With everything that has been happening in the world at large, race, racism, and institutional oppression are at the forefront of social consciousness in this country. It has become something that can no longer be ignored.
These conversations have also hit segments of the kink community, as is to be expected. The IMsL community in particular has been embroiled in conflict around race and privilege. You can read Mollena's take on the controversy here. Since I am not part of this community, there's not much I can say about the issues at hand. I've only caught snippets of the conflict on social media. However, Selogadi LM Mampane, the first ever title-holder of Ms SA (South Africa) Leather, wrote an amazing post on Facebook not just about the issues of IMsL, but on the nature of oppression, racism, and activism. With her permission, I am posting her words without further comment.
I shared an article in the IMsL group about race and how we talk about it across racial lines. I want to share the part where I expressed that there is no such thing as sexual liberation without anti-racism and how it's impossible for Leather communities to grow globally, without supporting anti-racists movements:
I am posting this because of what has transpired over the past few months and the complete breakdown in effective communication which lead to the 'ichoosenottoplay' hashtag in regards to the conversations happening in here in regards to race.
Asking for transformation at IMsL begins with ourselves. Surely, racism can only proliferate if we let it fester within ourselves and if we are unable to talk about it as a community who is an integral part of the wonder of IMsL. If we cannot form an open channel of communication when it comes to issues of race and if those channels only come out as personal attack and miscommunication, we have lost before we have even begun!
I think that if we are to continue to grow as a global community, living in a White supremacist world, this article is a very important read. More-so, this article helps people further understand why we face such conflict when trying to speak about race across racial lines. This article touches on some of the issues that have come up in this group, in a concise and effective manner.
As far as talking about race in this space, I really appreciate articles like this: White people critically talking to other White people about racism and anti-racist work - yes please!
As an educator and a scholar, my anti-racism has a lot to do with consciousness raising and sharing knowledge and I want to participate in this capacity (in addition to using other tools and methods). Without Black consciousness and anti-racism, I would not be able to fuck, play, love and live as freely I do, however limited. However, I am not free, especially when White supremacy with its homophobia, transphobia, class structures, heteropatriarchy (patriarchy as based in heteronormativity) and violence, continues to oppress countless people around the world.
Leather, Racism and Sexuality:
White supremacy itself is founded on sexual suppression, except of course, for when it comes to male-bodied people. (Their sexuality is seen as functional due to some nonsense about how penis-libido is 'special' and how it requires the necessary release.) HIStorically, Whiteness developed as a supposed state of moral, intellectual, spiritual and therefore sexual superiority which characterized White bodies as pure and Black bodies as hypersexual.
How and why and so who cares, we are Leather people?!
The favoring of the mind (first understood as the soul, the soul as the 'mental faculty') over the body in Greek and now Western philosophies, saw and still sees the faculties of the mind as separate from the faculties of the body. In this way, the body needed to be controlled, even though it was very hard to do. Therefore, also through the development of racism, Whiteness meant intellectual, moral and spiritual superiority as functional, sexual suppression and Blackness meant uncontrolled sexuality, due to a supposedly lower state of being.
Now, not ALL Leather people are experiencing racism when being discriminated against, no, this simply shows how and why sexuality (outside of reproduction and vanilla heteronormativity) is met with such systemic and social violence and how it is also tied to issues of race. But I digress.
Now, this mind-body separation can be largely attributed to Rene Descartes Dualism or Cartesian Dualism (which he followed from Aristotle's thoughts in Greek philosophy). You may be thinking, I thought we were over this archaic idea of mind-body dualism, of cutting the body up into neat, separate little parts? I wish we were but we still very much sustain and uphold this idea, to our own detriment. The body needs to be controlled, not experienced.
Therefore, the developing civilizations and cultural ideologies (along with things like dogmatic Christianity) required that sexual suppression be fundamental in maintaining the moral fabric of society - this was of course carried through to the colonies, like America.
There is a long connection between the killing of Black, Brown and Indigenous people in America, transphobia, homophobia, class struggles, heteropatriarchy and how Leather lifestyles are seen as 'sick' or something to be corrected. As long as White supremacy maintains hierarchies which position Black bodies as hypersexual, it will sustain a false hierarchy of 'good', 'healthy', functional (hetero)vanilla sex and supposedly healthy ways of releasing the bodies energies, versus 'bad' and 'sick' Leather lifestyles.
In order for there to be a hierarchy of sexualities, there needs to be a bottom to the social scale. We need to work hard to dismantle the ideas and systems which sustain these hierarchies. Yes, Black people are Leather people but we are also Black, don't forget that.
There are so single issue struggles, right?! I hope that we can all play together in a global community, where colonialism is still happening, where all people don't enjoy the freedoms *we* have and work for as Leather people, understanding these important issues and how they intersect with the sexual freedoms people (don't) have.
I hope that we can all continue to share and grow in this way.