Okay, we are having a round of You Obviously Do Not Share My Kink But How Fucking Dare You Dismiss Me And Mine.
Scenario: a QUILTBAG event (ok so far) is scheduled opposite (uh-oh) Folsom Street Fair (erk).
I went to Folsom Street Fair last year with a bunch of friends. I realized that I liked it a lot. This year I went with a smaller group of friends. It's not everyone's bag of tea. But even if I wind up going alone, I will probably go next year, because it is my bag of tea.
Now, it's a couple days beforehand. I have already decided and declared that I am going to Folsom. Poking at Facebook to declare that I am going to Folsom (to a carefully-selected subgroup of Facebook -- my newly-created QUILTBAG list plus a handful of other locals), I discover that there is in fact a QUILTBAG-activist athletic and fundraising event scheduled in conflict.
Now. I've already decided what I'm doing. Once I realized that Folsom Street Fair was this weekend, there was never a question. If my best friend had declared that he was coming in from out of town, I would have invited him along with me.
Even if it weren't in conflict with other stuff, it's also a mildly athletic fundraising event early in the morning. I have limited mobility. Walking from Point A to a Point B that's a quarter mile away can be a problem for me, never mind walking from Point A to a Point B that's nearly two miles away and keeping pace with a group of people. I was doubtful of my ability to do the big fucking march from Harvey Milk Plaza to the courthouse and keep up with the crowd. As it was, I started out in the front and wound up at the very back. It's also a fundraising event. Poking at it, I see that you actually can do it even if you don't raise any money for them, and it's a very good cause -- but I still have Issues asking my friends for money, because I know things are pretty tight in this economy, and I really can't spare much myself. (I try to not complain about money too much in here, even in this economy, but ... yeah, my financial situation is not good, and it would make things SO MUCH FUCKING EASIER if I could just be sure that I could wake up at the same time every day. Would that be too much to ask? Then I ... oh god you guys, I hate my sleep schedule SO MUCH. (I'm trying to keep it stable. You see how well this is working.) )
But I saw the thing, and thought that even if I couldn't go, I could and should still mention the event to my Facebook friendslist, in case they wanted to, and actually could go. So I linked it.
(I don't like to use Facebook's event invitation thing because, well, Facebook's invitation thing. It works well when you have a specific event that you're going to that you'd like specific others to go to, and you know they're likely to be able to make it. It works rather less well when it's an allcall for something you're not going to, and you don't have any expectation of particular people who will be able to or want to do that.)
I figured that it was a worthy enough cause that I was willing to support it by lending my good name to promoting it. I am at least reasonably picky about the things I will promote. I use my social networks for myself, and since I've unfollowed people who are a nonstop barrage of Worthy Causes if those causes are not of interest to me at that volume, I try and take care that I do not expend my social capital carelessly.
And then, since there were specific people, as well as general people, that I wanted to see at Folsom, and because the best way to get in touch with them is sometimes Facebook, I did what I set out to do -- made a filtered post saying what my Sunday plans were, tagging one specific person who I particularly wanted to see there.
I woke up to see that the person who'd pointed out the QUILTBAG event had posted a really snippy little status update, immensely dismissive of the Folsom Street Fair and the people who would prioritize it over a fundraising event for an AWESOME GAY CAUSE. If ever there was something designed to make me flip my switch, that was it.
Folsom is community-building. Folsom is visible. Folsom is not everybody's cup of tea; Folsom may be actually pretty fucking mundane as far as some people are concerned. On the internet, I can point to a good handful of things off the top of my head that are probably more kinky than lots of bits of Folsom, or at least would alarm the average vanilla sort who hasn't been exposed to the non-vanilla particularly much.
It is probably more concentrated kink in one place than my mother has ever been exposed to. Just Googling it might possibly scar her for life. But -- and this is important -- I went to it, got half-naked (well, that was last year) -- and I came home happy, and I came home realizing that there was at least one public crowded event out there that crazy agoraphobic me could attend and feel stone safe.
I don't see any shame in not wanting to go to Folsom. It's not everybody's thing. But people know about it, people talk about it, it's normalizing. I'm female, geek, bisexual*, and at least theoretically kinky.
Good Vibrations explains why Folsom Street Fair is important better than I can:
Yes, you are a sexual being, you’re having fun, and there’s nothing sexier than that.
I’ll admit that when I first started going to Folsom, I felt a lot of discomfort with much of what I saw. I couldn’t wrap my brain around cross-dressers, or wrinkled men in full leather, or some of the more intense fetish outfits. And I certainly saw quite a few people having their own eeewwww moments yesterday.
But that’s another thing that makes Folsom important. Sexuality is an expansive country and media representations really only show us a small slice of it. After all, most sex in the media is used to sell stuff, which can only work if enough people find the imagery attractive, or at least, not off-putting. And the first time you see something outside your comfort zone, whether it’s two men kissing, or a woman with bruises on her back, or someone whose gender seems ambiguous, or anything else that challenges you, you have an opportunity to cut loose from your assumptions, beliefs and judgments about sex. You have an opportunity to discover the difference between “I find that attractive” and “That is attractive.” You have an opportunity to discover the difference between “I find that disturbing” and “That is disturbing.” And that is that start of discovering sex-positivity.
Activist-focused events are important. They're even fun, if you like that sort of thing. I don't have numbers on how many people will re-arrange their schedule to go to an activist event. You go there to be seen, maybe make a bit of a media spectacle, get your message out, show up the opposition, network with other activists, and have a good time. But if you're not an activist, or you don't have activist leanings, you maybe go with friends, or you maybe figure that someone who actually gets something out of doing these things can go, and you'll do something else.
Folsom Street Fair is only incidentally an Event That Gets Media Buzzing. It's a street fair by and for the community, and instead of the community going out on the street to get some attention please maybe, it's the community blocking off the street and businesses knocking and asking may we please set up our booths, we'd really love some of your attention. This is our party -- and yeah, it takes a hell of a lot of work to put on, but it's a party. Activist events -- seems to me that while there may be a hell of a party going on, it's work. Work that's got a pretty substantial payoff in the form of civil rights, down the line. But it's a thing that where if it's not your actual job, if you don't make it your job, maybe you make time to go out of your way for a few of the important ones, but ... it's still not your job, you don't know how to do it, and it takes some going out of your way with not particularly well-defined rewards.
A party, though, that's its own reward.
It annoys me no end that prominent activists have lost enough touch with people who aren't activists that they just. don't. get. why a party is more fun than an activist event, and that activist events mainly appeal to activists, and then complain that more people are going to the party! And on top of that, dismissing one of the more prominent and important kink events of the year out of hand, as if that event does nothing for the cause.
Scheduling an activist event opposite a party that's held to the same schedule for years? NOT SMART. Especially when the overlap is high. COMPLAINING ABOUT IT, USING DISMISSIVE LANGUAGE? Argh.