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Trans Writer E. Parker Phillips Finds Poetry in He/r Fluid Identity

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E. Parker Phillips conveys a message of nonviolence.

By Liz Tracy

At a Yale writing workshop in 2003, one of E. Parker Phillips’ college classmates said Phillips’ erotic poem reminded them of a Calvin Klein ad. Phillips, who identifies as genderqueer and uses “s/he” and “he/r” pronouns, doesn’t remember the poem itself, only one line from the work about a lesbian sexual awakening: “Love is where we stay in bed and go shopping for hats.” The classmate was trying to humiliate Phillips. But s/he treasures the memory.

“The connection between sex, power, and writing felt undeveloped at a place like Yale,” Phillips recalls. “It made me feel like things weren’t set up for me to have a voice.

“Well, now I fight for that voice.”

At the time, Phillips was studying for a degree in Chinese. These days, s/he’s one of the busiest people in Miami, juggling writing, teaching, performing, BDSM and fetish work, and activism. Phillips cannot be explained simply in a line from a poem or exemplified in a single memory. But though Phillips defies labels, he/r uniquely intersectional message and example has made he/r one of South Florida’s most prominent voices in the queer and literary realms.

Phillips was a queer kid raised by strict parents near the Adirondack Mountains in Glens Falls, New York, a largely white, Republican, rural town. There was a lot of pressure at home to go to a good school. Phillips found sanctuary and joy in playing sports. “I was an athlete before anything else in my life,” s/he remembers.

After graduating from college, s/he lived “on the fringes of literary cultures at Yale and in New York City.” The red state of Florida might not seem like the most welcoming place for a queer writer, but Florida International University’s creative writing program offered Phillips the chance to study with renowned poets Campbell McGrath and Denise Duhamel. There, s/he recalls, “I could learn to embrace how I write from my groin and my heart while also exploring ideas and politics. Miami, and FIU, helped me turn my position as an outsider, once a source of shame, into a place of empowerment.”

Phillips taught at FIU and Broward College while publishing poems in journals such as Voluble (a LARB channel), The Sensations Feelings Journal, Jai-Alai Magazine, and Hinchas de Poesia. Along the way, s/he developed a unique literary style to express he/r layered experiences. “I am happiest at the nexus of language, performance, and physicality,” Phillips notes. “Writing poems is a trans-like state where I am thinking about my body both physically and emotionally, processing my experience in language — consciousness tethered to a sensual world.”

From 2014-’16, the instructor found a less conventional avenue for expressing he/r identity by opening a 1,500-square-foot BDSM commercial dungeon. “Both [kink and poetry] feel like arts of consciousness,” s/he explains. “BDSM, kink, for me brings together making money and art; it is how I have made a living in the past four years.”

S/he now operates out of a private fetish studio in Hollywood, Florida — and not just to pay the bills. “I try to work outside academia so I can deepen my engagement with the world, which affects my voice in poetry. It is not always easy. I probably do too much,” Phillips admits.

In addition to hosting BDSM play parties and a meetup for kinky people titled Miami Munch, for the past six months, Phillips has cohosted the weekly Queer and Trans Yoga class at Agni Miami.

“Poems, BDSM, yoga — these are my lifelines. Sharing these practices with other people amplifies their meaning and helps me push the boundaries of the various forms,” Phillips explains. “When I try to live up to the expectations of what I perceive as the mainstream poetry world, I end up not writing.”

In joining all of these varied pursuits, s/he explains, “If I can focus on bearing witness to my feelings and my body, bearing witness to politics and injustice, I can engage poetry as a vehicle through which I traverse the known into the not-yet-known… Imagining a different, more equitable world is particularly important to me as a nonbinary, genderfluid person.”

Part of imagining that world is changing the words used to describe it. “Language is an ontological problem — a world of ‘he’ and ‘she,’ a binary world,” Phillips continues. “How can we take that apart and build something more livable?… What happens when I share my queer, feminist consciousness with a reader? A change in hearts and minds can happen there.”

