From the Vault: Leandra and Mark

You may have noticed a shift in the music. Since I’ve moved editing platforms, I didn’t want to take the music from the creators on my old platform, so I found this nice song: Innovation by Jon Sib. I know it’s just for the background, but I hope you like it.

I’ve been fortunate to have a few guests back who were on my Intersections YouTube project a few years ago, including Leandra Vane and Mark. Before I share their interviews, I’m sharing those original interviews, so you can get to know them.

First up is Leandra Vane, also known at that time as The Unlaced Librarian. Leandra is a bisexual femme who is in an open marriage. In this interview, we talked about her life and relationships, her exploration of BDSM, how her physical disability has influenced her sexuality, and many other things.

Next up is Mark. Mark is a gay man who is romantically monogamous with his husband of, at the time of this interview, two years while enjoying a sexually open marriage. In this interview, he shared his identity, life, and journey with us.

Enjoy the conversation!

Episode Transcript


Mike: [00:01:05]Well, welcome again to our next Intersections interview. I’m very excited to have Leandra Vane with us. Uh, Leandra is actually runs her own YouTube page and blog, uh, where she’s the unlaced librarian doing book reviews and things like that for various, uh, um, erotic materials and things like that. So I’m very excited to have you welcome Leandra.

[00:01:28] Thanks for doing this. I appreciate it. 

[00:01:30] Leandra: [00:01:30] No problem. Thanks so much for having me. 

[00:01:32] Mike: [00:01:32] Absolutely. Uh, so I’ll just jump right in. Um, You said you identify as bisexual. Uh, so what’s that identity mean to you? 

[00:01:42] Leandra: [00:01:42] Well, it’s interesting because I’ve actually only just within the last few months started identifying as bisexual.

[00:01:48] Um, before that I identified as heteroflexible. And before that, even I just said that I was sexually fluid. I, um, have known for a really long time that I’ve been attracted to. Both men and women, but there just seems something so concrete about saying bisexual, that I was kind of scared of it, I suppose.

[00:02:10] And there’s a lot of quote, unquote, bad press about bisexuality, I guess, a lot of stigma attached to it. So I kind of kept thinking like, I must just be sexually fluid or I’m mostly straight, whatever, but I just finally got to a point where I, I am attracted to both men and women. I’ve had crushes on both men and women.

[00:02:29] I’ve been sexual with both men and women. So, um, that’s what it means to me. It means that I’m attracted to both men and women. So that’s very cool. Okay. And you also identify as, as fab. Uh, so what’d you mean by that? Yeah. Um, I do have a visible physical disability, so when I was growing up, especially. In my teen years in my early twenties, like, I always felt very feminine, but because of my visible disability, I was authentic sexualized.

[00:03:03] And so I felt that like, I wasn’t the right kind of are women the right kind of feminine. And so, um, and especially in like the ways that I dressed, I wore leg braces, I had all these things, these issues. So I couldn’t, um, I felt really exposed wearing feminine clothing or having a feminine identity. So I really kind of went the other way.

[00:03:25] Like I cut all my hair off and I was like, totally like androgynous for awhile, but I was never really happy. I wanted to be feminine. I wanted to be a feminine outwardly person, but I always felt like I would be. Kind of judged or mocked or kind of like, you’re not really a feminine person. So for me, excepting the term, um, was almost like rebellious act.

[00:03:49] I know that it has its connotations and sexual orientation and a fem lesbian. And though I don’t identify as entirely lesbian that queer sort of identity that associated with them. Really at home for me. So once I kind of got that in my head that I can be disabled, I can be queer. I can not fit into the nice, pretty box that is femininity.

[00:04:14] That was really awesome for me. It really helped me kind of find my way that way. So I like looking at femininity as some. 

[00:04:22] Mike: [00:04:22] Okay. So you’ve actually, um, found that that fem is like better for you than any other term to identify you just that’s perfect. 

[00:04:32] Leandra: [00:04:32] Yeah.

[00:04:35]Mike: [00:04:35] Okay. Now, um, you’re in an open marriage with casual sexual relationships that are secondary or not defined, not long-term.

[00:04:42] So can you kind of expand on what that, what that is about? 

[00:04:47] Leandra: [00:04:47] Sure. My husband and I have been in an open relationship for four years now. So I’m relatively short time. I know a lot of people have been in the lifestyle for. 10 20 years, but we decided to open up our, our relationship and our marriage fairly early on in our marriage.

[00:05:03] It wasn’t even a year into our marriage that we decided to have open relationships. So at this point, neither one of us have had any long-term relationship. We’re open to the idea, but especially where we live, we live in a really conservative place. And so most of the people that we have relationships with.

[00:05:20] They’re also married. They also are looking for other things. So the sexual, or even the emotional relationships are more casual. They’re not as longterm. Um, but we’re open to that in the future. We just haven’t got there yet. So we’re still, we’re still exploring and we’re still growing. So I don’t consider myself polyamorous that you think that kind of would connotate having longer relationships.

[00:05:46] But as of right now, we’re open. 

[00:05:48] Mike: [00:05:48] Okay. So you’re not closed to the idea of a potential longer relationship coming down the road, but you’re not looking for it. 

[00:05:55] Leandra: [00:05:55] Right. We’ve got a lot going on life. 

