Protected: please tell me

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

A Ten Year Retrospective: Portraits by Bill Wadman

I was in New York City in November and met up with Bill Wadman, an amazing portrait photographer and friend of mine. As we were catching up we realized that he’s been photographing me for ten years, so I started thinking back on the experiences with him, the way things have changed over that time, and how portrait photographs can be a powerful tool of identity reflection.

My first shots with him were in 2007 for his 365 portrait series. Many of the folks I was in community with were part of it, and I threw my name out to him, too … I didn’t know what to expect, but I went over to his home studio with some ideas. He spent a lot of time with me, through multiple outfit changes and my nerves and even a performed poem at his old-school microphone. These shots weren’t the one he used for his project, but these are the ones I like best.

These were the first professional photos of myself, I think … aside from school portraits. Definitely my first “photo shoot.” I’d been an avid self-portraiture explorer since 2000 or so, but I was coming in to my butchness in new ways in 2005-6-7, and so I was seeing myself anew. Having someone else see me like this was gratifying … and kind of shocking. I remember staring at these photos a lot. Is that really how I look? Are you sure? It seemed magical.

I did three shoots with him in 2012. That was one of the hardest years of my life, and it was one of those years where I reached out to a lot of different photographers and did many shoots. The first one, with the red flogger against the brick wall, has been used many places since. While I’ve used some of the photos from the shoot later in the year, it was also a time when I was in deep depression, and the photos, while technically beautiful and very accurate in their capture of me, are really sad. My face is … surprising.

There’s actually one more shoot from 2012 that is missing. I’d had this vision of a photo of me in a white button-down, sleeves rolled up to the elbows, next to a clawfoot tub with a femme covered in bubbles, and me shaving her legs. Bill said, “If I find a clawfoot tub, will you and Kristen model?” and made it happen. It makes me sad to look at it. I’m not including it here, but I’ve seen it make the rounds on Tumblr, and it’s over on my Flickr.

There’s one — the middle one from 2015 — that I think is my favorite photo of myself ever taken. That whole shoot, though, are some of my favorites of all time. I’m not sure what it was, but I felt confident and so like myself, I’d just had top surgery, I was getting healthier in my body, and I was appreciating being back in New York for a small trip.

The 2017 photo shoot was for his second 365 portraits project. rife is also in this year’s portrait series, from the summer when Bill and his wife Heather were in San Francisco, but I waited until I was visiting New York to do a portrait with him. We met up at the gay boy bar Therapy because I remembered their all-gender bathroom as kinda epic, so we took some photos in there at the urinals. They show a different kind of me than the others, I think. More grown up. Maybe a little more wise. More playful. More … solid. More something.

Thank you, Bill. Here’s to another 10 years of friendship!

2007

2012, early

2012, late

2015

2017

PS: I used to keep a lot of photos over on Flickr, and I still upload galleries from photoshoots there. You can browse through more of the photos from these shoots (and others) if you’d like.

Protected: family portrait

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: #metoo

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: ten years

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: for giving

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: sixteen things

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: We got married.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

“Even between the closest people infinite distances exist.”

rife and I are getting married next week.

I’ve been keeping it close to my chest. Private. Sharing it with my closest folks, but not really even sharing the photos online. I feel protective of them, like I don’t really want to scroll through Tumblr someday and see one just randomly on some queer reblog. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s thrilling to see my work being passed around the internet … but sometimes it feels like something personal is now public property.

So I’ve been quiet about it. And working so hard to make it happen. I’ll be writing through it, no doubt, and I’ll share more with you after I’ve had some time for it to settle.

Meanwhile, here are some of our “engagement” photos.

Najva Sol is a photographer we love, and have shot with before, and she’s now all fancy over at a big wedding site. She happened to be in San Francisco for a work trip a few months ago, so we carved out half a day to shoot some photos.

These are some of the slightly more power-dynamic-y ones, the ones we didn’t send to family.

These next few have a special story. rife woke up from a dream, a few months before we took these photos, about frolicking through the woods in a dirty wedding dress and then being in this very specific pose with me, where I had my boot on his thigh. He woke up, told me about it, and drew it that day, excited to recreate it in a photo. He knew I was wearing red with black suspenders, he knew what kind of dress he wanted and ordered it online. So we did it.

