Mar 312013
 

Sunday, April 28th 

7pm

Bluestockings Bookstore 

172 Allen St.  NY, NY

International award-winning author-artists Amber Dawn and Sassafras Lowrey join forces! Amber Dawn, author of Sub Rosa and the new How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir, will debut the book in NYC. Amber Dawn offers an unflinching, and multifaceted portrait of her experiences hustling the streets of Vancouver, BC. Sassafras Lowrey’s debut novel, Roving Pack, was just published, and ze is also the editor of the anthologies Kicked Out and Leather Ever After.

Amber Dawn is the author of Lambda Award-winning novel Sub Rosa and multiple short films including the docuporn, Girl on Girl. She toured with the Sex Workers’ Art Show and is the former Director of Programming for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival (VQFF). Amber Dawn was the 2012 Eli Coppola Memorial Chapbook Prize from RADAR Productions. She teaches creative writing courses for at-risk youth and sex workers in Vancouver, BC, where she resides. www.amberdawnwrites.com

Sassafras Lowrey is an internationally award-winning author, artist, and educator. Sassafras is the editor of the two time American Library Association honored, and Lambda Literary Finalist Kicked Out anthology (www.KickedOutAnthology.com) which brought together the voices of current and former homeless LGBTQ youth. Sassafras’ highly anticipated American Library Association honored debut novel Roving Pack (www.RovingPack.com) was released in autumn 2012. Roving Pack is set in an underground world of homeless queer teens searching for community, identity and connection amidst chaos. Sassafras is also the editor of Leather Ever After an anthology of BDSM fairy tale retellings. Sassafras regularly lectures and facilitates LGBTQ storytelling workshops at homeless shelters,colleges, conferences and community groups across the country and believes in the transformative power of storytelling for marginalized queer communities. Sassafras lives in Brooklyn with hir family. To learn more about Sassafras and hir work, visit www.SassafrasLowrey.com

Mar 262013
 

While everyone is thinking about marriage- lets put some resources towards the queer kids whose basic needs aren’t yet being met. a win in the Supreme Court isn’t going to help them, but you can.

Here’s a list of homeless queer youth serving agencies. Make a donation, give a queer kid a chance to live and grow http://www.kickedoutanthology.com/resources

Mar 252013
 


In the past couple of years I’ve been lucky enough to experience many aspects of my life coming full circle. Call it Saturn return, or fate, or luck, or plain ol’ coincidence but it’s been really profound to have connections and experiences that circle back to my past. Writing and then releasing both Kicked Out and more recently and in some ways especially Roving Pack played huge roles in having the opportunity to witness things coming full circle in my life.  I have just accepted the invitation to deliver the Keynote at the 2013 Oregon Queer Youth Summit, which is organized by SMYRC – the youth center where I grew up.

When I was 17, newly out, and newly homeless I heard about SMYRC for the first time.  I was the acting president of my semi-rural high school’s first GSA and I was desperate for any kind of queer community. I had been attending meetings of COSMYC, which was the rural outreach program that came into my county to create a safe-ish place for us to meet. Mostly we met in downtown Milwaukie by the bus depot. We’d sit in a coffee shop and talk, work on zines, there was one time that a group of skinheads chased us away, but on the whole we were pretty safe.  The small handful of other youth who went to these meetings were TERRIFIED of ever coming out in our county, I didn’t blame them – I was the living example of what happens when you did. I felt even more alone, even more stuck and hopeless in that county and I had to get out. I knew that there must be out queer people in Portland (I had no idea how right I was about to be). I’d been staying with a friend from school and his supportive parents since being kicked out the last time, but I couldn’t stand being in Clackamas anymore.

I looked at ad listings for rooms in the newspaper and started calling anything and asking if they would rent to a minor, who had a retraining order against their parents. I figured I better put it all right on the table. Finally I found a hippy couple with gay upstairs neighbors willing to rent the basement room to me. It didn’t have a door, just a steep unfinished stairwell, and tiny windows right at ground level. It was a horrible little room, but they didn’t care I was 17, and it was walking distance to SMYRC.  SMYRC- the sexual minority youth recreation center, which funded COSMYC but where I’d never been for drop-in programming, but I knew from everything I’d been told was the only place that might find others folks a little bit like me.  I had no way have knowing I would find what would become my first loving and accepting home.

