From LGBT to BDSM, sexual identity is about a life, not a lifestyle
Sometimes I think we could drown in the alphabet soup in which we live.
First there was GL, or LG for Lesbian-Gay. Then it was expanded to LGBT, a term I often have to explain is not a sandwich, but means Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender.
Then comes the whole world of leather and fetish, to which I belong as well, and you have BDSM, or SMBD as some folks prefer. Either way it stands for Bondage-Dominance-Sadomasochism, or as some prefer, Bondage Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadomasochism and Master-slave.
It’s all very confusing and for an old fossil like me; I just like to abbreviate it to kinky.
Now, I understand that kink is not everyone’s cup of tea, and you can take that however you wish. But it raises an important question: What is and what is not "sexual orientation"?
For me, I believe my kink is a big part of my sexuality, and as such, it’s part of who I am. In fact, most of the books I have written dwell at length on that issue since it is the one that always prompts the most questions when I am speaking to various groups.
Now it seems that the courts in Canada are taking that question seriously and have agreed to hear a case that involved discrimination against someone because of his BDSM involvement.
Vancouver resident Peter Hayes was recently denied a chauffeur’s permit when he applied at the local courthouse. He was told that the denial stemmed from a complaint that "the department had a record of a woman in 2003 who suggested he was involved in a cult."
Hayes, a self-proclaimed pagan, told the official that the complaint was filed by a former lover and that the "cult" was nothing more than the title of a science fiction book: "Tarnsman of Gor" by John Norman.
Furthermore, Hayes was never contacted about the complaint.
The official went on to say the he was concerned about Hayes’ "paganism, Wiccan magic, as well as role-playing, master-slave sexual practices," and said he would pose a threat to passengers both from his possible attempts to recruit them into his "cult" and by his dangerous activities.
Hayes has filed for protection under a law that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation and that’s where the controversy gets interesting.
Being Canada, there is a distinctly more enlightened attitude toward sexual orientation. There are longstanding rulings that "consensual bondage or sado-masochism is part of normal and acceptable adult sexual behaviour that does not offend community standards."
The big question is now if the law that was originally enacted to protect the LGBT community should extend to BDSM.
So far, the courts have said they will hear the case, denying a motion by police to block the hearing "because the laws designed to protect the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians did not extend to protecting types of sexual practices."
The whole incident raises a good question for the LGBT community to consider, especially when we are deep in the argument over including gender identity in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It undoubtedly will bring up some soul searching as to exactly what sexual orientation really is — and that’s a good thing.
The LGBT community has long argued that "sexual orientation" is a more accurate description of who we are than the old term "sexual preference," which implies a choice. The problem is, it opens a potential gate to other areas that might not be so politically correct.
Some people will use this discussion to demonize the acts of people with different orientations as perverse and sick. That kind of rhetoric is what we hear from the religious fundamentalists on a daily basis.
The real discussion should be something much deeper and thoughtful and is long overdue.
What I and my fellow leathermen and leatherwomen do in our BDSM life is something that happens between consenting adults and in most states is legal. It has been recognized by the scientific community as just another expression of one’s sexuality, so long as it has no detrimental effects on one’s life or the lives of one’s partners.
As a member of the kink community, I detest the term "BDSM Lifestyle." It implies that my sexual orientation is more of a fad than something to be taken seriously.
The whole "style" thing is the problem. For me, my BDSM is as much a part of me as my being gay. It is my life, not my lifestyle.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 18, 2008.