Tag Archive: Dyke


I was at Unholy Harvest over the weekend. As usual, the largest leather-dyke event on the continent was awesome. I sang at the opening cabaret (“Fly Me To the Moon”) in a beaded Barbarella dress (harness? I’m not sure how much fabric you need for it to qualify as a dress) that I’d spent the past week sewing. I ran a foot-fetish workshop that was as much an ideas-sharing discussion as a chalk-and-talk “lecture”, took in two discussions on leather identity and one on navigating the pitfalls and boundaries of being a kinky health-care and/or mental-health-care service provider (who may run into both colleagues AND clients at parties or other community events). I missed out on a D/s and Mental Health discussion; a workshop on sex with trans women[1]; and watching my lovely wife teach a big chunk of her community how to repair minor issues with their gear (think popped grommets and un-stuck soles) and give a dozen eager people speedy stitchers of their own. I stretched my sadistic, poly wings a little and played with a couple of people whom I’ve been interested in for ages but was only able to ask (have the gumption to ask) to play with me this year. (It went well. It sounds like they’d both be game for playing again, so YAY! :-D) I saw Jacqueline and Andrea break down in tears when they were gifted leather by Everybody at the closing ceremonies.
 
It was a good weekend. A weekend where we – not just me, but *so many of us* – disclosed our vulnerabilities (past traumas, current pain, deep-seated insecurities and fears about what it is or isn’t okay for us to be) and walked out again feeling heard and less alone.
 
That’s a big deal.
 
Let me be clear on this – none of this, that I know of, was Ordeal Ritual (although those came up during the Health Care SPs Circle, and someone came and talked to me about That Stuff a little later on. I suggested a book – not an ordeal-focused book, but The Twelve Wild Swans: A Journey to the Realm of Magic, Healing, and Action by Starhawk and Hillary Valentine – as something that might be useful for crafting some rituals she’s been working on).
But it’s still a Going Through with the arms of your community around you, and that matters.
 
Which, in a sloppy, abrupt way, does segue into what I want to blog about today.
 
One of the workshops I went to was about Leather Phamilies – it was facilitated by a couple of people who are creating an anthology about such things, and who were looking for further perspectives on the subject.
Some of the things that came up in the discussion (when we were trying to come up with a working definition of “Leather” before we went on to “Leather Phamily/Family”; but also much later in the car, on the way home, when the same question came up) were as follows:
 
Leather as a culture – with regional variations, a common value system[2], rites of passage (collarings and uncollarings, the gifting of leather, the earning of club colours), and even “traditional dress”.
 
Leather as a community that hangs out and/or interacts beyond the party circuit or the bedroom[3]; a community that is primarily queer or queer-focused
 
Leather as a grass-roots social safety net (Mama’s Family is one example, but there are also examples of social housing for trauma survivors, and less formal situations like: I moved cities and suddenly lost my job, and this community of people who I didn’t even really know yet stepped up and filled my fridge, helped me find new work, renegotiated my rent, held me while I cried, did concrete things that literally kept me going)
 
Leather as a (working) classed identity[4]
 
Leather as a community that is very centered on knowledge-transfer
 
 
And, perhaps weirdly, that’s the one I want to talk about right now.
Because I never thought of it like that. I just assumed that everyone was a huge nerd when it came to kink. But, on the way home in the car, one of the gals – who used to run a club that primarily catered to the pansexual bdsm scene – said that the leather dykes are all about workshops and education in a way that the pansexual bdsm crown… isn’t.
And, having since heard a quotation from that Robert J Rubel book (see [3]) siting the dual origins of the broadest iteration of North American kinkdom, I can’t help thinking that this makes a lot of sense.
We have in our queer, leather community a history and, I think, a mythology about knowledge transfer.
 
Weird? Maybe.
But think about it.
 
Pre-internet, you actually did have to know someone who knew someone to find out when the events were or where they were happening, or even to be allowed in the door. There was no fetlife. There were no youtube tutorials to teach you (oh, for example) how to do a brand safely. There was word of mouth and, if you were lucky, a newsletter on paper that you might be able to sign up for if you found out it existed. By that token, we have a real history of teaching each other in a hands-on, in-person fashion.
But we also have a mythology – and I mean this in the anthropology/religious-studies sense of the word where “mythology” means “our deepest truths; the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, where we came from, and how to live and fit in the world” – about kinky, erotic apprenticeship. Think Mr. Benson or The Marketplace series for example, but also think about the stories and protocols of the Old Guard, of learning to top by bottoming and doing your first topping scene under the supervision of your master.
 
So.
Hands-on thinky-types who learn by doing as much as by checking out the theory?
 
