Master Wolfgang, thank you so much for being part of our PRIDE issue.
Let's start from the beginning.
…A very good place to start. (In honour of Pride, that was the gayest response I could come up with - Google that shit if you didn’t get the reference).
Please share with our readers when you became aware of feeling different, compare to the "traditional" understandings of what society believes.
Different is such a relative term. I’ve only ever been myself and that’s the only basis of comparison I have ever had. From a young age I identified activities and preferences I enjoyed that others didn’t. I recognized that sometimes this was gender based, but not always. For example I never enjoyed aggressively competitive games or sports and I wasn’t very good at them either. I tended to relate more to the supportive, nurturing side of things rather than the aggressive, comparative mode. I preferred creating rather than competing. It’s one of the reasons I guess I preferred to be engaged in the kitchen with the amazing women of my family rather than alongside the men passively watching a game or trying to best each other athletically. I never had a problem with this, but I did notice it made others uncomfortable or left them with confusion and a lack of understanding. As Mama Cass Elliot sang…
“When I was smaller, and people were taller
I realized that I was different
I had a power that set me apart
I learned to take it, to use it to make it
It's not so bad to be different
To do your own thing, and do it heart
Different is hard, different is lonely
Different is trouble for you only
Different is heartache, different is pain
But I'd rather be different than be the same”
(Google that shit too)
Were there any centers or other resources you had access to in order to connect with other gay males?
Well, remembering my age and the fairly closed-minded area I grew up in, this was not really an option. But my interests in others tends to be about who people are, how they feel about things, what they bring to others, what kind of person they are rather than simply gender or sexuality. I take time to learn and explore in-depth at a comfortable pace that allows for digestion and reflection. I was in no hurry because the need was not that great for me. I needed to understand myself before moving forward so I was a rather late bloomer. The internet emerging mirrored this time in my life so that was a good way to grow.
How did you find the BDSM life?
A very broad question. I’m not sure there is such a thing as BDSM life – but perhaps varying degrees of what an individual wants out of BDSM or how they use it in their life. As for how I realized I enjoyed BDSM, as I explored my sexuality, I began to identify vague interests in various things. Eventually I uncovered more and more and learned that they could be divided into different, often overlapping groups such as kinks, fetishes, and of course BDSM. Being gay, I wrote a musical about it and Wolfgang was born.
Was there anyone who informed you that BDSM wasn't a good choice or by this time in your life, you didn't care to know or think how others felt about your life choices?
If I was told that, I wouldn’t say I was informed but rather misinformed. Once I decide I am interested in something, someone else’s opinion of my interest is abstract and irrelevant to me. If it’s a bad thing, let me discover that on my own which is an essential process is for me. I find I don’t divide things up as neatly and binary as others and it is often the kind of person that does who feels they need to inform or make black and white choices for others. People like that have no place in my life – we simply aren’t a good match so it’s not a situation I ran into. As Charles Aznavour sang, “Nobody has the right to be the judge of what is right for me.” (More Googling? It’s okay – we’ll wait.)
I'm not familiar with the laws in Canada and I'm not sure if you have traveled to the USA (or any other country) but if you have, did you find a difference with the cultures and freedom of expression?
Despite many surface similarities to other places (especially the United States of America and Britain), there are so many subtle ways Canada is different that combine to form a social and political uniqueness. We tend to encourage the coming together of many different cultures, people, places and lifestyles to form the whole. We are not a melting pot, but a mosaic. A melting pot blends everything together until it is uniform – but that can result in a colourless mass. A mosaic maintains and celebrates each distinctive colour and texture on its own while incorporating it into a larger mural, enriching it. As a result, the expression of the individual is as valued as the sum of the parts. I also think our obsession with politeness (which we take quite for granted until we travel) is based very much on wanting to get along with each other and therefore not offend of hurt each other. This goodwill includes showing gratitude and making others feel welcome. I’m not saying we are saints – we’re just not as confrontational about it. We may disapprove or judge like mad in closed quarters, but we tend not to do it in public because it wouldn’t be polite. Those behaviours are reflected in our laws about freedom of expression, hate speech, intolerance and equity.
Was there ever a time you feared for your life due to the ignorance of people, because of who you identify as sexually?
I was bullied as a child of course, it was a less enlightened time - but not to the point where I thought I might die. I have had many entanglements as an adult where I met with hate speech, verbal abuse, etc. A car full of nasty, ignorant, suburb boys tearing up and down Church Street (the heart of Toronto’s queer Village), yelling insults, taunts, threats and ridicule from the safety of their parents borrowed car tends to inspire eye rolls more than anything these days, but with more dangerous times not that far in our past, it can be unnerving.
