People have been talking about Guy Baldwin’s keynote at the NLA conference in Houston. In that speech Guy talks about how important it is to be out and that the leaders in our community should not be hiding behind scene names. And he makes a point that the gay leaders in our community use their real names while the het leaders hide behind pseudonyms. Guy is always a powerful speaker and is always worth a listen.
I sat with a friend not long ago at an event. This was a guy who has put a lot of sweat equity into the community. He is an author, educator and Pantheon Award winner. He’s been a titleholder, board member, done fundraisers and produced leather contests. He’s a good solid citizen in our community. This friend had listened to Guy’s speech and felt berated because he is using a pseudonym.
Guy points out in his speech that the world is a very different place from the 1970’s and 1980’s. I agree. We live in a world where everybody googles. Employers do online searches and fire people. Former spouses use what they find online in child custody cases. These things really do happen. If there weren’t actual cases like this, we wouldn’t need organizations like NCSF.
My friend is a school teacher. Someone within the community actually threatened to out him. A kinky schoolteacher? This does not go over very well, especially in flyover country. He would lose his job for sure. We have seen these things happen even here in NYC.
Guy spoke of a psychological term, “integrated personality,” which means “that all the parts of one’s self fit together and mesh smoothly with all the other parts.” If being out causes you to lose your job, then your life will not mesh smoothly because you are not going to be able to pay your mortgage. Using a pseudonym most often causes less psychological stress than having your career go down the toilet.
For many people, having a pseudonym is not about being ashamed. It is a matter of survival. Some of the role models that I respect most used pseudonyms for part of their lives: Fledermaus aka Tony DeBlase. T.A. Feldwebel aka Harold Cox. These men (both gay) were influential leaders in our community, yet used scene names in the beginning.
It is often said that the BDSM community is about 20 years behind the Gay community in its fight for sexual freedoms. Gay people were very much victimized in many of the same ways kinky people are now. For gay men, it took the AIDS crisis to push them out of the closet. Many of them had nothing left to lose. Those two pressures made people take heart and come out, to conquer their fears. Straight kinky people are not yet in an equivalent position.
Everybody has to decide if and when they want to come out. And they have to decide how far to come out. What works for them? Being out does not have to be an all or nothing thing. There’s a lot of gray to play with. There are so many different types of leadership, so many ways to contribute to the community and to be a valuable member of our society. Not everybody has to be totally out.
To my friend, keep doing what you are doing. Stay active. Continue to write, teach and organize. Your leadership is important and valid. You are making a real difference in our community.