BackgroundA friend asked me if I would share on "The Mana1 of Fetish: Spiritual Power Made Tangible". The setting was a People in Leather Among You (P.L.A.Y.) meeting. (P.L.A.Y. is a social and support group for Southern California leatherfolk interested in the integration of radical sexuality and spirituality. For more information about them, drop a line to "MCCLAPLAY" at hotmail.com) Afterward a couple of friends from Texas asked if I would send them my program notes. Putting my path in writing is what evolved.
1Mana (noun): 1 - a supernatural force believed to dwell in a person or sacred object. 2- power; authority.
The program introduction read:
Fetish (noun): 1. a material object of trust and reverence; 2. an object believed to have the magical power to protect or aid its owner; 3. a non-sexual object that provokes or excites erotic feelings. Many leatherfolks are unaware that the word "fetish" has its roots in pagan spirituality. Our fetishes empower us, embolden us and, at times, enslave us... all while turning us on! Join Officer Wes as he shares how his particular fetish -- uniforms -- has been the catalyst for his spiritual journey, his erotic awakening and his most satisfying relationships.
My personal journey of leather heart & spirit so far
Sexual awakening knocked when I was 11. I didn't know how an orgasm happened. Then one night another kid about my age and I were fooling around. We wrapped our balls and erect penises in toilet paper, round and round, because it was fun! We then humped blankets with our mummified groins because it felt good. There was a blend of pleasure and pain as I did this, my balls being squished underneath me. This went on for some time, then, quite abruptly, that lightning bolt we call "orgasm" hit me for the first time. My first orgasm happened during what I'd now call a version of cock and ball torture, or "CBT." Not knowing that there were other ways to generate that feeling, I recreated that CBT ritual for a long time.
That same year I built a fort in the basement. It included a chalkboard on which I drew dials and gauges. In my 11 year old fantasy world I was a man in uniform and this control panel controlled electrical charges to other people's genitals. My first erotic fantasies included both uniforms and electroplay.
(See also www.westom.com/leather/uniforms.htm and www.westom.com/leather/electrical )
I received a profound personal insight into human behavior around this time. I had been afflicted by that bane of childhood, dorkiness. One of my two older sisters lived with me and was very popular. I went to her with my problem, and asked for her help. She suggested some changes to my outward appearance. A fresh haircut. Different clothes. Changing from glasses to contacts. We implemented the changes over the summer while we were staying at my dad's. When we returned to the sprawling apartment complex where we lived, people did not recognize me. Literally. And they treated me waaay better. My heart was the same, but now I was treated better based on my appearance.
When I was 15, I personally experienced the power of an officer's authority. An officer exercised his discretionary option to not further pursue an investigation into a single-car accident I caused when drunk. Through multiple acts of grace, my life was physically saved by total "strangers" and I was given the opportunity to freely rebuild my life. (The entire story of driving over a cliff is at www.westom.com/coolsite/cliff.htm )
In 1979 my sister Susan and I were out for New Year's Eve. She was looking for a gay friend of hers. An acquaintance suggested she check the Village Station. So, on perhaps the biggest club night of the year my sister, not realizing I was at least bi if not outright gay, took me to the the hottest gay bar in town. I was only 16, but at 6'2" I could get into clubs. But before we went in Susan warned me: If there are any women here, don't mess with them or they will beat you up! Thus I took on a fear of lesbians that lasted until 9 years later when I worked with a very butch dyke who I discovered was a sweet spirit. Meanwhile, however, we paid the cover and walked through the steamed-over double glass doors to the dancefloor and its surrounding area. It was packed. Hundreds and hundreds of men. Dancing together. Sweating. With their shirts off. Man! I had some visceral idea that a place like this existed somewhere like New York, but here it was right in front of me. It was utterly thrilling.
Rodney was twice my age when I met him during my first trip back to the Village Station a couple months later. Several life lessons came my way during our three and a half years together.
"I am not your mother" was a phrase Rodney would say when I was angry. When I first heard it I just got angrier. I didn't understand what he was talking about. Slowly, very very slowly, I eventually came to understand that I carried with me pain on the primal level from my relationship with my mother. (For example, at her own most injured, she once signed a letter "Your former mother. P.S. I hate your guts.") What Rodney was trying to communicate was that I responded to situations with him with a disproportionate fear-based anger response - as if he were intentionally trying to hurt me. My lesson: An understanding that what appears to be going on right now may have little relationship to the real issue.
