When I was at Woodhull Freedom Foundation's National Sexual Freedom Day press conference on September 23rd I participated in a video interview project exploring what sexual freedom means to people. To me, sexual freedom means the freedom to be my whole self instead of having to hide the parts of myself that relate to my sexuality.
Paul Berese, the videographer (from quimera.tv) asked me for an example of a place where I don't feel free to be my whole self. The first place that came to mind was "at work." I stumbled around a bit trying to explain. At work I do not discuss the lovers I have but to whom I am not married. I do not have many family pictures out, but the ones I do have are only of my legal family. If I am invited to a campus event and Will, my life partner and the person to whom I am happily married, cannot come, I do not bring another partner. I have a few friends at work to whom I am out as polyamorous, but it is not something that is easy to share routinely.
There are much starker examples of where people have had their freedom limited because of their sexuality. This week alone I read about Melissa Petro, 30-year-old New York City school teacher who was removed from her classroom and placed on administrative duty because she had the audacity to write freely about her past experiences as a sex worker and about, Anderson Cooper reported on Michigan Assistant Attorney General ... writing a blog that stalks the openly gay student body president of University of Michigan, including an image of a rainbow flag superimposed with a swastika and the word "resign" (YouTube here, with image at :48), and a college student who killed himself after his sexual interactions with another man were broadcast live via iChat without his knowledge (and this in a month where at least 5 gay teens have committed suicide.)*
Simply speaking about your sexuality can cost you your job. Shame and stigma surrounding sexuality can cost one one's life.
While I blog mostly about sex and society, my partner Will blogs mostly about New York Harbor, working waterfront issues, and takes fabulous pictures of tugboats, and in rare moments of synchronicity our interests blend in beautiful and unexpected ways.
One recent such blending occured when I chose the location of my Sex Blogger Calendar photo shoot. We shot it on Frying Pan, a beautiful yet decaying light ship that now serves as part of a floating bar and grille at Pier 66 on the Hudson River. I love exploring the artifacts of urban industrial history. I also think boats - workboats in particular - are pretty sexy. So when Will said he had connections and we got permission to shoot there I was thrilled. (To get a sneak peek at the shoot click here.)
Another unexpected intersection between our worlds occured last weekend when we spent Sunday at the Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition, the Working Harbor Committee's annual celebration of New York City's working waterfront. More than a dozen tugs participated and we ended up gathering afterwards with Will's sister, some of my friends from sex-blogger circles, and some of Will's friends from waterblogger circles. Several children rounded out the group and we all had a great time
But the most recent intersection between waterblogger and sexblogger worlds came just yesterday. We spent Friday and Saturday in Waterford, NY (a bit north of Albany where the Hudson River turns into the Erie canal headed west and Champlain canal headed north). We were there for the annual Tugboat Roundup. I was chatting with Don Sutherland, a prominent working harbor photographer and journalist, sipping wine, and waiting for the fireworks to start (best fireworks ever!) when the subject of my blog came up. He pointed to the tug attached to the fireworks barge. It was New York State Marine Highway's Mame Faye. He asked me if I knew who Mame Faye had been. I did not. So he told me.
Today, Labor Day, I'm thinking about work. I look around my apartment and am awed by the amount of work required to produce everything in it. The hours of labor represented by just the items sitting on my desk is astonishing. There are about a dozen books, an eye glass case, a tape dispenser, a roll of fishing line (why do I have fishing line on my desk?), a lamp, a bottle of ink, a couple of fountain pens, a wooden top, a few CDs, one DVD (Kill the Artist, by Andreas Troeger), a cup full of pens and pencils, two flash drives, an iPod, a pack of stationery, two notebooks, a date book, a New York Times magazine ("Why women's rights are the cause of our time", Aug. 23, 2009), and that is just the layer that is visible! When I add to that the service work involved in my day to day life. And it makes me think about the many paths that lead to all that work.
What are you doing for Fathers Day? My partner, a father of five children all adopted or conceived long before I entered the picture, is off sailing for two days on the Schooner Pioneer and enjoying parts of the Clearwater Festival. (Check his blog for an account, probably Tuesday.)
Our fathers and grandfathers have all passed away (my father when I was a child, my partner’s father just a few months ago) but my partner is himself a father and today I thank him for helping to shape the lives of five truly unique and wonderful individuals. I am honored to know them, and glad that they came into my life as adults so that we could develop relationships based on something other than a step-parent/step-child dynamic. (Don’t get me wrong, step-families can be wonderful! I had an amazing step-mother myself for a while, but I’m grateful for having the chance to know these people without the inevitable difficulties that come with any kind of parent/child relationship.)