I Have Become Irreverent. I mean, irrelevant. Yes, irrelevant. (Emotional Rant)

It doesn’t matter that you recognize me, that you know my stories, have heard of my reputation. It doesn’t matter that I’ve gone to great lengths to carve out a little corner of this mad world to share my ideas and my sick sense of humor. I received no badges nor awards for helping others feel less alone with their self-made stories of suffering and loneliness. As I have less and less to write about a world quickly becoming more foreign every day, my meaningfulness and perhaps my very existence becomes the business of a small few. The ones who can’t bear to see me slink away in the night. But that’s not what really happened.

I’ve been forced to dive into almost a decade of emails, chats, notes, cards, etc, starting from when I only got teaching gigs because I was part of SMS – although as I have watched that group evolve, I don’t really think I ever really belonged. But through moxy and chutzpah and all those other odd sounds we relate to stupid confidence we have permission to both hold awe and laughter at the same time, I got some wonderful chances to live in the rarified air of a “commUNITY” (or my preferred “demoGRAPHIC”) where I did really feel that although I was never a size 8, would never be a bastion of femininity nor masculinity, that what got me hard sounds illegal to people outside of our dildo-shaped ivory tower, I did hit a ceiling.

Del the hypocrite. Blasting Pagans in ever increasing rantypants blog vomitous that our community values lay persons as much as clergy, elders, leaders, and mystics, crying for real because an event organizer I went to great lengths for threw me away before he even knew what it was that I was actually doing at his beloved events. Oh, it was never official – no one would dare admit out loud that I had overreached when I pointed out exactly how many volunteer hours doing things I did not find enjoyable nor did I do them “for the experience” nor the “exposure”, oh no. We never say anything untoward to the person we’re dissing; we wait for the prerequisite fifteen seconds after you leave to collectively feel better because at least it wasn’t happening to me…yet.

I have decided that I’m semi-retired. I haven’t actually taught at one of the East Coast circuit of events in about a year. (I do not count Catalyst Con among that, because it’s a very different thing. You can start by thinking of a certain idyllic camp ground that I haven’t been to for two years.) Yes, it’s been that long. Sure, it’s easy to chalk it up to my spiraling health, but that isn’t all the tuna in that can. I just don’t feel it anymore. In almost a literal sense.

Love and sex have become poison to me. When I can even summon the energy and the arousal for a good wank, I usually stop halfway through because I’m already imagining what excuse I’m going to hear about how this was fun and all, but they don’t want to be around for the other stuff. I’ve had some really energetically-destroying break ups in the last five years, and as I’ve confided to some, I am physically unable to even imagine having sex. Not “I can’t find a good fantasy to wank to”, but “If someone were to propose a romp with me, I would have just about no idea as to what they meant”. Also not that I’ve forgotten how to do it (and have been told I do it well), but that when I allow myself the briefest of moments to actually feel pleasure at the mere idea, the entire weight of my rapidly collapsing sense of self immediately floods my hormone channels with a hundred different reasons that sex is poison, and not even a sweet-tasting one at that.

It’s probably ironic in the Alanis Morissette way  that the one time someone has accused me of become a sex-positive professional (as in, getting paid enough to sustain my existence and expenses doing just that), it was in a court of law to prove what a secretly duplicitous person I am. Yup, it is now writ in the American Court “permanent record” that I am a professional something or other, and it’s used to hurt me. That just about sums up how I feel about desperately wanting to suck someone’s cock and knowing at the same time that there isn’t a soul who would trust me with their junk between my teeth. (Which is a goddamn shame, because I get compliments from the gay menz about my fellatio capacity.) When I dismiss those lovely compliments, I’m not doing it as some sort of egoless dodge or a invented humility: I literally think you are incorrect, that somehow you have been deceived.

At Yule, my lovely Kindred did a very moving ritual where we had to sacrifice something we felt was holding us back from our true passions. It was the first time I let anyone other than Rave see what has happened to my lower abdomen due to the ravages of 2013-14, when my body was changing radically and the doctors were wrong, and then more wrong, for a whole year they were wrong until it got so loud and brash that it was finally posted on a billboard across the street from the posh offices of my world-renown-hospital specialists. And the damage was done, and cannot be fixed unless I’m willing to risk my life. Which I am not. At least, not for that.

I tell people that I am the target of a large amount of slander, libel, threats of violence up to and including death threats. There has been a small escalation as of late, where I am pretty sure some incidents that have happened to and around our home were not coincidences. Another one of those times when I want to pick up a person desperately trying to be a shaman for Gods-know-what-reason and shake them and show them the notes on the windshield, the noisy investigations, the blog posts they don’t think I not only read but curate collections of. And no, I’m not talking about the obvious, because no. Oh, soon, I will have permission to loose my lips on some shit that has gone down, in a desperate attempt to have me die sooner, and with as much suffering as possible.

And I’m not making that up, either.

Am I depressed? Fuck, wouldn’t you be? I answer this the same way every time my primary care doctor asks. And she ups my antidepressants and asks about the last time I spoke to my counselor. I have regular meetings with the local Hospice palliative care nurse, at my house. I have a nurse who comes to give me meds and take labs.  I’m not exactly the life of the party I once was. And the pressure on and in my head that screams I just wish we could skip to the good part, and I’m absolutely okay if that good part is a remission of symptoms as much as any other outcome. Just right now, this, this quicksand of shit and rotted meat and broken oaths and broken windows and having to paw through decades of memories as though they hold no emotional sway, mere pieces of evidence of what a wretched human being I am for thinking that lying to me several, several times from the day we met until the day you decided this was too hard for you and completely abrogated the only thing you had to say to me as we officially parted ways.

I want to be clear. This is NOT just about my divorce. In fact, most of the time that’s a good source for a chuckle and a snappy comeback. It has something to do with the ridiculous amounts of completely irrelevant reams of paper that no one will actually read – but I’m happy to supply it. Because what is most appropriate for me right now is large amounts of paperwork as though Catbert were at the head of this thing.

This is about the role of the dying man – because we’re all dying, every single day. We play these elaborate games lest we remember that no one reading this in 2015 will live to see 2100, at least not in the living meatbag sacks we are today. (And please, this is not the appropriate time or place to discuss human life longevity or uploading your soul into a computer, okay nerds?) But I don’t share this early morning rant written on day three with absolutely no sleep because side effects, on the blog where it might seem most apropo. No, because this part of my job is directly related to the dehumanization that one experiences once you cross a line from virile to senile. From full of energy and life to barely being able to clothe yourself without a nap afterward. From remembering every embarrassing thing I’ve done in your presence to forgetting to close your garage or turn off the stove.

I don’t feel relevant anymore. I only have fleeting moments of feeling like lifeblood isn’t just pooling into my legs, cementing me in front of my computer even when I have friends waiting in my living room in hopes I can gain a spoon to share with them. I look at my class list and think, “When was the last time you actually did that, y’know, for fun?”

I never know how to end these cathartic blog posts. I just run until I hit empty, and then press the button. The rest of it is up to you.

I’ll Just Go Next Year!

I’m seeing a lot of really great events wither and dry up, and it pains me.

People on the Internet are often taken to pining for real-world experiences. It’s all good and fine to write and chat and read Wikipedia, but actually meeting meaty people and singing, laughing, dancing, and sharing fellowship together is something you absolutely cannot get via the Internet. However, you can’t really convince netizens of this, until you can drag them away from their flickering screens and sit them down in front of a campfire.

This also wanders into my frustration with Pagans who think/expect that anything a shaman/spirit worker can do, they should be able to do remotely and for free. I can’t count how many emails I’ve received from potential pastoral care clients who absolutely refuse to even meet via Skype, much less meet me in person. There are some things I cannot teach, or do, unless the person is right in front of me.

It sticks in my craw because I paid my dues by spending money and traveling. I am not well off; I don’t even come close to the poverty line. I have a ton of physical issues that make traveling difficult. But I do it, and I don’t complain about it. Sure, there are some events I can’t afford: if I feel very strongly that I want to attend, I will contact the organizer and see if we can’t come to an agreement. That’s the secret reason I started teaching classes at events – I would never, ever be able to afford to go to the events I do if I didn’t get a work exchange. And this negotiation doesn’t have only be with the event staff – if an event can’t offer you a comp in exchange for volunteering, ask the people attending if someone might need a service person who will pay your way in exchange for your help. (As a note from someone who hires these sorts of people: It’s good to know what you’re good at and what you’re able to do, and be honest up front about what you can and can’t do. And once you’re at the event, you better live up to your end of the bargain if you ever want this sort of arrangement again!) You might be able to do a quick fundraiser: “I want to go to LokiCon, so for the next two weeks I’m offering [skill or craft] for [wacky reduced price].” Heck, I’ve had organizations pay my way to events in exchange for me placing fliers on tables for the organization and talking up what the org does to the attendees!

Travel can be tricky, but I frequently take on carpoolers on longer trips and ask them to pay a portion of my gas. Sometimes, everyone in my car will pay for the gas, and my contribution is the miles I’m putting on my car. When I’m riding with someone else, the fact I have a handicap parking placard has been a bargaining chit.