All photos are by Najva Sol. Thank you!

Oh, the quote above? It’s from Rilke, in a little piece about marriage, individuation, and the journey of walking two paths together. We’re going to read it as part of the ritual. I see it as a reminder, since I can often lose sight of myself and my own needs in relationship, and a wonderful goal to aim toward as we take next steps forward.

On Marriage

Rainer Maria Rilke

Marriage is in many ways a simplification of life, and it naturally combines the strengths and wills of two people so that, together, they seem to reach farther into the future than they did before. Above all, marriage is a new task and a new seriousness, a new demand on the strength and generosity of each partner, and a great new danger for both.

The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of their solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side by side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky. For the more we are, the richer everything we experience is.

And those who want to have a deep love in their lives must collect and save for it, and gather honey.

Thanks for being part of this journey y’all <3 You’ve seen this relationship since the beginning really, and while I’ve been more quiet about it (here, anyway — you can still get some of the more nitty-gritty through the Patreon), I still share a lot and I appreciate your witness and reflection. Sincere gratitude to you all.

PS: Because people have asked, here’s the link to our wedding registry.

Protected: give up

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: nonline

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: high vs low

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: rose

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: new, new, new

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: three months

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: diagnosis & meds

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: resolve

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

“I wish I could show you … the astonishing light of your own being.”

astonishing

I read so many things about queer folks and trans folks and genderqueer folks about dating and sex and how the person you love doesn’t love you anymore and how you really want the new binder or surgery or just ran out of your HRT dose or how your heart is breaking or how fucking good your sex was last night or how lucky you are to be in love or how hard long distance relationships are or how abusive M/s and D/s can be or how much you crave something other than what you have or how you’re being overlooked for some good thing yet again. Every day I read the internet, read read read the internet, my Tumblr feed full of college students and poets and dirty pictures, my Facebook feed full of my most favorite people in the world and at least 2,000 people I’ve only met once and had some sort of desire to connect with deeper, I read Twitter and all of your briefest of thoughts about what’s going on in the world.

(I don’t read RSS anymore. Do you? It seems the overabundance of social media has replaced following specific blogs and reading everything they write. I am much more inclined to see what link ten of my friends has shared and click through to read that article, regardless of the source. We are in the internet age of the group blog, where things go viral, where good writing has so little place on blogging platforms but rather blogs are built with bullet-pointed bolded subheading lists, bite-sized revelations we can easily quote. Little nuggets of truth and wisdom. I don’t know what to do with my “real” writing in the online blog world that only values (virals) those. And see, I do it too, only listing my bite-sized social media readings, not any significant articles. So interesting, how morning habits evolve.)

I think about you, my people, my tribe, my lineage, my students, my friends, my lovers, all the time. I read through what you’re saying and I want to sit down with you, I want to say: Hello, how are you. What’s going on for you today? How is your heart? Are you going to make it to the next holiday, your next birthday, with more dove-grace and courage than the last one? Are you building anew the ways to remake yourself? Are you gathering tools so this world doesn’t crush you?

I guess I am. Sometimes I think that’s all I ever do. And while it’s you I am reading, your words and thoughts and heartaches between the lines, your hard-ons and dripping soaking through pleasures, your mouths open yawning gaping hungry, your words screaming hoping for someone to listen, really it is that inner kid of mine that I am looking for, listening for, my fourteen year old self who was shattered by the process of coming into an adulthood with no models, no context, for what I was becoming.

So I read all of you, but really I am listening for the ghost of her, and I see her everywhere.

All that is to say that when I read your words, this Hafiz quote always comes to my mind: “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”

I wish there was some way I could show you the astonishing light of your own being. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish I could show myself that, too, on my bad days, on the days when I am betrayed or betrayer and struggle to live with what I know I’ve done. It’s all projection, you’re all mirrors for what I am trying to tell myself, I know that. And I know the struggles. I know it’s not that easy. I feel it too. I straddle the worlds and some mornings cannot get out of bed for the softness of the sheets and the purring cat and the empty space next to me. I am no stranger to having one’s chemistry betray one’s ambition, I know how it feels for one’s body to be the thing standing in the way of everything else.