SMYRC literally raised me, and saved me up. I’m where I am today because of the connections and relationships I made at SMYRC, and because of the skills I developed there as a member of the youth steering committee, and as a bridge 13 community trainer.  SMYRC is where I learned how to be a community organizer and an activist, not in any classroom. SMYRC is where I gained the confidence to call myself a writer and created the space for me to seriously begin the journey to where I am today. Whenever I meet people who start talking about the great friendships/relationships/experiences they had in high school or college, I think of SMYRC.  While I had those educational experiences, neither of them defined me in the way that SMYRC did, and still does.  It was the first place where I met other homeless youth, and together we built families that exist to this day. SMYRC was not your average youth center, it is where I learned about BDSM/Leather and learned about the kind of relationship dynamics that were possible.

In 2003 I was part of the organizing of the very first Oregon Queer Youth Summit.  I’d been living on my own for over a year and felt solid as a youth organizer and leader in that space. I remember that I  co-led a zine making workshop for other youth, and remembering how alone and isolated I’d felt out in Clackamas County, was thrilled at the idea the summit could be bringing youth together from across Oregon.  This photo was actually taken in that workshop at the very first OQYS.

SMYRC has changed a lot over the years, they’ve physically moved twice and all the staff that were there have moved on (to other incredible projects- I feel so blessed to call most of them friends now).  I haven’t done a lot with SMYRC, and had no idea that anyone there would have any clue who I was, or that I’d ever been a SMYRCer. Imagine my surprise when a couple of weeks ago I got an email from current staff inviting me to deliver the KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE 2013 OREGON QUEER YOUTH SUMMIT! There were travel and scheduling issues, but thanks to the magic of the internet and SKYPE technology I was able to accept the invitation and will be digitally delivering the keynote, and doing a Q&A with the youth in attendance.

Writing has given me so many opportunities that as a SMYRC youth I never imagined were possible – I’ve toured the country, won awards, toured Europe and had the chance everywhere I’ve been to connect with queers of all ages and yet I cannot even begin to explain how excited I am to be going back home, and to be invited to deliver the keynote, for a conference that in a small part I helped to start.

Equally exciting – and incredibly nerve wracking I’ve learned that the SMYRC writing group is going to be having a book club, and they are READING ROVING PACK!!!!!  I’ve been in touch with one of the youth organizers and it sounds like folks are all really excited to read the novel.  I’m going to be using SKYPE to visit with them, answer questions, and be part of their conversation when they finish reading!!!  Roving Pack is fiction, but in many ways it is inspired by experiences that I had growing up at a punk and youth led queer youth center, the experiences that I had at the SMYRC that I came out into. I’m nervous and cannot wait to visit with the first book group (that I know of) to be reading Roving Pack, and to have it be a youth group at SMYRC? Wow.  I don’t even know how to put into words how amazing this is— cannot wait to hear what they think of it.

 

 

Mar 182013
 

March is women’s history month. As some of you might know or have guessed, I have such a strange relationship to  “woman” as an identity. It doesn’t ever quite feel right, and yet there is something not entirely wrong about it.  I think to me woman feels like a pair of boots that are ½ a size too small. It’s not all wrong, yet no matter how long I wear them or try to break them in they will always rub wrong in places.  I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship to the term “woman” this month because I’m really humbled and honored that I was included in the Women’s History Month exhibit at the Long Island LGBT Center.

I am still SHOCKED that my name was put in by someone as a possibility to consider let alone that my name made the list and I’m on display at the community center! One of my favorite things about the experience though is that I was asked if I would feel comfortable being included in their WOMEN’S history month.  My response was that while I don’t necessarily identify as a woman, but I do hold a strong connection/relationship to dyke as an identity and to dyke culture, which makes me feel comfortable being connected to women’s focused things even if “woman” isn’t how I would go about defining my gender, and if they felt comfortable including me given all that, then I would be honored to be included. Not only did they include me, but they without question used my correct pronouns (ze/hir)!  I don’t make a huge deal about pronouns most of the time, I know that I live in a world where gender nonconforming pronouns are seen as  confusing and cumbersome, and mostly I just let it slide, but when folks get it right?  That means so much to me, especially in the context of something like Women’s History Month.

The news was shared on Facebook/Twitter, and I had a few folks privately contact me/ask me how I felt about being included in something specific for women.  I wanted to share the exciting news here on my blog, but I also wanted to make clear that this is something I’m really excited about, and explain a little more about how gender works for me, and how that connects to the work that I do in the world. I”m beyond honored to be included in this, shocked comes to mind, and I love that youth and others at the Long Island LGBT Center who are looking at the exhibit will get to see a genderqueer person as part of a month that they might feel complicated relating to!

