Malcolm X was a legendary civil rights leader in the 1960’s, known for his iconic quote, “By any means necessary.” In 1964, Malcolm X took the stage before a crowd and delivered one of the most powerful civil rights speeches in American History, entitled the Ballot or the Bullet. In it, he asked the African-American community to stop thinking tactically, and start thinking strategically.
Now, in 2020, we enter another ballot shaping year, and we are not fighting on one front, but on all fronts.
As I evaluate this election year, I cannot help but look at it from the perspective of a member of a sexual minority. I am a sexual fetishist, and while I have differences with other sexual fetishists, kinksters, trans men and women, we are all still united by our common goals, and the fight against those who wish to take our rights away. Thus, when we put our differences aside, we have a fight that is common to all of us, against an enemy that is common to all of us.
Those who would seek to take our rights away sit in some of the most powerful offices in the land, and one even sits in the Vice Presidents office.
Whether it is “religious freedom” bills that allow businesses and government workers to decline rights to same-sex couples, Mental Health Rights, a woman’s right to choose, or the Equal Rights Amendment, we are bound in common cause.
Sexual rights are human rights, and impact our ability to manifest our own individual destinies.
When we as sexual minorities work together, we have the power to control a voting block and an economic block. As Malcolm X put it, “Which means that any block, any minority that has a block of votes that stick together is in a strategic position. Either way you go, that’s who gets it. You’re in a position to determine who’ll go to the White House and who’ll stay in the doghouse.”
We have the ability to shape our economic and political landscapes. This is especially true when it comes to local issues. It’s the district attorneys who decide whether to pursue white collar criminals or shut down fetish clubs under vice raids. It’s the school board that determines how much funding is spent on consent education in sex ed. It’s the county commissioners and city councils who determine funding and zoning for health clinics that provide vital STI treatment.
Our local BDSM communities which have always been a hodgepodge of different cliques and clubs can (and must) unite around a common cause, and mature into the organization that authors like Guy Baldwin encouraged us to be.
In 2011, noted BDSM author, Guy Baldwin, gave the keynote speech at the leather leadership conference in Los Angeles.
It was a controversial speech, because he declared that the priorities of the BDSM community were misplaced. Rather than having conferences where we have classes on basic whip work and flogging, the BDSM community needs detailed insights and studies about itself (the same way other niche groups have) so we can learn what are the problems that confront our community.
In that vain, we need to ask, what are our community’s economic and social concerns. Only then, can we know how to fix them.
What are our biggest problems accessing quality healthcare, and are they qualitative, economic, or social stigma related?
What corporations are our biggest allies (donating money to our interests), and which are working against us (Chik-Fil-A, I’m looking at you)?
Do we have ready-access to financial resources, or are we inherently living from paycheck to paycheck? And if it is the latter, why?
What actions and civil rights issues does our community (and the individuals in it) need attorneys for?
My goal with this essay was to empower and mobilize the kinky community to economic agency. This may seem unrealistic, but as one political consultant told me, if you can organize a crowd of 40, you can get anything done.
So here is my call to action echoed by speakers like Guy Baldwin and Malcolm X alike; we must work together to mobilize our resources, and fight for our common struggles. This can be done through studies, through surveys, or through political action, but it must be done.
As Malcolm X and Guy Baldwin argued, our community needs to evolve and mature so that all of us can prosper and grow together. Or, to quote Ben Franklin, “We must surely hang together, or we will almost assuredly hang separately.” We can no longer afford to think tactically without thinking strategically.