Stepping Up and Stepping Down: Let’s Dance

Will we put our money where our mouth is?

We are living within a new articulation of social dynamics as they pertain to sexual agency and community positions. This affects more than sexual politics too. Change is hard. The #metoo conversation has started and it is not even remotely close to over. One of the more interesting conversations circling communities that like to think of themselves as progressive, is the “people of privilege should step down and let underprivileged people start serving the community and working at higher visibility/more responsibility/better paying positions” one. Obviously there is a lot of lashback from the (mostly privileged) status quo, but there is also conversation around the idea, which I think is great. Recently I read an article on Fetlife which was not disagreeing with this position, but was basically saying “if we ask people to step down, or if there are positions to be filled (especially as a result of an abuse of power), then underprivileged people need to step up”. The article’s author then sited his experience trying to fill a role on a local committee where no women, transpeople, or POC applied. His point seemed to be “why should I relinquish power if there’s no interest from someone with less privilege to take on the position I’m relinquishing?”. I’d like to examine the meat between these ideas. Yes to both of them (privileged people should step down, and underprivileged people should step up)! Let’s figure out how we do these things effectively though, by looking at what brought about this gap in action:

First, it’s important to understand the power structure that has left minority people behind in the first place, and how that influences underprivileged people’s interest and ability to step up when a leadership role is passively open for the taking. I’m speaking of socialization and business grooming practices. Consider this: White cis men in power, men, white people, cis people, straight people, able-bodied people, people with financial privilege, and other people with privileges who are in power currently, should be actively on the lookout for people without those shared privileges and directly ask them to become involved.

Why, you may ask? Most people who are minorities, especially people who have multiple minority realities in their lived experiences have never (or have rarely) been seeked out or directly asked to contribute to communities other than their own minority ones by fulfilling leadership roles. When there’s a space to fill in a community which is historically headed by people with privilege, there is frequently not an instinctual “Oh, I should go for it, I bet I’d get hired” bell which rings for the underprivileged person with interest. This is effective socialization and there are facts and figures about how that socialization works to keep “like people” in power over time and effectively separate those with differences out of the advancement equation. If that bell does ring though, it is often immediately accompanied with a “but I’m probably not qualified”, or “will I be the only ____ on the committee, how will that feel, how much education/energy/argument with my own board will I have to engage in to feel like it’s a safe and progressive space to send my attention and time into or associate my name with?”, or “I’d love to, but it doesn’t pay and I don’t make enough money to spend a ton of my time volunteering for something right now”, or any number of things which speak to the fact that most minority people are not directly supported or groomed throughout their lives within mainstream (or even underground privileged-people-running-the-show) communities to step up. Often minority people enter various community spaces feeling somewhat isolated, feeling “other”, feeling less powerful, feeling unheard, making constant accomodations for various levels of ignorance or outright bigotry they find themselves surrounded by, etc. It does actually take more energy for a person without certain privileges to hang out for any length of time in a room full of people with privilege than the other way around. I speak from the perspective of someone who has some privileges and not others. I have been the privileged person amongst others with similar privileges in many rooms, and I have been the minority person surrounded by people who didn’t understand what it was like to constantly deflect conversations, read and evaluate body language, check my safety situation, educate instead of freely converse, decipher whether or not it was safe to be out about certain conversational topics or should I remain quiet about my reality (if that was even an option)… The list goes on. It is tiring. It is hard. It is a skillbuilding opportunity. It doesn’t make me feel as though I should make my way to the head of the room and start speaking out.

In the performance art world I frequently hear people with privilege echo this same perspective: I want more ___ people at my event, why aren’t they showing up in droves?!

As a producer, director, and teacher the only answer I have is this: You haven’t literally gone to ___ spaces and let ___ people know they are a valued asset in your space. You haven’t directly gone out of your way looking to hire ___ people, or actually hired ___ people if you had a chance to. You haven’t made sure to smile at or approach ___ people when they did come to your events and make certain they felt seen, welcome, heard, valued, and safe. These are actual actions you can take to help ___ people want to be in your space. Once ___ people want to be in your space they often bring their ___ friends.

