I started volunteering very soon after I joined in August of 2010. I didn’t know anyone, and knew very little about the kink community, although I had been polyamorous for most of my life. There were a lot of other vanilla newbies who joined at the same time. We banded together to explore as a group, and this “buddy system” worked very well for us. So we designed a program to help other newcomers. By February 2011 I was running the Passport Program, a sort of “welcome wagon” to help educate and orient new members. There have been hundreds of people who’ve participated in the program in the last five years.
Now, the thing about educating people is that you have to be educated yourself. So I did a lot of research, talked to a lot of people, went to workshops, and as my knowledge grew I was able to pass more along to new members. I’ve also partnered with several other volunteers over the years, who shared their experience with me and with new members. I got to know the Center very well, and concepts and practices of the kink community. And I was able to share my own experiences as I explored my own sex-positive path.
Parties at the Center were also essential to my growth. My favorites are separated into two kinds: socials and impact parties. Socials like the Poly Social and Boarding Pass and the Hump Social let me talk to new people in a low-stress environment. These are where I met most of my play partners. I most enjoy playing at BDSM parties that are impact-focused. Especially those that have music with a driving beat, the better to smack to. My favorites are In Irons and the Grind. These parties also allow sex, which is a big plus for those of us whose play involves it.
I sometimes run into former Passport members at these parties. It’s really gratifying to have people look me up months or even years later and tell me how much the Passport helped them fit in and feel comfortable at the Center. People have meet friends and even partners through the program.
So, I know my efforts have made a difference, both for new members and for me. Now the Passport program has expanded and we welcome a lot of non-members too. For some it’s their first exposure to the Center. That welcoming presence has been significant to a lot of people. Many who participate in the program go on to become volunteers themselves. It’s a virtuous cycle: the help you give others expands your own experience, and so you’re able to even better help others. So volunteering helps the whole community – and the person it helps the most might just be yourself.
–Panda has been a member at the Center for six years. His previous article is Stepping Stones to Sex Positivity.