“I don’t want to be involved with all that homosexual crap”

… was what my 11 year old son said when he was told that we were all going to a vigil to honor those killed at The Pulse massacre.

I wasn’t with him at the time; I was going to meet everyone there. I told my partner that I’d straighten him out.

We all met at the park fountain and were milling around, and I asked him to take a walk with me so we could chat.

I told him I wanted to talk to him about something, and I wasn’t going to talk to him like a kid. I was going to speak to him as a man as a gesture of respect.

Me: “See that tall young guy over there?”
Him: “Yeah.”
Me: “Have you seen him naked?”
Him (confused): “Huh? No!”
Me: “Bear with me here. How about that old bald black man over there? Ever seen him naked?”
Him: “No…”
Me: “See that really big balding fella with the pink and black checkered shirt? How about him?”
Him: “No.”
Me: “Look at all these people around here. Have any of them seen YOU naked?”
Him: “Dude. No.”
Me: “And you don’t care what any of those folks look like naked, or what they do when they’re naked, do you?”
Him: “No.”
Me: “And it’s none of our business either. Same thing with them seeing you naked, right? We don’t care, and even if we did it’s none of our business right?”
Him: “Yeah…”
Me: “The reason we’re here is to honor the 50 people that were murdered last night. What someone does when they’re naked has NOTHING to do with respect and honor.”
Him: “But they were at a GAY club…”
Me: “Yep. And they were gunned down like animals. Did you know that I’ve been to a gay club?”
Him: “Huh?!”
Me: “Nice place. Good karaoke. I wanted a place to go relax with my friends and not put up with 3 dozen frat guys yelling woo trying to impress girls.”
Him (brow furrowed): “Oh.”
Me: “So we respect people because they’re human beings, and we don’t care what they do with their pants off because it’s none of our business just like it’s none of THEIR business what we do when we have OUR pants off right?”
Him: “Well yeah.”
Me: “Right. If we don’t do that, then we’re no better than those boys that bullied you the other day by calling you “gay” and “faggot.”
Him: (staring back out at the crowd): “Wow, ok. You’re right.”

He doesn’t live with me. He lives with people that immerse him in the same rural ultra conservative ultra religious judgmental foolishness that that I grew up in. But he’s with me often, and most of the time I fight my fight with the oblique approach. I simply live in a way that he knows to be good, but doesn’t fit any of the stuff he’s taught. I believe that’ll go a long way toward him asking the right questions as he grows older. But today was a golden opportunity to directly slice into the closed-mindedness that he’s absorbed. I’m very proud of him, and I’m very grateful that I got the chance to show him these things.

All it took was a fucking atrocity.

Memories of a Departed Friend

I remember being intimidated by him when I first met him.  I was very new to the scene, and he was this old salty leather-clad leader of a club north of my town.  He was polite to me, but seemed to have a stern demeanor about him.
Only a few months after joining the local S&M club, I found myself in a position of leadership.  There was (or at least I imagined) universal disapproval among the community “elders.”  I imagined that his demeanor toward me was aloof and disapproving; waiting for me to fuck up.  I imagined most everyone felt similarly about this green kid trying to actually run a club.

Then something fascinating happened.  He was getting ready for a scene, and he asked his slave to go fetch something from their car.  She left the room, only to return a minute later.  With her cheeks on fire and struggling to look up at him, she asked him if he could do it for her because she was afraid of the dark.  He paused for a moment, and smiled at her and said “of course.”  He cheerfully went out and got the thing from the car.
Everything I knew about him was wrong, and I realized just how inexperienced and ignorant I was.  From that point forward, I saw him as a role model.
I approached him later that evening and thanked him for showing me The Right Way To Be.  I confessed that I would have instantly gotten impatient and growled at my slave to be a damn adult and go get what I told her to get.  He nodded and simply said “Well you gotta be understanding.”  I think that moment planted a seed that eventually grew into my Daddy persona.

A few months later, the club was running a 2 day event with a big name presenter.  The leadership team, at that time, consisted of me and one other person.  We ran our legs off.  At the end of the first day’s classes, the attendees and the presenter were to go all have dinner together, and meet back up at the club house for a play party.  I chose to skip the dinner so that I could go to the club’s play space and get it ready.  He overheard me mention this to someone and got my attention and asked me to follow him to his hotel room.  
When we got to his room, he opened the door and called out to his slave, then looked over his shoulder to me and said “Wait here just a minute” before closing the door behind him.  I stood there waiting wondering what was going on and pointedly avoiding trying to make out the muffled words through the door.  After a minute or two, he opened the door and handed me a brown paper bag.  Inside the bag were two sandwiches and an apple.  Being the suave and eloquent person I am, I stammered out something like “Why… sandwich… you?”  He smiled at me as one would smile at a charming if not particularly bright child and said “We gotta feed our kids” as he closed the door.
I sat in the floor of that hotel hallway and wept.  He had accepted me.  He gave me some of his food.  Probably a trivial event for him, but it meant so very very much to me.

