I have started doing classes more at Dungeon East and Dungeon West. The classes are always under 20 people, so I like to have everyone go around, say their name, what their intention is for the class and their preferred gender pronoun.

I started making this a part of my class because I would look out into the room and see my GLTBQ+ fam alongside my fan base of straight, cis, usually white males. Some people immediately understood this little exercise, others fumbled. I would cheerfully explain, “It’s okay! We are all here to learn. We are going over preferred gender pronouns because some people may use a different pronoun than you would assume.”

This marks the first year that presidential candidates add their gender pronoun to their bios. “Stating your pronouns publicly as a cisgender ally sends a strong signal of support to the LGBTQ community,” according to the Human Rights Campaign.

I am in the GLBTQ+ community and a trans ally. I hope that by stating my pronouns in spaces like my classes, I make others feel more safe and comfortable disclosing theirs. Both bathrooms in my dungeons have a sign depicting the standard “male” and “female” figures that you usually see on a bathroom, then a unicorn and a playful note: “Whatever, just wash your hands.” There are many versions of this, but I had this one custom made for me because 1) I love unicorns and 2) I wanted something that would bridge the gap between my straight, cis gendered clients and those in my GLBTQ+ community. We only have one bathroom at each space, so by definition, it is gender neutral. But I was thinking about how even I, someone who is very femme and female identified, feels so much safer entering spaces when I see a rainbow flag or a gender neutral bathroom. (Also, honestly this makes better sense logistically as someone who always has to pee.)

So I wanted to share a letter than a cisgendered, white, male sent to me after one of my classes and it really reaffirmed why I do what I do:

“Mistresses – Wanted to take a minute and thank you for your time yesterday but also apologize for me not understanding the question at the beginning. I have been thinking about this quite a bit the last 12 hours as it has been bothering me and just wanted to share what I learned. I inherently want everyone to feel like they belong and included, something I thought I was decent at, and this was important to me going into your class yesterday. I have for most of my adult life been a leader of people at work and take pride in it. When you asked for us to introduce ourselves and what pronoun we go by and I fumbled it up (okay let’s be realistic F’d it up) and said male, as I know what the right answer was and on the spot blew it.

“I have come to realize thinking about it that, although I support and respect everyones choice and decisions I truly didn’t internalize what that meant for others how important that pronoun is. If I had I would have sure understood the question…. I recently had a small thing happen at work. My normal routine is to walk around the office and say good morning to everyone. One of the small rooms has three females in it in cubicles and I always walk by and say “Good morning ladies”. One day one of them came into my office and wanted to talk to me in private and told me I need to stop saying “Good morning ladies” as one of the others in the room identified as he or him.

“Long story short is I want you to be aware and probably typing this is more for me, but that little slip up by that ignorant guy yesterday will stick with me for the rest of my life. It was a valuable lesson for me to look at how I think of things, how do I include and support others at work and my personal life. I thoroughly enjoy your class yesterday, learned much more than I anticipated and the funny part about it if you took out the what the topic was about and just left the rest you could be teaching this class to people today on how to interact respectfully with others, something we definitely need more of in the world.” 

So thank you. I hope I am teaching you more than just BDSM 101.