I used to be a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence here in Toronto and as Sister Twisted Fister of the Holey Christco, attended a rally outside of Queens Park (which contains the provincial legislative buildings) with another Sister. The crowd at the rally consisted mostly of about 2000 people (and their bewildered children) who were badly misinformed about changes being made to bring an entirely out of date sex-ed curriculum taught in our public schools into modern times. The biggest points of contention centered around anything that could be construed in any way accepting of homosexuality and transgendered folk. It was later revealed that this had actually been dubiously orchestrated by some shady Conservative politicians who manipulated newcomers into outrage using their inexperience and fears in a new culture. This was in large part grandstanding more interested in taking down the ruling Liberal party than any sort of real concern for children or public education and it is not insignificant that the changes were championed by a Premiere (the USA equivalent would be a State Governor) who was a former schoolteacher, a current grandmother and a very proud lesbian. So much of it was smoke and mirrors meant to thinly disguise trans/homophobia.
It was very scary. We went in traditional SPI gender bending habits and whiteface and it caused quite a reaction. We were being followed by a small documentary crew and I was wearing a mic to both capture my reactions and also so that the crew could intervene if things got dangerous. The level of ignorance in the crowd was overwhelming – but a good reminder that you don’t have to dig deep to find hate even in a city as seemingly progressive as Toronto. The Sisters were a very a very gentle, smiling, embracing presence, using techniques of activism through love, humour and satire the Sisters are known for to hold space and provide an alternate, educated voice to the day. Also to set an example of love and acceptance to those poor kids still in the closet and watching their parents scream hate and people far more like them than the parents realize. There were many moments the crowd surrounded us and the aggression grew where we became quite aware it could all go mob mentality in no time and turn very violent. In the end love wins, of course.
What have you found to be the main ignorance people have towards homosexuality?
The same problem surrounding a hundred other issues: Be it race and religion to gender or sexuality, it’s not anyone’s business to judge, shame or try to control someone else. Whether the root is believed to be biological or choice, a passing fancy or an integral part of whom that person is, you don’t get to decide what is allowable for anyone else. It’s okay for people to be different and for you to allow others to be different. You are responsible for your own choices – not anyone else’s. Live and let live… unless you want others taking away your right and ability to choose what is right for you based on their beliefs. Most recently this has manifested in my life from other gay men as I have begun exploring bisexuality with more and more female subs coming to me. I am amazed by the dismissiveness and shaming I am receiving. People do like to enforce their own boundaries on others. (Sing it Charles!!!)
As an educator, what have you found people are missing out when it comes to learning about the history of those who have paved the way for our freedoms to live according our beliefs and our lifestyles.
We are often our own worst enemies. Every generation thinks they are the ones who are getting it right for the first time and that those that came before or will come after don’t have a clue. This is made worse by people who are largely unaware of their history and don’t have any interest in discovering it past a few headlines or soundbites. I also find every generation tends to look at the past though only the lens of the present and without trying to understand the circumstances of the time. This leads to reinterpreting, editing and adapting and often rewriting history to suit current narratives rather than appreciating it for what it was and where it came from. A good example is Marsha P. Johnson who was an amazing and fascinating personality, but despite her own words on the matter, she is now constantly being rewritten from a self-identifying drag queen who joined in the Stonewall riots after they had started to a transsexual who was in the bar when it began and ignited it herself (a myth Sylvia Rivera started and promulgated years later).
So many lazily read one article or pop culture snippet of history and stop there instead of digging deeper in search of a more balanced truth and the origin of the myths. It’s like taking Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth (written circa 1606) which was in turned based on material taken from Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (circa 1577) as truth when the play bears very little resemblance to the story of the real king, Mac Bethad mac Findláich who was born around 1005. The play is of course far better known than the truth that inspired it.
When you read these names and/or events, what feelings come about for you personally and professionally...?
Harvey Milk – LOVE. Love, love, love his story. And from the documentary The Mayor of Castro Street to the film Milk his story has entered popular culture in a caring, effective and fairly accurate retelling. I was pleased when a poster I designed for a Harvey Milk Day event received praise from his nephew – LGBT activist Stuart Milk
Harry Hay and the Mattachine Society – CURIOSITY. I’ve yet to delve beyond a fairly rudimentary understanding of Mattachine. It’s an interesting group and pre-Stonewall story. Harry was a remarkable force. Some aspects of his beliefs and personality are problematic for modern audiences who prefer their heroes pure and without controversy. These include his involvement in the Communist Party (which the hierarchy of Mattachine was based on later causing division) and his championing of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). Even in these instances I have to admire him for standing up for what he believed in even when it was at odds with popular opinion or the assimilationist movement still strong today that would whitewash queer culture to make it easier to pander to heteronormative supporters, His major part in founding the Radical Faeries (members of which would found the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence shortly after) deserves much respect.
