Being Out

contributed by Kaye Buckley

In my experience, not all people, not all families can handle the truth that coming out offers, especially with family dynamics as complex as my own. It depends on what gets triggered in a given individual, or individuals, and how they are able to deal with those triggers. For those open to the risk, there is huge potential to strengthen their relationships, heal what is misunderstood, as well as to dispel the myths about what BDSM, sex work and the like really are.

When I first discovered the truth about my sexuality, the emergence of BDSM, my career as a BDSM professional and educator, I experienced two different levels. One was what I got from my family-of-origin history, the current societal messages about women and their subordinate role to men in the time of my coming out.

The other level engaged the experience of myth and archetypal awareness. In this realm, I experienced a Celtic heritage that seemed to belong to a distant time. It held a currency of strength, pride and, for me, sexual healing. It was one that transcended a personal family wound that was still trying to heal itself; a legacy representing our real roots, dropping the mask, and looking underneath the current societal bullshit.

Take my family for instance. I have three stories: two about coming out, and one about being outed. These stories involve the complexity of the interplay between our family history and the transpersonal dimension. It enhanced my understanding of a shared energetic connection with my sons, my granddaughter and contributes to my current work as a BDSM and sex positive hypnotherapist.

Coming Out

I did not arrive at the decision to come out to my sons lightly. I had considered it for a long time, because I wanted to be sure of my motivations. Physical and emotional distance had kept us apart for years. They had relocated to the Big Island as children, sailing over with their father and growing up there. I had stayed in the mainland to be a part of the burgeoning BDSM/GLBT communities.

After I took the San Francisco Sex Information training for the second time, I arrived at clarity.  As my sons’ mother, I had a different name, relationship and identity with them and that woman—me—had virtually no current life or real existence anymore. My sons didn’t know Kaye Buckley, by name or otherwise. My choice was based on the fact that if I didn’t come out, there was no longer a way to have a real relationship with them.

On a sunny afternoon, in roughly 1995, my younger son and I sat in Just Desserts around the corner from my live/work space. MUNI cars rumbled down Church Street. I had asked to speak with him privately. His wife would join us later.

Fortunately GLBT and BDSM themes were making their way from the counter culture into mainstream, so that offered a frame of reference.  Though my son had been to my home before, one door was always kept closed and padlocked—the black door to my play space. Graphic photos were removed from the wall—my tongue-in-cheek Hall of Infamy.

As the conversation opened, I talked about what BDSM was, as well as what BDSM was not. I spoke about the journey of how and why I became a professional, what it meant to me, the significance of supporting and empowering clients in their interests. I spoke about being an educator in order to dispel negative societal myths surrounding BDSM and” sex work” as a practice. I included the importance of accurate information and the healing component; that BDSM, like sexual orientation, was not pathology.  I talked about our communities that emphasized safety and consent.

Filling in the relevant details of how I found a part of myself that replaced an older version completed the picture of who I really was. I truly wanted him to understand, and feel safe in that understanding.

One of the first questions I ask people when the BDSM question comes up is, What do you know about it? I find it a good starting point to learn about their fantasies, what they’ve heard and their own knowledge. My son opened up about an experience with self-play that emerged spontaneously in non-ordinary consciousness involving fire and branding. Though it was an isolated incident for him, I clearly recognized this energy as an expression that ran like fire through our archetypal Celtic family line. 

The initial conversation took about two hours. I was finally able to come out of hiding and talk about what I had been doing all these years. Though there were other significant difficulties in our respective relationships, my coming out did not seem to present one of them. My son accepted it at face value, smiling a bit indulgently as though he had always surmised something. No big deal. When his wife joined us, she was included in the conversation and a long question and answer period followed. 

I was grateful that we were able to share this level of intimacy and also that he was open to hearing other perspectives beyond heterosexual male values and women’s roles. When my sons were children, their dad and the world around them were homophobic centric.

Another example of this second level of awareness playing its part was when I came out to my grand daughter.