As the years passed we shared jokes and conversations and grew to know, like, and respect one another.  I don’t know if he loved me.  I loved – still love – him dearly.  I remember talking with him with a group of people at SELF one year.  He was wearing a red TRC shirt with silver lettering.  Someone remarked about how bright and shiny the letters on his shirt were.  I piped up with “yeah it’s because of all the clean thoughts.”  He threw his head back and howled laughing.
I believe that it was at that SELF that my friend and I began our tradition of going to the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market at the beginning of an event.  We would buy sashimi and Korean barbeque.  He introduced me to this Korean omelette thing that was loaded with spices and onions.  I’d stink like hell after eating one, but my god those things are delicious.

A couple of years later, at another SELF, my submissive and I were attending a cocktail party.  She asked if she could go get some cookies and I said sure.  I was looking off to the side, nursing my drink, when I heard someone yell something VERY offensive and rude.  I looked toward the voice and some stranger wearing a titleholder’s sash was standing over my (petrified) slave.  I began stalking toward the person and made eye contact with my friend as I walked.  We locked eyes and nodded simultaneously.
I positioned myself between the person and my submissive, inches away from the rude person’s face.  I asked him if that was the type of behavior he believed appropriate for a titleholder.  He drunkenly slurred out that he believed he did nothing wrong.  Trying to reason with a drunk is a fool’s task, so I turned away from him to lead my submissive away where I could begin calming and consoling her.  My friend passed me going in the opposite direction, toward the drunk.  
As we left the room, I saw that my friend had that person backed into a corner with a finger jabbed into his chest.  I could not hear the words, but I didn’t need to.

He defended me, in public, in front of my own eyes.  He stood up for me.  Nobody, and I do mean nobody, has ever done that before or since.

A few days after that, I was sitting at home and I got a phone call from my friend.  He wanted to apologize on behalf of that person (at the time they were part of the same Leather house.)  He said that my friendship was important to him and that he would never want anything to threaten that.  I was again humbled that he would apologize to me for something he had nothing to do with.  I assured him that I felt absolutely nothing but gratitude toward him for his assistance with the drama, and thanked him for calling me.  Then we spent a few joyful minutes trashtalking the awful behavior of that person.

I remember doing a flogging demo for his club.  Afterwards, at the beginning of the play party, he was showing off a prototype dragon tail he’d made.  He was a master craftsman, and sold dragon tails that he’d made.  He let me flick it a couple of times, and I fell in love with it.  I asked him how much he wanted for it and he told me that that one wasn’t for sale because it was one of a kind.  I accepted politely.
Later that night, he walked up to me and sold me the toy for very little money.

At DomCon 2012, his slave was running for a title.  We’d set plans to go out Saturday morning to go get our fish and stinky omelettes and barbeque.  Friday evening, I met him in the hotel lobby and his body language was way off.  As I stood there talking to him, I noticed that his hands were behind his back and he was looking at his feet and fidgeting.  Clearly he felt awkward about something he wanted to say.  I grinned at him and said “You don’t have time to go get food, do you?”  He grinned back and said “No and it was killing me to get around to saying it!”  I asked him to make me a list and I’d head out first thing in the morning.  That morning, I fought through 3 hours of road construction traffic but accomplished my goal.
I was able to provide food for my friend as he had once for me years prior.  It meant just as much to provide food for him as it did when he fed me.  He trusted and relied on me to take care of him and his slave.  There is nothing that could have prevented me from returning such a meaningful gesture.

Over the years, I have used all of these stories to pass on the wisdom that I gained from him.  They are some of my favorite stories, and his example remains the most positive model I’ve ever seen.  I hope that someday I’ll be half the man he was.

He died three days ago, on my birthday.  

I will never forget you my friend.  You are part of the man I have become.  I love you, and I miss you, and I will continue to use your stories and my memories of you to grow in myself and to teach others.

Sleep well, my dear friend.  You have earned it.