"Just stop" was another phrase Rodney would say when I was angry. But I had this notion that when I was angry it had to all come out. One night I fell asleep before all my anger was out. In the morning it was gone. My lesson: Things change -- even very very intense emotions.
I went to college from 1981-1984 in the little city of Austin, Texas, population 300,000. We were hearing about AIDS in the big cities of New York and San Francisco. I felt safe in Austin. I was wrong. When I graduated and moved to the big city of Houston in 1984 I started practicing safer sex but it was too late.
My first HIV test, in August 1987 at age 24, came back positive. I felt like a leper. I turned to BDSM as a way to be sexual without having intercourse. I also tried to stop smoking pot as a way to improve my health chances and began going to 12-Step groups when I found I couldn't remain abstinent on my own power. Thus began what would eventually become an effort to seek and improve conscious contact with my higher power.
In 1988 I began assembling my first uniform. I was so nervous I had my friend David go with me. Off to a uniform store we went. The tailor took my measurements and I placed my order; a dark blue hat and matching pants and shirt, both with gold piping. It was thrilling! Then we scoured costume shops for imitation badges to dress up the uniform. Great fun.
Around this same time I met Dan Kalin, now deceased. He was the first person who came up to me at a leather bar and said "I want to take you home and tie you up." My response was along the lines of "That's nice. Perhaps some other time." Dan seemed to intuitively know that I was afraid. He stayed and we talked. I started asking questions such as "Would you stop if I asked?" (his answer was the intriguing: "Yes, but I won't start again.") and "Could there be a time limit?" When I became better versed in the leather community I realized that what we had done was negotiate a scene. Ah, the first time at anything: Those were some of the hottest four hours of my life!
The Brotherhood of Pain clubhouse, where we'd gone for our initial time, was where Dan and I had our second get-together slated. I arrived at the appointed time and, not seeing anything else to do, rang a doorbell at the big wooden fence. In short order a leatherboy arrived. I told him I was there to meet Dan. He looked perplexed, but invited me to follow him. Upstairs above the garage dungeon we went, into a tidy apartment. There was a leatherman sitting comfortably inside, and it was obvious he owned the collar around the boy's neck. The boy relayed what I'd told him. The man had a similar initial reaction. He said Dan wasn't there, but that he would call him. He graciously did. No answer. It appeared I had been stood up. (Later, Dan had the integrity to admit that he had indeed remembered the commitment and had consciously chosen to do something else.) I was crushed.
Three years later Dan had moved to California and returned. Mutual discussion about that previous episode and an apology from Dan put it to rest. We started working together and were both enjoying it. Then one time, during afterglow, Dan shared with me about a time when he was working with another leatherboy with whom I knew he worked. The boy had started screaming for him to stop. Dan did not. He said he felt that the leatherboy was on the edge of a breakthrough. And indeed that is what happened, as it was told to me. What my ears focused in on, though, was that someone pleaded with him to stop and he did not. My trust evaporated. I maintained a cordial friendship with Dan after that but never let him tie me up again.
In 1991 I went to the Dallas Ripcord on the Saturday before Halloween in police uniform, Ray Bans, and knee-high boots. One aspect of going out in full uniform is it gets more attention than being naked. Add in that it was the adult Halloween and people were very playful. Several invitations of "Officer! Officer! I've been bad. Arrest me." But what caught my attention was not these overt come-ons, but someone who, when he saw me, snapped to attention, put his hands behind his back, and did not approach me. Instead he followed me with his eyes. I knew what that meant.
I'd gone up to Dallas with my bag of goodies with the thought that I'd bottom and they'd be used on me. I'd never Topped before. But here was someone obviously interested. I had an archetypal look. I had the BDSM experience to follow through. Did I want to take this opportunity, or gracefully let it pass by? This debate continued in my head as I took my time meandering through the bar. About 10 minutes later I was on a landing between the second and first floor, headed down. I'd paused when two pups started begging me to take them home: "We'll make it worth your while!!!" By now the respectful man had positioned himself at the bottom of the stairs and was looking up. I said "Excuse me" to the two pups and went down the remainder of the stairs.
"What's your name, boy?" I asked.
"tom, Sir!" was the reply.
"tom, we're leaving."
And with those nine words I met the man who is still with me eleven years later.
It bears repeating: I met Tom simply by being open to the Universe.
