Bring your private actions visible
/ Progression of movements and language
/ Transformation of silence into language and action
“Yzermans sacrifices the privacy of the chatters by making their most private actions visible,” - a passage explaining Chantal Yzerman’s Thirty Three Degrees. Tomorrow I will be writing during this live performance.
Today I’m afraid to lose my home due to my profession.
Despite my landlord being progressive enough to ask if I “had a boyfriend… or! a girlfriend,” I am sitting with fear for her potential disapproval of me working with porn and sex tech.
Last night I went to an event full of queer feminists and was protested by another group of queer feminists.
Progressive movements grow simultaneously and separately. Seeds falling from trees making saplings, growing technically in the same ecosystem, but through differing conditions. The people who adopt the movements grow through them in separate, simultaneous ways. And may grow slower or faster, for numerous external & internal, natural & unnatural reasons.
Since there is no Miracle Grow for people nor movements, and since Miracle Grow has weird side effects, we’re stuck having to accept each other for where we’re at. At best, we can hope to help breakdown their growth barriers (i.e. shine some (sun)light).
In 1973, when homosexuality was grounds for clinical imprisonment and legal discrimination, a group of lesbians noticed an opportunity to resurrect a greenhouse around some influential people in need of growth. Kay Lahusen, Dr. Evelyn Hooker & friends encouraged the American Psychological Association (APA) to include another person on a panel at their annual conference. Dr John Frier, a psychologist and a gay man, wore a mask and got on stage to plead with his peers: “make your homosexual patients know they’re alright.” The eventual declassification of homosexuality as an illness was accredited to this moment.
“We fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live. And that visibility that makes us most vulnerable, is also the source of our greatest strength,” said Audre Lorde in her essay, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action. For forcing his visibility, Dr. Frier made space for himself and many more to live. By vulnerably risking his livelihood and his clients lives, he gave strength to a movements growth. The alternative of Miracle Grow I self prescribe.
I prescribe it for myself knowing the comfort of my privileges (including a profession that won’t discriminate against me) provides affordability for risk. I subject myself to the discomfort of making my private public: “coming out” as working with sex.
On my way to the feminist porn film festival I previously mentioned, I listened to another Audre Lorde essay: Uses of the Erotic. The Erotic as Power. When I got to the event, the same words I used as inspiration while in transit, were amplified in use against my destination: “Pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic. For it represents the suppression of true feeling. It represents sensation without feeling.“
With literal word translation reminiscent of conservative bible propagating, you ignore the cultural progression of the last 40 years. You prune the leaves of the movement and mold it into a hedge that suits your fancy.
To subscribe to Lorde’s words of 1978 you intentionally mow over the significance of the Internet, the post-porn movement, and how Instagram lumps art, the nude human, and hardcore pornography into one adult content slop bucket. These branches of progress have a nonphysical presence that wasn’t visible in ’78.
Like sluts of the 80s having justifiable offense to the term, of course Lorde held disdain for pornography. But 1992’s The Ethical Slut marked a movement of reclamation, and the power of the word “slut” shifted. Furthermore, the reason this shift could exist was for the space made by the preceding cultural shifts and movements. If it wasn’t for the brave storytelling of queer psychiatrist Dr. John Frier, the shamelessly slutty education of queers Easton & Hardy wouldn’t have been palatable by a majority. And if not for queer Audre Lorde’s bold promotion of erotic power, we wouldn’t have so smoothly seen the queer pornographers redefine the category.
But not everyone is ready to open their eyes and see the growing cultural climate around them. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. And if you do notice it, it’s easy to ignore when you’re already safe and content. Growing is uncomfortable. Fortunately most of the physical growing pains we experience is relegated to our prememory phase of childhood. I, though, refuse to let the people in my wake be blinded by their Frankenstein hedges.
Ahead of us is another choice of discomforts: progress from risk of life, or immobility through silence. Thanks to the gay rights movement, there is more legal protection for sexuality than 40 years ago. Without excluding that movement’s continued growth, we need to allow sunlight to shine on it’s sapling movement: the protection of sex work.
Like in 1973, the people in positions of greatest risk have the greatest potential to set us free: the closeted erotic writers who work for the same government institutions that are taking children away from unapologetic erotic writers; the closeted sex club goers who work for the social media companies who ban other sex club goers from freely and openly expressing themselves and set global standards for the valuation of their stories; the lawyer who moonlights as a secret kinky sugar baby who could be advocating for their fellow sex workers who their own colleagues are prosecuting. And anyone who identifies as a sexual being and has a position with some authority. We must follow MakeLoveNotPorn lead and socialize sex to remove this destructive taboo (shoutout to Jeff Bezos’ dick pic response).
This movement is already taking root. But to transcend from the early adopters to the mainstream, we need more voices and more stories. We need to resurrect a greenhouse and expedite the growth of influential people like Kay Lahusen and Dr. Evelyn Hooker did with the APA.
Choosing to sacrifice your privacy and make your most private actions visible takes heroic strength. I challenge you to find the strength in your community, accept that universal approval is an ego’s foolish errand, and challenge yourself to tell your stories.
“While we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness. The weight of that silence will choke us,” Audre Lorde.
I am looking forward to the experience of Chantal’s event tomorrow: exposing my words, seeing others exposing themselves, and noticing the public's digestion of it all.
*I’d recommend reading the entirety of Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider, Ch 10: The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action is the Name of the essay. And even Ch. 12: Uses of the Erotic. The Erotic as Power.