Obviously, there are ways you can make the trip more affordable, too. You can share a hotel room, or check out a couch surfing site and see if you can’t find a couch to crash on within walking or driving distance of the event. You can sleep in your car. You can bring all your own food, which is usually cheaper than relying on fast food all weekend. You can ask other attendees if someone is willing to rent floor space in their accommodations for either money or service. (I know someone who got free floor space in a hotel if they made sure coffee was ready for their roomies every morning!) See if you have any friends or relatives who live nearby you can crash with – or even friends-of-friends. Heck, I’ve seen gamers at big gaming cons bring a sleeping bag and find a secluded spot and rock the homeless experience.

Anyway, my point is that there are billions of ways to attend an event if you really want to – too many people only see the obvious – “I can’t afford a hotel room to myself and the entry fee, so therefore I can’t go”.

The other refrain I hear a lot is “I really want to go to that event. I will go next year!”

This makes an erroneous assumption: people tend to assume that, unless otherwise blatantly stated, all events are annual. The truth is, I’ve seen many events die because they couldn’t get enough attendance in their first year. As much as it might seem to make sense to stay home and hear stories about how it went before deciding to go, people like owners of campgrounds/convention centers, staff, presenters, etc are willing to take a risk on a first-time event. However, if the first year tanks, few of them will listen to the cries of “Oh, but 8,000 people on the Internet said they’d come next year!”

The biggest wound of the first-year flop goes to the organizer. They’ve taken a dream from raw thought to fruition, likely with a ton of support from Internet people who really want to see the thought become a real thing. They ride on the enthusiasm and spend a ton of money on things you’d never notice unless they weren’t there – nametags, copies of the program, a moving van to get all the decorations/furniture, etc – and they sign a bunch of contracts. Many take out bank loans. They stress all of their close friends and lovers, usually conscripting them into non-consensual service when they realize the job is too big for one person.

And the biggest secret of all: Very few, if any, come into the black when the day is done. Most count themselves lucky if they break even. If they wanted to make a profit, they’d have to raise the ticket price; thus, less people would come and they’d still be in the weeds.

The other song and dance about events that I’m pretty tired of? I wish someone would come to East Bumblefuck and do something like this there! It makes me shake my head for many reasons:

1. Do you know for certain that if such an event came to the Bumblefuckians, the attendee list would have more than one name (you)? Do you have a grasp on whether or not the other Bumblefuckians (From South Bumblefuck) would find out Honeycomb Hideout (wherever you’d want to host the event) and beat us up, burn us, bring the media, tell the hotel we’re hosting secret gay bdsm orgies?

2. Have you thought about asking the person who is running the event in a well-considered, centrally located, metropolitan location with access to worldwide transport, to come to East Bumblefuck and run the event there? Since it was your idea, you do understand that means the organizer will likely have tapped out all of their funds running the first one, so the implication is that you will foot at least part of the bill?

3. Because it is very unlikely that the organizer lives within a reasonable distance of Bumblefuck, do you know someone who is able to find and secure a venue, and take care of the bigger picture logistics?

Now, I could go on, but there’s really a summation coming, so I’m jumping ahead.

8,264. Or you could just ask the organizer if it is cool with them if you organize a similar event in Bumblefuck, and whether it would be officially recognized as connected to the first con or a rogue event with an understated agreement?

Here’s the thing: In the communities I inhabit, I am seeing a trend. Many of the gung-ho event organizers are reaching their mid-40s or early 50s, which, according to Merriam Webster, is “too fucking old for this shit.” Lacking serious, committed younger members who seem not only interested but capable of taking the mantel, the events make the only other choice available to them – to stop.

Here’s a micro-example of what I’m seeing:

Etinmoot is a small gathering at Cauldron Farm. It is an ritual event for person who worship and work for the Jotun-blooded Gods of the Northern Tradition. It has been running since 2007. Part of the reason the event is in limbo is because the people who planned and executed most of the rituals, were also in charge of running the event logistics. After this year’s event, the gythia (Priestess) stepped down so she could work on other projects. If no one steps up in the next few weeks, the event dies.

Part of the reason the event dies is because it is an awful lot of work to plan and execute, and the people who have run it in the past don’t have the energy or drive to keep going. One thing that will kill an organizer’s enthusiasm needed to push through all the stress and work to get an event off the ground is apathy. People aren’t excited enough to tell their friends about it. They make FB posts that say, “I don’t really know if I want to go CockCon this year…” People don’t get involved in the pre-event chit chat or planning. They may not even look at the online schedule to see what awesome classes there were and when (so they could make a mini Google calender to remind you where you want to be…or is that only me?) And of course, the big honker, is a) they just don’t come at all, or b) they cancel at the last minute and demand a refund.