That night I brought my bag of goodies into his bedroom, restrained him, and had my way with him. We both agree, those were some of the hottest four hours of our lives.
Later, back in Houston, I sought out and gratefully received mentoring for this new twist in my path.
The next year I went on a Chain of Command run near San Antonio. There was a man there named Ian G. who was an Englishman then living in Dallas. He was a hottie! He and his buddy had brought a double-sided St. Andrews cross and were doing floggings. I'd never been flogged before. And I really wanted to work with Ian. But I was torn about bottoming in front of one of my new Top friends from Houston. Ah the ego. Thankfully when I confided what was going on to another friend he gave me simple advice: Screw what someone else might think. If that's what you want to do, do it.
Ian flogged me for perhaps an hour. He'd change what he was using, or where he was working, but it was long and intense. And in the middle of it, I started full-out bawling. Ian understood. He touched me to acknowledge he knew what was happening and simply asked "Okay?" I nodded. It was catharsis. We continued. And when we were done, things were deeply, deeply okay. (For more about cathartic flogging please see Master Skip's writings at www.westom.com/leather/cathartic_flogging.htm ) Had I not gone through that myself, and had that happened to someone I was flogging, I would have thought that something was seriously amiss. Now I view it very differently, that it is a possible indicator that all is well.
A lifelong fantasy came alive late one night in 1993. I had a bright red Dodge Stealth R/T Twin Turbo and had driven it to the Houston Ripcord. After I left, I pulled up to a stop light in the right lane at a busy street. An officer pulled alongside in the left lane. We had our windows down.
"Nice ride!" he said as he looked over.
Seize the moment.
"Thanks. Have you ever driven one?" I inquired.
"Oh you must! They're great fun! When the light turns green follow me through the intersection and I'll pull over to where you can get in."
The light turned green. I drove forward through the intersection, turned onto the first small side street, and stopped. The cruiser pulled up behind me. I hopped out of the driver's seat and gestured for the officer to get in. He came over and took it all in. It really was an impressive machine. I went around to the passenger's side and suggested he go ahead and sit behind the wheel. We were both inside. He was still taking in the beautiful instrumentation at night.
I noticed he was kind of shifting uncomfortably in the driver's seat. I touched the button on the center console that widened the severe side bolsters.
"That should help. I forgot that when I'm in uniform I need to widen the bolsters to make room for my belts."
He was obviously more comfortable with the seat adjustment. And pondering what I'd just said.
"Why do you have a uniform?" he asked.
It was now or never.
"Because I think they're hot!"
He took that in, and admired the dash some more. Then he said he really needed to get back on patrol. I gave him my card and suggested he was welcome to give a call to drive it sometime when he was off duty. Later he took me up on that.
In the meantime, I got back in the driver's seat and started on my way home. I turned around and got on the busy street from earlier. The cruiser also pulled onto the busy street. No big surprise, it was the major thoroughfare. Then I went about half a mile and turned onto the lesser side street in the direction of home. The cruiser also made the turn. Now my heart was racing! I went another half mile or so and made two more turns on the last two small streets that placed me at home. The cruiser made the two turns. I pulled all the way into the driveway and bounded over to where the cruiser was stopped at curbside.
"Just wanted to make sure you made it home safely" the officer said as he waved.
I asked if he'd like to come in for a moment and have some soda.
He turned the cruiser off, got out, and followed me inside.
During the time that Tom and I have been together one of my great lessons has been that fear underlies essentially all my anger. Simple to say. Long time to understand. (One of two pivotal elements in understanding that was NA's Step Working Guides. More on that later.) I find that anger dissipates much easier for me when it arises and then I remember my truth: "Ah, that's fear."
In June 1995 an aunt in my family called to tell me Tom was not invited to a big family reunion. I replied with "I understand that's your position." Thus began The Letter Wars, which involved all of my quite large family. It touched on many issues gays encounter, including AIDS (It reminds me of a Julia Sugarbaker moment with a fundamentalist in Designing Women: The fundamentalist exclaims "I say the disease has one thing going for it: It's killing all the right people." Julia Sugarbaker retorts "Imogene get serious! I've known you for 27 years. If God were handing out sexually transmitted diseases for sinning, you'd be spending all your time at the free clinic - and so would the rest of us!"), allegations that gays recruit children, Biblical interpretations about homosexuality, and discussions about values within the family, stating one's personal truth with as much love as possible, making amends when called for, and letting things go.