I understand that this may sound like unreasonable work to do — after all people are submitting themselves to your ad for leadership already (privileged people mostly or entirely) — so why should you have to seek out people who aren’t just applying like all those privileged folks are? Please consider that when you are one of the few ___ people in a room, the chances that you feel freely welcome to take over that room (should an opportunity arise), is much less taken for granted and is actually more personally and sense-of-communally complicated for the ___ person than for the person with privilege(s). Therefore attention to those truths is a part of this conversation.

I absolutely vote for ___ people stepping up. I also think it’s important for ___ people to be directly cultivated and warmly invited by the current privileged powers-that-be to step up when the time comes. This is how we much more quickly approach balance and do something actively to disintegrate and restructure a cis white heteronormative patriarchal hierarchy (cough *pyramid scheme* cough) which currently serves no one wholistically in reality, but we’re so used to moving within it, has started to feel like the air we breathe or the matter the universe is made up of.

I would love to be groomed for greatness and community service at an organizing level personally. I also have no idea how I would begin to feel safe, listened to, and as though people were interested enough in my thoughts for me to put my hat in most rings when I do see an ad up. Being asked by someone well respected and already involved in the power structure of that community would do a lot towards bridging that gap. These are real world complexities to consider.

In a conversation about community balancing itself through thoughtful action based in behavior modification, it’s hard to feel as a though someone who is comfortable in their position must “give up” something they value. I think of it like this: in a family when you notice someone not participating to the level they are capable of for whatever reason, you can act as a family participant and help them find their niche even if it means inviting them to do some of the jobs you enjoy doing. You don’t go on whining about how you’re both basically the same (the “we’re all human” tantrum) so that you can staunchly keep doing whatever you want to do and not contribute to the balancing of family industry. We must work together to shift the burden of a system we’ve taken for granted for too long, and change it into something which benefits us all.

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature

Please support my work on Patreon. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist 
~Thank you.

National Abortion Coming Out Day

I finally figured out what lipstick is for. Photo by Karin Webb

One of the things that contributes to healthy BDSM and Kink is the clear understanding that we own ourselves regardless of what is going on. This primary acknowledgement is what allows us to give control over to others and to take responsibility for our actions. We can consent to being used and to use, to find limits, experiment, and celebrate our flesh and our fantasies together. Without first owning ourselves, we can not give or take back freely and safely; we end up looking to another for permission or to know what is right. It is important and radical to know yourself, to own yourself, to fight for that one thing you were born with: your body. Today I write about a topic I feel deeply about:

HAPPY 44th ANNIVERSARY OF ROE V WADE!!!!! It has been 44 years since the half of the population who can get pregnant has had protected legal access to abortion and to the choice of how to govern their own bodies in the United States of America. Safe and accessible abortion is not, though, easy for much of our population to get to, afford, or feel safe accessing, and every day groups work to take this medical privilege away. In honor of choice and bodily autonomy being preserved, respected, and improved, I move to name today January 22: “National Abortion Coming Out Day”. The idea has been on my mind for a very long time, and I think this is the year that I can no longer put my thoughts off until tomorrow. Today is the day.

National Abortion Coming Out Day is about creating space for people who have had abortions, who have had partners who have had abortions, people who’ve supported someone getting an abortion, or who love and care for people who have had abortions to openly speak their truths. Open discourse about this topic has been suppressed and controlled through fear, violence, abuse, and an ensuing silent void. Take a moment and think about your history with abortion. How has it impacted your life? How has it impacted the lives of people you care for? How does the issue of abortion impact the lives of people less privileged than yourself? What questions do you have about abortion?

Share something about what you find with your community. Be willing and open to have conversations about what it means to own your body and your life. If you want to connect to a community with resources and support, check out the 3 in 1 Campaign, they’re great!