The Queer and Trans Yoga class s/he cofounded is another converging of these realities for Phillips. In a hatha class, the teacher focuses on yin — “practicing being versus doing” — according to one instructor. Students hold poses for three to five minutes, and class leaders discuss topics such as self-acceptance, self-love, and coping with rejection. During the class, a reiki practitioner attends to individuals. The class also begins or ends with a poem by a queer or trans author, or a talk by a community member.

“The message we convey is one of nonviolence toward self and others. There is a lot of emphasis on the self and falling in love with the self,” Phillips says.

Those themes will carry into he/r course at this week’s TransArt, an annual event that advances equity for the Latinx and LGBT communities through education. Titled I Talk to My Body, Phillips’ workshop will “look at the topic of the self addressing the body, which we will explore within the context of a queer and trans lived experience,” s/he says. Using works by poets Lucille Clifton, Anna Swir, and Joy Ladin, Phillips hopes to teach students to “make sense of, or even celebrate, a discontinuity between self and body.”

Phillips recalls a recent moment at Queer and Trans Yoga when a practitioner spoke about being queer-bashed by a trusted yoga instructor. The reflection evoked a related yoga practice. Class members were told to lie on their backs with legs in the air, “so we could feel the disorientation the person experienced. It felt like falling backwards,” Phillips remembers. “I really wanted to get up and leave — it was challenging both emotionally and physically.”

But the meaning of the action made it bearable for Phillips. Inversion poses like that lift energy to the throat, s/he explains, renewing one’s voice.

“Learning how to work through discomfort is a hugely valuable lesson for me as a queer person, given the discomfort I face in the adult entertainment industry, in my family, and as a poet,” Phillips describes. “Doing yoga in community and turning the raw, painful stuff of lived experience into something inspiring and shared — that is another act of poem-making too.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The New Hanky Code Is an Actual Thing. Do You Know It Yet?

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The hanky code (aka. “flagging”) was a ‘60s and ‘70s era way for gay men and BDSM fetishists to covertly signal their sexual interests in an age when seeking and having gay sex could get you arrested, beaten up or fired (it can still get you fired, by the way). Though it has largely fallen out of disuse, several queer artists have created new hanky codes in new and interesting ways.

What was the old hanky code?

Different colored handkerchiefs signified what sex acts you wanted (red for fisting and yellow for water sports, for example) and the pocket position indicated whether you were a dominant/top (left pocket) or submissive/bottom (right pocket).

Here’s a simple hanky code color chart:

The old (simplified) hanky code chart

As the hanky code became better known, marketers began creating meanings for every bandana color imaginable (dark pink for tit torture and leopard print for tattoo lovers, for example), but it’s likely that few people actually knew the entire spectrum because — as you’ll see in the chart below — who could possibly remember all 65 variations or tell the difference between orange and coral in a dark bar?

The waaaaay over-complicated hanky code

What is “the new hanky code”?

In our modern age of legalized gay sex and social apps, the hanky code has become more of a fashionable conversation starter at leather bars rather than an active way to solicit sex. Nevertheless, around 2014, a queer Los Angeles art collective called Die Kränken (The Havoc) began discussing what a new hanky code might look like.

Incorporating the sexual inclinations and gender identities of their members, Die Kränken designed 12 new hankies and created an exhibition entitled, “The New Rules of Flagging.” Their new hankies included ones for polyamory, outdoor sex, the app generation, womyn power, Truvada warriors and “original plumbing” (which was either a reference to the transgender male magazine or to urine and bathroom sex).

You should see all 12, but here’s some of our favorites:

Bossy bottom

Queens

Queer Punk

In addition to displaying the hankies, Die Kränken gave surveyed and interviewed attendees to figure out what hanky best fit them. He then invited the attendees to perform a short, pre-choreographed dance demonstrating the spirit of each hanky. The Truvada warrior’s dance, for instance, had people mimic a scorpion crawling up their arm before confidently brushing it off and flinging invisible pills into the air.

