Apr 172012

I know it looks like I’ve given up on blogging. It would be a fair assumption, something about the months since my website has had anything more than press-release kinds of sound bites and announcements about readings or publications ; ) !   It’s not that I’ve gotten bored with blogging or forgotten about it, far from it.  I’ve spent hours in the bathtub, at the park with my dogs, and on the subway trying to figure out what I’m actually *doing* moving forward with my blog.  All this thinking has resulted in very little blogging for the past few months, but it was necessary for me to figure out what I wanted my presence of a blogger to grow into moving forward.

For the last several years most of my blogging has revolved around queer youth homelessness and experiences connected to the editing, release and subsequent touring with the Kicked Out Anthology.  it’s truly been a magical few years.  Kicked Out holds an important piece of my heart as my first book, and it will always be a piece of my work, but it is not all of my work.  Kicked Out has given me a foundation, and it was somewhat difficult for me to grapple with thinking about what it would mean to form an identity as an author after Kicked Out.  I confessed to my twitter/Facebook (where I’m much better at staying present and current than I have been on the blog) in the last weeks about how I had been uncertain if I could/would ever be able to love another book after Kicked Out, and that it’s rally deeply hit me now that I am utterly head over heals in love with my novel Roving Pack  that will be released this October.  Knowing that I am actually loving my novel is a really good feeling, I shouldn’t have worried – it figures that if I can be most comfortable as being poly in my relationships that it should be the same with my books ;)

I’ve stayed away from blogging for a little while because I knew that I needed some distance from Kicked Out and to give myself time to move away from a space where my primary creative/professional identity  is as the editor/curator of that magical book that is so much bigger than myself, but also to figure out how to come back with an increased complexity that leaves room for all of who I am personally and creatively, without turning my blog into simply a reflection of my daily life- nothing wrong with that, and I’m sure some readers would love the 25,000 photos I take of my dogs, or my rumination on picture books and broken toys I find on the streets of Brooklyn, but not the kind of blog I want to be writing all the time (that content i feel is better for facebook/twitter).   Right now, much of my creative focus is on my novel Roving Pack which will be here in October!!!! I’m just coming off of a week-long intensive focus on the book, and am in the midst of final line edits and gleefully enjoying the submissions that are starting to come in for Leather Ever After.

It’s not that I don’t want to be talking about queer youth homelessness, I do, but I’ve felt a little trapped too. There have been times in the past years I worried that if I blogged about other things, folks might think I took queer youth homelessness less seriously, or that it was no longer a focus of my work, or…. I don’t even know.  Ultimately I don’t want to feel limited by my blogging, and I want my blog to be a place that can grow to include a more complete picture of my work.

In the time I’ve been away from blogging,I’ve thought a lot about the threads that run through all of my work and how that will continue to be reflected in the blog. Chosen/created family in many ways is the foundation for the work that I do, and also the thread that runs between all three of my books (I still need to pinch myself when I say that I have 3 books – and really there is a 4th in the works but that’s much more of a little tadpole of an idea right now than the very realness of the others). So you might be asking, what *exactly* will Sassafras be blogging about?  Good question.  I don’t have all the answers yet, but what I do know is that in the coming weeks and months you can expect a lot more writing exploring queer family and how that connects to this novel that has captured my heart for the past couple of years. I’m also really eager to share with all of you more about the process and experience of writing, editing and preparing to release these two new books.  More than anything, I’m excited to be back as a blogger and looking forward to seeing the way this space grows.

Mar 122012

I’m still flying just a little bit from the magic that was Queer Memoir: LEATHER last weekend here in NYC. I’ve organized a lot of events and each holds a special place in my heart but there was something truly extraordinary for me about this particular event. I realized in the days leading up to the event that although I’ve been involved in leather community for a decade this was the very first event that I’ve actually organized.  You can read more about the event itself and my reflections of it on a guest post at Leatherati and view the two incredible hours of storytelling online at Write Here, Write Now

Jul 312011

Kestryl: Sassafras, take a break from g-chatting with your butchfriend! We need to write our couples blog, err, um, our relationship blog.

Sassafras: Nice catch!

Kestryl: Huh? Are we fishing?

Sassafras: No, I was talking about your self-correction of “couple” vs. “relationship.”

Kestryl: Oh yeah, well, when I say ‘couple’ people don’t realize that we’re poly.

Sassafras: Somehow people never realize that we’re poly.

Kestryl: Isn’t it obvious?

Sassafras: I think we confuse people because we’re not dramatic.

