A Guest Post by Kanienke
Kanienke is, to paraphrase Shrek, sort of like an onion. To say he has layers is an understatement; just don’t expect those layers to have anything to do with clothing.
We have been friends for a long time. We met via blogging, and though he has probably written more words on my blog than on his own in recent months, he does still occasionally share his thoughts in that space. He writes about love and sex and relationships, and is one of the most compassionate communicators I have ever encountered. Clicking the picture above will link you to his blog. Happy reading!
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HIDING AND COMING OUT
Every day when I get home, the first thing I always do is to peel off my clothes. I don’t really like clothes because they are hot and confining. They feel all tangled up on my body and the more I think about them, the more enclosed and contained they make me feel. To be liberated from my clothes is a wonderful feeling. I can sense my body being floated up by the lightness of the air. I can’t sleep in clothes because I wake up with them twisted around me and I wake up gasping for air because I can’t breathe.
I have always wondered why clothes are needed. Most of the time it’s too hot to wear them anyway. I know that in the winter it is easier to insulate yourself against the cold than to waste energy warming up your surroundings; and I do find it comforting to wrap myself in warm clothes on a cold day. I also like wearing clothes when I need to protect my skin; like, when I learned that cooking bacon naked is simply a bad idea. Apart from protection and warmth, I think the only reason we have clothing is because it is very important for us to hide ourselves from others.
That’s how all the hiding begins: you make one secret and then it spawns off a lot more secrets. Before long it seems like you spend most of your life hiding things. And my general impression of polite society is that everything about me that deviates from the norm, must remain carefully hidden.
When I was still a teenager, growing up in a puritanical household where no nudity was allowed, I started coming out as a nudist. I started sleeping in the nude and my parents would close my bedroom door to preserve my dignity (because I am naturally covering-resistant, those things fly right off me). I got lectured by my parents morning after morning about it and I did it anyway. When I went away to college I visited my first nudist resort and I was hooked. I became a member. I joined a nude volleyball team, and spent as much time on weekends out skinny-dipping in the pool and talking with MY people as I could. I found out that nudists are generally middle-aged and really friendly, genuinely open people. I love to be around them. I shared the story with my friends and people were supportive. My girlfriend and several other female friends asked me to bring them next time. So one day I brought three hot, sexy college girls to the nudist resort and for years after that, the other visitors treated me like I was Hugh Hefner. So that was my first big coming-out experience and I must say it was a good one.
I have many, many unconventional layers of rebellion besides that one. Nudism was merely the first card to fall. And it gave me the confidence to be honest to the people I was dating about the next big secret: I am not monogamous.
I don’t understand monogamy and it doesn’t make any sense to me. I was raised to believe that love is always a good thing, that we should share all that we have, that the world is an endless fountain of goodness for those that help each other. I took it a little too seriously I guess. I fall in love fast and hard, and I fall in love with a lot of people. I am good at sharing. When my first lover shared with me that she had a handful of other lovers besides me, I found that I was okay with sharing. She really did need the extra attention, more than I could give. It was okay. And the world actually is a fountain of goodness for those who help each other. Sexually I helped by giving my best female friends orgasms when they didn’t want to do it themselves. Or I gave kisses and cuddles. I wasn’t even trying to be a shameless slut, these were just relationships that fell into my lap and every one was a special, extraordinary gift to me. Most of these relationships overlapped and were concurrent, and I worked hard to be honest about them.
The rest of the cards were a lot harder to play. When I was in college I tried to reveal my other secrets to good friends who seemed to be a lot like me. I love when someone trusts me enough to reveal their true self to me, I embrace it and almost all of the time, I don’t judge. I draw the line at desires that do harm to other people or don’t give them a choice in the matter. Very few people reciprocated that sort of open-mindedness with me, though. When I tried to reveal secrets to good friends, I was met with disgust, prejudice, jealousy, loathing, and ridicule. I started to think, unlike other people, my secrets must be really BAD.
I kept myself in hiding most of the time after that. Feeling like you’re hiding yourself from the people you love is terrible. I couldn’t shake the awful feeling that no one really knew me, or wanted to. Not my family, or my spouse, or my circle of friends.