We asked Jonesy and Jaime C. Knight, two members of Die Kränken, why their hankies were so much more explicitly designed than the in-the-know ’70s era hanky code. They more or less responded, “Because we wanted to design something cool.” Their handkerchiefs aren’t for sale, sadly.

“The New Hanky Code” is also a hilarious stand-up routine….

In his 2014 stand-up routine, gay comedian Justin Sayre, plays the Chairman of the International Order of Sodomites who announces, “The board is thrilled to announce that we will be bringing back the hanky code, but this time, it’s to talk about your damage.”

“Long have these issues laid in the shadows of a second date,” Sayre says, “but no more. We’d like to put it out there.”

In Sayre’s new hanky code, wearing a handkerchief in your right pocket means that you self-identifying as having a particular issue whereas the left pocket means you’ve only been called out on it, “so it becomes a playful game amongst friends.”


 
According to Sayre, white hankies now signify racists, gray equals boring, yellow is for commitment-phobes, baby blue means you have mother issues, pink stands for ingrained homophobia (i.e. “masc-seekers”), mustard means you drink too much, magenta is poor personal hygiene and so on for conspiracy theorists, those who don’t like The Golden Girls and others.

In Sayre’s version, people can make up their own personal hankies (like charcoal for workaholic and eggshell for undiagnosed) and also assign hankies to one another. “We ask you all to be kind when assigning colors to other people,” he concludes. “because remember: You’ll be wearing them too.”

… and there’s also a Hanky Code film for queer fetish fans too.

Hanky Code is also the name of a 2015 queer indie film made up of 25 shorts from different international queer directors that each explore a different color and fetish from the hanky code. It’s quite artistic, avant-garde and even a little graphic (the segment on piercing almost made our squeamish editor pass out), but it’s a fine piece of film that re-interprets the decades-old hanky code for a new age.


 
Complete Article HERE!

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Why do people visit a dominatrix?

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These men explain the appeal

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Everyone recognizes the popular image of the dominatrix standing over a cowering man, usually with a whip in her hand.

‘S&M’ has been a popular theme in art and films for a very long time, although it’s now generally referred to as BDSM (a surprisingly recent term which covers a whole heap of different kinky activities).

The development of the internet has made it easier than ever to find people willing to indulge your kinks and the pro-domme business is more popular than ever. But what makes men want to pay for the privilege of being hurt and humiliated?

I spoke to two men who use professional domme services and asked them – why?

Jason

‘I had fantasies around pain and punishment from a very young age. When I was about eight I was left in a car by my parents while they went to a dinner.

‘Unable to sleep I came across the hard case my father kept his glasses in and smacked myself with it. I guess it developed from there.

‘In my teens I bought a riding crop and had to create a complex lie to explain its presence in the house when it was found. Ours, by the way, was a loving, completely abuse-free family with almost no corporal punishment.

‘My first marriage was completely vanilla. When we separated I finally went to see a Domme I found in the back pages of a London newspaper.

‘She tied me to a chair and beat me so hard the bruises lasted a fortnight. At first I was too shocked and horrified to enjoy it but by the end I was surfing a huge wave of pain and endorphins and I floated out of her apartment.

‘I’m more masochistic than submissive, so it’s about pain more than humiliation. It’s hard to explain.

‘It’s the intimate interaction with the Domme, the sense of giving up all control to her, it’s the extreme sensations she causes and the beautiful clarity of focus that comes from the need to master them.

‘It’s the floaty subspace that pain can take you to, it’s the sense of having been challenged and survived. It’s all those things and more.

‘[If you want to visit a domme] think carefully about what you want to explore and read a lot of Dommes’ websites first.

‘Make it clear you are inexperienced and ask for an introductory session where you can try different aspects of BDSM at a mild level.

