May 7, 2011

Guy Baldwin’s NLA 2011 Keynote Address

Well, Guy Baldwin has done it again. Much as he did with his recent Leather Leadership Conference keynote address, Guy’s thoughtful and articulate keynote before the crowd at the 2011 National Leather Association’s Spring Iniquity conference in Houston, Texas caused a bit of a stir. Perhaps more than a bit. The theme for the conference was Uncommon Integrity.

In the interest of full disclosure, Guy is my ex-significant other. I say that because I know some will assume that’s why I’ve given him so much press here with two such close together posts. While I did and do love Guy deeply, I assure you it’s his intellect, insight and brilliant speaking style that prompts me to suggest that you listen to Guy whenever you can. Few can disagree that he’s one of the great contemporary minds within the kink community.

I hope you take the time to listen to Guy’s speech and let me know your thoughts.

9 Comments on “Guy Baldwin’s NLA 2011 Keynote Address

Terry Glenn Phipps
May 8, 2011 at 5:27 am

Sometimes my life in Europe helps me understand how Prospero must have felt trapped on that island with Caliban, Ariel, and (of course) his daughter. Would it were that I could conjure a proper tempest and bring the world to my door. Had I that power, my island would be party central (something like the vision of hell depicted in “Deconstructing Harry”). Alas, the closest I get to a crystal ball is watching Guy stuck in a conference room in Houston, thankfully still giving em hell.

My fellow technologists (alchemists?) know something that Guy has intuited and expressed with typically dramatic emphasis in his speech. Perhaps not voluntarily, and surely not for all of the right reasons, but we all made the decision to come out of the closet (all of the closets) the second that we began to live with one foot in the physical world and with one foot in the virtual world.

The digital record doesn’t forget, and that record was created to be indexed (ever more accurately my dear Watson). It is only a question of using the proper tool to tie what I say on this blog, under a sexual alias on Recon, and wearing my technologist | artist | futurist hat while I give a presentation in front of the Triennale of Milan. How useful is it to hide in a glass closet?

When I first went on Facebook it was really quite scary for me to think of the fact that I was creating a group of “friends” that co-mingled people from my BDSM, work, social, and family life; all linked back to my real name, Terry Glenn Phipps (Google me). After a while I came to the conclusion that the dude who founded Facebook isn’t a villain, he is a hero. Maybe he wasn’t the first person to detonate the illusion of privacy in the public piazza, but he was the first person to blast the false veil of privacy to smithereens with a hydrogen bomb.

It is simply a fact that whatever we do, wherever we stick our tongues, whomever we choose to befriend, wherever we walk, and from whom we buy our coffee is a matter of public record. It may be difficult to absorb this reality and to realize that it is as inescapable as it is omnipresent. However, once we acknowledge this simple truth, the only prisons that remain are those of our own creation.

The choice Guy is presenting is between the useful and the absurd. Are we going to stand naked cowering in a glass box in the middle of the public square, or are we going to do something, say something, and most of all help someone who really should be a brother?

I worry less about young people than I do about men our own age. Future generations are going to cling to different illusions, but notional anonymity will not be one of them. Even the immediate future will be explicit from cradle to grave – from genome to novation. It will be left for those who live next to explore different dualities such as absolute freedom and absolute tyranny.

What remains for our generation is to decide how to live the rest of our lives. We are the middle children of history. We were born into a world where we unconsciously equated anonymity with survival, where we took a personal voyage toward discovery and fraternity (pulled by a lustful nose ring chained to an ox-cart full of desire), and where we lived long enough to see Zuck’s hydrogen bomb explode, even if we haven’t yet felt the shock waves full impact.

The question people our age must ask is what happens now? Will at least some of our elders be brave enough to live fully in this century, or will we suffocate in our glass boxes believing that we are somehow, magically, invisible?

Guy Baldwin
May 8, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Oh hell yeah!

TammyJo Eckhart, PhD
May 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm

As some one who has been out for many years now and who has been pushing education at the college level and other levels, I can understand his feelings about being out. However I also have to point out that I’ve known many gays and lesbians who do use scene names or who use titles which are NOT their real names so making that charge het specific is untrue. There are also many of us who are het or bi who are out, who do use our real names simply because we find it easier to be ourselves all the time than to put on a further layer of masks than the one we all must wear as we take on different and necessary roles we have in our daily lives.

I’ve lectured and done a workshop on “The Decision to Be Out” in the past. It is a complicated issue that requires those of us who are out to live not simply preach. It requires those of us who are out to interact with everyone not lock ourselves into a box of folks who agree with us, as uncomfortable as we may feel around other orientations. Trust me, I feel far more at ease around gay leather men than I do around male dominant and female submissive groups or couples, so orientation is not merely het, bi or homosexual.

I don’t see what is really controversial about his speech but then that maybe because his ideas are not new to my mind, not new to what I’ve been working with and on for years. While I know it must be true that some folks believe they are safe behind false names or titles, while I know some must so isolate themselves that they do not realize how much they have in common with others, I still find it so hard to believe in this age when the Internet and popular media has opened up the information floodgates for anyone looking for information — good information is another entirely.

Hope my rambling made some sense.