Stonewall – RESPECT. Stonewall was the birth of the modern Pride parade, but sadly most people mistake that as the birth of the gay rights movement. An important, glorious piece of the puzzle, but still only a piece. And yes – I’ve made the pilgrimage and said a little prayer. Shame that half of the original bar is now a nail salon…
Criminal Code 1948-1961 – Branding gay men as "psychopath" and "dangerous sexual offenders". - SADNESS. Given the dates and wording, I think you are referring to US sodomy laws and the decriminalization of homosexuality including the ability to discriminate based on sexual orientation (still being challenged today). As a Canadian, my knowledge of the US Criminal code is sparse, but I am always mindful that you must take both popular opinions at the time and the often limited understanding and research science, psychology and biology had done at the time into account. It doesn't excuse what those men and women went through at the time, but it does provide a framework to avoid cartoonishly demonizing the oppressors. Having said that I am always baffled by the control the religious right wing has over the government in the USA.
Fruit Machine – SADNESS and SHAME. Canada’s begun to take responsibility for this and it’s good to see. Similar devices were in use in the USA, but what was considered the final product was created here during the Cold War, funded by the government and named by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It developed by Frank Robert Wake - a psychology professor with Carleton University. The idea was that it was supposed to identify gay men so they could be fired from government jobs or pre-screened before being offered employment in the first place. They were considered a security risk – another thinly veiled excuse for homophobia. Rubbish, of course
Everett George Klippert – PROUD. A turning point in Canadian LGBT2S rights that is sadly mostly forgotten these days.
Now a few for you – Operation Soap, the Compton Cafeteria riot (photos of which are often erroneously labeled as being Stonewall), Adrian Ravarour and Vanguard, and the UpStairs Lounge arson attack (get Googling, children).
Has social media tainted what the BDSM Community stands for?
What the BDSM community stands for depends on which BDSM community we are talking about and what your definition of community is. There is little consensus for these answers and even fewer as to what it stands for. It is much too a personal choice to apply blanket statements on. There has always been a majority that doesn’t understand BDSM and who feel the need to smear it with misinformation. The struggle will always be when a single aspect of BDSM is dummied down for mass consumption to fit into a narrative being prepacked for as wide an audience as possible. BDSM is much more nuanced than that, but most people would rather ingest stereotypes and sensationalized soundbites reducing BDSM to either a joke or a shameful deviant secret. Sadly this often includes people who believe they part of the community or allies. Pop culture offerings like Bonding on Netflix appear to be championing the cause but end up doing more harm than good. Social media is just the latest way this is done, but always remember that social media (or any media) is us – we provide the content. We decide what to make popular. It is funded by us through advertising dollars and product sales. We let it happen.
Why is it important for the BDSM community as well as the LGBT communities to remain educated?
It is important for everyone to achieve education for understanding which leads to compassion and knowledge which leads to wisdom. Much of education is about learning from the past. If you don’t know where you came from, how will you know what direction to travel in? You could be going backwards. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (Back to Googling, children. This time look up George Santayana, Jim Jones and Armistead Maupin).
Canada has gone through many changes when it comes to the LGBT community similar to the USA and laws about gay people serving their respective countries. Has this changed any even though there is a level of acceptance of alternative lifestyle?
A lifestyle is only alternative to those not living it, but I am very proud of Canada’s evolution separating legalism from moralism when it comes to LGBT2S rights. From the George Klipper court case to Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau (later Prime Minster Pierre Trudeau and father of current LGBT2S supporter and hunky hunk Prime Minster Justin Trudeau) famously proclaiming "There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation", to the work by Jim Egan that eventually resulted in the Canadian Civil Marriage Act of 2005 (that’s right bitches, we had that shit in the bag nationally 10 years before Obergefell vs Hodges), it’s been amazing. Has this changed the environment for gay people serving their respective countries (which I assume you intend to mean in the military)? Very much so, but it’s still imperfect with much misogynistic culture and old boys club attitudes still prevailing. Discrimination and sexual harassment of women in the workforce has been illegal for a long time, but both military and police forces on national, provincial and municipal levels are still reporting horrific abuse cases. We have a lot of work to do, but more and more we have the tools to do the work including a culture of national support against inequity.
What have been misconceptions of BDSM lifestyle other than 50 Shades? What's the BIGGEST misconception you find to be a reoccurring theme?
It goes back so much further than the popularity of a book or film. I’d say the perception that those into BDSM are damaged, angry, insane, coerced, sick, unbalanced or working out crippling issues. So many people just can’t accept that it can be mutually consensual play enjoyed between healthy, self-aware people.
Why is the 'mind-fuck' element a key role in Domination and why do you consider in its importance?