[00:06:00] Mike: [00:06:00] Life does that. Um, now you also, you also engage in BDSM play, um, how’s that affect your relationships and 

[00:06:10] Leandra: [00:06:10] It opens up to a lot more relationships, actually. I think BDSM. Um, there’s so much within it that you can do. You can play at smaller parties, you can go to munches. So I found that people who are not open to being like in a, in an open relationship sexually are interested in going to a play party so I can invite people to explore things. And then we get to talking and I just made a lot of friends, just friendship and.

[00:06:40] The relationships that kind of go a little bit further than friendship because you’re experimenting with these sensation play or, or scenes, and they’re exploring their sexuality as well. So it’s just kind of a great way to be able to talk to people about these kinds of types of things like sex. And so I found that, um, BDSM, it has a place for me, but for my relationships, it really has opened me up to people that I would never think that I would have such relationships with.

[00:07:11] Mike: [00:07:11] Yeah, that’s very cool. Um, now you kind of touched on that you have a physical disability. Um, can you tell me more about that disability and how, like, what kind of impact it’s had on, I know it’s kind of what brought you to identifying as fan, but kind of how, how that all came about and how it influences your sexuality.

[00:07:34] Leandra: [00:07:34] Yeah. So I was born, it’s called lipomyelomeningocele. That’s a fun word to say. Um, but basically I have nerve damage. I can’t feel about half of my body. I walk with like braces, so I am pretty visible when it comes to my disability. So I think that that visible stigma is kind of. Always been with me, like ever since I was a kid on the playground and like kids were pointing out like the things I couldn’t do or the differences.

[00:08:03] And that has followed me up to now, like, you know, that’s always in the back of my mind when I go to job interviews where I walk into a room or potential dating possibilities and things like that, it’s always kind of there. So that battle has really been the driving force. Um, In a lot of, a lot of ways and it is attached to my body.

[00:08:24] So physically I had to learn, you know, how do I have pleasurable sex? When I can’t do half of my body and, um, what things are safe for me and what things, you know, that totally don’t work for other people. For example, the Crick of my left elbow is totally an erogenous zone who would have known that without like exploring.

[00:08:44] So, you know, that’s why I wanted to explore BDSM because I wanted to do all of these different sensation things and all of these different. Things that were not traditional sex, um, because it felt good to me because it, it, it was a way to connect with my body in a totally different way and with totally different people.

[00:09:01] So, um, but that, that visible thing is always there because people want to put you in a box. They want to look at you and say, you’re a man, you’re a woman. This is what you do. This is your role. They want to be able to categorize you. And so having a disability totally messes that up and people will make up all these stories about you.

[00:09:20] And try to categorize you. A lot of times, people were just like, treat me like I was a child or like I was inspirational. Like I was a super nice girl, like, and I didn’t want any of that. So I guess it was a little, just a big rebellion kind of coming into myself as well. But the, the disability, I think is really a driving factor behind a lot of things, at least in a way that I was really unhappy with the way society was judging me.

[00:09:47] So I had to basically. Take it from myself and realize what makes me happy. 

[00:09:55]Mike: [00:09:55] Just wondering, because I’ve, I’ve heard of this happening and um, if you’re not comfortable with this, that’s fine. But have you ever, have you experienced the other extreme of that, of being fetishized because of having the disability.

[00:10:09] Leandra: [00:10:09] Oh, yeah, there’s a, uh, have you heard of devotees? They’re, uh, yeah, so basically there are different types of disability, fetishists. Um, so some people are really attracted to amputees, for example, and then some people are attracted to people with, um, braces or just different things. So. When I started interacting online with people in disability communities online, that’s when we found out that there were some people who were fetishizing the disability, they were there to meet people with disabilities because they had a fetish for it.

[00:10:47] Um, and at first I was really upset by it. Like I was, I didn’t know how to take it. I was upset. And like, I was grossed out. I was freaked out. Like it was, it was really terrible. Um, but I, upon, learning more about the fetish of this and about the attraction to disability. Because I think that there are both fetishes, but there’s also like a, an attraction to this  disability.

[00:11:11] That’s a bit more complex and I’m not saying fetishes aren’t complex, but there it is. But anyway, um, I was really upset at first, but after, um, processing it quite a bit. I realized like a lot of my reactions were because I was so sex negative. Like I’m like, nobody’s supposed to want my disability, so why do you want it?

[00:11:33] Like that’s, you know, and when you put it that way, that’s kind of, you know, that points out a huge insecurity that I had with my body. So. Plus I had fetishes of my own and I didn’t want to acknowledge that had I had fetishes. So like if I said that disability fetishes for okay. Like I would have to accept that I had them and I wasn’t prepared to deal with that.

[00:11:55] So it was a big, yeah, I had, I’ve been exposed to people that have disability fetishes. 

[00:12:05] Mike: [00:12:05] All right. Thanks. Um, I just, uh, I’d like to hear about the journey. You talked about how you kind of went from, um, uh,

[00:12:18] you know, dealing with the fem identity and the disability, and then also going from being sexually fluid to heterosis, to heteroflexible to bisexual. Can you just kind of tell me your journey to reaching the identity you are at today? In regards to bisexuality specifically, or just in general, kind of, how did you, how did you reach to realize how you are, how you identify yourself today?

[00:12:50] Leandra: [00:12:50] Well, I think it’s really interesting because I remember being a kid and, um, Like I would ask my parents about like gay people and like, they would kind of brush it off and I’m like, why are you like, like, why aren’t you answering my questions? Cause this is the best thing ever. Like I just, I just like identified like from a very early age, once I found out that there was a gay community, I was like, so excited, like in middle school and the pride groups and everything like that.

