December 5, 2009

5 Questions – Answered by David Ortmann

Periodically I’ll ask someone within the nontraditional (alternative) sexuality or relationship communities 5 specific questions. Here are one person’s answers.

1. If you could offer people in your community just one bit of advice based on your experience, what would it be?

Accept yourself. It sounds simple, but it’s really quite a struggle for all of us. Accepting our shadow selves, our darker impulses and integrating that often disowned part of our sexual and erotic psychology into our personality is a long and, ultimately, worthwhile journey.
2. Is there anything you see as particularly positive going on in your community right now?

I see a movement away from the binary paradigm of gender and sexuality. For so long we’ve seen things in terms of polarities: male/female, Dom/sub, Top/bottom, light/shadow. The emergence of transgender men and women, as well as switches in the BDSM communities, and relationships that think outside traditional monogamous paradigms, are really forcing us to abandon our long clung-to notions of either/or. This movement toward a more open inclusivity will, I think, result in a much more varied and colorful erotic playground on which to romp.
3. Is there anything you see as particularly negative going on in your community right now?

The same negativity I see everywhere: blame. There is a lot of blaming going on in our culture and communities, with very little emphasis on personal responsibility and community mobilization. I think this is a nationwide phenomenon, not just a problem in our communities. I am not arguing that there aren’t formidable forces working against us in the struggle for civil rights and sexual freedom, I just think we could do with a little less looking outward toward blame and little more looking inward toward accountability, cohesiveness – despite our differences – and mobilization.

4. How could your community best be improved?

It’s a tough question to answer because we have witnessed so many improvements and accomplishments. There is a great push in the gay communities toward heteronormativity – marriage, children, the ubiquitous SUV. That may be fine for some, but I hope it does not become the mandatory model. I do not wish to see Leatherfolk, drag queens, and those traditionally identified as “fringe” members of our communities disappear or be further marginalized. Without them, it is unlikely a brick would ever have been tossed at Stonewall. We need to remember this, and protect the diversity of our communities.

5. Think ahead 10 years. Where do you see your community heading?

With regard to polyamorous, and other non-monogamous, communities I see much more acceptance and visibility. Without losing the model of the traditional nuclear family, I believe we are going to experience a shift toward different ways of forming family and community, and the breadth of opportunities for people to connect in new ways will be positive. For BDSM and Leather communities I predict a less pathologized perception, and the medical and psychological validation to back this up. I see our sexuality being removed entirely from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association and, generally, a broadening of the freedoms of erotic expression. I foresee equal civil rights, including equal legal unions, for gays and lesbians, and I sincerely hope to see an end to AIDS and HIV. We have lived with this disease for thirty years now. It is time for a vaccine and a cure. Quickly. 

David Ortmann, LCSW ( is a San Francisco based psychotherapist, sex therapist and author. His areas of clinical focus and study are the sexuality of the BDSM and Leather communities, concepts and theories of masculinity, and the processes of human attachment and differentiation.


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