‘Be patient though – like any sex workers, Dommes unfortunately have to filter out a lot of timewasters and abusive people for each genuine new client.’

Stefan

‘A girl I played with at primary school would spank me if I misbehaved in the games we were playing – I think I was supposed to be a very disobedient puppy.

‘I then went to a boys’ school so met very few girls until sixth form college. We played a card game called ‘rappsies’ – if you lost you would have your knuckles hit with the pack of cards. I did my best to always lose to the girls.

‘I was a late starter outside my fantasy life. I studied hard and went to university before losing my virginity.

‘I’ve been with the same woman all my adult life – she shared my fantasies for a long time but then her interest in sex gradually waned away to nothing.

‘I could find fellow kinky people on the internet but I wasn’t looking for a relationship outside my marriage.

‘My wife is my wife and I love her but she no longer seems to have the need to have a sexual relationship, whereas I still enjoy sex – or at least my version of sex.

‘There can be pain but it is always balanced with pleasure – have you ever had a sore tooth that you bite on every now and again just to see?

‘The dommes I visit are all incredibly attractive and I have the need to please them. They all seem to genuinely enjoy what they do and ensure I get the experience I desire.

‘Strangely I don’t see being pissed on or spat on as being humiliated, I find it incredibly personal and intimate. It’s all down to the scenario.

‘I feel honoured – I’m getting exactly what I asked for. I would say I enjoy sensual domination and wouldn’t visit a domme who I thought didn’t care for me.

‘The mistresses I see (and their partners) are all regularly tested for STI’s so I feel that I’m not really putting myself at that much of a risk – and I get tested regularly too.

‘I don’t think [fetishes] have a psychological trigger. Probably I have a need to be liked and accepted by a woman, but what heterosexual man doesn’t? In my work life I’m generally the one in charge, on call 24hrs a day.

‘I have taken part in cuckold sessions where the mistress has sex with another man while I am ‘forced’ to watch, then to have to clean up the mess. Again I actually enjoy watching the mistress enjoying herself (I knew it was something she was looking forward to!).

‘It’s role play and I enjoy my role. Life is all about experiences – why leave this world knowing you have missed out on some that were within your grasp?’

What’s it like to be one of the women providing these services? I spoke to professional domme Ms Slide, who gave me the lowdown on dominating men for a living.

Have you always been interested in kink?

‘Dominatrix work has always been an integral part of who I am. Everyone has their own individual kinks and fetishes and I’m no different.

‘Practices perceived as unconventional are too often stigmatised. There is no such thing as ‘normal’ when it comes to consenting adult sexuality.’

How did you end up being a domme?

‘Kink was something that always fascinated me and I crossed over into the fetish scene from goth and cosplay.

‘Friends of friends began to contact me privately for sessions before I ever advertised as a pro-domme.

‘My career started almost by accident, but it’s something I love and will continue to do for as long as I’m able.

‘I am also a writer and illustrator and am now privileged enough to be able to take months out from pro-domming if I have a big project on the go, but I don’t ever see myself stopping entirely. It’s who I am.’

Where does the law stand re domme work?

‘UK law is tricky about what does or doesn’t constitute sex work.

‘Sex workers are all equally stigmatised (and put in danger) because of the legislation around how many of us can work together in one place without it being classed as a ‘brothel’.

‘The proposed criminalisation of all clients – the ‘Nordic Model‘ – would push our work underground, making the most vulnerable of us take greater risks for less money and undermining our safety.

‘Solidarity is important. Whatever our circumstances – whatever kind of sex work we do and whatever reason we have for doing it – we deserve the same rights and safety as workers in any other industry.

‘The law should protect us, not harm us – this can only be achieved through full decriminalisation, destigmatisation and unionisation.’

Is there a typical client?

‘No! The stereotypes you see on television of rich old bankers are largely inaccurate (unless that’s the demographic you specifically choose to market to – some dommes specialise).

‘Most of my clients have been men, but not all. I choose clients depending on how compatible we are.

‘If they have the wrong attitude, or have interests outside of what I enjoy, they don’t get to meet me.’

Do your friends and family know about your work?

‘I’m largely ‘out’ to friends and family, which is a privilege that many don’t have.

‘I have had problems in the past due to people’s misconceptions about kink and sex work which just makes me more determined to challenge the media misrepresentations of who we are and what we do. We are real people, not stereotypes.’

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Aftercare Is The BDSM Practice That Everyone Should Be Doing

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By Sophie Saint Thomas

If you’re unfamiliar with the BDSM scene, you might think it’s all whips, handcuffs, and pleasurable pain, but there’s one important element that BDSM practitioners have built into their sex lives to make sure that everyone involved feels safe and cared for after play time is over: a practice known as aftercare. And whether you’re into BDSM or have more vanilla tastes, aftercare is something everyone should be doing.

In the BDSM world, aftercare refers to the time and attention given to partners after an intense sexual experience. While these encounters (or “scenes,” as they’re called) are pre-negotiated and involve consent and safe words (in case anyone’s uncomfortable in the moment), that doesn’t mean that people can forget about being considerate and communicative after it’s all over. According to Galen Fous, a kink-positive sex therapist and fetish sex educator, aftercare looks different for everyone, since sexual preferences are so vast. But, in its most basic form, aftercare means communicating and taking care of one another after sex to ensure that all parties are 100% comfortable with what went down. That can include everything from tending to any wounds the submissive partner got during the scene, to taking a moment to be still and relish the experience, Fous says.

Specifically, with regards to BDSM, the ‘sub-drop’ is what we are hoping to cushion [during aftercare],” says Amanda Luterman, a kink-friendly psychotherapist. A “sub-drop” refers to the sadness a submissive partner may feel once endorphins crash and adrenaline floods their body after a powerful scene (though dominant partners can also experience drops, Fous says).

Of course, you don’t have to be hog-tied and whipped to feel sad after sex. One 2015 study found that nearly 46% of the 230 women surveyed felt feelings of tearfulness and anxiety after sex — which is known as “postcoital dysphoria” — at least once in their lives (and around 5% had experienced these feelings a few times in the four weeks leading up to the study). Experts have speculated that this may stem from the hormonal changes people (particularly those with vaginas) experience after orgasm, but many also say that it can come from feeling neglected. The so-called “orgasm gap” suggests that straight women, in particular, may feel that their needs in bed are ignored. And Luterman says that people in general can also feel lousy post-sex if they’re not communicating about what they liked and didn’t like about the experience.

Clearly, taking the time to be affectionate and talk more after sex — a.k.a. aftercare — can make sex better for everyone, not just those who own multiple pairs of handcuffs. So what does that mean for you? It depends on the kind of sex you’re having, and who you’re having it with.

Taking the time to be affectionate and talk more after sex — a.k.a. aftercare — can make sex better for everyone, not just those who own multiple pairs of handcuffs.

Like we said, there are lots of guidelines for BDSM aftercare, specifically. If you’re having casual sex, aftercare can mean simply letting your guard down and discussing the experience, something that can be scary to do during a one-night stand. It’s definitely dependent on the situation, but Luterman says that you can just express that you had a good time and see if they’re interested in seeing you again (if those are thoughts you’re actually having). “People want to be reminded that they still are worthwhile, even after they’ve been sexually gratifying to the person,” Luterman says. If your experience didn’t go well, it’s important to voice that, too.

And those in long-term relationships are certainly not exempt from aftercare, Luterman says. It’s something couples should continue to do, especially after trying something new (such as anal sex), she says. Did the sex hurt? Do they want to do it again? What did they like and not like about it? You can’t know what your partner is thinking unless you ask them. Plus, it can be easy for long-term partners to feel taken for granted, so making sure to cuddle, stroke each other’s hair, and savor the moment after sex can make even the most routine sex feel special.