[00:13:15] I was totally involved with that, but I was never, I was always as like a ally. Or a friend or whatever. Um, so I’ve always been attracted to this community and I’ve always been attracted to many different types of relationships and I’ve always been a really sexual person. I started reading erotica on the internet when I was 13 and I’ve just been just, I love erotica.

[00:13:39] I love fantasy. I’m a total proponent of like fantasy and erotica and all that. So I hid that all within me for a very long time, because who wants anybody stumbling upon their kinky horde of erotic fan fiction on the internet when you’re a 14, not many people. Um, but as I grew up, I started relating, you know, with more people and meeting more people outside of my very small conservative community.

[00:14:05] So as I started meeting more people and I started kind of forgiving myself and letting myself actually express, you know, who I really am and. I found that people accepted me. Like I didn’t have to fit myself into this nice tidy little box. So a lot of it, I think was just kind of changing what I thought society wanted from me.

[00:14:26] I thought that, you know, I would have to be in a straight relationship that I would have to be, um, accepted as this. Able-bodied person. Like I had a big, a big thing with trying to dress in my body so that my scars weren’t visible so that my braces weren’t visible. Like it was like all this stuff every single day, just trying to make sure that people thought that I was straight, that I was normal, that I was able-bodied and it just became too much.

[00:14:56] So, um, I guess it was a combination of meeting the right people and. I guess just frustration, just like I have to do something I’m going to explode. Um, but then I started reading more about sexuality in college and got into the sex positive community. And then I think that gave me the space that I needed to, by the way, just embrace these things that were inside of me, that they weren’t bad and horrible, not to mention 50 shades of gray happened.

[00:15:28] And then everybody was buying erotic fanfiction at Walmart, like. So things change, I guess

[00:15:36]Mike: [00:15:36] They do. Okay. And, um, I kind of want to wrap this up with kind of going through just different areas of your life and how, how your sexuality, how your gender, how your relationship, uh, configurations, how they affect you and just different areas of your life.

[00:15:53] Um, so I’ll just kind of go through them. Um, so how has all that affected you socially? 

[00:16:00] Leandra: [00:16:00] It’s really interesting because I still do have friends that I don’t, uh, share that stuff with. I don’t even share that I write erotica and stuff like that. I just don’t share it. But it’s with most of my friends, it has opened a lot of doors because I’ll just say like, You know, this is what I’m doing.

[00:16:20] I’m reading this book. And the next thing I know people are like, Hey, I have a question, or can I talk about this? So with a lot of my friends is actually opened a lot of doors and actually brought me closer to a lot of friends because they’ve told me that like, I’m the only person that ever had certain conversations about sex with.

[00:16:38] So I think that’s really cool. And I’m kind of embracing that because I know there are some friends that would like totally disown me if I knew what was really going on. So it is nice to have so many people that are interested in to make that genuine connection with. 

[00:16:54] Mike: [00:16:54] Yeah. Um, how about legally? Any, any impact?

[00:17:01] Leandra: [00:17:01] I haven’t run really into anything legally. I am. Legally married in my state to a man. So I haven’t gotten into a deep enough relationship with anybody concerning like finances or children or anything like that yet. So I don’t have much experience with anything like that. So, 

[00:17:23] Mike: [00:17:23] um, how about medically? 

[00:17:26] Leandra: [00:17:26] Yeah. Um, I have to go to a doctor a lot, like, um, I’ve had so many surgeries. And it’s interesting, actually, when I was almost 20 years old, I actually went to a doctor and this doctor told me that because of like how my spinal cord or my spinal column, I guess, whatever sits that sex might be painful for me.

[00:17:47] And it will probably be painful for the person having sex with me. And at that time I was just like traumatized because I was like, what am I going to do now? Like, like if, if sex is going to hurt, like nobody wants to. Have sex with somebody, if it’s going to hurt, like this is horrible. So I actually, um, was, was really upset by that.

[00:18:06] And I was too embarrassed to like, go get a second opinion. And I was used to doctors telling me all the time that your body doesn’t work. So, you know, like that’s just how it is. So I went through a period of about eight months afterwards where I actually identified as a sexual, like I decided I’m not going to have sex.

[00:18:23] I have to cut it out of my life. And. That was like horrible. Like I was having out of body experiences. I was really, really upset. Um, so yeah, I definitely think that there are like issues medically, because if people, especially if you have a disability, like a lot of doctors and things like that, like they don’t always know what to tell you.

[00:18:46] If they give you advice that might not work, you have to take it like. You have to try things out for yourself to really figure out you have to be like your own advocate for a lot of things medically, and especially in sexuality, because that’s something that’s just not talked about a lot of times, especially with disability.

[00:19:03] So yeah, that’s like a whole other thing. 

[00:19:08] Mike: [00:19:08] Yeah, it seems that doctors sometimes anything sexual that’s outside of just normal heteronormative sex. A lot of times some doctors tend to be uncomfortable with it, and then it becomes uncomfortable to have the conversation. 

[00:19:22] Leandra: [00:19:22] Well, yeah. And especially, um, like trying to get birth control and things like that, but like, I was trying to get permanent birth control and they were like, well, you’re married.