When it was all said and done I realized I'd gone through a fairly typical encounter with homophobia. What was unusual was in this case almost all of it had all been written. That presented me with an opportunity to share the experience with others. I published the series of letters on the Internet at www.westom.com/coolsite/lttrindx.htm USA Today and The Advocate picked up on it.
Tom went back to school in May 1997. I slowly realized over a period of months that though he was physically present, the demands of his homework meant I was getting a lot less attention. I missed it. When it bubbled up to the level of consciousness, I brought the issue to Tom. I also suggested taking on a leather boy to keep me company. Tom agreed. Thus our open relationship morphed to poly. My sisters had always known that Tom started out as my boy. I don't recall that my mother knew. But whatever the case, my mother, who always liked Tom, was concerned this change would destabilize my relationship with him. Indeed, people wrote from around the world asking questions about open relationships, and leather boys www.westom.com/coolsite/jrnl_98a.htm
A leatherman friend we'd known for five years was interested in the new boy position. He served me for four months. We enjoyed each other's company. Yet during that time we also both realized something wasn't clicking. What was it? At the time, we didn't know. We respectfully said "This isn't working how we'd both hoped" and went back to being friends. But introspection and feedback afterward added insight. I did some writing. In particular, I started writing about how I hoped things would be in the next iteration. Tom took one look at it and said "You don't want a boy. You want a slave." As soon as he said it I knew it to be true. And now I knew why things hadn't been clicking with our friend.
A friend we came to call slave dave stepped up to the plate. There's lots written about that at www.westom.com/leather/wes_and_slave.htm Mastery/slavery with dave was the source of the second pivotal element in understanding the life lesson that fear underlies essentially all my anger. In particular, he would joyfully say "We must love on you more!" when he would see that I was having the start of a fear-based-anger response. Usually people responded to my anger by getting quiet or getting angry themselves. So "We must love on you more!" was a real brain contortion for me. I didn't understand it. But slave dave did. he intuitively grasped that what was really going on was fear. And fear responds to love by dissipating. Powerful stuff. This has nourished all of my relationships but especially those close to me where I am most emotionally naked -- with a corresponding possible increase in fear. It was a great gift and I am deeply, humbly, grateful. In 1999 dave came to realize that his heart needed a duo relationship. We transitioned our relationship and now affectionately refer to him as Deputy.
Around the same time that dave had his realization, I was invited to help out at a leatherboy training camp in Dallas. There was an intelligent, respectful and handsome man in attendance from Austin named boy tim. I saw him a month or so later at NLA:Austin's Texas Leather Pride event. We made a point of talking and five weeks later he came to Houston for a trial weekend. Deputy had offered something as a suggestion: Have Tom be part of the authority imbalance to see if that might help stabilize the triad format. So, Tom tried his hand at being Daddy Tom. It played to his nurturing nature well, but he ultimately decided it didn't feel authentic.
There's plenty more about the beginning and middle of that relationship online. But the short version is Tom and I decided to pursue a 24/7 relationship with boy tim and we chose to move to Austin as my mother was very sick.
My mother died two weeks after we moved. I was in a "new" town, after having been in Houston for the preceding 16 years. And within a few months the three of us each realized our relationships with each other were having difficulties.
I sought help and moved into action. There's great healing and power behind surrender and willingness! We began therapy with someone whom boy had found on the Kink Aware Professionals list at www.bannon.com/kap/ I began looking for a good fit with volunteering; one way to warm the spirit. And I asked an Austin-based person to be my spiritual guide through a new round of the "Twelve Steps", which are simply a collection of universal spiritual principles worded as action steps. My personal distillation of them is:
(For anyone interested, this was the first time I used IT WORKS: HOW AND WHY -- NA's Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and its companion, The NA Step Working Guides. I found they very much helped me with the introspection aspect and also increasing my spiritual vocabulary. Both are available from www.na.org/products.htm )
- admit I need help and seek it
- try to connect with God as I understand God
- take personal inventory; introspection
- willingness and action to change for the better, based upon what was found above
- restitution (repaying debts) and amends (apologies combined with changing behavoir)
- prayer and meditation to improve conscious contact with God as I understand God
- helping others; service
My latest distillation of personal truth from this round of spiritual homework was that two of my primary challenging traits are that I tended to be (1) impatient and (2) judgmental. Both are fear-based. The former is a fear that things won't happen in my timeframe. The latter is assigning (negative=fearful) intent to someone's action, when really I do not know. The antidote to fear-based traits is to consciously strive to let them go. For example, when I realize I'm feeling impatient I strive to accept that things will turn out fine, eventually. Similarly, when I realize I'm assigning negative judgment to someone's action I strive to accept that the person may be doing the best s/he can. But my first clue for both impatience and judgment is an off feeling in my gut. I try to listen for that signal. It is also my cueue to internally shift: Fear -> Love
Meanwhile, by the fall the three of us realized that live-in 24/7 was not meant to be for the three of us at that specific place and time. (I phrase it "live-in 24/7" because despite Deputy never living with Tom and I we all three considered the Mastery/slavery aspect present 24/7.) If you're interested in how we came to our personal realizations and supported each other through the process, read all of www.westom.com/leather/2000_september_through_october_leather.htm
Part of the inheritance from my mother provided the opportunity to finish out my police uniforms beautifully: I bought a 2000 Harley-Davidson Police Special. It didn't ease the pain of the life transitions I was going through, but it was, and remains, a fun diversion. Two things I did find particularly helpful during this period were yoga to balance body/mind/spirit and taking rows on Town Lake at dawn.
Since her death happened during this period, I'll briefly touch more upon my mother before I go further. When I was 25 she first saw me in leather. "You're so cute!" she exclaimed. Gee whiz! That's not the look I was going for! ; ) Not surprisingly, my mother also responded to her fear with anger. She never sought insight about her actions, however, so she remained a volatile person. It was late in my mother's life when my sister Alice shared with me a lesson she had learned: "When Mother is starting to rage, tell her you love her." Ah, that intuitive response Deputy had used with me: Fear responds to love by dissipating. I tried it with Mother. It helped.
In 2001 I felt despair and suicidal. It took months and months of doing the next right thing before we traced at least part of it back to a seemingly minor medication change the preceding November. When we reversed that, it lifted. But what I want to share is my experience with -- and hope surrounding -- dark nights of the soul like these. I've learned that, for me, it is critical to keep trudging forward; seek help; and to try and help others as a way of turning outward, adding purpose, and helping keep my "problems" in perspective.
Mentoring within a local leather group SAADE (School for Austin Area Dominant Education) www.houseofsaade.com through its "Austin Mentors" program was one opportunity I found to be helpful. This is a very cool communal program to give a new generation of Dominants a broad-based Mentor/apprentice experience. Each of the apprentices gets matched with each of the mentors for one month -- and each of the mentors has something unique s/he brings to the program. The mentors work to convey one mental and one physical skill each month. For the inaugural November 2001 - July 2002 group my mental topic was leather relationships and the physical skill was electrical play.
For the second group I personally wanted to explore spirit/spirituality and leather further. "If you want to learn something, try to teach it." Thus my mental topic was BDSM & spirituality (the physical skill was processing pain). Preparing for the group led to pulling together www.westom.com/leather/leatherspirit.htm "an abbreviated compilation of resources for learning more about spirit/spirituality and leather" with the help of friends.
There were at least two unexpected gifts from our time in Austin: One was my first friendships with leatherdykes. I hadn't had much opportunity for that camaraderie before. The other was renewed friendship with straight folks. This came about in part because of the absence of a gay neighborhood. In both instances I felt a perceptible shift in my heart from "apart from" to "a part of".
2002 was also a time when I was necessarily at a different place in my spiritual footwork. Specifically, this was the time where I chose to replace the god of my upbringing with a god of my understanding. Late in the year Tom and I decided to move to California in response to healthcare cutbacks in Texas www.westom.com/coolsite/2002.htm#adap
I want to close with two aspects about "Officer Wes" and uniform fetish.
The first is that I've observed that the same fetish that attracts me to men in uniform, and attracts some people in my direction, can also be problematic. What I mean by that is that the power of the idea and the look -- the power of the archetype - is magnetic. At the same time, that attraction may have nothing to do with the person inside the uniform as a human.
The second is, given that I believe uniform fetish can be problematic, what traits do I hope are conveyed by keeping and utilizing the moniker "Officer Wes"?
- connection with and accountability to a higher authority -- the larger "force" if you will
- personal responsibility for my actions; integrity
- to serve my fellow spirits -- a friendly smile is a great opportunity
- courage -- not the absence of fear but the willingness to walk through it
It is my great hope that this may be helpful on your own journey of heart and spirit in leather - and out!
© 2003 by Officer Wes