So now that I’ve gotten my bitchiness off of my chest, let’s talk about positives – ways you can encourage event organizers to start or keep running events that matter to you, how you can support events even if you can’t attend, and stuff like that:

1. Just effing go. Even if you pick one event every year, instead of going to the same one all the time, try going to a fledgling event instead. Don’t let strange people or uncomfortable circumstances get in the way. Remember, your life is made up of stories you leave behind, and “They stayed at home and watched “My Strange Addiction” all weekend.”

2. Be creative about the money. Some events have scholarship funds, and few advertise them so they don’t get every cheap-o asking for handouts. Come up with a brief, honest paragraph on why you want or need to attend this event; follow it with what you are willing to offer in exchange for entry. It should be noted that sometimes the event can’t scholarship someone, but an attendee might out of the goodness of their heart. Ask the attendees if they would like a service person/assistant, luggage lugger, personal chaffeur, companion/date, gopher, or whatever other service you have to barter. (Currently, I could really use the services of a graphic artist…) And if you really can’t go, maybe you can toss $20 to someone who needs help- and ask them to write up a report/make a presentation when they get home.

3. Don’t assume all events are annual. Especially these days; the market is a little glutted with adult retreats in general (at least on the Eastern Seaboard of the US), so it takes a lot for a first-time event to stand out and get the kind of attendance that will make it abundantly clear that the event needs to be repeated. It’s actually a better bet to assume all events are one-time-only; that way, you’re sure to have the experience you want. If it turns out to repeat itself, then you can decide leisurely if you want to go a second time.

4.The least you can do is tell your friends. It doesn’t cost you a thing to make some posts on social media talking about how cool the event is. You may even find a gaggle of friends/chosen family to get together and donate towards a ticket or two, and then have a blind drawing to see who gets them. But at the very least, if you support the event, there’s a better chance it will be back next year.

Truth or Dare: Tell Me A Story

I apologize if I haven’t been posting as often. As you may be aware, I have been offered a publishing deal to collect some of the essays from this blog, as well as Dying for a Diagnosis, into a series of books, the first being focused on spirit work and shamanism. I am in the process of writing new essays specifically for the book, so that’s been where a lot of my writing spoons have been going to. But I promise not to let this blog go fallow in the meantime; this essay is not likely to be included in the first book, but it leaped out of my fingers and onto the page – like most of my essays do – so here it is.

Many of us feel lost, alone, abandoned. We mope our way through life, doing what we think we’re supposed to, little more than children afraid if we step outside the box of expectation, that some Cosmic Hand will come down and deprive us of pleasure until we surrender back into what it is that we think we’re supposed to be doing. Day in, day out, the days blend together; without the invention of the weekend, we’d never know to stop working and get a little sleep.

Once in a great while, something will come along and afford us the opportunity to have an adventure. But how many times have you heard about something, felt a longing for it deep in your bones, but let the voices of scarcity convince you to stay home? I don’t have enough money. I should be cleaning my house. I need to get more sleep. My body won’t be comfortable traveling for that long. It’s scary and unknown, and I need more comfort in my life.

And then those who invited us on this adventure we’ve turned away from return, and their stories are filled with wonder and exploration, and they come away with some deeper connection (to people, to themselves, to a greater meaning, etc), and we do everything we can to comfort ourselves again, that it wasn’t meant to be, that it would have been different if we had gone with them, that we would have held them back, or in some other way been a weight on the buoy of their transformation.

Then it comes time for us to tell a story about who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going, and we can’t think of anything to tell. No one wants to hear about six months of going to work, coming home, eating dinner, watching some tv, and going to sleep, a diligent consumer doing what is expected of them. There is no excitement, no story, no moral, no journey. We shy into the background, feeling ashamed of our complacent life. We yearn for something more, but the yearning passes as soon as we go back to what is familiar.

Many people ask me about ordeal, and they’re surprised when I tell them about my own; we expect ordeal to be physically painful, to be about blood and sweat and tears, and we turn away from that and let it be the story of other people. I have enough pain in my life, we tell ourselves, and I don’t desire to be in any more of it. But my story, my ordeal experience, looked nothing like what someone would expect. Many people come to me for ordeals because in their mind, “ordeal ritual” and “hook suspension” have somehow become linked; in the same vein, more ordeal workers than I can count have asked (or sometimes demanded) that I teach them hook suspension, because they feel without that knowledge they are somehow lesser. But my ordeal, my most transformative experience, had nary a hook in sight.

People get angry when they ask me to facilitate an ordeal for them, and when I come back with my ideas there is no black leather, no floggers, no bondage, no masochism, no pain. This happens even more often when the potential ordeal dancer is involved in the world of kink; because we speak of kink scenes as being cathartic, as being “ordeal like”, they come to assume all ordeals have some sort of kink element involved. My ordeal happened at a family-friendly event, in front of children; in fact, there were aspects to my ordeal that attracted children to me while it was going on. And there was no black leather, no whips and chains, no sexy dominatrices forcing me to my knees. My ordeal did not happen in a darkened room fitted out to look like a torture chamber or dungeon; my ordeal happened in the middle of a green field, at the peak of summer, during the afternoon.