 

Mar 122013
 

It’s been a few weeks since I posted a more personal sort of blog. It’s been a busy few weeks, which has been the reasoning behind that silence, and I’ve of course been “micro blogging” everything via my facebook/twitter but lets be real, that just isn’t the same, at least not for me. Sometimes I’m asked why I choose to be so public with the intimate details of my life, and for me it’s about knowing that I’m able to understand myself best when I see myself, or aspects of myself represented in mediated artifacts – it’s best for me with books, but even seeing bits of my life in blogs, films etc.  makes me have a greater understanding of myself, and since the life I live is nonnormative in several different ways, I feel like it’s useful to add my voice to the mix, to offer a different perspective.  I’m thinking a lot about poly right now- what it really means to me in terms of the ways I choose to organize my life, how that has shifted over time, and how much I’ve grown, how much my whole little family has grown, and evolved and gained greater understanding, appreciation, and ultimately deeper love. It’s been a really exciting few weeks in my personal life where I feel like a lot of the work I’ve been doing over the past couple of years has really come into being, and I’ve really been able to see the payoff of so much work that I have been doing.

I’ve talked before on the blog about the idea of what I call whale legs.  In our house, we call edgeplaying with boundaries “Whale Legs.”  Let me explain–whales have little vestigial leg bones hidden in their tales that are left over from a time when they roamed the earth instead of swimming through the sea. Sometimes there are boundaries I’ve held unexamined for 10 + years, holdouts from a place and time where I was a very different person, and sometimes as scary as I imagine it must have been for the little whale to realize that it no longer needed its legs, it’s equally powerful for the whale to realize it can glide through the water no longer inhibited by unnecessary boundaries uh…. Appendages

In the past couple of years, done the work. It feels incredibly good to be able to look around and really be able to say that YES, I stood up to the plate and did the really challenging, triggering, and just plain HARD work to get to where we are now.  I certainly was not alone in doing all that work, but I was consistently the one that pushed myself to be doing it. Sometimes, I look around and can barely recognize the memory of who I once was, and how many decisions I let be about fear. Fear of getting hurt, fear of letting others in, fear of being let down, fear of just how freaky and how queer I would feel at home in – and yet, how to the untrained eye how non-freaky/kinky that would come to look.

Last week my Daddy was away traveling– more specifically, ze was in Holland visiting hir girlfriend. It’s the second trip that ze has taken to see her in their almost two years being together, and she will be here for the third time late this summer (more on that later). We’ve been poly since the beginning of our almost 9 year relationship, yet I never believed that something like this could ever be ok– travel used to be n my HARD limits, until I saw how happy she makes hir, and I wanted to give hir the chance to go and visit her. I won’t lie and say its easy, but this years trip was so much less emotionally difficult. It didn’t hurt that even though it was hir second trip ze didn’t hold back on making the time as magical as possible for me- there were little animals and finger puppet monsters hidden through our home, videos recorded for every night ze was away and of course staying in regular email/text communication. I was also really lucky to get leather family visit from my Uncle who came down to NYC for the majority of my Daddy’s trip.

I missed Kestryl of course, but I also felt at ease, and at peace in my trust that ze would come home, and that the home we share is what ze still wants. Being able to have that kind of unquestioned trust is HUGE for me, and something I never thought I would be able to have.  In the last two years I’ve spent a lot of time (and work) questioning what boundaries existed because they actually felt good/important to me, and what were about fear, and trying to keep a situation “safe” aka not letting someone have the opportunity to hurt me.  OUCH. It was embarrassing to realize that I did have boundaries that fell into that latter category, and then having the ability to (with lots of support) push through those boundaries, and make the decision to live differently.

Here’s a little secret— I hate new relationship energy- unlike most people I don’t find it invigorating or inspiring. I don’t really date for a variety of reasons – my lack of interest in sex being one. I’m far more personally interested in building queer/leather family and fostering those relationships in my life. By the same token, I thin the longer that Kestryl and hir girlfriend are together, the more comfortable I feel with their relationship. When ze got home, I suggested that when she comes to visit for two weeks at the end of summer, that instead of her getting a hotel/air b&b that she should STAY with us—talk about a huge amount of growth over time!  So in September she’s going to be here for two weeks and stay in our office, and we will all three take the dogs and go stay at a cottage upstate for Labor Day weekend and then come back and all be in the house together, and while I’m sure aspects of it will be challenging, but I feel completely confident in the decision I made to volunteer opening our house to her, I feel like it’s a HUGE step, but also an important one. They will have been together over 2 years by that point, and I can honestly say that I don’t feel threatened by her. The relationship that Kestryl and hir girlfriend have couldn’t be more different than the one I that Kestryl and I share but I can honestly say that I see how good she is for hir.

