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Amy Shiner

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Spirituality Meet Leather

Posted: 01/24/2012 9:27 pm

My friends often have really great ideas.

Let me rephrase. I often have friends to whom I am "in service," people whose directions I consciously agree to follow (completely non-sexually) or submit to, who have really great ideas. The conversation then turns to implementing said ideas, and the word "we" suddenly appears.

This is true with my friend Bey, to whom I have been in service recently. In short, he is the visionary, and his wife and I do most of the work. "We" is a loaded term, and she and I both know that "we" means us and not really him. So when I was told through email last week that a person to whom I am in service wanted to start a leather spirituality group at my church, I went, "Hey, do you like that weather pattern?"

It's not that I am hesitant to talk about spirituality and sexuality together. In fact, I am an open book on that topic and view some of my relationships as very spiritual. If you consult the Bible or attend any Catholic mass, they do a lot of kneeling to "God." I connect spiritually through sex and my relationships.

At the moment there is a group called Leather and Grace that is even trying to be considered an official organization with the Unitarian Universalist Association on this very matter!

My jaw dropped, because I had created a 10-year plan for coming out at church -- I had made pie graphs on Excel (in my fabulous opinion you can do anything in Excel) -- and all of a sudden I was hearing the reverend's voice on voicemail. After hearing the message, my friend asked, "So what is the plan?"

I do not think anyone has a plan for how to discuss sex and spirituality in a realistic manner. I say "realistic" because there are some hardcore beliefs in certain religions. As a person who grew up in a Catholic household and has gone through all the sacraments up to my confirmation, the sex education lesson at my church was simple. The only answer we needed to know was "no." That's it. In Catechism Class, growing up, we were taught that procreation is the only reason to have sexual intercourse. The concept of loving your body and loving someone else's body has always been a touchy topic.

I'm pretty out about being pansexual at church. I'm on church council, and I run the Interweave chapter, a GLBTQA social group, at the church. I am sure some of my closer fellow practitioners have picked up on the poly thing and, for one reason or another, just haven't said anything about it. So am I ready to take the next step and let my kinky flag fly free?

I'm not sure there is a choice.

D/s (dominance and submission) is seen throughout some rituals in Christianity; Opus Dei, for what it's worth, has self-inflicted pain built in (but I am not suggesting that anyone join an extremist group), and Catholicism at its finest requires submission from everyone. Unitarian Universalism doesn't require kneeling, submission, or devotion to any dogma; however, we do keep an open mind, and according to the seven principles, turning someone away is against what we believe.

At the same time, in any relationship there is consent. For any of the posters wondering if this is a forced "outing," we really have to discuss consent vs. non-consent. My friend Bey never said, "I am forcing you to out yourself, and if you don't, you will be insubordinate." He ordered me not to be a hypocrite. He's not asking me to give up my identity or lose my layperson status in the church, only to embrace openly what I embrace privately in my own rituals.

I think, with spirituality in general, people find their higher power, or multiple higher powers (or, for atheists and humanists, their strength), from many places. With me, it's both sexual and spiritual. I have had moments in my scenes when I have floated (but centered), and the power exchange all makes sense to me. I saw it when I looked at a friend's face during Yule, how peaceful she was and what we felt staring at our ritual candles. At the same time, I can also find peace in my sanctuary at church, when I sing songs to myself in the sanctuary and reflect on what I am doing and where I am.

That said, at one point late last year, I was starting to tidy up the pews, and I heard a voice from the balcony. Looking up, I saw someone I hadn't met (I have only been at the church for about a year, and I've met a lot of people and forget most of their names), so I asked, "Are you God?" There was some laughter... but you never know, my humanist theory could be wrong, and there is proof!

Given all these different views on spirituality, I succumbed last Sunday and talked to a few people whose bedroom activities I don't want to imagine or who simply can't fathom mine, and the consensus went well. However, the thought still stands: how many have leather in their closets?

 

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