Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fucking Scary

"Extreme" Porn Becomes Illegal in the UK


I asked the (really) cute guy who works at the local metaphysical shop out on a date the other evening. This was a bit out of character as I have never in my life asked someone out on a date. I've told friends (and let's be honest, acquaintances too) I was interested in playing, but not actually asked a relative stranger out. Still, he'd been real flirtatious and neither Fire nor I had any doubts about his sexual orientation (stereotyping yes, but we were still right).

Not that I had what you'd call high hopes. To be honest, I am pushing thirty and not in the shape I was in before my injury and the eight years of reduced activity that followed it. I think I do pretty well with what I've got, but pretty well isn't a lot if you're asking a twenty year old model out (seriously, modeling is his other job).

He said "no" of course. He is seeing someone (20yr old model, I wasn't shocked to find him taken) and not only are they not poly, he'd never heard of it, which almost certainly means us dating would have been a horrible idea. Introducing a poly-virgin to the idea of being in a secondary relationship seems challenging in a not-so-good way. I absolutely wouldn't attempt it in someone already involved with someone else.

What was interesting was that although I was real nervous about how to ask him without coming across as an ass, which I think I managed, I wasn't too worried about being turned down. I used to be terrified about what would happen if I asked someone out and they said "no." I used to think it would fuck me up, and maybe it would have. Fire certainly thinks that I've changed and grown.

Those of you who are involved in the spirit work side of things know that in many ways being a spirit worker sucks serious ass. I've had a number of people recently comment that it sucks big time and there ain't a lot of perks. It's true. I for one wouldn't mind if serving my Boss came with free home heating oil and HD Cable.

But I know the person that I was, I know the person that I am now, and I know the path that led from A to B. I know that most people have no problem asking for dates and the like without serving the gods on a personal basis. But without the Work, I don't know if I ever would have gotten to that point. My physical body is a map of my journey, in tattooing, branding, and scaring primarily. Each representing an important event along the way. I can point to a great many ways in which the Work has changed my mental, emotional and spiritual being as well. To be honest, some of those changes I have ambivalence about.

However, if this path has led me to a place where I can do something I (and others) never imagined I'd be able to do, like ask someone out for a date and be alright when I'm rejected, well I'll guess I can manage to provide the cable tv on my own.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Making an Ass Out of You and Umption

Our background and upbringing inevitably leaves us with blind-spots in our interactions with other people. I firmly believe that one of the challenges and requirements of adult life is learning to move beyond the assumption that other peoples' understanding of the world will mirror our own. A great example of where this process began for many of my peers growing up was summer camp. Namely the horrific realization that in different parts of the United States carbonated high-fructose corn syrup bases drinks were referred to in different ways (growing up in the northeast it was "soda").

Of course that example immediately paints a picture of where I was coming from, at least in my pre-adolescence. While the norm for my fellow upper-middle class peers, spending the summer at camp is certainly not the standard summer for most children in this country.

My own experience as a young adult was rather the reverse of the aforementioned process however. Rather than have my worldview stretched bit by bit as I aged and prepared to leave home, I was often the one doing the stretching. The perfect storm of the onset of severe Tourette Syndrome (as opposed to the minor symptoms I'd likely had for years prior) and my coming out as queer conspired to both brutally shred my ideas of where my life was going and expose me to the worlds of people I would never had encountered otherwise.

Because of the severity of the Tourette symptoms there was never any real chance that I would attend public high school (for the record my family didn't "agitate" for an alternative placement, my home district rightly made the decision on their own). Both of the alternative high schools I attended were good experiences and I believe that with one exception I received an excellent education. As you might imagine however, none of us at my high school were "typical."

I had three social groups in my high school years. The first was my small high school, located an hour's commute from home, which I was driven to and from each day by a district provided car. The second was the young adult GLBT youth support and social group that met once a week in my home town. Until I was old enough to drive myself, my parents dropped me off every Wednesday, even if it meant rearranging their own schedules to do so. The third group was my local synagogue's youth group, which was made up of kids I'd grown up with since I was in first grade.

One of these things is not like the others. Perhaps foreshadowing my future spiritual work, I didn't hide any of who I was, with the exception that I didn't tell the synagogue youth group that I was already identifying as pagan. I was open about my sexuality from the time I came out (at 13) and when people talked about what was going on in school I shared along with them. Once you are at the point of involuntarily screaming out graphic obscenities, further opening up isn't all that challenging. I distinctly remember once answering someone in the temple youth group's funny story about something that happened in class with a humorous story from my school about a friend of mine's ongoing recovery from heroin addiction (really it was pretty funny). I also thought nothing of going to a temple costume fund raiser in drag, where it should be noted that, as with the Tourette, I was perfectly accepted. The rabbi (a woman) gave me lipstick pointers.

