes, at the same time wondering if I was really seeing all this unfold.
At some point I fell asleep during the party. I was shy and nervous the first time around, bored from a lack of interaction, and humorously this led to a moment where a concerned party goer mistook my slumped form as being signs of me being dead. I still recollect the surprise when I suddenly lurched awake.
When I came home that night, I remember the excitement that lingered inside my chest. Did all these things actually occur? It felt perhaps akin to some enchantment from the point I put on my mask and leaving the real world behind. However, as I watched the attendees redress themselves, emerging into the streets beyond the closed doors – the masquerade had only just began.
For when it is that we leave that world behind, replacing ourselves with the mantle of a regular life, do we simply abandon the actuality of who we are? The shock between that transition made the experience seem surreal beyond description. In the days following my first party, I felt lost in contemplation, questioning whether or not it was a mere phase or a momentary change of personality. The mask, sitting in my closet, was a reminder of that.
Time passed by, months and years after that first encounter, and gradually as I became familiar and adapted into the shadowy corridors and the echoing resonance of one dungeon to the next, the facet of a mask became a living metaphor, if only due to the constant wonderment as to where I stood between those delicate moments and the reality that followed after. In time, my masks grew uncomfortable, delicate in design, and one day I began to suffocate.
The masquerade had slowly began to come to an end.
On the summer of 2012, I removed the mask permanently and came forward about my lifestyle through social networking. In the time I had spent within the Vancouver community, often surrounded by stories of how such things backfired, the fear grew increasingly worse. During a particularly turbulent chapter of the local community, notably a large scale media scandal surrounding the lifestyle, I was particularly disillusioned by the response that occurred.
I watched, from the sidelines, as people took sides against their own. It is a part of Vancouver’s fetish movement that has since been regarded as a grim chapter – moreso for those involved and subsequently being outed for it. The boiling point came when I noticed the attendance at events became smaller, the attitude more self-serving, and where our fear against exposure devolved into a state of constant paranoia and self-sufficiency.
Unable to cope with these changes, I watched as the masquerade began to crumble, seeing the grim atmosphere corrupt the friendliness and support of my surrounding peers. On a quiet evening, I came forward and put my mask aside, truth and consequences be damned.
The following day was met with critical praise and response. I had taken the first step in coming full circle for my own identity. There was a feeling of inner peace, contentment, and a brighter outlook beyond the surrounding chaos. I volunteered to be part of the Pride Parade that year and truth be told, it pains me that I could not be in attendance this particular year.
Beneath the blazing sun, confetti floating through the air like the blossoms of a cherry spring, I walked down the city boulevard surrounded by throngs of cheering and acceptance. Side by side, flanked by my friends, we met them with open hearts; by my side, each of my masks gathered in the previous years, rested against my hip – a testament to my true identity.
I felt at peace then, aware of who I was and what I had become. I was no longer ashamed. I was no longer alone.
My heart continued to remain restless, wary, full of the cynicism for having experienced that miserly chapter within the community – a time when brothers and sisters took sides against each other, casting the victims out by themselves.
My mind began to contemplate about the scale of such actions. I wondered how many others lived under the fear of exposure and the shadow of scrutiny remained out there, if not beyond the borders of my beloved city. I continued to hear of news from all around regarding the unfortunate and the more of those that surfaced, the more I felt distanced by my own stroke of fortune and acceptance. How superficial it sounds that we express our condolences to others when there could always be so much more one could do to help.
Time passed by. The year proved fruitful, I became involved in a relationship which saw its fair share of ups and downs, and through a series of events I grew distant from my friends and family. The same distrust that came from my own community manifested in my interactions with the people I was closest with. I fell into despair, retracting into a mindset of my younger and more furious days; my decisions became without thought, quick and full of haste, always attempting to restore what had already been lost. Trapped in the past, I lost sight of the present and cry too late, it left me with little in the end.
I wondered then, my heart full of questions, how it is that I could salvage what little remained at that point. The relationship had ended, I no longer trusted my family, and my friends seemed to be all caught up in their own troubles – how could I possibly bring myself to stand there and watch, powerless to help, at the suffering of others especially by my own hands?
In those fleeting moments, I contemplated the thought of my previous masquerade, and when both worlds had collided did I look back and regret my decision? I asked myself then, at times of uncertainty, what course of action would be best?
Follow your heart.
Remember who you are.
Before I knew it I had already packed my bags and said my goodbyes. I turned my eyes onto the great road, pooling together my available resources, and cast myself to fate. There was fear then, uncertainty, the kind that precedes some bold ambition or purpose. Most of the time people fail in these moments, weighed down by doubt, giving in to the part of themselves that refuses to believe in causality.
I never did.
I tread beneath the starry nights, crossing the snowy mountains, the arid deserts and the rain swept streets all to seek and root out that which I believed in the most. I sought to find and restore my own light, the truth I chose, and find myself again. In those lonesome nights, comforted by the support of those I knew and met, I found that again despite the surrounding noise of the world beyond.
For all the anger and despair, the half-truths and the false prophets, the liars and the manipulators, I kept my eyes ahead on the road and drowned their words beneath the ones that spoke out to me most. I found my truth which sounded so similar to those lost voices. I spoke the words written by those that placed their hopes and dreams, their fears and anguish, upon my shoulders and raised my freak flag high.
I found my voice again beneath a screaming world of illusions. A world that constantly seemed to spread the shadow of doubt over those that were deemed different, for those that dared question the truths of the majority. I listened to these whispers, each of their stories empowering me again, reminding me of my own struggles and triumphs so much that their faces and their voices continue to haunt my dreams.
In a materialistic world, driven so selfishly by our own needs, I stood side by side to those that suffer the most. I whispered to them those peaceful words and burned their faces, not their names, deep into my memories. They do not seem so different than yours and mine. I embraced them, my fellow outcasts, in mutual love and respect.
I whispered to them, each of them, the words and actions that which I forgot:
Don’t give up.
Along the stretch of those long infinite roads, staring from the thin window to the outside world, I wandered into the fray of a world of masquerades. That which I had thought I had lost was never truly gone, for all my integrity had emerged unhinged, and during this time I never bowed nor apologized to no one.
I am free.
“The Flag still Stands”