Editor's Note: The letter below represents a departure for the Evening Standard, whose custom has always been to publish material only if it can be safely read by minors. We have decided to print this letter – taking care to seal it in brown paper as a separate supplement – because we believe that the issues raised in it are of high importance to society. The editors made this decision in consultation with the state police, who have advised us that the letter does not violate our state's obscenity laws. Although the letter has been edited to remove an especially graphic passage, readers are advised that some of the language and descriptions that appear in this letter may be offensive to many of our readers. Any concerns over our publication of this letter should be directed to the Evening Standard's ombudsman.]
Your recent editorial concerning the importance of accommodating the needs of sexual minorities leads me to believe that you will view with sympathy a series of incidents that recently occurred in this city to me and a loved one.
I am an adult male belonging to a rare minority group that is called, in layman's language, Plain Vanilla Straight. I have had these sexual desires for as long as I can remember, and although I have undergone therapy since my parents first became aware of my deviance (when I was eleven, shortly after my mother and one of my fathers decided to divorce my biological father), nearly all of the therapists I have consulted over the years have concluded that mine is a permanent condition, and that I would be best off finding socially acceptable ways to express my feelings.
Thanks to this state's legislation protecting the rights of sexual minorities – legislation which your newspaper has so valiantly championed over the past decade – I have felt more confident in recent years that I might play the role of a good citizen in society. This being a family newspaper, I will not go into detail as to the mechanics of how I receive sexual satisfaction, but I can say that it does not involve external aids and that the activities take place with the assistance of my life partner, who is an adult female (my "wife"). We met each other in a perfectly legal manner, with the assistance of a local self-help group that receives certification from the National Psychological Association.
Although my wife and I are overjoyed by the strides that have been made in recent years in educating the general population about the special needs of sexual minorities, a recent incident leads me to believe that much work remains to be done.
On the afternoon of February 14, while returning home from work (a quite ordinary accounting job at a mainstream ball-gag manufacturer), I decided to stop at a local shopping center to buy my wife a Valentine's Day present. I quickly found a suitable shop with a St. Valentine's Day display in its window. This consisted of the usual whips and chains, but I have found that shops which cater to the majority often have gifts suitable for minority groups tucked away in their storerooms.
The sales clerk, who turned out to be the owner of the shop, seemed pleased when I explained that I belonged to a sexual minority and that I was buying a Valentine's Day gift. Used as he was, though, to shoppers bringing their partners along to be fitted for gifts, he misunderstood my reason for coming alone and immediately led me over to a display case holding lace-covered boxes, each with its own name. These boxes turned out to contain excrement, and I was treated to a lecture on the advantages of store-bought excrement over the home-produced variety. I interrupted and explained that I already possessed a partner, and that I wished to buy a heart-shaped box of chocolates for her.
At this point, the shop owner grew regretful and explained, in patient tones, the difficulties of using such a box for insertive activities. It was clear that we were doomed to a round of misunderstandings if I were not more forthright in explaining my needs, and so I told him, in as low a voice as I could, that I and my partner did not intend to engage in agonophilia, belonephilia, dacrylagnia, electrophilia, knismolagnia, merinthophilia, pyrophilia, rhabdophilia, taphephilia, or urethral self-instrumentation. Nor did we plan to engage in humiliation, bondage, torture, forced sex fantasies, snuff fantasies, or any other form of dominance and submission.
Upon hearing this, an expression of distaste travelled over the shop owner's face, but he did his best to hide his reaction and instead asked what form my partner took.
I considered this to be a highly personal question, but I replied that my partner was an adult female. The shop owner asked whether her particular species had a preference as to type of chocolate. I told him that my partner was human and that any chocolate would do.
The shop owner then asked me what I planned to do with the chocolate. This invasive probe into my private life took place while other customers were waiting to be served, and I was tempted to tell the shop owner what I thought of his conduct, but I mumbled that I planned to feed the chocolates to my wife.
The shop owner brightened upon hearing this and asked whether my partner would be dead at the time of the feeding. I explained that she would be alive. The shop owner then asked me to describe what activities would take place prior to and following the feeding, so that he could select the proper form for the gift.
This was too much for me to take, and I'm afraid that my reply was rude, for the shop owner quickly begged my pardon. In response to my questions, he revealed that he did not in fact have any sort of chocolates in stock, though he would be glad to special-order a heart-shaped box in time for St. Sebastian's Day.
I told him as I was leaving the shop that I would think about his suggestion, despite the fact that I had no intention of visiting this establishment again.