In a phone conversation, at age sixteen, she said she wanted to get her nipples pierced, but her dad had told her she had to wait until she was eighteen. Behind his back, she had gotten one nipple pierced anyway (she couldn’t come up with the money to get the other one done). I asked her why she had chosen to do it and what it meant to her. She responded, I wanted to see if I could stand the pain.

Hearing that one statement, I perceived the fierce energy our Celtic line, making itself known yet again, like gazing down into a deep vortex of a past beyond this life.

When she was in her mid-twenties, I had had a story published in Spirit of Desire, an anthology of sacred kink stories published by Lee Harrington. Since I was now in print, and basing my decision in part on previous conversations about piercing and tattoos, I decided it might be time to share more of my own story with her.

I did so to mixed reviews. She seemed nonplussed, thrown. We were then communicating via email only, and her one comment was: It was… interesting……………attempting to lighten the moment, I remarked, Interesting………as in Grandma…?!

Ironically, I am the kind of grandmother I would have liked to have had as a kid: open, available to answer questions, unconventional and adventurous. This did not seem to be the case with her, and no further conversations have ensued between us. What comes next remains to be seen.

I do not regret coming out to my sons and granddaughter. My motives were clean. I had always felt harmed by non-disclosure in my family, which led to perpetuating secrets that had been festering over at least three generations. I wanted to know more. In coming out to them, my position was, they might love me, they might hate me, but at least they knew.

Being Outed

My mother was red-haired, volatile, fragile, and psychically sensitive. Our relationship was challenging. Somewhere between 1996 and 2000, she telephoned me sounding deeply upset. Pacing the floor of my kitchen, feeling a light sweat break out, I suddenly found myself in an Oh shit frame of mind.

She then proceeded to tell me about a package she had received in the mail. It contained a magazine with a familiar photo of me on the cover, naked, in bondage, sporting forty-two clothespins.  

In 1981, reveling in the freedom of being out and a passionate belief in my chosen path as a BDSM professional and educator, an LA based magazine and film company approached me. They were toying with the idea of making a video using real players, wondering if it would be profitable, and looking for a female lead.

This sounded intriguing.

I agreed to it if I could write a script that I would actually enjoy doing rather than bowing to their scenarios. Beyond the stereotypical male audience, I wanted it to appeal to women as well.  And so The Story of K was created. It was the first of a genre of film featuring real players rather than actors pretending. Most exciting, several powerful videos and accompanying magazines would soon follow.

As more conversation unfolded, I was shaken and perplexed. Who could, or would, have sent her such a missile? And by now, the zine was a collector’s item, difficult to get.

I would never have chosen to come out to my mother. It was usually hard enough to get beyond, How are you? But we suddenly found ourselves there. She was a woman stuck in circular arguments. Such conversation would only have played into her fears and had I never seriously considered it.

I made a half-hearted attempt at denial, but she recognized her girl so I carefully morphed into my best educator persona, gearing the conversation to her generation and our relationship. Not surprisingly, the conversation went nowhere—though, in an amusing turn, inexplicably she did exclaim at one point that I looked so glamorous!

Ultimately, we had to let it go. As she lapsed further into older age, and began to pare down her belongings, a family friend told me that the magazine had been scissored into small fragments and discarded. I considered it a final ritual, a tribute marking an end to a difficult incident involving her daughter.

Though I don’t know who was responsible for this, or why, or how this person got my mother’s name and address, I have my suspicions. Some years previously, the wife of a client I once sessioned with on a regular basis before she was married to him had sent me an envelope containing sliced-up photos of me. The client and I hadn’t seen each other for several years. Even so, if she was the one who sent it, she still must have considered me a threat. She is the only person who has ever come to mind, though we had never even met.

Whoever was responsible, it was an unbalanced act and must have been a determined piece of detective work, really accomplishing nothing.

I feel sadness that my mother experienced what she did, and that it could not lead to more understanding between us. On all levels, I have always regretted that. I’m grateful that I have been able to share more of the truth with my sons, and that the times we’re living in supported such conversation.  I am also grateful that I was able to come out when I did, riding the wave with other sexual warriors, lovers and teachers, and not have to carry the burden of secrecy like so many in my mother’s generation.

© Kaye Buckley, 2015


photo: Domina Colette