But still: there is light. I know there is. (There has to be.)

And when I can see it … oh, it is, it truly is nothing but astonishing.

A Little Note About Father’s Day

@imsleather boys.

My dad died a little more than two years ago, suddenly, of a heart attack. He was 60, and not in perfect health, but I was under the impression it was improving.

It was a serious shock. My world was turned upside down. I have lost people before, breakups, deaths, sudden shocks—but I’ve never experienced anything like this before. My world unraveled, my sanity unraveled. Grief has been a fascinating process. I have been writing constantly about it, though I’ve only been publishing about 10% of it.

It has changed everything, to lose my dad (and then my partner), and I’m still getting back on my feet.

This is the third father’s day without him. It’s different—being a Daddy in the leather-kink way to this boy whose adoration and devotion I strive every day to deserve, and to whom I offer my adoration and devotion too—it means I think about Father’s Day in a dirty intimate way that is completely different from my own relationship. And yet, when the words are the same, how different are they really? But they are. And they’re related. Maybe they come from the same wound, somehow, or from the same deep need, from the same crevasse filled with diamonds that can slowly be excavated with the right tools. I’m just poeting here, I don’t really know.

As someone who always had a decent if somewhat complicated relationship with my family-of-origin genetically-related dad, Father’s Day was only a moment to call him, say hey, talk about the latest TV sitcom or how his business was going. But now that I’ve got this other relationship to the day, I am feeling into all of you out there who are fatherless kids, who are unfathered or under-fathered, who are fathers or daddies or papas or poppys yourselves, who have that masculine paternalism to whomever or from whomever in your life. It’s more complicated than the Father’s Day of my first 32 years would have told me. I

I was hoping to write up a gift guide for butch daddy presents, but honestly, my feelings are in the way of any masculine accessory thing. You can always check out Butch Basix for inspiration, and search for belt buckles, cuff links, cigar holders, dopp kits, collar stays, or ties at Etsy, and I bet you’ll come up with a thing or two.

Pro Etsy tip: if your butch daddy has some particular love of birds or Texas or motorcycles, put in “cufflinks+motorcycles” or “birds+belt buckles” and get something really rad. If all else fails, add “customize” to any of those and get something with their initials.

I’m actually in Phoenix this weekend, at a leather boy retreat, so I’m curious to see what will come up around Father’s Day for me in the next few days. I’ll be over here, writing. I hope your brunch is epic and your love is radiant.

Here’s a couple things to read for your Father’s Day weekend:

PS: I love you, boy.

The Identity Project: “Butch daddy poet” and “Genderqueer leather boy”

Okay so isn’t rife just so fucking cute? And sexy?

The Identity Project Photo by Sarah Deragon_670

Yeah. I know.

You probably know all about San Francisco-based photographer Sarah Deragon’s queer Identity Project by now—I’m mostly saying that because she’s gotten a mountain of gay-stream press and is all over my Facebook feed all the time, so if that’s the kind of thing you read, you’ve probably seen it.

It’s pretty awesome. Dozens (hundreds yet?) of photographs, beautiful black & white portraits, with just a few key identity words listed underneath.

Y’all know me—I love conversations about identities, about words, about the power in the words that we chose to define ourselves, heck even in self-portraiture and images that make us feel aligned with our deep selves, if only for a moment. I love that shit. It is, in many ways, what Sugarbutch is based around, and what tons of my art focuses on: Identity theory building, formation, and liberation.

So seeing a project that is a kind of visual conversation is pretty stunning, I think. I’ve been really moved, watching The Identity Project’s social media streams, as the images come through. I don’t know if I can articulate quite why it matters, but it makes me feel like I’m part of something.

And, speaking of that, I feel really privileged to have been photographed (alone and with rife) as part of this project.

The Identity Project Photo by Sarah Deragon_060

Sarah took some cutie shots of us together, too—these were the ones we used for the final project (which we got to pick), but there were others we liked too.