[00:19:31] So why doesn’t he just, you know, have a procedure and be done with it. And I’m like, cause I have sex with other people. Like, um, emphasize it shouldn’t matter. Like what if I’m the one that wants it for my body, you know? But those are things that come up. So, 

[00:19:46] Mike: [00:19:46] Um, has any of that affected you professionally?

[00:19:52] Leandra: [00:19:52] Yeah, I don’t talk about this stuff at work. And, but I also don’t hide it either several of my coworkers do know, um, the topics that I write about, but I don’t think they know that like I’m involved in BDSM and stuff like that, but they do know that I write about sex, um, in my spare time. But I am sort of worried that maybe someday like a boss or.

[00:20:20] Somebody will find my videos. It’s not stopping me from doing it, but it definitely makes me worry. And right now I do work professionally with people who have disabilities. So I’m like kind of like the frontline, um, care for people. And I don’t know how people would react to that if they knew. Um, I don’t know.

[00:20:41] I can’t say that I’m paranoid and I think that I’ll get fired or anything like that. But I do think about it sometimes. Like, what is. You find out. So, but I did put like a little by the search tool, a flag next to my desk. Like, I don’t think anyone knows what it is. It’s the three colors and I like set it up there and it’s been out there for a few months now.

[00:21:01] So no one said anything. 

[00:21:04] Mike: [00:21:04] That’s great. Um, how about spiritually? 

[00:21:10] Leandra: [00:21:10] Yeah, when I was, um, in high school, um, Like high school. When I really kind of started having all of these, like really started getting frustrated with my sexuality, I turned to Buddhism and I thought that that was really helpful. So a lot of my coping and just trying to figure out a lot of stuff, I filtered through Buddhism and that really helped kind of calm me down and gives me focus.

[00:21:36] So since, um, since then, I’ve, I’ve kept a lot of the. Teachings and things that I’ve learned in Buddhism, but I feel that sexuality is insanely spiritual. It’s, it’s, it’s very spiritual for me. And, um, I don’t know if I necessarily believe in reincarnation, but I definitely believe in the connection of everything.

[00:21:58] And. How, every thing you do impacts other things. So looking at like open relationships and BDSM and the relationship with your body really mirrors a lot of the things that I see in Buddhism. So I don’t know, like I’m interested in maybe like pursuing some writing and stuff and like if the Buddha had handcuffs or something, I don’t know.

[00:22:21] But yeah.

[00:22:25] Yeah, I find that actually it it’s, um, it’s very, it’s very at one with my spirituality. Like I don’t have any clashing. Um, when it comes to like, Oh, I’m doing these bad things. Like to me, my morality is actually in line with all the things that I do and kink and with my open relationship and my sexuality.

[00:22:47] Mike: [00:22:47] Okay, very cool. Um, how about in your family and whatever families you have defined? 

[00:22:57] Leandra: [00:22:57] Well, I have told my parents and they are processing, um, they, um, they’re, they’re very loving and accepting my brother, uh, With my, my mom is trans, so he just came out as trans. So, um, he was looking into going forward with that.

[00:23:21] So my family. Is exposed to a lot of that stuff between the two of us. We just make Thanksgiving dinner, so fun. Um, but, um, mostly though, uh, besides my parents who they they’re cool, they can talk to me and stuff like that. I haven’t told most of my family and the ones that do you know, like about my brother and about some of the work that I do, they kind of just don’t talk about it.

[00:23:49] They’re like, Oh, are you still writing? Good. I’m glad you write words, words about things like, and that’s the extent of it. So 

[00:23:59] Mike: [00:23:59] Interesting. Um, any other areas of your life that have been affected or anything else you want to?

[00:24:09] Leandra: [00:24:09] I dunno, like sometimes I still feel, cause I live in a very rural, small, traditional place. And I love where I live. I really do. I can’t really imagine living anywhere else other than the Midwest. And the fact that I have found kinky people and queer people. And like my people here at home is pretty cool.

[00:24:27] Um, but I still feel like I don’t have, I feel like I’m kind of living on another planet because like I find it perfectly acceptable to talk about. Sex or like, Hey, I got a new, like sex toy. Like, I totally want to show you, but like, that’s inappropriate. Like, wait, wait, is that like, I don’t know, like when something is coming out of my mouth, if it’s like appropriate.

[00:24:50] And so like I’ll find myself saying things and then they’ll people look at me and I’m like, Oh, like, whatever. Like, I think I’m like two people that was like two women came into the bar and like, we were all just talking and I’m like, are they together? And like, My friends were like, like, what are you talking about?

[00:25:06] No, they’re not together. And I’m like, well, they were, they were together. Like, I that’s normal to me. Like, but to other people it’s, it’s, it’s not. And so, I don’t know, like, I always kind of feel like I have to filter myself, like wherever I go out and like,

[00:25:24] Mike: [00:25:24] yeah. Anything else you want to share or talk about or anything before. That’s quite a lot. It is. It’s great. Um, okay, well, thank you. Thank you again, Leandra for doing this. I really appreciate it. It’s been pretty awesome. So thank you again. And, uh, and we’ll be seeing you elsewhere on YouTube, right? 

[00:25:55] Leandra: [00:25:55] Of course. I’ve got all these books. I have to review all those. 


Mike: [00:26:16] Well, welcome to our next intersections interview. Uh, I’m here with Mark, uh, say hi Mark. 