In the end, I was forced to buy my wife a quite ordinary box of chocolates at the local supermarket. Generous woman that she is, she professed to be delighted with this present when I gave it to her upon meeting her at the end of her work day. Her present to me was a set of embroidered wrist binders. We have done our best over the years to incorporate normal sexual behavior into our lovemaking, although I cannot report that our efforts have met with success.
My wife's co-workers, who witnessed this exchange of love tokens, had many complimentary remarks to make about my wife's present to me and were even able to find some pleasant things to say about my present to my wife. I mention this because, in light of what I am about to write, I do not want you to gain the impression that I believe bigotry is all-pervasive in our city. Indeed, over the years my wife and I have met many charitable people who are willing to hide their disapproval of our admittedly eccentric desires.
It was perhaps the kind reception of my wife's co-workers to our gift exchange that persuaded my wife and me to celebrate Valentine's Day at one of the local restaurants. Ordinarily I would not have dined out with my wife without calling ahead to make special arrangements, but that day I had read an ad in the Evening Standard from a new restaurant that claimed to accommodate the special needs of its patrons. My wife and I therefore rode a bus over to the restaurant. Anyone who was on that bus can testify that my wife and I are discreet in public and that we only engage in socially acceptable behavior.
When we reached the restaurant (which was an ordinary meat-and-potatoes establishment), we discovered that the majority of the resting places at the restaurant consisted of the usual assortment of crosses, poles, sawhorses, and racks. We therefore informed the waiter at the entrance that we belonged to a minority group and required two standard Dominant/Dominatrix chairs.
The waiter professed to be delighted to accommodate us, but proceeded to offer us the following choices: a Dominant chair accompanied by a chair designed for a young teenager, two Dominant chairs that were joined with pet kennels, and two Submissive chairs with minimal harnessing. When we indicated that none of these options were appropriate for us, the waiter became impatient and suggested – in what he obviously considered to be the perfect compromise – that we be seated at a table which had a Dominant/Submissive set of chairs. He further proposed that he could move the ball-stretcher in the Submissive chair so that it would be out of my way.
When I pointed out that the butt-plug in the chair seat was built in and could not be similarly shifted, he snapped that, as a member of a sexual minority, I ought to be prepared to undergo "minor inconveniences" if I wished to dine in restaurants not designed for members of my particular group.
I did not consider it worth my effort to explain to him that our minority group is so small that only the largest cities have restaurants specially designed for our needs. Instead, my wife and I considered it best to withdraw from the restaurant at this point, as this exchange was beginning to draw the attention of nearby patrons.
We had some difficulty leaving the restaurant because our exit was blocked by an artist who was looking for models to serve in his project to paint the One Hundred Most Beautiful Crossdressers in the Nation. Under ordinary circumstances, my wife would have been flattered by this tribute, but coming so soon after the episode in the restaurant, she and I simply wished to move out of the public eye as quickly as possible, and we had some difficulty persuading the artist that my wife was, in fact, a woman.
The combination of these two incidents left my wife so shaken that I thought it best for us to leave the street for a few minutes of discussion. We accordingly found a small alcove that was completely shielded from sight of the street. There we tried to talk over the incidents, but my wife was so upset that, at a certain point, I tried to comfort her by a practice known in our minority group as "kissing." [Passage on the mechanics of "kissing" deleted by the editor.] I did this very briefly; our sexual contact took place for no more than one second. In retrospect, of course, I realize the foolishness of my action. We were near a public park, and curious children might have wandered into the alcove at any moment.
Unhappily, a police officer, hearing voices coming from the alcove, shone his flashlight into the alcove at the very moment I was kissing my wife. The police officer immediately drew his gun and demanded that we leave the alcove, as he was placing us under arrest for lewd and lascivious behavior. I still do not understand why he found it necessary to draw his gun. It is well known among educated law enforcement agents that Plain Vanilla Straights have no greater a record of violence than most other sexual minorities.
My wife and I immediately complied with his order to leave the alcove, and our willingness to obey him promptly must have reassured him somewhat, for the police officer placed his gun back in its holster and asked us to produce our identification.
Fortunately, I have always been prepared for the possibility of legal misunderstandings occurring because of my minority status, and so I took the opportunity, while removing my identification from my wallet, to hand the police officer a small pamphlet produced by my self-help group, which is intended to aid law enforcement agents who are not familiar with the legal protections that apply to Plain Vanilla Straights.