You’re probably yelling in your head, “Well, tell me about your ordeal, then, Del!” But the denial of that desire, that place of expectation, that desperateness to sate the uncomfortable feeling of unknowing, the fear of being the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on; that is the spark from which ordeal is made. We have to find a deeper truth to our lives, in the corners where we do not know all the answers, do not know what to expect, can not set our watches by how long it will take, and most importantly, be in a realm where success is not assured. In order to truly engage in the realm of ordeal, there must be the chance that you’ll never know the real answer. In most ordeals, we only learn that we are asking the wrong questions, over and over again, increasing in volume; if we’re lucky enough to get the answer, it is never a comfort. It only reminds us that we aren’t thinking big enough, wide enough; stuck once again in our boxes of expectation and instantaneous comfort.

Many times, in fact, someone will approach me and detail to me exactly what their ordeal should be. They’ve thought about it down to the last detail; they’ve cast all the characters and chosen the stage, they might have even purchased the tools ahead of time, so that they could feel them first hand. And it pains me, so deeply, as one experienced in facilitating ordeal, because my first and most plentiful order of business is to disavow them of their vision. They’ve created the false ordeal; the one they know they can succeed, the one where they control what happens, where they’ve played it out in their head until it’s lost all sense of potential loss of control, or potential to fail. Many ordeal dancers have gone on, decided to find an ordeal master who will do exactly what they say, exactly how they say it, and unfortunately there are a bevy of ordeal facilitators who, feeling unsure in their own ego, will take the job and execute it perfectly. And yet, somehow, the dancer is back at my door, begging me to explain why their ordeal meant nothing to them, why it didn’t sate the need they had.

My ordeal was completely unplanned. I didn’t have any time to create expectations, and I think it was sprung on me such because I’m the kind of person who likes to rehearse conversations in my head before I get to the party; if I had known I would be challenged in such a way, I would have spent weeks thinking over the hows and wheretos and in the end I would have learned nothing. I would be so caught up in the steps, I’d forget the dance altogether. I also had no facilitator other than myself (although I did ask a friend to spot me a bit, just in case), because honestly, if I could not be both master and dancer at the same time, I needed to get out of the business of providing ordeal.

Have you had enough discomfort yet?

To me, an ordeal is nothing if the story is never told. It doesn’t have to be shouted from the treetops, but even if you just send me an email a few days later, describing what happened to me from your own perspective, and I delete the email after reading it and it is never spoken of again, it is the story that brings the most healing. We need to feel like we have had a significant experience, one that is worthy of story telling, that brings us from faceless drone to Hollywood celebrity, even if it’s just in our own minds.

The other half of this truth or dare game, is that sometimes ordeal is not the right path for you. Even if you’re kinky. Even if you’re open to body modifications. And it could be that those things are why ordeal may not be what you need. Sometimes, we can’t figure out what it will take to move us forward, when the secret is that you just have to do it. The ordeal may be hearing the truth: you don’t need a ritual, you need to do something. The ritual may be fun and fill your desire to be the center of attention, and it may even help you enter into an altered state of consciousness, but if what’s really holding you back is you, nothing I or any other ordeal master can do will get you past that first step. You can’t go back to school if you don’t fill out an application. You can’t move on from your past relationship if you keep reading their Facebook statuses and blogs and sending them emails just to have them respond to you. You can’t heal from the death of a loved one if you keep doing things and saving things that remind you of that loss. If you need to dress up that first step through a ritual, that’s okay; but you also have to remember that it’s just a first step, and that the ritual won’t do the work for you. Nor will the ordeal master. Only you, pulling up your big kid pants and doing something proactive will get you where you want to go.

That was a key to my ordeal, too. I could have chosen to stop, sit, think about the fear I was about to face, and instead of just pushing forward and doing what needed to be done in order to achieve the result, I could have waited and written an elaborate ritual with lots of “smells and bells”, as we call them, and then scheduled it for six months hence, hoping that in that time somehow I would feel more comfortable with what I was about to do. But there it is again, the enemy of ordeal, comfort. So instead of waiting for all the trappings and orchestrations of a ritual to insulate my experience, I just took my damn clothes off.

That was my ordeal. I was at a Pagan event at a local summer camp, where nudity is common. I never walked around nude; I have too many body issues, ranging from gender dysphoria to fear about being fat. My body is shaped oddly. I have a humped back/neck (a genetic gift), a large torso with small limbs (chicken legs, as Rave is wont to say, or an egg on sticks), a belly that hangs low on my thighs, skin so pale I glow, and a lot of scars. I have no need to prance around with all of that in people’s faces; I’m better looking when I’m clothed. So the first step in my ordeal was just to take off my clothes.