[00:26:22] Mark: [00:26:22] Hi Mark.

[00:26:25]Mike: [00:26:25] Mark is a, another guy I met through the, uh, Husbands Out to Wives group, uh, who has kindly offered to share his life and story with us. So, um, Thank you Mark again for, for coming along and doing this for us.

[00:26:39] And, uh, I’ll just jump right into the questions if that’s okay. 

[00:26:42] Mark: [00:26:42] Sure. Absolutely. 

[00:26:44] Mike: [00:26:44] So you identify as a homosexual, uh what’s that identity mean. 

[00:26:50] Mark: [00:26:50] Um, so to me, I kind of. Had this long journey that I went through in my life. And the reason why I kind of edit it out homosexual, it was because the overwhelming preferences I have are same-sex preferences.

[00:27:09] And, um, if I. Think about where, right. To start a relationship with someone today, would I have any interests in starting a relationship with a woman? And the answer to that is really, no, I wouldn’t seek that out. I want to seek out someone on the same sex. So to me that makes homosexual the most appropriate label beyond bisexual and certainly heterosexual wouldn’t fit.

[00:27:36] So to me, to me, it’s more of a, more of a statement of where my mom needs, where my desires and, um, without question, those are overwhelmingly directed towards other men. 

[00:27:48] Mike: [00:27:48] Right. Okay. And you also identify as male now, what does it mean for you to be male? 

[00:27:56] Mark: [00:27:56] That one’s a little bit harder for me to describe because I’m not someone where that’s ever really been a question. So I kind of have a hard time saying what it means. I guess it’s a very innate sense of who I am that I have a hard time ascribing meaning to it because it, it just is in a sense, I don’t know if that means, I don’t know what that really means. I don’t know if it answers the question either, right?

[00:28:23] Um, I just can’t ascribe meaning to it in a way that you can’t really ascribe meaning to, um, give a drain outside. I mean, it’s raining, it’s raining. It just is, you know, to me, I’m male. It’s just what it is not to say that I don’t understand how other people might question that. It’s just not something that I can understand myself.

[00:28:44] Mike: [00:28:44] That makes sense. Um, now you’re currently in an open marriage, but romantically you’re monogamous with your husband. So can you kind of explain that? 

[00:28:57] Mark: [00:28:57] Sure. So, um, we allow each other, um, the freedom to preserve, to pursue, um, other, um, cycle opportunities. So they arise. And it’s something that we want to do, and it kind of fits within, um, some boundaries that we’ve set for ourselves and for each other, we almost never act on that.

[00:29:21] And, um, it’s, it’s more just, I think, recognition of the fact that men are men and, you know, because men are men, they’ve got. Generally speaking, you know, we’ve got some pretty high sex drives and we might want to do something that necessarily doesn’t have anything to do with our feelings for each other.

[00:29:43] It just may be an opportunity that we’re curious about, or we might want to just explore it. Um, because I think men have a good. An easier sense of being able to separate sex from love or sexual emotions. Um, and because our communication is very good, we feel okay about each other, that freedom, um, just to be able to, um, I don’t want to say pursue because it’s not going to go looking, but if something arises, there’s something fun.

[00:30:16] There’s something, um, that we’ve always wanted her to try. Comes around then, then it’s okay to do that. You know, we’ll talk about it and certainly just talk about how much fun it was and then go on with our day. Um, so the, um, the theme we speak about often in discussing this is, um, what, what did, what was that like for you?

[00:30:45] What did you discover? You know, was it fun? Did you learn anything that you’d like for us to do together? And, um, because I think we keep it fun and joyful and, um, maybe more of a reflection of

[00:31:07] the spirit of fun and, and, uh, And kind of struggling for the words, I think when I’m trying, because it’s hard to come up with the words, I think I just want to go back to kind of like the guiding principle, which is that, um, you have to be really honest with yourself about what you’re looking for, you know, and if you’re just looking for fun and for, you know, opportunities to explore things that maybe we don’t want to explore together, at least not right away, then, um, you know, that you’re not looking for anything romantic, you know, if you know what you’re looking for, you know what you’re not looking for, you can avoid it and.

[00:31:40] You know, we’ve only been married about two years now and, um, I think it, it, we’re still in that honeymoon phase very much so where, um, Our hearts are on fire, where it’s just, you know, sunshine and roses and the other person can do no wrong in the eyes of the person. Right. And so the thought of wanting something romantic with somebody else just doesn’t even make any sense.

[00:32:08] But, um, you definitely have to, I think, um, be clear about what it is that you’re looking for. And we’re both very clear on that. 

[00:32:18] Mike: [00:32:18] Very cool.

[00:32:19]Mark: [00:32:19] Did I answer the question? 

[00:32:20] Mike: [00:32:20] Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Um, and you, you kind of talked about the boundaries and things, but you did talk about in your questionnaire that at one point you had developed feelings for a friend with benefits you had, and because of that, you’d set some different boundaries for yourself.

[00:32:37] So can you kind of talk a little bit more about how those boundaries are set and how they work for you? 

[00:32:42] Mark: [00:32:42] So, one of, one of the reasons why, um, we opened up in the first place is that my partner is a top and he’s only a top, and I’m more versatile. So, um, if I’m going to have the opportunity to be a top myself, every once in a while, then it means incorporating, you know, a third party or other partners into the mix on occasion.