I hadn’t thought of it that way – or at least I hadn’t thought that we were unique in that way. Maybe that’s a better way of putting it.
Anyway. Those are some thoughts (or some more thoughts) on leather as a culture.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] I regret missing this. Apparently it was EPIC. It took seven years for such a workshop to be offered (and, yes, it was taught be a couple of trans chicks), but it was really, really popular when it was. I think this bodes well. 😀
 
[2] If I were to take a guess? Honesty, loyalty, pleasure (!!!), honour, kindness (and/or compassion?), respect, joy, endurance (meaning both “I can take it” and “I can make/fix something so that it doesn’t fall apart”), really good food (maybe that’s just the dykes?), trust, flexibility/willingness to stretch and grow (physically but also in terms of skills, experiences, and understanding), knowledge + expertise & thinky-thinking (possibly also just the dykes?), connection(!), DIY and/or self-sufficiency, and got-your-back-itude (support for community / helping when called and stepping up without being asked).
 
[3] Robert J Rubel (author of Master/slave Relations, fyi) offered a distinction between what he called “leather” and “not leather” (but which I’ve also heard described as “leather community” and “bdsm community”) that was based on history and origin – “leather”, by his definition, grew out of gay veterans communities and motorcycle clubs in post-WW2 United States (1945-ish to 1960-ish); while “bdsm / not-leather” grew out of the swing community (of the 1960s but also much earlier than that).
 
[4] Which, itself, does tie into the queerness and the motorcycle clubs in our history. Both of those populations have historically been working class and/or poor, have done primarily service-industry jobs, have been sexworkers (men and women), have been able to afford the cost of a motorcycle but not a car, have been working through multiple levels of trauma and/or marginalization and needed capital-C Community to help with that, have joined the army for financial reasons, have been Kicked Out and making a buck in the bars shining boots and hoping to hook up with someone at the end of the night for a place to sleep, have appreciated donated, second-hand, durable clothing like, say, leather jackets or boots or chaps.

So… If you read Urban Meliad, you know I’ve been picking serviceberries all week from various available-to-the-public trees. And doing on-the-fly food security outreach (i.e.: telling people that, yes, you can eat these – here’s how) to anyone who asked me what I was doing. It’s been grand. 😀
 
One thing I’ve noticed is that men are more likely than women to ask about it; and that men of colour are (slightly) more likely to ask about it than white men, and they’re also more likely to approach me for confirmtaion that this is food, rather than to inform me that I probably can’t eat those (this is when I laugh, pop one in my mouth, and tell them that they’re fine).
I find this Interesting.
 
I mean, yeah, given the number of guys who ask me about fruit who also ask me if I’m married (or otherwise involved with, always, a man) or tell me I’m beautiful, or start out by calling me “sunshine” (or “sweetie” or whatever), some of this may just be that they’re looking to pick up, or at least flirt, and hey, here’s a chick who’s clearly busy doing something that requires standing in one place for a while, so: why not?
 
But it makes me wonder what they’re seeing.
See, I know that I’m child-free and polyamourous, a femme dyke, a spell-casting witch, an animist-polytheist, and broke enough to (need to) use foraging as a way of upping my healthy food intake without upping my grocery bill.
But I also know that, as (visually, at least) a Nice White Lady with earth-mama hips, a modest (ish) summer dress, and my hair up, I’m more likely to be read as “supposed to be here” (even when I’m flat-out nicking food off of other people’s trees[1]) by landlords, tennants, shop-keepers, and bylaw officers than I am if, say, I was a Nice Inuit Lady or a dude who was missing a lot of teeth.
 
Speaking of dudes who are missing a lot of teeth, and related to the “what do people see” question:
Today, while picking service berries (2.5 litres, as it turns out! Go me!) I had a conversation with an old guy. It went something like this:
 
Him: What are these?
Me: Serviceberries. Here. Try one. Pick the dark ones, they’re the ripest.
Him (picking serviceberries): What church do you go to?
Me (figuring that saying “actually, I’m a polytheistic witch” might not go over well): This one. I sing the praises of creation[2].
Him: Wonderful.
 
Now, I realize that I could have completely avoided temporarily forestalled this conversation if I’d just said “I’m a health outreach worker” rather than “I’m a wife” when he asked me what my job was[3].
Maybe that was dumb of me, though, because he followed this up with a question about children (he suggested that, if we prayed, we would have them eventually) and – long story short – I told him that, actually, I was married to a woman, that the friendly, feminine, thrifty, religious, long-skirt-wearing, lady who stated her primary occupation as “wife” was, in fact, Completely Unnatural.
He said he’d pray for me. Specifically that I would see the light and have lots of heterosexual children (boy or girl, doesn’t matter… progress?).
:-\
 
My wife, when I told her this story, pointed out that I don’t have to tell Random Strangers (that’s me editing what she actually said) everything.
 
I think she has a point.
 