In many ordeals, an integral part is stripping away our artifices. We have to stand metaphorically, if not literally, naked in the eyes of those who witness. Ordeal is about showing and facilitating parts of yourself that you’d rather keep hidden; your fear, your rage, your failures, your shortcomings. If you can’t be honest about what those are, the ordeal is meaningless. You must be willing, enthusiastic even, about standing in the fullness of that which you’d otherwise hide. If you’re not ready to bare it in front of witnesses, you’re not ready for an ordeal.

My fear? Thunderstorms. I know many of my friends revel in the power and might that can be felt in the air, on the skin, when the skies turn dark and the clouds rumble. I feel lost and alone, like I’m going to be swallowed up, blinded and deaf, and that everything I love will be destroyed. I have suffered much loss at the hands of weather, and it seems thunderstorms are the reminder of that pain. Admittedly, my fear of thunderstorms isn’t wholly rational, but few fears are. I had originally left the group of my friends who were settling in to watch the storm, with the intent of hiding in the cabin until the worst of it had passed.

But when I got inside, I heard over the staff radios that they were looking for people to patrol different parts of camp, making sure the attendees were making safe decisions. As Pagans are wont to do, many of them were stripped down and dancing in the storm, and however wonderful that may have felt, the storm was raging dangerously close to tornado, and even though the cabins would provide little safety if the winds really got going, it was safer to be inside than out under the trees. So the staff were looking for people to make sure the attendees were inside their cabins, and that they had some form of communication there should we need to move into the stronger shelters if a tornado touched down.

There’s a moment when you’re crafting an ordeal, that you get this inner sense of being on the right track. You just know you’ve found the heart of the challenge, whatever it may be. Often, it’s something that you stumble upon, rather than find or know; asking a dancer to take off their shoes, you learn he has never walked barefoot on dirt before, and PING. There’s the real challenge. This was my PING moment, that I knew my calling to service was stronger than my fear of the storm. And the best and most convenient way for me to discharge this duty was to take off my clothes; after all, who wants to walk around in sopping wet jeans for hours? Especially when there isn’t a dryer in sight?

So in the face of my fear of nudity, coupled with my extreme dislike of thunderstorms, I knew that the challenge being set before me was to get out there and do my job. Naked. In not just a storm, but one so bad it could become a tornado any minute. I stripped off my clothes (except for a pair of hiking sandals, so I could handle all the walking and have a little traction), and readied myself to go out into my fear. On the cubby-closet sat a large rubber duck, a gift from a friend, the duck as big as a 13” television. My intuition said to take it with me, so as I walked out of the cabin, my inventory was:

-one pair of hiking sandals
-one staff radio, encased in a ziplock bag to keep it as dry as possible
-one 13” rubber duck
-a lifetime of fears

My friends were baffled. Less than three minutes ago, I had declared that I was going into the cabin to hide from the storm, and now I was striding out, butt-naked, with my head held high and my left arm curled around a large rubber duck. They blinked in disbelief as they watched me go down to the place I had been dispatched to, the middle of a large hill, and start telling campers they had to go into their cabins. There was something about the rubber duck that made me seem more friendly, approachable, and less of a tyrant trying to end their Pagan-y fun, dancing around in the rain. A small boy came up to me and asked me what my duck’s name was.

“Well, what’s your name?”

“Max,” he replied, seeming very proud.

“Well, that’s funny. My duck is named Max, too. And this Max says that it’s safer for you to be in your cabin until the storm dies down a bit.”

And here’s the real moral of my story. I could have easily chosen to lay down in my bunk, reading a book until the storm passed. I could have done what I thought was expected of me, bowed to the comfort of what I would normally choose. I could have let my fear dictate my actions.

But then I wouldn’t have this awesome story to tell.

And when I die, I want the memories of my friends to be littered with stories like these. I want them to stay up, late into the evening, warmed by a campfire, as they trade stories of my life’s adventures, never being sure which parts I exaggerated or blatantly made up, and which ones were true stories of derring-do. Isn’t that what we all want? I can’t think of a single person who would be happy having their epitaph being “They always arrived to work on time, stayed late when asked, and their house was spotless.” We all want to be heroes of our own mythic journey, have stories to tell our children and grandchildren, making them proud to be related to someone with moxie.

So here’s my question for you: Truth or Dare: What’s your story?

Del in Person! Appearances in 2013!

This past week has seen a lot of activity in my inbox from events that want to schedule a Del appearance, so I thought I’d keep you up to date on places where you can see me in person! Some of these are still in process of being sured up, but I thought I’d give you a heads up just in case!