[00:33:03] And there was one individual who was, um, a bottom partner of my, and we kind of fell into a good group together. And, um, maybe because we had, um, multiple encounters, um, I think that kind of got the, the hormones going and, and, you know, some of the biological ways that we’re programmed upon with people that, you know, We have sex with over and over, I think kicked in.

[00:33:36] Um, so it wasn’t really that I was looking for anything to happen, but I was really surprised at how it happened, you know, almost without thinking. And so I had to recognize for myself that I might not be looking for something. I may not be potentially seeking something now, but the dangerous that it can happen.

[00:33:51] I think it’s just the nature of the beast when you, when you are sleeping with somebody else repeatedly. So I had to kind of look at that and say, okay, a boundary I need to have for myself as no more than. You know, once or twice with somebody, um, just to curb off the potential of any feelings developing, because you know that spirit of all three, it’s unfair to all three people and it’s unfair to my husband.

[00:34:15] It’s unfair to myself and it’s unfair to the third partner. Um, when things get kind of taken beyond the, the boundaries, they were agreed upon upfront. Um, so that, that’s kinda how that happened and kind of how I, I had to adjust my approach to our relationship. 

[00:34:35] Mike: [00:34:35] Yeah. That makes sense. Okay. Now, obviously you didn’t arrive.

[00:34:39] You, you kind of even hinted at it that you didn’t arrive at this, you know, your, your identity and who you are and how you manage your relationships. You didn’t hit that when you hit puberty. So, um, Just telling me about the journey that you, that you took to get to the identities you have and the way your relationships are.

[00:35:00] Mark: [00:35:00] Yeah. Um, so I grew up, um, in, in Michigan in a very, very small town, there were less than a thousand people who live in the town. There was no stoplight. Um, my high school graduating class was 26 people. Um, it was small, right? And it was rural Michigan. It was very conservative. And, um, this was in the mid eighties, mid to late eighties when the AIDS crisis was, um, kind of coming into full effect.

[00:35:31] And so, um, there was a lot of fear. There was a lot of hate. There was a lot of, um, mistaken beliefs. There was a lot of, um, flat out anger, um, directed towards gay men. And, um, I think it’s, I think it’s hard for, for young gay men to really understand what it was like in LA in the mid, late eighties. And, you know, maybe even the start of the nineties.

[00:35:59] Just how re reviled and demonized gay men were,  but that was the climate that I was, you know, kind of starting to come to terms with things that, you know, it was all that hatred and fear, and my parents were no exception to that. I mean, my father was an auto worker. And, um, my mom was a stay at home mother and I mean, they were making, you know, anti-gay comments, jokes all day, along with everybody else.

[00:36:28] And, um, my classmates figured it out before I did. Of course. I mean, other people were not so good at keeping our secrets. I don’t think any of us are as good as keeping our secrets as we think. And I was no exception to that and my classmates figured it out and I was the target of a lot of bullying. And so I kind of hoped and prayed for any way.

[00:36:47] They wouldn’t have be true. You know, when I was a teenager, I. You know, look at other guys or fantasies about other guys, or, you know, find nude pictures or other men wherever I could, and, you know, just become heavily aroused and maybe it has to be to it or whatever, and then bargain with God afterwards.

[00:37:10] Oh my God. I’ll never do it again. Just please don’t let me be gay. And eventually there’s just no money. Right. I just knew it. And so I, um, did it probably the worst way possible, um, which was telling my parents that, you know, I was really sad and hurt and I’m scared. And I thought I was probably gay. And I was thinking about killing myself.

[00:37:38] What do I do? I don’t even know what to do. Right. And you know, they. Heard that message. And their first reaction was to kick me out of the house. And then the second reaction was, well, the problem isn’t that Mark’s depressed about being gay. The problem is the gayness we to get rid of it somehow. And so they didn’t send me to like, uh, pre the gateway camp or to him like that.

[00:38:01] But it was more like, no, we’re pretty sure you’re not gay. You know, you’re not you’re, this is just a phase you’re going to pass through it kind of thing. And so, you know, me being a lonely kid in rural Michigan, it’s like, well, you know, hopefully, maybe that’s the case. And then I kind of sort of develop some feelings for one of the girls at school.

[00:38:26] And that got really confusing for me. Um, because I was heavily aroused by men, but in rural Michigan, I never really had the opportunity to explore that in any way, but I was able to explore, you know, whatever feelings I had for some of the girls are now. Um, that was socially sanctioned of course, heavily encouraged by my family.

[00:38:49] So that that’s kind of like, so I had a, like a heavy seed of doubt planted inside, you know, both by my own family and by the feelings I started to have. And then I went to college and in college they were guys that I was with and there were other girls and I kind of said, okay, well, you know, I’m, I’m bisexual.

[00:39:06] I’m probably leaning a little bit more towards the heterosexual side because. I don’t really, really explored my romantic feelings with other women. I never really gave myself the freedom to explore romantic feelings from other guy. So it was all very physical and transactional in nature. Um, plus I did develop a group of gay friends and I just didn’t really fit in there.

[00:39:30] Um, there may be a little bit more, um, flamboyant and loud, and I was very reserved country kid. And I was like, well, if that’s like a culture, it’s like, that’s not me. I’ll get there. So I kind of focused on my feelings, the rare times that I could feel feelings for women. And it was pretty rare, um, and just said, okay, well, that’s.

