Once upon a time in the 80s there was a group in London called SM dykes. Women who had read the ci-devant Pat Califia's 'Coming To Power' and wanted to try all that neat California SM stuff on for size. (And yes, that is my first use of ci-devant in a transcontext and I feel very cool about it. This probably means I building up to the French Revolution section of my novel.)
Anyone who wants to know what it was like being around SM Dykes back in the day could do worse than read my story 'Some Moments of Pleasure' which is on my website at http://glamourousrags.dymphna.net/somemomentsofpleasure.html
They were cool young women in black leather and I fluttered near the flame after working alongside them in a group called Sexual Fringe when various sexual minorities had to fight being banned from the London Lesbian and Gay Centre by Those Lesbian Feminists.
And yes, SM practice was an important part of my sexual identity for some years back then - I was in love with women to whom it was even more important.
SM Dykes drifted apart after a while, and then a bunch of Finnish and German women turned up in London looking for it - they'd heard it was a cool scene. When they discovered it was in abeyance and we were all just hanging out in the Bell several nights a week, they started Chain Reaction as a new focus for the community.
It was great. Proud Women Perverts, as we said at the time, and went on saying when Those Lesbian Feminists picketed us, and broke in and smashed the place up. One of the women whom they hurt went around in plaster for a while and wore a badge saying 'I had my leg broken by women against violence against women' - which was one of the coolest things ever. And I saw her on Friday and got to remind her about it and tell her how cool she had been eighteen years earlier...
I helped out for a while on the steering committee - we organized cabarets like mud-wrestling and Roman Games, and made costumes out of cardboard and bin liners and it was all very very terrific.
I was only a couple of years past my surgery at this point, and newly identifying as a lesbian after expecting to go on mostly sleeping with guys, and going through a lot of psychological changes. There were, as they say, personal and artistic differences and I fell out with some of the collective quite badly - which is why I moved on and put most of my energy into the nascent Feminists Against Censorship, and then into Liberty.
I fell out with individuals, as did other people, but we never stopped feeling part of a community of some fifty or sixty people, many of whom had at least snogged each other.
It was one of the great good times of my life. And I really must write that chapter of the memoirs some day soon.
Things moved on and most of us didn't see each other for a while - various quarrels have been patched up over the years and other people have transitioned and other people have disappeared forever. And then Katryna and Serena and a variety of other people contacted me about a reunion.
I went to some of the planning meetings and stuck the odd oar in and volunteered as a non-drinker for one of the graveyard shifts on the door, and then didn't have to do it because someone was comfortable where they were. So I take no credit for this.
The crucial thing about Friday's reunion was that everyone was instantly recognizable across the decade and a half since I last saw them. And everyone was cool and charming and sweet. People I parted with on very bad terms came up and asked about my sweetie, or conferred with me anguishedly about the woman we all fell out over and her long-standing vanishment from our ken. I had a very very good time, even though some of it I spent being dog-tired from writing the last chapter of my book - just the intro to do - and sitting in a corner getting down time.
Some of the people I most wanted to see didn't make it because of disrupted transport, but it was pretty incredible anyway. I mean, mslashes came from San Francisco and various people like Billy and Mag Ickle turned up from rural bliss in Wales. And lots of others like gene_home were there in spirit. In ten years time, we will have to make it quasi-virtual.
There was no awkwardness, none. I was so glad to be there.
I had dragged vschanoes and circehelen along because part of my Chain Reaction experience was always going along with Cute Young Things who made me dance harder and faster than I might otherwise, and because they needed this bit of queer heritage to pass on to others. And they seemed to love it and to feel that I had not even a bit dragged them out to something boring on false pretenses. I like to go places with a posse - it's a flaw.
I have some reservations - the DJs only played Gloria once, and that so early no-one danced, and as an older person I felt there was too much stand-there-and-twitch-'coz-it's-the-sum
And I remembered, and felt good about myself, that one great lost love said, when I asked her what she saw in me, that I had great shoulders and danced like I'd be a good fuck. Which is my favourite Chain Reaction story in a way.
There was one cabaret, Ursula Martinez, who did a trick where she disappeared a red hankie and took off an item of clothing, and produced it again and took off an item and disappeared it and - but you know where this goes. There was another cabaret, Goddess Star, who did things with nipples and ribbons and rubber babydolls that I will not repeat in a family LJ, but was damn good, for all she reminded me of pre-fame Lindsay Kemp's brilliant self-disembowelling-Pierrot routine that I saw in a Notting Hill church hall in 1971. And there were slides and videos and part of what was weird was watching a great lost love on looped video having whipped cream put on her and disciplining someone and feeling warm fuzzies that she was there in image if not present.
It was all so long ago and it was two nights ago. And I am getting moist. My eyes as well.