Monday, January 5, 2009

A Night in Purgatory, or Why Can't It Always Be Like This?

A couple of years ago, when I lived in Charlotte, NC, I read a piece in one of the local papers about a fetish show event called "Purgatory". It's held every couple of months in a warehouse-sized concert venue, and the paper listed it as one of the top places to "people-watch". There were a couple of photos from the event in the article, and one of them featured a human swing, a girl trussed up in some fancy knotwork, suspended from the ceiling by chains. I'd never seen anything like it, and I immediately wanted to go.

Ninety-five percent of the time, I dress to blend in. It's hard enough to escape people's attention when you're six feet tall, so I don't usually wear a lot of flashy clothes or costumes. That said, I occasionally like to DRESS UP. An event where I could wear sky-high heels and whatnot was just the thing, even if I wasn't too sure about the rest of it.

Single Cell Productions, the hosts of the event, maintain a mailing list on Yahoo for getting out info about the show. I bought a ticket, and simultaneously signed up for the mailing list. Just to be safe, I emailed SCP about to tell them a little about myself. I told them I was transgendered, and looking for an opportunity to play. They told me that as long as I abided by their code of conduct and followed event rules, I could wear whatever I wanted.

I found a corset-style top at Torrid, and paired it with a pleather miniskirt I found at Hot Topic. I wore these with a pair of black vinyl knee-high boots with skyscraper heels. It's a cool outfit, but it's about a million miles from my typical tank or tunic with jeans. In an effort to glam up the Goth theme, I spent a chunk of money on eyeshadow and lipcolor from the MAC counter at Nordstrom.

The event started at 8, but they advise you to get there early. My first visit was to the fifth anniversary show, so there were a lot of people there, all of them friendly, and very welcoming to newcomers. I mentioned the event rules before; they are pretty simple. First, everyone is entitled to respect and common courtesy. Personal space is to be respected at all times. If someone doesn't want to play, don't play with them. "Scenes" are only to be done with consenting individuals, and all play is to be safeworded. The dress code is pretty simple, too. As long as your genitals and nipples are covered, anything goes. And it goes.

I saw all kinds of outfits and costumes, ranging from fetishwear to street clothes to period costumes to electrical tape. Yeah, strategically-placed electrical tape. Several people complimented my outfit, but it was pretty tame by the standards of the event.

Here's the thing: not one person had a harsh word for me all night. I was able to be myself, and no one judged me for it. Towards the end of the show, they started selling cheap tickets at the door in order to sell the event out, and there ended up being a few looky-loos from the bar next door. These people were NOT into any sort of fetish lifestyle, and you could tell by the facial expressions. One (very) straight couple approached me, and they guy looked like he wanted to say something rude, but his companion said, "Leave her alone. I think she's kinda hot." Then she winked at me, and pulled him away.

Purgatory's not something I can do all the time, especially not now that I live 300 miles away. I might try to get down there again in April. It's the seventh anniversary show, and, alas, the last one. The theme is "Ragnarok", which has given me all sorts of ideas for costumes. I might try to rock an Amazon Valkyrie look, if I can scrounge the money for a trip.

All this nostalgia is nice, but what I've been trying to convey is the sense I get at these events of being in an oasis. There's no hate, no prejudice. It's an all-night gathering of people doing their own thing, in their own way. I'm still iffy on the whole fetish scene, but I'll miss the acceptance.

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