[00:39:55] Maybe that fits, maybe that’s where I’m at and I’m graduated from college. And again, there were maybe a couple of guys who I was with a couple of women, and then I met a woman who would later become my wife and, um, we had such a connection and it was a very powerful connection. Both emotionally and sexually that I was like, well, I mean, there’s no way I could be a gay man.

[00:40:19] If I’m feeling like this, it just couldn’t be possible. Right. Um, so after dating for a couple of years, I married her and, um,

[00:40:35] it started out great. And then some problems crept in and then the problems kind of worsened over time. And. In any relationship? It takes two, right? I mean, I was a part of it. She was a part of it, but, um, when it became kind of obvious to me that there was no way it was going to work, um, after maybe about a decade of being together.

[00:40:58] I started to plan. I started to think about, well, what’s next. And when I thought about what was next, women were nowhere in the picture for me, the only thing in my mind that I could conceive the next was that I wanted to be with a man. And that’s when I realized, okay, well I have to tell her, there’s no way I can not tell her this.

[00:41:19] If nothing else, she deserves the truth. Right. So, um, That was the time I came out the second time and it was horribly painful thing between my wife and I, but my family I think, was really relieved in some weird way. Maybe they felt bad about what happened when I was younger, but, um,

[00:41:49] But the marriage didn’t last after I came out. And I understand that. I mean, I get it as much as I, sometimes I wonder if we could have worked something out, we could have stayed together, but, um,

[00:42:08] there were so many other issues there that I have a hard time saying that even if we overcame. The differences in sex realities. I don’t think we would’ve lasted through the rest. Um, but it all worked out for the best anyway, because when we did eventually separate, I know that, um, she’s much happier now.

[00:42:30] And, and in all honesty, and I don’t mean this as a slamming against my ex wife, because she’s a wonderful person. Um, and I’ll honesty. I’m much happier now, too. Um, so I, I think if both partners end up happier afterwards, that’s probably the right type. Yeah. 

[00:42:49] Mike: [00:42:49] It’s quite a journey,

[00:42:50]Mark: [00:42:50] But not an uncommon one, which is amazing. You know, when you think about it, it was so intense in my life, in my own life and my own life experience, but it’s so common for people to go on these journeys that. The silence around it, or the lack of support around it is almost criminal. 

[00:43:13] Mike: [00:43:13] That’s true. Yeah, because there’s a lot of people that are in that think that it’s, they’re so unique and it’s no one else’s like is going through that.

[00:43:22] And a lot of people that are, 

[00:43:24] That they’ve done 

[00:43:25] Mark: [00:43:25] the worst thing ever when really they’ve done something, that’s actually very common and then everyone hopefully can get through. 

[00:43:35] Mike: [00:43:35] It’s true. Um, well, it’s kind of one, uh, to the end of this, talk about how. How your sexuality, your gender, your relationship orientation, the way you have your relationship set up and your sexuality, how they affect you in different areas of your lives of your life.

[00:43:55] Um, so I’ll just kinda touch on each of the areas and you can kind of, or if it doesn’t, then that’s fine too. Um, first of all, how have they affected you socially? Um,

[00:44:09] Mark: [00:44:09] I had a much, much more active social life since I came out, um, something about probably a stripping away. Those last layers of maybe denial has allowed me to be much more genuine and open to other people. And, um,

[00:44:31] I’m just happier, so much happier too. I think people responding to that. So in my mind, it’s given me a much better, um, more active social life than, than what I would be experiencing otherwise, because I think it goes back to what I said earlier, where people, other people kind of figure it out. Right.

[00:44:51] We don’t keep our secrets very well. And I think, um, Even if people weren’t looking at me back when I was maybe kind of, sort of in the closet and thinking, Oh, well he’s a closet gay guy. I think that they were able to send some of the turmoil that was going on inside me. And I, you know, similarly I think now they’re able to sense that that turmoil isn’t there anymore and responding to that.

[00:45:19] Mike: [00:45:19] That’s true. Um, how about legally?

[00:45:23]Mark: [00:45:23] I can’t really think of any legal impacts. Um, I don’t really see an impact there. I think, fortunately, because this is all happening for me right around the time that, um, Nope. Say I live in Florida in St. Petersburg, and that’s a very progressive city. Um, and, um, gay marriage being legal.

[00:45:50] Um, I am fortunate to be at a time in history when the legal impacts aren’t that great. 

[00:46:02] Mike: [00:46:02] Uh, how about medically? Um,

[00:46:12] Mark: [00:46:12] I don’t don’t think that there’s have been any great impacts to me, aside from some of the increased costs associated with, um, some of the testing that I do. Um, so I mean, I. As a gay man, the doctors want to run more tests on you during your physical. And, um, it’s a good idea of course, to be tested for STDs.

[00:46:36] Um, and then I have a prescription for PREP and, you know, there’s testing for that every three months. And so maybe the only medical impacts I’ve had to face have been, you know, financial just for all the testing associated with, you know, monitoring your own health as it came in. But I haven’t. I haven’t really faced any kind of discrimination from doctors.

[00:47:00] And I think that’s a function of, you know, St. Petersburg being a very progressive, gay, friendly city. Right. That’s good. Uh, professionally, any impact? Well, um, sort of, I think, um, I. I work in the insurance industry and, um, or most of my time in the industry when I was climbing through the ranks, that was when I was married to my wife.

