I wanted to write about this primarily because it is something that I have faced, myself. While I identify as a switch, my actual experiences, especially in public, have been 95-99% as a dominant/top. As a result, this is how people think of me most of the time. So on the rare occasion that I have the opportunity to serve someone I trust in public, I find that people react oddly to it. For a week or two after such an event, people speak to me differently or not at all, seemingly because their image of me has been disrupted or distorted.
After significant irritation about this, I added the following text to my public profile:
I identify as a switch. I play as both a top and a bottom and I desire relationships in which I am either dom or sub. My desire is split about 50/50, but my experience has been about 98% top/dom. This means that your interaction with me is likely to be with that context. You may, however, occasionally see me playing in public as a bottom. If this happens, there is no need to talk to me differently or treat me differently. There is no need to question everything you’ve ever known about me. It is, and has always been, a part of my personality and who I am. Just because I let it show doesn’t mean anything has changed.
Soon after, I noticed that several of my friends posted similar notices on their profiles. But the original situation hasn’t changed, and the next time I acted submissive at a party, I once again had to endure awkwardness for the weeks that followed.
While this is not something that necessarily deters me from wanting to serve others in public, it has restricted me in other ways. I have had a lot of trouble beginning conversations with women that I am interested in or discussing an arrangement for service because, it seems, that they don’t believe that I could be capable of serving in the manner that they prefer. One of them told me ” I just don’t trust dominant men who say they want to be submissive.”
For this reason, my public image as a dominant person only entrenches itself further. People don’t want to top me because they only see me as a dominant, which means that I only show myself as a dominant, which makes the problem worse. It’s a pretty rough little cycle.
And this whole thing, from my perspective, often feels as if the community is actually suppressing a part of who I am; restricting me to displaying only the image that they have come to expect. Even if that image is only an illusion.
One young woman who I talked with said that she views herself as being very gender fluid and that she prefers to dress and act more masculine. She said that many would describe her as “butch”, even though her actual features are very feminine. She described a party that she showed up to wearing a dress and heels. Many of her friends spent the evening commenting on how “weird” it was to see her like that and still others simply didn’t talk with her at all. She said that she felt like she was being punished for being something different than usual that night and she hasn’t done it since, even though she would like to.
Another person who contacted me told me that he hasn’t been able to come out as bisexual within the community because every time he begins to feel confidant or bring it up, someone makes a joke about how he is the “straightest guy they know” or that some ridiculous notion is “as unlikely as [him] dating a dude.” And when he sees how certain everyone is about something he doesn’t see in himself, he questions whether they would ever accept him as he truly is.
Obviously, this isn’t a problem caused by any one individual, nor can it be solved that way. But each of us can do a little bit by trying to be conscious of how we respond to others when they do something that challenges our expectations. If someone leaves their comfort zone a little and expands into new territory, it’s important to be supportive and positive of that exploration. It’s important, not just for the person you are supporting, but also for the other person, who hasn’t yet found the courage to show those hidden parts of themselves, and will watch how you react to others’ choices.
While I try my best to follow that in practice, I have noticed that I am sometimes guilty of treating someone according to how I expect them to act, instead of how they are currently behaving.
There is an individual in my home community who has been working lately to actively change his image. He has publicly acknowledged that some of his behavior, which was originally a wall built to protect himself, has been hurtful to others. He has made a concerted effort to be better, not only by trying to restrain the impulses that causes him to act out, but also by spending a significant amount of time learning from others and seeking advice. Yet, in a group setting, I have sometimes spoken and acted in a way that assumed he would continue to act like that guy he used to be, or made jokes about anticipating his responses to things. I can’t say for sure how this has affected his progress.
I admit this to illustrate how easy it is to fall into those rhythms. How easy it is for us, as a community, to discourage even the most positive changes that a person tries to make, simply because those changes don’t mesh with the way we’re used to seeing them.
But I have tried to make up for it with encouragement and support whenever I can. And I hope that he knows that those of us who count ourselves as friends are proud of his progress.
I have to say, though, that I don’t have any clue how we go about fixing this problem. So the only thing I can do is encourage each of you to evaluate how you treat each other and try to look for those places where you aren’t giving the ones close to you enough room to grow.
Look for opportunities to be more supportive of changes that people make or the new and different roles they choose to play. But most of all, make the choice to be who you want to be, even if it may make those around you uncomfortable for a little while. It’s the only way they’ll ever get used to the idea.
In the mean time, I can say that I have found my way. As ranting as the stuff above may have sounded, this is something I have come to terms with, and with patience and perseverance, I have found people who are supportive of my choices and accept the various parts of me for what they are. These people have become my family, and I count myself blessed.