Pride: A Complicated Experience

Stock photo of glitter laid out in stripes to form a rainbow. Glitter is present at a lot of Pride events, in case you didn't know ;)

I haven’t been to a tonne of Pride events.

I came out to myself as bi when I was about 13, and as nonbinary when I was about 17. Unusually, I think, I didn’t feel any internalised shame about my queer identity in the traditional sense. When I realised I was bisexual, I was excited about it: excited about my newfound connection to the LGBTQ+ community, excited about the possibility of kissing girls and excited that I’d found a label that fit me, after a year or two of worrying that I was simply a lesbian who was very bad at lesbianing.

When I came out to myself as nonbinary, I felt a degree of anxiety that I wasn’t not-cis enough (I didn’t experience all the dysphoria that mainstream media promised me, and I’d only put the pieces together as a young adult), but mostly I was, again, excited to find a word that fit my experience of gender. I understood, in theory, that a lot of people needed the Pride movement to allay their feelings of internalised shame, fear and grossness about being anything other than cishet, but whether it was the autism or my mum’s accepting and loving influence, I never felt bad about being queer.

This didn’t mean that I was uninterested in Pride events, but I didn’t feel any desperate pull towards them. I could experience the joy of being part of the LGBTQ+ community online, in the comfort of my own home, and that felt like enough for me. The first time I went to Pride, it was for an unconventional reason: I was deeply, deeply depressed, and it was a reason to leave the house.

My hometown’s Pride event was, and still is, mercifully grassroots in nature, held in a spacious park and never too crowded. But this didn’t stop me from feeling overwhelmed, especially when I found that there was nowhere for me to sit down and rest my disabled little legs, and nothing was signposted, leading to me getting turned around and confused at least twice an hour. I loved spotting other people’s flags, starting conversations with people about their dogs or their outfits, and talking to the people who ran stalls relevant to my interests, but I left the event exhausted and overstimulated and had to spend at least a couple of days in bed or otherwise in my pajamas, recharging my limited energy.

Bigger Pride events, as you can imagine, intimidate me. I went to one in my university city and found it so challenging that I slipped away on more than one occasion to the outskirts of the event, taking deep breaths and chewing on free sweets obtained from various stalls and booths. I know lots of other people find Pride inaccessible, and this year, I stuck to my hometown’s event – but still needed to be babysat by my girlfriends and metamour, reminded to eat, and encouraged to leave earlier than most people might because I was ready to lie down on the grass and give up.

This is why I feel conflicted about Pride. I already felt like it might not be for me, since I didn’t experience the internalised shame that so many LGBTQ+ people talked about, and after having found so many Pride events to be lacking in the accessibility department, I felt that even more strongly. Couple that with a police presence which makes my autistic nerves run higher than the volume on the main stage’s speakers and the ongoing online discussions about who “belongs” at Pride, I’ve often wondered what Pride does have to offer me.

The thing is, Pride as a concept is great. I enjoy rainbow paraphernalia and I even enjoy watching corporations desperately try to cater to me (only to drop the facade on the 1st of July) and then watching other LGBTQ+ people mock them for it. Pride month is fun, it reminds me of the importance of community and visibility, and it gives me an excuse to respond melodramatically to every minor inconvenience (“It’s raining? During this, Pride Month?”). But I’m starting to acknowledge that I pressure myself into attending events that I don’t really need to be at. I already know my community exists, I have created safe spaces of my own to be queer in, and I don’t feel gross or ashamed or anything other than pleased about my queer identity.

I know Pride does a lot for a lot of people. I love seeing people at Pride events blossoming with confidence they might not feel anywhere else, and I appreciate that there exists a space where everyone can just… be their authentic selves, without fear of repercussion. But with gatekeeping, corporate involvement, inaccessibility and the rest of it, it’s a movement and a series of events that I feel somewhat disconnected from.

I will continue to defend my LGBTQ+ siblings’ right to attend Pride events, obviously. I want to speak up in defense of asexual and aromantic people’s place at Pride and about the ways that a police presence can make POC and neurodivergent people feel deeply uncomfortable, but I might not need to push myself into events to achieve that. I suppose it’s a result of internalised ableism, something I do experience a lot of, that I feel like I need to do what my abled friends are doing whether I actually want to or not. And I suppose it’s important for me as an activist to confront my internalised ableism, and that might mean staying home from crowded, noisy, police-infested Pride events when I need to.

I’m still going to buy shit with rainbows on it, though. I’m always going to buy shit with rainbows on.

How Christmas Stole My Sex Drive

Stock image of a singular red bauble sitting on a gingham tablecloth. In the background there are out-of-focus fairy lights.

‘Tis many nights before Christmas, and all through the ‘net,

Retailers are asking, “Have you bought Christmas gifts yet?!”

They advertise knickers and dildos and vibes,

In hopes that I’ll make horny last-minute buys;

But as soon as I haul my cute ass into bed,

It won’t be shagging that fills up my head,

Nor wanking, nor stripping, nor even a snog –

I won’t even think about giving blowjobs.

Instead I will worry and panic and fret

About food, cash, and coursework I’d rather forget;

This holiday, Christmas, does not make me randy –

Just think of ‘zines that scream, “Cut back on the candy!”