So far, the photos are almost entirely of people based in the Bay Area, and Sarah is raising some money to travel around and shoot in other cities, too. The Identity Project Indiegogo campaign ends at midnight on May 30th—tonight—so head on over and donate a few bucks (or a thousand) and support her for some national traveling so she can keep taking incredible portraits, capturing the current state of the queer community.

And who knows, maybe she’ll end up taking YOUR picture too!

Happy Birthday, rife!

It’s rife’s 27th birthday today!

So far, we have stayed in bed late, toured the chalk art birthday greetings that I drew all over our sidewalks last night, had an epic “hash brown heaven” breakfast, looked over the composite astrological chart I had done (basically the astrological chart for our relationship) done by a queer dominant (so it includes a bunch of fascinating stuff about our power dynamic!), opened a few gifts, and returned home to do some work before we head down to the opening queer happy hour for International Ms. Leather weekend kink event & contest tonight.

Would you you wish him happy birthday over on twitter (he’s @rowdyferret) or here in this post for me? Mostly because I want him to know how deeply loved he is.

And, if you’re starting to get a little crush on this hot piece of ass, here’s a present for you: a little rife collage of some of my favorite photos of him from the past few years. Some are shots I’ve taken, some he took (with a timer).

Collage

There are so many different cities on this little collage … I see Oakland, Baltimore, Hudson Valley, NY, DC, LA, Houston, Seattle, Oregon, and Brooklyn at least. It definitely accurately reflects how much adventuring we’ve had even in the short two and a half years we’ve been together.

And, it reflects how damn sexy that boy is. Fuck. I feel really lucky to have him, that he chose me, that we are a good match.

If you’d like to do something else sweet for the birthday boy, go check out The GENDER Book’s store and buy some goodies! The ebook is a sliding scale of $0+, the hardback is $30, the posters are $12+, the GENDER Booklets are DIY free or $4 printed, the Safe(r) Spaces kit with resources and posters and etc are $0+. There must be somethin’ over there of interest! Check it out, & support his project and labor of love.

Oh yeah and also: The GENDER Book Release Parties!

If you’re in the Bay Area, there’s a book release party/shower on Sunday, May 4th, and if you’re near Houston, there’s another big release party on Thursday, May 15th. Perhaps you’d like to go pick up your book in person?

Happy birthday, beautiful special boy. I love you so much.

When I’m getting off

Sometimes I just think of the simplest of things.

Your mouth. That look on your face, that look, when you’re giving over even more, just a little deeper, giving in to the sensation, giving in to wherever I’m moving your body, however I’m touching you. Your skin. The way your hands feel in mine. The way my fingers close around your wrist or throat or earlobe. The back of your head in my palm.

I think of these little flashes of your body, of us.

Other times, a more elaborate story.

What happens when I pick you up and drive you somewhere deserted and quiet, an empty kind of creepy parking lot where no one is around, no other cars, and lock the doors before I force your head into my lap. You struggle against me, but you know I will have my way, no matter what you do. You know it’s better to go easy, but not too easy, because then I’ll beat you for liking it.

I don’t really need an excuse to take you, or to hurt you, or to use you. It is so comforting, so deeply validating, to be able to have you in this way. To know that if you are in arm’s reach, I can use you for anything I may need, from fetching me a glass of water to your hands as an ashtray to your holes for my cock or fingers or tongue or whatever I might want to do with them.

Lately, I think a lot about rough sex. Pressure and strain and resistance and using my weight against gravity to hold you down. I think about going too far, pushing too hard, making you gag, spit, sputter, making you cry out and bleed, bruises under my fingers holding you so tight, making you beg and cry, making you take it anyway. There’s something about the release on that level that is different—deeper?—than most other releases for me … knowing I can just pour into someone else and they can hold it, they have to. I love how you do this for me.

You release me in so many other ways, too, though. Moments of energetic intensity come to mind, times we’ve been outside with your hand in me in some way, the earth underneath shooting up and connecting me with … everything. I miss being somewhere with grass, with places to fuck outside.