Coming Out Kinky

One of the most memorable comic scenes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was when Willow, Xander and Anya were sitting around the table playing poker. Willow lamented how Buffy couldn’t join them because of her “spanking new boyfriend.”

While Xander is shuffling the deck, Anya blurts out in reply: “Yes, we’ve enjoyed the spanking.” And the cards go flying.

Not exactly the best way to disclose one’s erotic preferences. Especially since, in real life, the consequences can be far more serious.

Coming out kinky is a process that takes considerable care, even in the more liberal atmosphere of Unitarian Universalism. There are both personal and social ramifications behind that decision. Many kinksters still prefer to remain in the closet (or dungeon) with their vanilla friends, citing various reasons ranging from privacy to fear of job loss or ostracism. There are also, however, negative personal and political consequences to not coming out. Some prefer to share this information with people on their own terms, or to use the process of coming out as a teachable moment.

When deciding whether and how to do so, it’s important to remember that coming out is rarely an “all-or-nothing” proposition. Some may tell only their minister or a close friend, while others may make their connections to BDSM more well-known. It’s also not a single act, but a whole process taking place over time.

First, you should consider what being kinky means to you – not just in terms of defining “kink” but how important it is to you and why. This is an important foundation both in discerning whether and how to come out, and what you’ll convey to people when you do so.

Second, think about why you want to come out. Perhaps you want to live as honestly as possible, or feel the need to respond to negative stereotypes. Keep in mind that your reasons for coming out can differ from one person or group to another, even when there is overlap.

Third, choose the first person wisely. In the context of a UU congregation, I’ve always recommended the minister, usually in the context of a private conversation. Ministers are ethically bound to keep personal information confidential, and are trained to be sensitive about sharing such details with others. An added reason is that, with the exception of interim and newly settled ministers, they can give you a good idea of how others in the congregation are likely to respond.

Fourth, when talking about your personal experience of BDSM, focus on the “why” instead of the “how”. The average vanilla person has no interest in knowing about bondage techniques or the different types of floggers that are out there. More important to explain, as best you can, why this speaks to you, and its positive impact on your life. Make a point also of assuring any concerns they may have about your safety – how we educate one another on assessing and minimizing risk, the importance of safewords and safety-call buddies, and so on. And remember the importance of stressing that we do what we do in the context of love, pleasure and consent.

Expect different responses, and respond accordingly. Some people may never want to talk about this again – respect that and move on, assuring them that you’re still the same person they can rely on as before. Others will have a host of questions and concerns – answer them as best you can, or refer them to resources if you don’t have time. Learn from each individual experience of coming out, especially how to tailor your approach for each individual you encounter.

In the 1960’s, it was difficult for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender UUs to come out to their fellow religious liberals. Over time, as more and more shared their stories, the barriers came down and our spiritual movement changed for the better as a result. There were some necessary adjustments to be made, from the individual level to the institutional, but this transformation is a lesson for us all. Unitarian Universalism is a challenging faith, one which demands that we grow together in overcoming prejudices and misconceptions which stand in the way of acknowledging one another’s inherent worth and dignity. May you be blessed in your own journey, and in finding the means to speak your truth in love.


%d bloggers like this: