Living Leather in the World

Posted: January 24, 2011 in BDSM, general, Titleholding

I was recently listening to a Zen podcast that made me realize the roots of an issue I have been wrestling with recently in my Leather life as well.  My Zen practice is often intertwined with Leather for me, but this was particularly eerie.  In Buddhism, there are 2 principal ways to practice your spiritual path.  One involves renouncing the world, giving up your possessions, and living as a celebate monk or nun, separate from the world.  For some people, this is the greatest path they can choose.  For most, though, they choose the path of the “householder,” which means that they remain in the world, following their spiritual path while also holding down jobs, paying bills, and dealing with all the other day to day realities anyone lives with.

It occurred to me that I have seen the same in Leather.  We have people who live their lives almost entirely within the Leather community, almost as Leather monks.  These people often choose to work at jobs that are at the least hospitable to their Leather identity.  They tend to spend most of their free time among their Leather family.  At the most extreme, I know of slaves that spend all their time in their households, not working outside, and it is likely that they rarely see someone who is not Leather or kinky.  A big part of me often envies this existence and the ability to live a life immersed in what I am passionate about, rather than cope with so many distractions.

There is similar conflict in many Buddhists.  The life of a householder, whether we look at someone trying to walk a Zen path or someone living in Leather, is one that is always trying to distract you from your practice.  There are constant outside influences that you must face and constant responsibilities that you must balance, whether it’s appeasing a boss at a vanilla job that is intolerant of your identity, dealing with vanilla family that aren’t ready to accept who you really are, or even dealing with the broader kink community, let alone the broader vanilla community.  Choosing to live in the world means choosing to live misunderstood and often under attack.  Choosing to live Leather in the world means choosing to be a target and to be vulnerable.  It also means accepting a large responsibility to act as a representative to that broader world.  Often the pains and challenges of living in the world are enough to make a Buddhist wish for a mountaintop temple to retreat to or a Leather person wish for a secluded dungeon and a scene that makes it all just fade away.

However, choosing to live in the world also brings opportunities.  If the Leatherfolk I had first encountered in my journey had not been strong enough to venture outside their own comfort zones into the pansexual BDSM community, I might never have found Leather.  Walking my walk in the world means that I might just help someone else find their way to Leather.  Also, being out there as a target and vulnerable also means that I can be a voice for those who aren’t a part of the conversation and maybe, just maybe, build some bridges where there original were none.  A Leather person cannot expect the wider community to understand Leather if we are not there to explain what it means to us any more than a Buddhist can expect the rest of the world to understand Buddhism if none of us come down from the mountain.  Living within the world, I can accomplish more for others than I can by isolating myself from it.

Still, there is also much that I gain by walking my walk in the wider BDSM world.  Every time my assumptions and opinions are challenged, I learn something new.  I find it harder to fall into a rigid mode of thinking when I am constantly subject to outside influences.  Being out where I’m open to the stings and arrows also helps remind me of my own limitations and that I alone cannot change everything that is broken.  In some ways, it is the very immersion in the world that makes my path more difficult which also pushes me to grow more and to work harder to be the person I know I should be.

I have, recently, wrestled with the question of whether I should pull back more, retreating back further into the places I feel more comfortable and safer.  It is a very tempting thought when I’m feeling beaten up and like I simply can’t bring any light to dark situations.  Still, the more I consider my own purpose, the more I come to the conclusion that, while it might be more painful to live in the world, it’s where I belong and where I can do the most good as an individual.

As long as every so often I can retreat to the Leather mountaintops and learn from the sages there as I lick my wounds.

  1. Excellent intelligent post

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