I’m David Wraith. This is my story and I’m sticking to it.
My first official act as a high school graduate was to use some of my graduation money to buy tickets to see Lollapalooza. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Ice Cube and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing that year. On the way into the venue, I stopped at a booth for ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. I was heterosexual and HIV negative, but for some reason, I felt called and joined the organization shortly thereafter, becoming the youngest and straightest member of the St. Louis chapter.
We were invited to present for Sex Week at a college in Illinois, but were then disinvited when the school learned that we not only planned to recommend condoms, but were actually going to open one and place it on a fully erect banana! Being the radical activists that we were, we showed up uninvited to bogart Sex Week with condoms, bananas and all, and we brought the media with us. We even performed some guerilla theater on the campus which somehow ended with me being blindfolded and handcuffed. An omen, perhaps?
That night my mother’s phone rang. One of her friends had called to say, “Turn on channel five! Your son is on the news!” To which my mother replied, “No he’s not. He’s upstairs in his room.” But she turned on the TV and there I was, marching across a college campus with my fist in the air, chanting with my fellow ACT UPtivists, “ACT-UP! Fight back! Fight AIDS!”
That night my mother and I had a conversation. She asked if I was worried about people in “the community” thinking that I was gay or had AIDS. The truth was, I had never given any thought to what people would think. Nor did I have any sense of what “community” I belonged to, but I was sure it was not the one my mother was talking about. In that moment I decided that I would not let my actions be dictated by what people would think of me, especially when it came to issues of sex and sexuality. Standing up for what I believed in felt good. I didn’t have the words at the time, but a sex positive activist was born. I was 18-years-old.
From ACT UP I moved on to The St. Louis Effort for AIDS, where I was a hotline volunteer. Then I joined Food Outreach, where I delivered food to people living with AIDS. I would go on to volunteer with NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League, which lead me to being a clinic escort at Planned Parenthood.
It seemed that I spent a lot of time and energy on the negative consequences of sex (disease, unwanted pregnancy, abortion) and yet, I’d spent my teens and early twenties reading (and internet stalking) great sex positive writers like Susie Bright, Annie Sprinkle, Carol Queen, Pat Califia and Lisa Palac. What about the good stuff?
This started to turn around for me in 2001. I had presented a piece of S&M performance art in a mainstream gallery space the previous year, which had gotten some attention from the St. Louis BDSM community. I was invited to co-found a St. Louis chapter of TNG (The Next Generation) an organization for kinky people under 35. It was my first experience inside a pansexual, sex-positive organization. We organized educational events and play parties. Being a cineaste, first and foremost, I organized “Sinema,” a kink themed movie night. We even had “strip screenings” modeled on drinking games. When certain events happened on screen, instead of taking a drink, audience members had to take off a piece of clothing.
With the newly elected Republican administration in 2001, I became more interested in gay and lesbian issues, which lead me to serve on the Pride Fest committee for two years and I ultimately accepted a position on the board of St. Louis’ new Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center.
Then, The Beautiful Kind invited me to be a part of Sex Positive St. Louis, and I said yes without actually knowing what the hell I was getting myself into. What can I say; she had me at “sex positive.” And that brings us up to now.
Until next time, bye sexuals.