And sensory overload in all of the shops,

And freezing my tits off under thermal tops,

And then there’s the pressure to re-dress myself

As ‘Ms. Claus’ or ‘Candy Cane’ or a ‘Sexy Elf’,

And everyone’s posing with tinsel and lights

To take their nude selfies (I mean, Jesus Christ,

Surely that’s dangerous and tricky besides –

Who wants a fairy light poking their backside?!)

And then there’s the fact that I’m travelling home:

At this time of year, trains are even more prone

To be filled up, delayed and just generally fucked,

So I know that my journey is going to suck.

And let’s not forget I’m autistic as hell,

And made physically sick by that fake pine tree smell

And have meltdowns whilst shopping, thus causing a scene

And am truly enraged seeing red next to green

Change in routine makes me anxious and mad

At a time of the year when I’m meant to be glad.

The depression and trauma don’t help that one bit –

I spend most of December just feeling like shit.

So no, I won’t have my “sexiest Christmas yet”,

(though the rest of the year I’m a downright strumpet),

And I will not be swayed by marketing ploys

That beg me to buy lingerie and new toys.

Instead I will wrap myself up nice and snug

And drink vodka lemonade right out of a mug,

And watch Dr. Who, when that’s on the telly,

And try not to fear what I put in my belly.

With all this to contend with, I’m sure you’ll agree

That I might not ever find Christmas sexy –

But that’s not a problem, because no matter what

I can spend the rest of the year being a thot.

Aftercare 201

Image of a slice of Victoria sponge cake on a small plate and a glass of water, both on a wooden table

One of the first things that you hear about when you start to research kink is aftercare – and quite rightly, because it’s important for tops and bottoms alike. Unfortunately, you tend to hear the same aftercare advice regurgitated over and over, and it’s not always applicable to you, your partner, or the scene you’ve just done.

This post is, in essence, a self-serving rant about the bits of aftercare wisdom that I have found are not universally applicable, and need to stop being touted as such. If these work for you, great – but if they don’t, you might find my get-arounds helpful.

1. Snacks

So many kinksters and educators will tell you that aftercare should involve snacks, or at least a sugary beverage, to boost blood sugar after an endorphin-y rollercoaster. This is all well and good, except for the fact that I have a barely-suppressed eating disorder. When I’m feeling shaken-up, fragile, self-conscious or otherwise emotionally naked (in addition to being actually naked), I don’t want to eat, or think about eating, or be seen eating.

Blood sugar is an important thing to account for, especially for scenes that are more intense, but having anything with calories in it immediately after a scene is more distressing than it’s worth for me. To get around this, I eat before scenes, and if I have anything intense planned then I make sure I’ve had at least one full meal and plenty of water. I also tell people I’m sleeping with that that’s the case, so they don’t offer me food immediately after a scene and I don’t feel churlish in refusing it. And, once I’m starting to drop and I’m wrapped up in a blanket and feeling less hugely self-conscious, I might be able to manage some chocolate.

2. Cuddles

All my sensory experiences are heightened because of the ol’ autism. This means that scenes can be super intense and super awesome, but it also means that I have a lot of sensory overwhelm to deal with when a scene comes to an end. People who don’t experience sensory overwhelm to the same degree as I do can struggle to understand this, so let me make it clear: cuddles are overwhelming, because cuddles are sensory input.

Sometimes neurotypical people take this personally, so I do really want to stress that it’s not. Any cuddle, regardless of how loving and how expertly conducted it is, is overwhelming because it’s a sensory experience. If you’re cuddling me, you’re touching me. If you’re touching me, there is always a chance you’re overwhelming me, no matter how much I adore you. In a lot of situations, I can communicate this overwhelm, but when I’m in subspace… well, good luck.

The main way I deal with this is to account for it. I call a scene to an end whilst I still have a little bit of sensory energy left, so that if my partner(s) needs a cuddle, I can deliver one without completely and utterly melting down.

3. Debrief immediately after the scene

This is such a good idea for most people and most scenes… but for me, specifically, it isn’t. I tend to lose my mouth-words as soon as I’m remotely overstimulated, so trying to discuss a scene is not only useless, but potentially hugely frustrating and miserable for everybody involved.

Again, if my partner needs to debrief very soon after a scene, and they let me know that beforehand, I can set aside some spoons to make sure that they get what they need. (Tops and/or dominants need aftercare as much as bottoms and/or submissives do, but I don’t top very often, and every top is different anyway, so I can’t tell you what you/your top might need.) This only works, though, if I know in advance that they need an immediate or near-immediate debrief; otherwise, they’ll need to wait, and/or debrief with somebody else whilst I recover from overwhelm.

Sometimes I can participate in a debrief over a messaging app, especially if I have some residual spoons to hand, and sometimes I’m barely overwhelmed at all and can debrief immediately.

I would still recommend that if debriefing immediately after a scene is something you need, you mention it to your partner as part of your negotiations before the scene takes place. Maybe they’re some flavour of neurodivergent, or maybe their experience of subspace just renders them incapable of coherent conversation for an unpredictable period of time; either way, you should make sure that y’all have a strategy in case your debriefing (and, more broadly, communication) styles don’t align perfectly.

The takeaway, naturally, is to discuss aftercare as a part of your pre-scene negotiations so that you and your partner can plan ahead. But these are the most common things I hear newbies being told about aftercare, so they’re the ones I wanted to address, with the moral of the story being that you can’t and shouldn’t assume what another person needs after any kind of sex or scene.

As always: communicate with your partner(s), be respectful, and look after yourselves!