So much of what we do is exploring fantasy but so many of these fantasies would be very dangerous if they were actually carried out. Mind fuck play is an excellent R.A.C.K. (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) technique that allows us to experience key elements of those fantasies while in relatively safe boundaries. Your fantasy of being bound, gagged, blindfolded and having a razor sharp knife blade dragged threateningly across your skin would be madness if done with a stranger or acquaintance with no training or talent – but I can replicate that safely with the chilled back of a slim metal comb. The sensations are preserved enough to fuck with your mind, but your safety is ensured.
Do you find Male Doms have similar experiences as Fem Doms when it comes to subs trying being disrespectful?
I think that in a culture still presided over by the notions of alpha males in charge, the idea of a Domme attracts far more men less interested in submitting and more interested in “conquering” a powerful woman. That’s a valid sexual fantasy, but it’s not submission and it’s probably nothing a real Domme wants any part of. I have encountered some of that with dominant men wanting to prove something to me in a “you think you’re tough” attitude, but I don’t think as much as the Dommes do. Reversing the genders, I have had more women want to play the bratty, disobedient sub than men.
What has been your biggest challenge with male subs?
Don’t know if I can pick just one as I’d say it’s a combination:
Teaching them to give themselves permission to explore out of the box. That means breaking free of societal conventions and expectations that keep so many men miserable and supressed emotionally and sexually.
Teaching them that submission requires strength, not weakness.
Teaching them that men are allowed to be fearless but also allowed to admit fear.
That men are worthy of the same support, affection and nurturing women are.
That the gender of the person they want to experience submitting to often has nothing to do with their sexual preference.
That it’s okay to use a safe word or negotiate.
How important are the aspects of mentoring and the relationship you have with mentors and/or mentees?
I learned (and continue to learn) more from a variety of sources and individuals rather than a single mentor. Having said that I have such enormous respect, gratitude and admiration and love for Headmistress Shahrazad of the Ritual Chamber it blows my mind. I never cease to be amazed by her whether I am taking a class or workshop of hers, in a meeting with her, or just having a laugh. It is such a gift to know her and just from observing how she has set up the Ritual Chamber as an entirely respectful and safe place to explore. Recently a good friend of mine expressed interest in becoming a Dom. I am finding that as I introduce him to the fold, it is causing me to really examine, define and re-evaluate my own beliefs, techniques and styles. In teaching I am learning and becoming better. Plus – teaching a hunky, bearded, tattooed, 6’4”, handsome-as-fuck straight guy how to Dominate another man? Hells yes!!!
What has been your experience in holding educational seminars and has it helped you and in getting to know those who want truly to have BDSM as part of their lives and understand what the commitment they are taking on?
It helps me to see patterns that separate the wheat from the chaff and indicate who I should encourage and who needs a reality dose. Again – whenever you teach you explain and that means double checking your own understanding. Being challenged by questions from newcomers is a terrific way to emerge from a slump and refresh your own passion.
Your thoughts on using your social media platform to kink shame (examples, making fun of people, weight, looks, lifestyle choices, etc.)
Using any means to shame someone for anything they have no reason to be ashamed of usually comes from a place of insecurity, anxiety, instability and fear. That’s all about them, not the accused. Thankfully on social media it is easy enough to unfollow, unfriend and block such negativity. People like that need attention to justify themselves, they require an audience. Don’t give it to them. They will soon find they are playing to an empty theater. As Shakespeare wrote "I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick; nobody marks you.” (That’s right bitches, TWO Shakespeare references in an interview about BDSM. You’re turned on now, aren’t you?).
Why is it important for you and as a community to support the lifestyle and stand with the community?
It’s important to always be my genuine self. My community is made up of those who share similar tastes and interests. I crave connection and that won’t happen if we can’t come together over these common similarities.
Has the FOSTA/SESTA law in the United States affected your business? What steps have you taken to ensure the integrity of your business?
The biggest impact has been the uncertainty and stress it introduced. In the end it was mostly about moving websites, email and advertisements off of USA owned or located platforms. Happily my website and email are both Canadian owned and the servers are on Canadian soil. There are still some concerns over Instagram and Twitter. The folks running those companies seem uncertain how likely they are to face prosecution, if it would even hold up in a court of law, and also the best way to police the issues on their own platforms.
I have to admit, at times, I find you quite intimidating...have you ever gotten that response from others?
Some people enjoy an intimidating male Dom, others don’t. I cast my net wide to capture the most inclusive imaginations as possible. When setting up a session with a new client, I do my best to gently put them at ease in advance. Once they arrive, with very little exception they usually trust me right away and their fears are relegated to the background. They feel safe, secure and cared for… even with a flogger tanning their hide.
And finally, is there any else you would like to bring up I may have missed?
I feel there should have been more discussion of, as well as actual cake involved.
Websites: www.MasterWolfgang.ca www.TheRitualChamber.ca
Twitter: @Master_Wolfgang @RitualChamberTO