Different relationships, different roles, different. Getting a solid grasp on that has been the core to all this work for me. Different not better, not more important, just different was something that I had a theoretical understanding of, but struggled to implement emotionally, and mostly that had NOTHING to do with my relationship, nothing to do with us being poly, or Kestryl’s relationship to hir girlfriend, and everything to do with my own self-judgments and an internalized little-phobia, and my coming to terms with my own sexuality and what feels good and authentic at this point in my life.

About a year ago I wrote here on my blog about feeling like I was coming out as being D/s and leather oriented as apposed to sexually oriented. I talked about how while I have been/can be very good at sex; I’m not at all interested in having it.  I’ve had a lot of sex in my life, with a lot of people and I feel really good about those experiences – actually I think that I really needed to have them in order to get to a place where I could have this kind of deeper understanding of myself, my desires and what (at least for now) makes sense to me. A lot of the sex that I’ve had over the years was in so many ways about getting as close as I could to what I wanted – the safety and intensity that I find in D/s. At the risk of TMI I was most attracted to the most intense sex I could come up with to keep me in my body, to keep me present. I did lots of fisting, lots of hard sex that would end in tight holding and coming down— it was being held that was the part that felt the best. It was that kind of trust that I was chasing, just like I was chasing the kind of intensity I find in D/s through so much of the sex that I had prior 9 years ago when Kestryl and I got together.

I am, amongst other things someone who writes dirty stories, if I could (within that genre) I’d write only kink without sex, but sex sells and I know it. It’s funny to have that kind of writing having a more forefront place in my life while simoltantiously having sex be so far removed from my actual life and desires.  My daddy and I haven’t had sex in a year, and come June it will be a year since I’ve had sex with ANYONE.  I’ve never felt happier. I’ve never felt less dysphonic, and at truce with my body. I don’t believe that is coincidence.  When I was able to open up to myself about what I really wanted, really having needed it was like a weight lifted off me. I hesitate to discuss this openly because I’m also out as a survivor, and I worry that the two things will be conflated with one another, when I believe they are actually separate—this isn’t up for debate.

Central to all this work I’ve done around boundaries, and poly, and desire has been a deep and authentic exploration and claiming of what I want and need. Early on in this process that looked like a lot of internal fighting, wishing that I could want something different – jealousy not of Kestryl having a girlfriend, but jealousy of hir ability to have and thrive within a diversity of relationships. For me being little isn’t a fetish, it isn’t something I do partway, it’s truly who I am and I am most happy, most at peace, most fulfilled within a 24/7 D/s Daddy/boy relationship. When I try to “date” when I try to have a “adult relationship” I find myself feeling fractured (for lack of a better word) as though I’m acting, pretending to be a grownup, not being my true self. I also am deeply poly, I believe that it isn’t possible for one person to meet all of our needs – I just don’t have the kinds of needs that are met through romantic relationships. The additional relationships that are the most important, the most fulfilling for me are with the family that I build (Queer and Leather), with my writing (I have a whole blog in the works about dating my books), and with my dogs. Owning, and taking pride in who I am and how I live in the world has been a long process, and I still have minutes, or even hours where I slip into an old pattern, where I’ll wish that I could be “a fancy grownup femme who goes on dates and has romantic relationships” but that isn’t me, and it isn’t what I really want, it is in those moments what I think I should want, which is VERY different than actually wanting it. In reality? Femme might be my gender, but I’m a boy, a boy whose so fulfilled, challenged, and secure. Through being poly I get to live the kind of queer life I’ve always dreamed of. We create the rules for our life, building the kind of relationship(s) that are fulfilling and engaging for us, knowing that for each of us, that will take a different form.

This blog post became much longer than I had intended, and doesn’t really have a clear purpose, other than to be a documentation of growth, and to put out into the world another voice talking about nononrmative relationships and relationship structures, but maybe that’s reason enough to have written it. I feel it’s important as someone who lives an open and transparent life to talk about these things because just a couple of weeks ago in queer/leather space I made a statement about not being interested in sex, and the response I received was “I’m so sorry!” #Ouch.  Until I don’t find myself in situations where I am defending both the validity, longevity (9 years this June!) of a primary partnership that is not sexually active, and of poly, I’m left believing that at least part of the solution must be more of us telling our stories, talking about our lives in blogs and in books, in paintings, and on stages.  I believe that it is our responsibility to continue to make visible the diversity of our queer lives, loves, and families.