So then, I remember a decade or more ago when I went to see a simple Disney movie in the theater, and suddenly I heard a song that sort of broke me. I didn’t expect to hear it in light, kid-friendly fare. The song was “I’m Still Here” by John Rzeznik. The first lines dropped a bomb on me.
I am a question to the world
Not an answer to be heard
Or a moment that’s held in your arms
Wow. John spoke the truth to me: that people are looking for solutions, someone to fit the hole in their lives. They know the shape of the hole, they just don’t know which person who goes in it. The reason I met with such resistance when coming out to people was that my secrets were not compatible with what those people needed me to be. They were only looking for pieces of me, not for the whole me. They felt like they could edit me, or shave off the bits they didn’t like, and when I was overattached to those qualities, I became a problem. I don’t want to be tested and sorted and fixed. I just want to be KNOWN. So I related to the defiance in some of the next lines of the song:
You don’t know me
And I’ll never be what you want me to be
John Rzeznik’s song brought me healing and I needed it. Somehow his words made it okay for me to resist being assimilated and become the person I needed to be. I started to gather the strength to come out a little at a time to people who were safe, people who I already knew were like me.
The next part of me to come out has been the most troublesome, partly because it is the hardest for me to define. As is probably true of any person’s gender or sexuality, we all fall somewhere on a spectrum and then the clarity of labels becomes a problem. I guess I knew when I was a teenager that I was bisexual. I was sexually attracted to men and women, so the label should fit me nicely; but the truth is that it does not. I am sexually attracted to all beautiful souls and their gender labels do not influence me in my attraction to them. I happen to have had sexual relationships with women, with men, with transmen, and one person identifying as genderqueer, not because I have a bucket list somewhere but because we eventually felt comfortable pleasuring each other sexually. My genderqueer lover, Leigh, labeled me long ago as pansexual and I keep coming back to that label because perhaps it is the most fitting.
Labels are hard! I am non-monogamous but that label makes me sound like a slut (another tricky label), and so strictly from a language etymology I like the word ‘polyamory’ because it means ‘many loves’ and in my heart that is really what it is: I celebrate there being more than one love in my life. But then I’ve met and even been in relationships with some – quote – “polyamorous” people and to a disturbing degree, I call what they do ‘nonmonogamous fucking’ because it doesn’t resemble amor very much at all. My amazing friend Mrs. Fever likes to call it ‘polyfuckery’ and THAT is the finest point I’ve seen put on it.
I’ve found that the coming-out rubber meets the road when you actually come out to people who live outside of whichever label you prefer. So, in a small number of my straight friendships and emerging straight romantic relationships, I have been honest and forthcoming about my bisexuality, with overwhelmingly disastrous consequences. Fourteen out of fifteen women ended our relationship on the spot. The fifteenth, who is now my wife, said my sexual orientation was irrelevant because she didn’t want me fucking a man again. I told three very close platonic straight female friends, two of whom became too busy too ever see me again after that and one who doesn’t exactly know what to think. I told one close platonic male friend, who pretends the revelation never happened and will no longer go out with me one-on-one. I have never told anyone in my family, even my lesbian cousin, who would understand.
Coming out is not easy unless I am celebrating who I am with people who are like me, and they understand me already because they have lived the experience.
But I have also learned that you can’t expect people who share your experience to share your experience. They don’t know all of you, so coming out to them is sort of empty. I am now very selective about who I tell what to. I have to be careful about “coming out” about my hidden qualities because it really isn’t most people’s business. In your zeal to come out you shouldn’t make the mistake of telling everybody, just the ones who matter and have some interest in knowing. I’ve come out to my spouse with most of my secrets, and mostly her reaction was a long, uncomfortable silence and a change of subject. When we were dating she worked hard to try and experience some of those things with me, which I admire, but after the wedding those topics are rarely acknowledged or discussed, certainly never celebrated or allowed to exist. My spouse sees me in the way she needs me to be rather than as the person I am.
I meet kindred spirits now and then, who accept some of my hidden secrets but not others. It is nice to share with them and discuss, because through them I feel at least partially understood. I still don’t reveal everything to any one person. That takes time and relationship, but I still fantasize about knowing someone who would understand and embrace all there is of me.