People have been having abortions, inducing miscarriages, and controlling their fertility since the beginning of knowing how to do it. You are not alone or unloved for choosing what to do with your body or your life. If you choose to carry a pregnancy to term, good for you! If you choose to terminate your pregnancy for any reason, congratulations on taking care of yourself, and good for you too! Our options stand on the shoulders of the fertile people and those helping them who have come before us, for thousands of years in study, wisdom, and developing practice. Medical people, Midwives, Doulas, Shamans, Witches, Doctors, Nurses, Veterinarians, Herbalists, Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, even neighbors, lay people, and activists have had a hand in making abortion accessible and safe.

I had an abortion when I was 17, and I’m really glad I had access to it. I was supported emotionally, materially, familially; and I had the help of a partner with a car, and time to schedule it and heal before getting back to my high school classes. My life would be very different if I had a 21 year old right now, and that’s not the life I chose for myself. I don’t regret having that abortion one tiny little bit, I am grateful for it. It was safely performed in a hospital in Bangor, ME, and I was lucky that there were no complications. Since that time I’ve taken Plan B a couple times when condoms broke and the timing was bad, and I educate myself about aborcienifant herbs, tinctures, my fertility cycle, and natural methods of inducing miscarriage or starting a sluggish menstrual flow. There have been times I’ve taken herbs to jumpstart a late period when I was worried pregnancy was a possibility. I don’t have sex with people who are anti-abortion and anti-bodily-sovereignty. I have a right to my body and my bodily functions. So do we all.

Handsome devil with a uterus at your service… Photo by Karin Webb

So why are you sporting a mustache and binding in the photographs?

  • Shapeshifting to understand myself more deeply is a part of who I am as an individual and as an artist. I perform drag (across many gender constructs); I have since I wrote my first monologue at age 11. I enjoy binding in my daily life and wearing facial hair sometimes. Those are two ways I express myself.
  • I am gender fluid identified and use a few gender labels to explain my identity.
  • I think assumptions about gender in conversations about healthcare further alienate and put in danger people who aren’t men or women. Transmen, Intersex individuals, and people who don’t identify as women get to make choices about their fertility too.
  • I can’t post a photo of my breasts on most social media sites, so binding fits — there are only so many times you can grab yourself on camera to avoid areola exposure and not get bored with the results. It’s also an opportune moment to point out sex-based discrimination.
  • Culturally when we think of “ownership”, we most often associate the concept with masculinity. How has that affected the historical and present conversations about bodily autonomy when we consider fertility and offspring?
  • I think this photo says something about the entire concept of owning one’s body in our society. I had to break a lot of rules to even conceive of it.

Who gets to own bodies? Historically? Religiously? In relationships? In families? In hospitals? In bed? Over time? In prison? In poverty? Out dancing? In different cultures? In resistance? In public? In art? At school? In dangerous situations? At any moment someone else feels uncomfortable? Under the influence of various substances? At work? Within the constructs of privilege? …

Play On My Friends,
~ Karin

If you like my blog, please check out my Patreon Page and consider supporting me, or just click here: Support the Artist

~Thank you.

The Privilege of Being Out

ABC Screenshot CropBeing “out” in the number of ways that I am is a privilege I enjoy in almost every aspect of my life.  The act of being out can help others find empowerment in their own lives through positive reinforcement and visibility, yet it is a status not every one can afford or risk.

I’ve crafted a really big bubble to live in over my lifetime.  That bubble helps me remain out as a public figure, and from it I gain a huge source of strength which helps me trust in my own frankness about who I am when I find myself outside of my various communities.  My bubble keeps me safe and helps me continue to grow in my understanding of others.  I come from a long line of pretty supportive and open-minded family who also went individually about seeking communities they could live more authentically and less fearfully in; so my bubble is one I’ve crafted over my entire lifetime, and it was strengthened with a lot of early support.  My bubble is a privilege.  People with smaller bubbles, or non-existent ones can not move as freely throughout their lives as I do.