Feb 15-18: Dark Odyssey Winter Fire, Washington, DC. I’ll be teaching three great classes: Non-Parental Littles Play, Leather Traditions and Protocols You Can Use, and Sadoshamanism (with Michelle Belanger). I’ll also likely be helping out with some of the rituals.


Mar 15-17: CatalystCon, Washington, DC. I’ll be appearing on a panel titled “Sex and Sexuality from the Trans Perspective”. It has been promised to be a 201/301 level discussion about trans* identity as it relates to sex and sexuality, and I’m happy to contribute! There are some stellar classes there that I look forward to taking as well!

Mar 20: I have a possible gig teaching for the Baltimore Educational and Social Society. This is still in the works, so the date is tentative and obviously I don’t know what I”ll be speaking on.


Apr 5-7: Charm City Fetish Fair, Baltimore, MD. I will likely be in attendance, and may be appearing on a panel or giving a class depending on how things shake out. It is an awesome educational event!

Apr 23: I am teaching for Black Rose (Washington, DC) on one of their Tuesday educational evenings. They’ve asked for my class “Oh Bloody Hell, Wound Care in the Dungeon”, which is a great class on how to protect both your partners and your toys should you accidentally (or purposefully) break skin while playing. Great for those who are skittish about blood!


May 16-19: Northern Delaware D/s Boot Camp (no website, but you can find them on FetLife), Darlington, MD. I am in the process of securing a one-day appearance with them, so this is still in the “maybe” column, but it’s a great event at Ramblewood if you aren’t a fan of big crowds. Lots of great educators and a fun atmosphere.


Jun 12-16: Free Spirit Gathering, Darlington, MD. This is a family friendly Pagan event I attend every year. In addition to driving the “Short Bus” (a mobility aid for those who have a hard time traversing the campground), I will be teaching classes in the Teen/Young Adult track, as well as possibly some geared towards adults.

Jun 19-23: Dark Odyssey: Fusion, Darlington, MD. This is a big kinky festival with a focus on spiritual kink (although there is plenty else to do if that’s not your thing.) I will be working primarily with the brand new “Ordeal Track”, where it will have its own focused programming and rituals, including a culmination ritual that is designed to push your limits and show you what you really can achieve. It will be an extremely fun week, and one of my favorite events all year!


Aug 16-18: Etinmoot, Hubbardston, MA. This is a small gathering for people interested in celebrating the Jotuns of Norse tradition. I will be leading either a class or a ritual (or some combination thereof) for Hel, including possibly talking about my experience this past winter.

Well, that’s what I’ve got so far. I’m sure as the year progresses, I will be adding more dates onto this list. If you are a member of a Pagan, Northern Tradition, Shamanic, or other spiritual group; or a kink, fetish, power dynamic, or other BDSM group, and you’d like to have me come speak, teach a class, lead a ritual, or in some other way participate, you can contact me at awesome.del@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to send along a class list.

You can also follow me on various social media for updates as to when and where and what I’ll be teaching. I can be found as “Del Tashlin” on FB and G+, “Wylddelirium” on Twitter, and “Del” on FetLife.

Hope to see some of you soon!

Event Report: Trans*Camp*Out

Event Report
TransCampOut: Longfork, WV
FetLife Group

Quick note: As I’ve said before, I am a traveling sex/kink/spirituality educator, and one of the reasons I started this blog was so I could write about my experiences at various events. This just happens to be the first event I’m writing a report for; there will be more in the future. I can’t promise to write one for every event I attend, but I will try.

First of all, the facts: TransCampOut is a small to medium sized event held at a rustic gay men’s campground in rural West Virginia. Conceived by the leather group La Fraternitie De Loup-Garou, a backpatch club for transmasculine leather people, it is now run by a small staff of dedicated people from all over the country. It’s primary target demographic is transmasculine persons, but is open to people of all genders and orientations.

I have to be honest. I attended this event two years ago and had a less-than-stellar experience. Last year, I was supposed to attend but got sick at the last minute and had to cancel. I was a little surprised that they approached me to return after a no-show, but I very much appreciated being given a second chance. It was being run by different people with a different style of organizing, so I decided to give the event another try.

Overall, I had a really good time. The atmosphere promoted a freedom for people who usually have to hide their bodies for fear of hate or undue judgment; and not just for trans* identified people. I saw all sorts of body types and histories walking around in various states of undress, and no one blinked an eye. Everyone present had an optimistic attitude and an eager, friendly demeanor. You could sit down just about anywhere and people would strike up a conversation with you (and sometimes you’d find yourself in a heady conversation about serious things and it was good!). The organizers busted their asses to provide a meaningful experience, were easy to approach/talk to about event needs, and were actually involved in the event – you could find them attending classes, eating meals, and playing along side everyone else. I never noticed how often organizers tend to corral themselves away at events – I mean, I’m sure they’re super busy with lots to attend to, but finding time to experience the thing they’ve created helps them to better understand the average attendee’s experience, and that is something I definitely noticed with this event.