As I mentioned, I was often a catalyst for expanding my peers' sense of the world. I distinctly remember an argument with a childhood friend about prostitution that sums it up. At 17 he was convinced that prostitution was an urban legend and that even if maybe it did happen sometimes it certainly didn't happen in the city we grew up in. I on the other hand knew guys who had turned tricks after being kicked out of home for being gay. I also knew more than one fellow student in high school who was the victim of domestic or sexual abuse, also things he believed to be urban legends.

All this is on my mind recently because I recently found out that while all this was happening I was developing at least one assumption of how the world worked that until recently I had not been disabused of. Last week I went in for my twice yearly HIV test (clear) and had my eyes opened.

If you were involved in gay culture in the mid 1990's the thing you know better than anything else is what HIV is, how it's spread (and not spread), and that it kills you. By the early 90's there were treatments that kept it from killing us as quickly and there was the dawning understanding that it was possible to live with HIV not just die from it, but it seemed like everyone realized that it wasn't something to mess around with. My sexual partners over the years have largely backed up this perspective.

As I came into my late 20's and became involved in the Kink/BDSM/Poly scene, especially as a needle top, I found that with some exceptions, most people seemed to take blood safety just as importantly as I'd been taught back in the GLBT youth group.

My recent newsflash was that GLBT people who grew up in the 80's and 90's and kinky people aren't necessarily representative of mainstream views. I know, no shit. I had just assumed that when it comes to HIV, everyone was on the same page and it isn't true. As I waited for my test results (it was the rapid oral HIV test) I had a great chat with the director of the local AIDS services organization and one of the outreach people.

Some of their stories chilled me. College students believing that their oral contraceptives protected them from HIV and other STIs was bad. Worse was a recently infected person who was worried that casual touch could infect people that they came into contact with. Call me naive but I thought that as a country we had moved passed touching as an HIV vector before Clinton took office.

And I guess that's the point I have been driving at. I am naive. I am much more comfortable on the outskirts of society than the mainstream and I think that there is just as much of a tendency towards an attitude of superiority among those on the edges as those in the center. I had believed that HIV awareness and prevention was a universal priority because it was such an important one in my world. I imagine it is much the way many conservatives feel when faced with people who are happy being queer and don't feel the need of a "cure."

Our world as it is now has really only been around since the middle of the 19th century. That's when steam locomotives made inter-regional travel feasible. Before that it was a lot harder for people who use the term "soda" and those who call it "pop" to mingle. In the span of human history that's not a whole lot of time. It is not longer enough to passively allow our experiences of the world to develop. We need to make a conscious effort to expand our own concept of reality, even, or especially when it's hard to do.

That all said, for fuck's sake let's get rid of abstinence-only sex ed and teach kids how to avoid the gods-damned plague.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


A great deal has been going on since I last posted an essay here. I do comment about every other day on my livejournal, but almost all posts are restricted to my friends list. The difference between my livejournal and BarkingShaman is that I tend to post somewhat meaningful essays here, as opposed to the "here's what's happening in my life" posts that livejournal gets.

However, there are a few things I would like to talk about today.

First off, my and Galina Krasscova's article on firearms and pagan spirituality did finally run in NewWitch magazine. They changed the title sadly (from my "Boomsticks and Broomsticks") but the formatting is beautiful. I know that there is some real fear that the article will generate angry letters and complaints to the editors, but I feel strongly in the subject matter, and I know that there are many other pagans who do too.

There have been some major changes in my life. I had a trial run of an occipital neuromodulator installed in the back of my head (so yes, I spent five weeks with wires running out of the back of my head to a control box I had to carry/wear at all times). The results were incredible. I experienced about an %80 reduction in my pain levels and could function in ways that I had believed gone forever. Then, although happy to approve the trial to see if I was a canidate for implant surgery, the insurance company rejected me for implant surgery on the grounds that they no longer were interested in paying for the implant for any patients. It's one of the reasons it's been so long since I posted here. I sort of lost interest in living for a while after the rejection. We intend to fight it with the insurance commisioner for New Hampshire, but I'm just out of energy.

My home situation is not much better. Summer has decided that while he can't really leave, because the Boss Lady would seriously fuck him up, he will end/suspend his and my relationship. He's recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and his sexual identity shifts with his place in his bipolar cycle. He desperately wants to be heterosexual, and some times he can feel that way and others times he can't.

Since my Prop-8 posting I have had little to say about the current state of the world (since the neuromodulator came out I haven't been getting out much) that other bloggers and pundits aren't saying. Everyone sugested writing about my experiences with the neuromodulator in detail, but it is far too painful.

But now I've got some new things to say. Look for a new post before this Wednsday (1/21/09), and no, as of now I have no intention whatsoever to write about the inagural.

As an aside, I will be teaching two classes at Dark Odysey WinterFire, one magical class and one sexual techniques class.