I have been able to come out at various times pretty smoothly to my predominantly artistic, often liberal, generally agnostic friends and relatives.  I’m lucky that though I have a public presence, my audiences (on stage, in writing, and in my classroom) have been very supportive of how open I, as an individual and in my work, have been throughout my career.  I am out as queer and bisexual (though I officially identify as “sexual”), as a drag king and burlesque performer, and at one point in my life I was a woman married to another woman.  I’ve come out as polyamorous, kinky, as masochistic, and as submissive (though that last one’s still a hard conversation for me and a bit emotional, but I can talk about it relatively openly).

I also have come out on occasion as a white person, as generally cisgender, as a female who dates men, and as non-disabled…  Why?  Because this:  I think owning all of who I am matters a great deal.  If I only allow myself to be defined by the things that make me a minority, if I only acknowledge the parts of me that are fighting for visibility, I am less likely to question the privileges I enjoy over others less privileged as I walk through the world.  Without mindfulness of that spectrum of existence, I will risk distancing myself from people who are not just like me.  Being out is a privilege I personally can enjoy because when one looks at ALL the things I am, I am still free to say what I like and be who I am pretty openly without fear of losing my job, my family, my livelihood, or (much of the time) being physically threatened by it.  So, it is my responsibility to be out about/acknowledge the parts of me I am granted privilege for being even when I don’t say them out loud.  Being out as someone with privilege is a status everyone can afford and risk.  Working toward my goal of being an ally to people who I have privilege over, I must recognize the ways I have privilege or I cannot be true to the work of being an ally.  When I acknowledge the complexity of my own experience I can begin to understand or empathically value the complexity of experience others live within.  This is how I believe we begin our work toward respect and equality.

So, in a conversation about queerness, kinkiness, artistic opportunity, or being a woman I might have a lot to say about my POV and experiences, however I will spend more time listening and learning from people sharing their thoughts about their transgender identity, experiences as a person of color, reality of immigrant status, experiences as a disabled person, etc…  I don’t know these particular struggles first hand and so it is my job to listen and put my privilege of speech away for a while in order to learn.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve come to understand myself better in these regards, and how I have allowed myself to be more frank when talking about my identity with others.  The following list is just a beginning for reflection:

  • Think about all of who you are:
  • What do you like about it?
  • Are there people that you look up to who are like you?  What do they say about the subject of being out?
  • What parts of your identity are you proud of, make you happy, or do you value and love?
  • Are you afraid of revealing any of these things to others, or have you been hurt in the past by being open about them?
  • Are there currently people you can’t tell about these parts of you for fear of retribution, harm, or shaming?
  • Are there people you can tell easily?  Why is that?
  • Are there people you have reservations about sharing your life with even though it would probably be ok?  What would need to change for those people to be safe to talk to?
  • Has anyone ever come out to you?  What did it feel like when you were taken into that confidence?
  • If you could be out about your own struggles and identity, what would it look like?  Would it be a statement of concrete identity, or an articulation of a broader POV about the subject?  Would it be an identity you’ve heard before, or something new you’ve made up yourself that fits?
  • Can you accept another person’s articulation about who they are when it’s brought up to you?  Is it a struggle ever?  How do you work through that struggle?
  • When you find yourself questioning something someone is telling you about themselves is it out of curiosity and a need to understand more deeply, or from the need to organize what they are saying or assimilate it into your idea of what you already believe?
  • Can you accept yourself apart from accepting others?

I am not advocating for or against being open about who you are in unsafe situations, and I recognize that is not even an option for some people anyhow.  I think it’s important to remember that pretty much everyone is a survivor in their own right and in their own lived experiences.  With that in mind, here’s to working for equality while supporting one another’s differences, and to finding the worthiness of all our selves to coexist respectfully.

To Breath and Being,
~ Karin

If you like my blog, please check out my Patreon Page and consider supporting me, or just click here: Support the Artist

~Thank you.

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