Though we’ve mentioned, in passing, in previous columns that our relationship is both deeply committed and polyamorous, we realized we’ve never publicly discussed what our dynamic looks like.  While, in general, any single polyamorous relationship isn’t the business of anyone other than the parties involved in it, as part of our commitment to improving queer relationships throughout the world, we’ve decided to devote this week’s column to discussing how poly works for us (and how it could work for you! 😉 )

Sassafras: A winky face? Really? Are you flirting?

Kestryl : With our entire readership ;).

Sassafras: Oh boy.

Kestryl: Don’t worry, it’s just flirting. I’ve got my hands full.

Sasafras: You certainly do. We both do, in really good ways.

Kestryl: Now you’re just bragging.

Sassafras: Well….. I wouldn’t call it bragging, just celebrating.

Kestryl: Well, as we’ve said before… there is always something to celebrate.

We can’t really speak to the challenges that come with turning a monogamous relationship poly (or turning a poly relationship monogamous, for that matter) because we’ve poly  since we hooked up at that drag show over 7 years ago now.  What poly has looked like for us has ebbed and flowed, depending on each of our respective time, interest, energy, and available hotties.  Our own negotiations and boundaries have shifted over time as well.

Of course, there are as many different ways to be poly as there are poly identified folks.  For us, polyamory works because we think it’s unrealistic to expect one other person to fulfill everything we could ever want from a relationship.  We tend to each have fliratations, hookups, flings, or relationships with other people, but we have never pursued triads or shared lovers.  At this point, we’re each involved with someone long-distance—Kestryl has a European girlfriend,  and Sassafras is smitten with hir butchfriend on the West Coast.  In some ways, our additional realtionships being with people in other cities makes poly easier, though in other ways it adds complications that don’t come up with a local paramour.

Sassafras: You really love that word.

Kestryl: What, paramour?

Sassafras: Yes.

Kestryl: It’s a good word!

Sassafras: It makes me think of “paranormal,” and that that makes it sound like I’m dating  a vampire.

Kestryl: Or an alien!

Sassafras: Right, which ze’s not.  Hence: dumb word.

A lot of our tips for a poly relationship are things that we’ve already blogged about, that apply to any relationship: keep it cute, celebrate your lovers, and find ways to stay connected regardless of distance (ask Kestryl about hir international texting plan) and communicate, communicate, communicate.   As you might have noticed, communication is very important.  If you think it takes a lot of processing to have a healthy mamogomous relationship, fasten your seatbelt because a healthy poly relationship requires exponentially more–but in our opinion, the benefits are worth it.

Kestryl: I don’t know that it actually requires more communication.

Sassafras: I think it does.

Kestryl: But, if you think about it…In a monogamous relationship, after going out, you spend hours processing ‘did you flirt with that girl at the bar!?’ Whereas, in a poly relationship, you spend hours processing ‘so, what can I do with that girl I flirted with at the bar??’ It’s a queer relationship, the processing is a given.

Sassafras: That makes sense, I guess. We queers do like our processing in general.

Of course (before you even get to processing what you can do with the girl you flirted with at the bar), for a poly relationship to really work, it’s vital that you start with a negotiation of where your basic boundaires are: when it’s ok to flirt, when it’s ok to get a number, when it’s ok to make out , when it’s ok to go on a date, etc.  We have a word document that outlines what our basic boundaires are. It’s a word doc and not a pdf, because it’s a living document that we revisit every six months and alter to fit what makes sense to both of us in our relationship, and add anything that we’ve come up with to address situations that we had not previously anticipated.  It’s a short document, just about a page long– easy to remember, and not overwhelming to update, but it covers just about everything that is important for our boundaries.

Of course, no matter how thorough you are when you initially negotiate your poly relationship, you will somewhere down the line run into something that you had not anticipated. Part of successful communication is being able to work together to negotiate how the unanticipated situation fits in to your existing negotiations.  You might have different boundaries and negotiations for what happens locally vs what happens when you’re traveling, what forms of involvment  you are available for, etc.  Solid communication about boundaries and expectations is important for everyone–not just you and your partner(s)–but also anyone else you may be involved with.  A commitment to good communication helps everyone to know where they stand.

Kestryl: Remember that one girl I dated who thought poly was a waiting list?

Sassafras: She was really mad that I ‘jumped in line.’

Kestryl: She didn’t understand that it wasn’t a line, that’s not the point.

Sassafras: I know, that was unfortunate.

Kestryl: My own communication could have been better then, I suppose I learned that from her.