I recently read Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, which I will get around to reviewing at some time in the future[4], but there’s one essay in it called “Looking Straight At You” (Zena Sharman, iirc) which talks about the million micro-second-quick decisions that feminine (and therefore “straight-looking”) queer chicks – femmes – make every day about whether or not to come out (again) to (yet another) random stranger who has assumed that we’re het.
 
In the same way that Zena – in the anecdote she shared in her essay – chose not to out herself to the cab driver on a long ride home (because she’s in an insolated environment – being alone in a moving vehicle with the stranger who’s asking about whether or not there’s a boyfriend in the picture), I often choose to out myself when I’m in my own (heavily queer, it bears mentioning) neighbourhood, in a well-populated area, during business hours because… what are they going to do? (Other than pray for me, I mean). If things get gross, I can – and do – walk away. Typically I don’t get followed. (Possibly because I’m generally bigger than whoever my interlocutor is? That’s my guess, anyway).
 
So, no. I don’t have to tell the Random Stranger everything about my private life. I definitely don’t need to tell Random Strangers whom I suspect will not be overly happy about the information I’m doling out everything about my private life. And it’s probably much wiser not to do so.
And yet…
 
And yet I kind of want to do so anyway. Because – okay. While I realize that it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more likely that the dude who said he’d pray for me is going to, well, forget all about me and/or write me off as a wacky fluke (or a nice girl who’s just very misguided) and continue to think that The Lesbians all look like KD Lang and/or SheHulk and, failing that, that he’ll just start habouring some minor “they could be anywhere” paranoia about dykes… I’d like to think there’s some tiny, microscopic chance that he’s going to stop assuming he can tell, and also stop assuming that We’re All Horrible In Every Way.
Call me naive.
 
And… Even though it’s none of their business; even though what makes my sexuality not blindingly obvious (and therefore “closeted” or “deceptive”, depending on what angle you’re viewing it from), or completely irrelevant, is assumptions on the part of the gazer about what looks “gay” or “queer” versus what looks “straight”, as well as social morees that normalize (and therefore set-as-default) one type of sexuality over all the others; I still don’t like “pretending” to be straight, letting people go on assuming that their stereotypes are accurate, especially when they’re applying those stereotypes to me and to my face. I don’t like “lying by omission” (or the likelihood that it will be interpreted as “lying by omission”) just because someone else made a wrong guess and is now talking to me with the wrong set of assumptions. So I tend to tell people when it comes up.
 
Maybe that’s not wise of me, and maybe that’s going to change. But for now, that’s where things are at and why.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] This is less of a thing when it comes to serviceberries, because the City Of Ottawa has been planting them like Woah all over down-town as part of various stree-rehabilitation projects (Preston and Bronson being two of them). I told one guy, today, that I thought it was part of the NCC’s plan to increase Ottawa-Gatineau’s Food Security (along with renting out small farms in the Green Belt to people specifically so that they can raise a diversity of veggies, fruits, and live stock to be sold at Ottawa Farmers’ Markets and similar). He rolled his eyes, but then told me about the orange trees in his home town, so I think he actually approves of the plan. 😉
 
[2] Thank you, United Church Choir up-bringing, for that handy turn of phrase. 🙂
 
[3] I say “forestalled” because, well, see earlier paragraph about the frequency of flirtatious and/or nosey behaviour on the part of dudes who talk to me while I’m picking fruit. There’s a really good chance that he was going to ask about this eventually.
 
[4] Short version: It’s a good addition to the “essays on femme” canon (I’m not so familiar with the “essays on butch” cannon, so I can’t really say on that one), with a good mix of voices and a decent amount of (Vancouver-centric – go figure) CanCon. I recommend. 🙂

So, when I first conceived the Greater Granola Blog Project, I had expected to wind up writing “H is for Harvest” and doing a post on what-all went on at Unholy Harvest 2012. To that end, I’m dropping a Very Short Synopsis here for your reading pleasure. The longer H-prompt will be coming to you in a few hours. Stay tuned. 🙂

Harvest was awesome (big shock). I dressed up as the Prom Queen of Harvest High and sang opera (the Flower Duet from Lakme) with The Lesbian Gym Teacher. I won the “best legs” competition (and was really happy to see “legs” and “back” be up for the “best of” prize because, y’know, not everyone is hella endowed in the tits department, as a for-instance, and it was nice to see other body parts getting recognized). Ghost and I did our first-ever branding scene. I played with people other than my own girlfriend (not something I do very often, so it’s kind of a big deal for me). Ghost, along with a heap of other faboo dyke bootblacks (organized, iirc, by Tarna – YAY!), raised a heap of cash to help keep Unholy Harvest running. “Femme-ily” got mentioned during the closing ceremonies as “What Harvest Means to Me” – which I love. I pretty much cried when I heard it, because Yeah. I got some new lingerie at the gear-swap AND flirted with a cute redhead at the post-clean-up brunch. AndGhost proposed to me on the drive home, when we stopped by the side of Highway Seven to admire the Northern Lights (which I’d never seen before).
So, yeah. Short version is: Harvest 2012 was FUCKING AMAZING and I’m seriously looking forward to 2013. 😀

Whee!