One thing we should all keep in mind? It can also be helpful to continue these conversations when everyone’s vertical (and clothed) and any post-orgasm high has faded.

At the end of the day, aftercare is just a fancy term for making sure everyone’s happy once the sex is over. And while communication needs to be happening before and during sex as well, having these discussions afterwards comes with an added bonus: You can learn from the experience so that the sex is even hotter the next time.

Complete Article HERE!

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Hookup culture is a cisgender privilege

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by Jesse Herb

Have you ever been called disgusting? What about deceitful or a liar? I have been called all three of these things, some more than once actually. I wish I could tell you that for every time I was called these names it was for a different reason but, unfortunately, the answer always boiled down to anatomy. What’s under my bra and what’s between my legs has made me fear for my life while simultaneously worrying I might let the possibility of experimentation pass me by.

Sex and gender are two very different things, and yet to most cisgender people, they are entirely the same: genitals equate sex, sex equates gender and therefore sexuality, and “badda bing badda boom we’re in business.” To be able to normalize the idea that everyone’s genitals align to their sex because that’s just how “it is” or is “science,” is enacting cisgender privilege and perpetuates transphobia. However, in actuality, “Most societies view sex as a binary concept, with two rigidly fixed options: male or female, both based on a person’s reproductive functions,” whereas gender is defined by “our internal experience and naming of our gender,” according to genderspectrum.org.

Privilege permeates in all different facets, in every community. In my own community, I have privilege, due to being white and cisgender-passing, but I also face the implementation of privilege done by cisgender people. One of the biggest examples of cisgender privilege is that of “hookup culture.” Hookup culture is defined as “one that accepts and encourages casual sexual encounters, including one-night stands and other related activity, which focus on physical pleasure without necessarily including emotional bonding or long-term commitment.” I’ve said it before, and as a trans woman, I’ll say it again: Hookup culture is a cisgender privilege.

It always has been and always will be. For most cisgender people, excluding demisexual (a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone), asexual (someone who does not experience sexual attraction), or non-sexually active cisgender people, it can be as simple as swiping right or finding someone at a party and going home with them. For trans people, it is an explanation. Sometimes, the explanation can happen at the beginning with “Just so you know, I’m trans,” or it can happen later after the “Why can’t we have sex?” talk. No matter what, the explanation will happen, and more often than not, it is greeted with rejection, erasure of identity or repulsion.

Some trans people, myself included, often feel we have to hide our identities as if it’s some shameful secret, rather than our gender. Not to mention, being hesitant to talk about our identities only reconstitutes the belief that trans people are always out to deceive. Or trans people, again myself included, experience the converse and are fetishized for our gender. I still remember my freshman year when some cisgender man told me, “I prefer trans women because, since they used to be guys, they know exactly what we like.”

Trans people are subjected to all of these treatments and are much more likely to experience violence due to sex than cisgender people, especially trans people of color. There are so many privileges to recognize that exist within hookup culture:

Not having to lie or hide your identity to a potential partner is a cisgender privilege. Having a one-night stand is a cisgender privilege. Unwavering sex positivity is a cisgender privilege. Stigmatization of no sexual activity/being a virgin is a cisgender privilege. Not being pressured into body-altering surgery is a cisgender privilege. Never having to worry if someone won’t like you because you’re transgender is a cisgender privilege. Not ever having to feel unlovable because of your own gender is a cisgender privilege.

The previous examples are only a small few of the long list of privileges that exist from hookup culture. Not to mention countless other societal institutions that also preserve cisgender privilege.

Transgender Day of Visibility is a day for members of the gender nonconforming community to feel proud, safe and valid. The best way cisgender people can present support is by understanding privileges within social constructs like gender and virginity, and actively combatting them. For example, when someone is complaining that “it’s so hard to find people” or “hookup culture is so annoying sometimes” remind them that not everyone, although still pressured by society to do so, can participate in hookup culture, and also face adversity, dysphoria or vilification for trying to.

Complete Article HERE!

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