This pamphlet does not consist of any "advocacy" writing, but instead simply reprints four articles from mainstream publications. The first article is a brief review of a book published by a respected university press, tracing the history of Plain Vanilla Straights. The book shows that Plain Vanilla Straight sex is not (as is commonly thought) a byproduct of recent cult activity, but instead has a long and honorable history which can be traced back to ancient times. The author of the book (who is a social constructionist) puts forward the controversial thesis that Plain Vanilla Straights actually form the majority of the population, and that only our modern categorization of sexualities obscures this fact.
The second article is from the newsletter of the National Psychological Association, reporting on the NPA's decision three years ago to remove Plain Vanilla Straight desires from its list of mental illnesses. Plain Vanilla Straight desires are now categorized as a paraphilia only when they are ego-dystonic (i.e. when they cause the patient mental distress).
The third article is from the Evening Standard. It reports on last year's decision by the state legislature to add Plain Vanilla Straights to the list of minority groups protected from discrimination.
The fourth article – and most pertinent to the situation my wife and I found ourselves in – was a news item from the Evening Standard describing the recent decision of the Supreme Court that states may not pass laws against citizens who engage in kissing, unless other parties are forced to watch this activity. I should mention that the defendant in this court case was not a Plain Vanilla Straight, but a member of a related minority group called Plain Vanilla Gays, which shows how protecting the rights of one minority group protects the rights of many other citizens.
The police officer, I am happy to report, listened quite patiently to my explanation of the contents of these articles and even took the trouble to read the article about the Supreme Court decision. Afterwards, he argued that, since our activity had taken place in public, it was not protected by the court decision in question. However, upon checking his computer database and discovering that we had no prior arrests, he let us off with a warning, implying that the local police would be keeping their eye on us. And in fact, since that day, my wife and I have received several unsolicited visits at home from police officers who have evidently been instructed to do spot-checks on us to see whether we are violating local sexual ordinances. Believing this to be a violation of our minority's rights, my self-help group (which is a poly-minority group headed by a voyeur) has submitted a protest to the local police station, but we have not yet received a response.
By the time the police officer had finished questioning us, a crowd had gathered around us. We were harassed with numerous cat-calls, as well as being pelted with questions from well-meaning bystanders who wished to understand our minority group better. Usually we would have welcomed this opportunity to help others to know more about our group, but by this time my wife was crying, so I did my best to extract us from the crowd.
I should explain that one of the old-fashioned traditions of my minority group (still occasionally practiced in modern times) is that the male should comfort the female in moments of crisis. This being the case, I sought to find a place where I could calm my wife in a socially acceptable manner. My task was difficult, as we were in the middle of the business district, with no place where we could go to be private. Finally I sighted a church and persuaded my wife to enter.
There we discovered that a service was taking place in celebration of multicultural diversity. This was a happy coincidence, and my wife was soon able to steady herself enough that we could take a seat in the pews, toward the back of the church. We tried to choose seating that would make us inconspicuous, but as it happened, the only seats available were in the next-to-last row.
The minister had just reached the point in the service where she was reading aloud the prayers for sexual minorities. Of course Plain Vanilla Straights were not among those mentioned in the service – denominations can hardly be expected to mention every obscure minority group in their liturgies – but this recital of the sexual diversity of mankind was heartwarming to both me and my wife. As we came toward the end of the service, I placed my arm around her shoulders.
I hasten to say that this action was not intended by me to be sexual. In my minority group, as in many others, nonsexual affection is expressed through touching of the hands and arms, and the commonness of this particular activity in our society is what led my wife and me to decide, many years ago, that we could engage in this behavior in public. We have done so on many occasions without causing any distress to nearby observers.
On this particular occasion, I began to hear whispers almost immediately from the party behind us. (This party, having taken part in the responsorials to a particular prayer, I knew to be crurophiliacs.) I tried to ignore the whispers, since I wished to concentrate my mind on the service. After a short time, the party left the pew.
Within two minutes, an usher appeared at our pew, telling my wife and me that he must ask us to leave. He implied that our close seating had blocked the view of the party behind us, but I believe that he, like the crurophiliacs, was offended by our decision to practice an activity that is associated with our minority group.
Of course we left the church immediately. We hailed a taxi and returned home as quickly as possible. Since that date, my wife has refused to appear in public with me, fearing as she does a repeat of this terrible evening.
My question is this: If it is impossible, in a cosmopolitan city like ours, for a minority couple to receive acceptance when engaging in mainstream behavior in a house of worship, what hope is there that our young people can be raised to understand the importance of cultural diversity?
Trusting that your fine newspaper can help to lead the fight in upholding the values of tolerance and respect—