TTFN,
Ms S.

Come As You Are

So.

This Saturday, I’ll be attending a Rainbow Youth Event in Pembroke. (That’s Pembroke, small town in Renfrew County, for those who aren’t familiar with the location). I’ll be there to meet and mingle with the Rainbow population in one of the rural areas of my LHIN (I work for Rainbow Health Ontario, and my Outreach Area includes urban Ottawa and a number of not-so-urban spots within a few hours drive of here), hand out business cards, make some contacts, and see what-all’s going on in Renfrew County.

Come As You Are
May 12th, 2012
Workshops: 11:30 – 4:30
Dance: 8pm – Midnight

There will be workshops. Some of them are “fun” workshops – making comics, doing drag; and some of them are fun-but-serious (think sexual health information and How To Form a Rainbow Alliance). I’m really glad to see some of the Service Groups from Ottawa – specifically the Youth Services Bureau and PTS – offering workshops at this event.
There will also be a Drag Dance. (I confess, I’ll be going High Femme in the name of showing that queer doesn’t need to mean “gender non-conforming”, but that’s just me — I’d be going High Femme anyway. 😉

I’m really excited about this event, pretty much entirely because it’s happening in a fairly conservative (or is that Conservative?) area of my LHIN – the organizers want to Bring the World to Pembroke, in part so that the local youth who come to the event know that there are (lots) more of us out there, and we don’t all live in Toronto (although one of the organizers of Come As You Are tells me that, for youth in Renfew County, Ottawa is seen as this Bastion of Big Gay Everything, so maybe they already know that…)

TTFN,
Ms Syren.

Vacation!

Off shortly for Spring Fling.

Looking forward to the workshop on Magic(k) and Kink.

Gotta run! 😀

TTFN,
Ms Syren.

Found this on the internet. Couldn't tell you who's pic it is.
None the less, it fits.
Spring Fling 2012's theme is "Intention / In-Tension".

ZOMG it’s TOMORROW!

No More Apologies Ottawa
Queer Trans and Cis Women Talking Together
About Romance, Sexuality and Social Exclusion in Our Community

I’m excited.
Are you excited? 😀

TTFN,
Ms Syren.

Hey, my dears,

This is just a quick, self-promotional fly-by posting directing you to the following:

Naughty and Nice: An XXXmas Story in Three Parts – Part One

Naughty and Nice: An XXXmas Story in Three Parts – Part Two

Naughty and Nice: An XXXmas Story in Three Parts – Part Three

Dyke porn includes tit-slapping, age play, a trans femme, a cis butch, a really big dildo, a three-way, and Santa Clause. What’s not to love? 😀

TTFN,
Ms Syren. 😀

What Makes a Leather Dyke?

So, for the first time since 2005, Ottawa is having a Ms National Capital Leather competition.
While I have some… Issues… with the fact that the announcement that a Ms NC Leather was happening came out less than a month before the actual competition date (which I’m just not going to get into), I *am* glad that the competition is running and I’m hoping there’s a good turn-out of leather-savvy competitors for the Ms NC Leather title.

What I wanted to talk about, or muse about, or ask about, today was: What makes a Leather Dyke?

See, my girl and I were talking about Ms NC Leather, and who was signed up to compete, and what-not, and eventually we came around to this:

“I don’t think of you as a leather dyke.” She said she thinks of me as a femme domme with a sadistic streak, but that she couldn’t, for example, see me drinking in [Toronto gay leather bar] in my engineers’ boots[1].

I asked her if “leather dyke” required a certain degree of butchness (which is a weird-ass thing to be asking of a leather-dyke-identified femme, let me tell you).

And she said No, but that she wasn’t entirely sure what it did require.

I mean, obviously, a leather dyke isn’t just a (kinky) dyke who wears a lot of leather, otherwise it would be less a question of “That term doesn’t fit you” and more a question of “So where do we get you some leather?” And/or these kind of leather would qualify which, working from an equally nebulous place, I’m guessing they don’t. (Although I loved the excuse to go looking for non-black-and-studded leather goodies, I have to admit).

So. There’s more to it than that. But what? Is it a certain swagger or tough-assed-ness that brings to mind the word “diesel”? Is it community-involvement? Is it an affinity for, and acceptance of, Traditional protocols is D/s situations? Is it something else? Is it some/all of the above?

Have at me, folks. What makes a leather dyke a leather dyke?

– Cheers,
– Ms. Syren

[1] Possibly because I don’t have engineers’ boots, but that’s beside the point. Unless it isn’t.