I reconnected with people I have met before and only see at events like this one, and I also met some new people that I felt a strong connection with. My FetLife friend’s list has definitely swollen after CampOut. My classes were very well attended, and I even got to co-teach with a stranger for the first time! (My BDSM For Bigger Bodies class was scheduled opposite Dave’s Food Play class, and after comparing outlines we realized there was signficant cross-over, so we chose to combine and teach together to great success!) The hook ritual, Into the Deep, was an outrageous success, especially for a hook team that was thrown together last minute.

The things I enjoyed most about this event:

  • The classes: There were a wide variety of classes for everyone, including intermediate and advanced classes. There was a great mix of lectures, demos, and hands-on experiences. The instructors were knowlegable and approachable.
  • The social scene: People were very friendly, and eager to get to know new people. This is a good event to attend solo – as long as you’re willing to strike up a conversation, you’ll likely find people to talk to and hang out with, if not play with or fuck. I met some great people and had some wonderful conversations.
  • The dollar auction: I admit, this is the only event I’ve attended that holds one of these, so in my mind the two have become linked. The concept is that they put an item up for auction, and every bid is one dollar. When you bid, your dollar is added to the pot and taken away from you. The last person to bid wins the item. So although you may have only paid a dollar or two to get said item, the event raises much more from all of your competitors. It’s great fun and I got some amazing items for very cheap.
  • The general feel: It was very welcoming, and open, and accepting. There was a rule in place to not assume pronouns, and I saw more than one attendee standing up for another and reminding people of that rule. (As I was with my service tiger, whose chosen pronoun is “it”, this was very handy, even when we had to correct people.) People of all body types could feel free to wander around in whatever state of dress they felt comfortable with, without fear of judgment. It was relaxed, and flexible, and slow-paced. I liked that a lot.

This is not to say there were no negatives, but both of them were somewhat outside of the organizers’ control. The first was the weather. For an event where most of the attendees are staying in tents and the roads are unpaved and ungraveled, we were hammered with rain. It was bad enough that several attendees left prematurely, their tents having been soaked. The roads to get around camp became dangerous and sometimes impassable (we were lucky to have brought a Range Rover that thrives on challenges like this, but others, who had brought sedans and hybrids, weren’t so lucky). The power went out for a while, although after Fusion I think I’ve learned how to handle that with style. It was hard to predict when you could be outside for a period of time, as the storms kept coming with varying intensity.

The other, more serious challenge for me, was the campground itself. I was staying in a cabin at the top of the hill – a very steep hill that makes the hill at Ramblewood look like child’s play – and the event was at the bottom of the hill. In between were the bathrooms – yes, there was no bathroom in my cabin, so if I awoke in the middle of the night I had to find someone to drive me to the bathroom, since it was not a walkable distance for Dels. Or if I wanted a quick trip in between classes, my options were bushes or a camping toilet someone blessedly thought to bring. But as someone with very limited mobility and chronic pain issues, this was not a friendly campground in the slightest. I get that the event organizers feel nostalgic about it (it’s been using this campground for years) and that there’s something to be said for a transmasculine-focused event happening at a campground that is otherwise restricted for gay men. But the tent field needs serious upgrading (I heard a rumor we’re the only event who still uses it), the roads need to be safer to traverse in foul weather, and there needs to be full bathrooms available to disabled patrons that don’t require long distances.

The only event-related complaint I had was the food. The event had promised to provide food for the attendees and presenters, and frequently there was either very small portions or not enough for everyone present. Because I’m on a strict diet, I brought my own food to supplement, but we ended up either making our own food, going off site, or eating at the small campground-run cafe the entire event (except for one breakfast). If you decide to go to this event, you should bring your own food, and think of the food provided as a supplement. You’ll thank me for it.

I want to be abundantly clear – the event was awesome, and I had a really wonderful time. It was the location I had serious issues with. I used to be a ‘roughing it’ type of guy, but not so much in my current state of health, and so all the mud and the walking around and the peeing in bushes is just not my thing anymore.

I would highly recommend this event for able-bodied trans* people of all genders as a safe place to explore your body and it’s turn ons. I would even recommend this event for SO’s of gender-transgressive people, because there’s a lot of support for you there as well. It’s great for kinksters and leatherpeople of all levels of experience – the classes ran the gamut from the beginner to the advanced. If you enjoy tent camping in the woods, and want the feel of the old time gay leather runs, this event can fulfill that need, regardless of your gender.