This brings us to another aspect of  poly relationships: you will make mistakes. Feelings will get hurt–not necessarily any more than they would in any other relationship, and not in a way that a commitment to solid communication can’t mitigate, BUT: jealousy will happen, and sometimes feelings will get stepped on.  In order to minimize the possibility for hurt feelings, we try to be particularly attentive in our negotiation to the logistics of  adding an additional relationship into one of our lives, in terms of costs in time and energy, as well as discussing what we want from additional involvements, how jealousy impacts us, and how we each best deal with the green eyed monster.

Any of these aspects of poly relationships that weve touched on–negotiations, boundaries, jealousy–could (and possibly should) merit blog posts all their own, as could a more in-depth discussion on communication strategies particular to poly relationships. We will be revisting all these topics in future columns, and we’re happy to consider any specific questions from you, our readers, as well!

Apr 212011

Photo by: Syd London

On Tuesday Kestryl and I spent the day with our good friend and incredible photographer Syd London with the focus of getting new publicity photos for our separate work as well as our joint PoMo Freakshow projects. My individual photos are coming soon – the weather was less than optimal that day and so we had to raincheck. We now have backup on top of backup rain days booked, so those pics should be here very soon.

Over the day we ricocheted from intensity to intensity starting with a road trip to an abandoned hospital for Kestryl’s photos – ze has written all about that here. Then back in Brooklyn the focus shifted to us as a couple and capturing the essence of our work together, and the dynamics of our relationship.

We’ve needed new publicity photographs for PoMo Freakshow but had been putting it off. Ok, to be honest I had been dragging my feet about the whole thing for the past few years.  I’ve not had that many experiences with professional photographers, but the ones I’ve had have ranged from downright traumatizing to highly uncomfortable.  Needless to say this was not an experience I was keen on repeating. I was pretty honest with Syd from the beginning that I was terrified of the process, everything from the needed makeup (I wear very little in real life) to just having the camera in my face.  In my head I knew it would be different with someone like Syd- a trusted friend, a dyke, a queer, a storyteller but I didn’t realize just how transformative the experience would be.

I didn’t expect that I would leave the day feeling not so much exposed, but profoundly seen in ways that I seldom am.

Kestryl and I have been together for seven incredible years. We have a relationship, which as corny as it sounds

Photo by: Syd London

leaves me waking up everyday feeling like I’m in my own biggest fantasy.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s work too- but it’s worth that for both of us is worth doing which always makes me think of this quote from Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Weight’ “ Now he was carrying something he wanted to keep, and that changed everything.”  All my life this was the sort of relationship I dreamed of, but never believed was even possible let alone that I would be lucky enough to have for myself.

We needed the photos of us together and I knew that whatever Syd came up with would be ideal professional photos, but it never actually occurred to me that she would be able to see and capture everything that makes us tick.  The intensity, and the playfulness that braids together into the life we share artistically and romantically.  She made me feel completely comfortable with the whole process, and despite myself I even had fun!  Never before now have I actually felt like I looked beautiful in a picture, or that I looked truly like myself perhaps even at home in my own skin. Seeing the previews of these pictures hit my inbox one by one has taken my breath away with the quality of her work, but also left me without words (something pretty uncommon for me) at the realization of just how much she had seen and been able to capture on film about who we are and the way that we relate to one another.

Happy New Year w/ PoMo Freakshow

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Jan 022011

Per usual  we stayed home with pizza and some video games for New Years Eve and watched the Grand Army Plaza midnight fireworks from the livingroom windows of Heart’s Thicket AKA PoMo Freakshow headquarters.  However, for  New Years Day we made a big splash (literally!).  Kestryl and I  joined some other fabulous Brooklyn queer folks and headed out to our beloved Coney Island to take part in the annual Polar Bear Swim!

It was a balmy 40 something degrees outside but that water was FREEZING, especially with the runoff from the 2+ feet of snow Brooklyn received the day after Christmas.  It was  BLAST!!!!  I can’t think of a better way to spend New Years and am already making plans for our trip back to Coney Island next year, this time with costumes.

I hadn’t been out there since the summer and it was really sad to see just how much of my favorite freaky beach is already gone. ‘Shoot the Freak’ was all boarded up after being mostly bulldozed this week, and Ruby’s was open on the 1st for another protest trying to save their home on the boardwalk.  Coney Island has always been one of my favorite places in the city, and hands down my favorite beach anywhere in the world.  As a queer, freaky, heavily tattooed person it’s always felt like home to me and it breaks my heart the ways in which it’s being destroyed in order to be more “family friendly” and more “tourist friendly.” I hope there is still a bit of freaky beach left to return to on new years day 2012.

With that in mind Happy New Year! I have a feeling that 2011 is going to be a great year, I’m really excited about collaborations, artistic projects, and touring gigs  that are in the works.  I can’t wait to share them with all of you, and see lots of you on the road!