Ed Kosary
May 17, 2011 at 9:56 pm

I am so glad I finally got to see this speech. It is a wonderful as I heard it was. Thank you Guy Baldwin.
With what has happened to the gay leather community in recent years I have felt the men who taught me back in the 80’s were rolling in their graves (or in some cases blowing around in their urns). But your speech brought back the dreams, goals and life that they had and wanted passed on. If we let what they (and ultimately us) go then they are truly gone and in nothing but bone and ash.
Thank you, as one who is way ready to come home.
Ed Kosary
Dallas, TX

Alan Arthur Chiras
May 18, 2011 at 8:55 am

Thank you so much for the speech to be accessible here on your blog. It sadly reminds me of the only time I met Chuck Renslow. I asked him at a Stonewall pride march in New York about having the archives of Leather Force 2000 placed at the LA&M. He said that there was no home there for that. I did not march that year – instead I went back to my hotel room and cried for three days. To this day, there is nothing at the LA&M of my work in the community for four years or that of Leather Force 2000. What little there is that has been collected has been done at The Worcester Historical Museum in Worcester, Ma. As for my history in the community, it will probably be lost forever.

Ces Williams
June 11, 2011 at 12:43 pm

For many years our community has been programmed to think that it’s not “Politically Correct” to have our own gender specific play spaces. These are special spaces where we can explore our gender’s unique sexual needs, energy and environment. They’re forums where we can choose to play and have sex in the way that best suites our gender’s specific “barn of piggy-ness.”

Politically correctness has royally screwed our community and mind-fucked generations of good Leather people. I would bet that if the truth were revealed, the vast majority of Leathermen and Leatherwomen don’t want a full dissemination into each other lives. They want to have a certain degree of separatism. So maybe it’s not so ugly after all.

Sometimes it’s best to be on the outside looking in on others. Learning and watching what other groups are doing only strengthens the organizations you actually belong to. Every group doesn’t have to be all things to all people. Just like our spaces, we need other safe places to be Leatherman, Leatherwomen, Leatherdykes, and Transleather etc. We each have different needs, and have to relate to those around us to have those needs met.

Obviously we must support each other when the need arises but why do we need to be a part of every aspect of each other’s life? Personally, I don’t want nor need it. Think of it as a Leather neighborhood. The men live on one corner, the women next door, the trans across the street, the youth up the street. We are all together in one common place living our lives, and when the times call for it, we come together as a strong, cohesive community. When the need is met, we return to our homes in the Leather neighborhood. Is this wrong? I don’t think so.

Race Bannon
June 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Ces, extremely well said. I think your sentiments echo how many people feel.

Kevin Gault
August 1, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Hi Race,
Thanks for posting this here on your blog. I found Guy’s challenge to the het community to be surprising and quite moving, so much so that I felt compelled to respond. Unfortunately I was unable to find any internet contact information for Mr. Baldwin. I hope you will not object to my posting my letter here.

Dear Guy,

My wife Shy and I met you at Adam Swenson’s lecture: “Hurts so good: What’s bad about masochistic pain?” presented to the Center for Sex and Gender Research, California State University Northridge (4/24/09). We were pleased to make your acquaintance as we had found your book The Ties That Bind to be one of the better sources for intimate D/s advice & issues. The more I learn about this lifestyle the less I know, so I thank you for teaching me many ways in which I’m still a neophyte.

Recently I had the opportunity to watch your keynote speech at the 2011 NLA conference. I had always believed that the gay leathermen were the true trailblazers of the BDSM movement, and it was fascinating to hear your history of the events which spawned those first few het leather groups, and of the active role leathermen played in establishing them. I know that I have always admired the courage of those trailblazers, or rather of those of you who were trailblazers from the beginning.

Most significantly, I found your appeal on the topic of coming out to be powerfully compelling. My partners and I do use scene names, often for role-play/headspace reasons, but honestly also due to reasons you noted: concerns about the consequences to job/family/freedom of coming out in certain circles.

But what shattered my then-existing paradigm was the simple statement:

“If all the het world wanted from us (wanted from gay leathermen) was information about the magic of BDSM, and the techniques and tools to conjure that magic, only to then withdraw back into a hiding place of secrecy and fear… well then, the most hard-won lessons and values of gay men have gone to waste.”

I’ve come a long way since my first coming out. I had to come out to myself. Then to friends, my partners, my family I gradually shared my lifestyle. But why is there that fear of being fully open to the public? I’ve posted evidence of my kink on a few fetish dating sites; you can see my face but not my full name. You describe uncommon integrity, and in so doing I hear the gravity of your conviction that this complete coming out is beyond essential. Am I missing this point? As you say, we must consider the next generation who will see us as leaders and learn to model hiding rather than asserting their rights.

I think I understand: if we operate as though we have no rights, then we have relinquished them; the movement cannot move forward while closeted.

I hear the frustration behind your appeal that perhaps the het leather leaders haven’t seemed to apprehend the lesson of coming out. As someone who was extensively educated in various ways by that community (and most of the local lifestyle institutions) I never heard anyone discuss scene names and the closeting of the het leather community. They didn’t get it, so we (the next generation) didn’t get it either.

It is my sincere hope that your calling to return your energy to your own people does not delineate a rift in the alliance which many of us feel towards you. Perhaps both our next generations need that extra attention. But I believe it is essential to keep a level of social awareness of one another and the conventions and traditions we hold dear. Ignorance breeds fear and can re-ignite the fires of prejudice and hate. On the other hand, it is quite possible for neighbors with vastly different lifestyles and views to join forces and stand together in the name of a common cause- this is the synergy I would hate to see slowly fading away.

And don’t worry too much about het leather learning those lessons! Sadly those lessons will get learned, but perhaps not as easily as the heeding of good advice. It seems the curse of Man to repeat his worst mistakes.

Thanks once again for your openness and for the wealth of all that you have taught us! I wish you joy and fulfillment upon your journey of erotic discovery, and I hope that your new focus on your fellow brothers in the gay leather community will achieve your goal of leaving a better world for your posterity.

Kevin Gault

Race Bannon
August 1, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Kevin, a very eloquent comment. I’ll make sure Guy is notified of its posting.

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