[00:47:30] And I think that passing as straight. Helped me in a large way, move up the ranks. I think that if I was out as a gay man, I probably would not have. And, um, I think that’s something that’s company by company. So insurance companies are much more conservative than others. They have a more conservative social culture.

[00:47:50] Um, I started working in Michigan and Grand Rapids, which is a very, very conservative part of the country. And, um, had I been out when I was working. For the company in Grand Rapids, I probably would not have gotten the promotions and the opportunities that I did. Um, since I’ve come out, I’ve been very, um, outspoken about not wanting to go to a company that’s not LGBT friendly.

[00:48:23] I’ve um, had. Um, recruiters, friends, colleagues who understand that and support it. And I’ve had good opportunities come my way because of it. But I’ve also had to turn down some good opportunities because there are parts of the country where I’m just not interested and, and what the social climate is there.

[00:48:44] Um, particularly as it pertains to gay men. Um, so I mean maybe in some ways it’s curtailed my opportunities, but I think maybe in more ways it’s helped me to find the better ones. But definitely I couldn’t have gotten to the point where I’m at, if I was out at the start of my career. So I have very mixed feelings about that.

[00:49:09] Yeah. But now you have where you can afford to be a little more choosy and, and pick what’s going to be better for you. Yeah. Not just financially, but mental health wise. Right, right, right. Um, spiritually, I’ve never really been a particularly spiritual person. So I can’t say as much impact there. 

[00:49:34] Mike: [00:49:34] Okay. Um, any other areas that have been affected that we didn’t touch on or anything else you want to share?

[00:49:44] Mark: [00:49:44] What’s that? 

[00:49:45] Mike: [00:49:45] All right. Or anything else in general that you want to. 

[00:49:47] Mark: [00:49:47] Well, it’s, it’s made my travel life more exciting. I mean, one of the things that my husband and I like to do is we love to travel, right. And a lot of the great places to go. A lot of the fun places to go are places that are very gay, friendly, and, um, we’ve kind of gone out of our way to travel some places because there’s, you know, a very active, gay nightlife or destinations.

[00:50:08] And so that’s been a lot of fun. I mean, the vacations have been a lot more fun. We’ve been jamming a lot more. Um, And I might not, I might not have, you know, if, if I was in the closet or a straight male, I mean, I understand some of them do them. That’s a horrible thing. I understand some straight men do. Um, and their families travel quite a bit and to allow really excited locations, but I probably wouldn’t feel that same impetus to is.

[00:50:37] If I wasn’t out, that makes any sense. It does. 

[00:50:43] Mike: [00:50:43] It makes a lot of sense. Cause you can go be yourself as opposed to going and trying to do it with someone else. 

[00:50:49] Mark: [00:50:49] Right, right. Yeah. 

[00:50:51] Mike: [00:50:51] Definitely 

[00:50:52] Mark: [00:50:52] What’s the point on going to Traverse City, Michigan, if I’m going to get weird looks holding my husband’s hand walking down the street.

[00:50:59] Yeah. You know, or I could go to Key West. 

[00:51:05] Mike: [00:51:05] That makes sense.

[00:51:06]Mark: [00:51:06] Yeah. Maybe that’s a little bit more fun in the winter, right?

[00:51:09]Mike: [00:51:09] Oh, definitely. Definitely a lot more pleasant weather-wise right, right. Yeah. Okay. Very cool. Um, anything else at all you want to, um,

[00:51:29] Mark: [00:51:29] Boy, let me, can I think about that for a second? 

[00:51:31] Mike: [00:51:31] Sure, sure. 

[00:51:32] Mark: [00:51:32] Um, just that I’m surprised every day, I’m surprised every day by people, um, who I. You learned everything about of person, right? By how they’re able to treat you if they able to overcome their prejudices, their fears or misconceptions. A lot of straight men kind of have this icky eww factor thinking about gay men.

[00:52:02] And I’m always surprised by who can overcome their discomfort. And who can not, I’m surprised every day, I’m surprised every day by, um, the opportunities that different locations have, um, to meet other men, um, and hang out laughs and talk. I’m. Amazed by how friendly people are. Yeah. I’m amazed by who turns out not to be friendly.

[00:52:34] You know, it’s not, it’s not only, um, Gay men who wear masks and suddenly gained my new high things at times because they need to pass or fit in. Um,

[00:52:53] one of the ways that being gay has affected me is I get another window into the world and I’m surprised everyday by what I see to that window. Who turns out to be the way they present themselves and who presents themselves falsely. And you can see that because you can’t hide it when, um, you have to come face to face with, with someone who is outside their norm. Um, I don’t know if that’s giving ourselves too much credit to say that gay men challenge, you know, people’s notions or their preconceived ideas of existence or whatever, but I think there’s something there. I think we do in a sense to a degree. It surprises me all the time. What I learned.

[00:53:51] Mike: [00:53:51] Yeah, it’s true. Anybody that’s outside of that, what’s quote unquote normal. Within someone’s perception of what’s normal is going to make you uncomfortable. And then when we challenge it, then people they’ll either grow or they’ll go hide. 

[00:54:08] Mark: [00:54:08] Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:54:10] Mike: [00:54:10] That’s true. Very cool. Awesome. Well, thank you very much for sharing with us and, uh, 

[00:54:18] Mark: [00:54:18] Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share.

[00:54:20] Mike: [00:54:20] It’s definitely. I have I’ve enjoyed it. Um, so yeah, we will see you online.

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