I spent my entire childhood and adolescence forgetting what my babysitter’s father had done to me in the late hours of Nickelodeon’s Spongebob reruns. But even though I repressed it, that experience came out in destructive ways. I explored sex too early. I became terrified of sex later. I hurt people, including a fiance and my mom. I’ve triggered myself to please people for what seems like my whole life. Even worse, nobody could figure out what I was doing or why, and I couldn’t remember.
With an unnamed phobia of sex, men, and straightness; mixed with my easily explainable phobia of abandonment; mixed with my willingness to trigger myself to please people; it’s amazing I survived.
By nineteen, I had been in a queer anarchist engagement, given my self-identified innocence to the wrong boy, and had no will to live left except out of spite or hope. Out of spite, I became chaotically frenzied. I began doing sex work to compensate for the financial abuse of my mother and my unbelieved impairments. Because of my body’s inexplicable disabilities, I became even more ashamed of myself.
Out of hope, I entered the DC Kink Scene. I had something to prove to myself, so I showed up, alone, to a weekly happy hour a friend of a friend recommended. I was terrified out of my wits. I had no idea what this sort of thing would entail; I certainly didn’t anticipate it being the sanest take on sex, sexuality, and self-expression I would ever receive.
I made a few friends at that happy hour, which was part socializing, part risk-aware BDSM education, and part playtime. It was the kind of place where you learned to always keep scissors nearby when using rope. It was the kind of place where first aid kits were kept nearby and training was done to run the group safely. It was the kind of place where you had to beg for what you wanted to prove you wanted it, so consent was clearly enthusiastic.
The brightest soul I met at Happy Hour was Jamie. Jamie was an older, bolder, and thriving transperson who didn’t care what people thought of her. I knew Jamie for only a few months before she passed. But before she left, she imparted me with many pearls of wisdom that would save my life, just by living her truth.
She showed me I am allowed to be sexy and also not give in to sex I don’t actually want.
Jamie’s unflinchingly self-assured charm broke down many anxieties I had surrounding “an alternative lifestyle.” She taught me that embracing an alternative lifestyle meant I would have the options for my interpersonal relationships that I find necessary to not just thrive, but survive. An alternative lifestyle meant that I would have a community to support me when society has proven it isn’t ready to.
Through her friendship, and the support of the DC Kink Scene, I learned about the magic of living authentically through sensual queerness. Despite my leaking of frenzy caused by trauma (and the non-successful attempts to cope with self-hidden shame and overwhelming fear I was making), Jamie proved she cared deeply. She was willing to accept I was where I was, and she was kind enough to meet me there.
She showed me that we could be loving and sensual and pleasurable together without romance or sex. She showed me that I could be kinky, teasing, and enticing with any kind of person without delivering myself in a way that ultimately harms me. She showed me I am allowed to be sexy and also not give in to sex I don’t actually want.
By having a safe, warm, and welcoming entry into kink, I was then able to explore my true feelings surrounding polyamory (after a toxic triad I felt obligated to be a part of and then shamed by my partners for struggling with). I learned that I not only deserve pleasure, sex, and sensuality in whatever ways empower me, but also that the only true obstacle to me receiving what I desired was knowing myself well enough to trust and ask the right people for what I want.
I am allowed to be kinky, queer, boyish, girlish, playful, hyper, sensual, and sweet without repercussions. I am allowed to earn, tease, seduce, play with, challenge, prove myself worthy of, learn about, and attain whatever it is I desire. I can love those whom I desire. I can love them separately from my desire. I am allowed to want whatever or whomever it is I want.
From the DC Kink Scene, I learned that pursuing my unconventional desires does not make me crazy. It does not make me needy. It does not make me entitled. It does not make me bad or wrong or worth shaming. Everybody wants something. That which I desire is no more harmful or bizarre than anybody else’s closeted fantasy.
I’ve learned to shed some shame. Because, thanks to Jamie, I remember the real thing stopping me from living my authentic life and receiving that which I desire, and deserve, remains myself.
Rest in peace, Jamie C. And thank you for always reminding me of my power.