Southern California has long embraced counter-culture, from skaters and street art, to the Black Cat riots, and most recently, LA’s burgeoning pup play scene, which Mike Ciriaco explores in our newest Hey SoQueer.
“I can’t think of one person I’ve ever met who hasn’t interacted with a real dog,” explained Pup Kieran Hound, sitting on the apron of the stage in Pasadena Park. “There’s just something bubbly and cute and confusing and infuriating and absolutely so purely lovable about the spirit of the dog. Pup play to me is taking that spark of magic channeling experience, someone understudying the mannerisms, and channeling that through their play.”
Pup Kieran Hound is a member of Los Angeles’ Pup Play community, a social enclave where members assume canine personas for a myriad of purposes, ranging from sweet, to sexual, and everything in between. For Kieran, pup play is about embracing joy.
“I tend to be a very serious, analytical person, who takes my human life and jobs very seriously. I want to do the best I can. I think an important part of us as humans is remembering how to play. I got into pup play because in a way I was dealing with depression and anxiety and I was forgetting how to play. I wanted to remember and spark that again.”
Although Kieran now enjoys a healthy relationship with the pup side of her personality, she initially suffered from the stigma associated with many kink subcultures.
“Before I came into kink, I’m coming on my 10th year even knowing about kink and BDSM, I thought fetish was actually a type of medical tic that was a problem. Like something someone had to do to feel normal. And realizing that’s actually how being gay was defined in medical text books. I hadn’t even realized how much of that history was affecting my feeling about kink. It was something deviant, something wrong. Normal, functional people don’t do that.”
The most effective way to combat this stigma is with positive visibility. Pup events like Chewi’s Kennel, a monthly pup party hosted at The Bullet in North Hollywood, cultivate community for Kieran and her canine compatriots.
“I don’t even want to say normalize, because that takes the spark and magic out of fetish and kink. But the more we just talk about it in a common way that it’s just another vibrant community, like any other sport, any other hobby.”
“The parties are ways to actually access and come meet, and interface. They are crossroads. They are intersections to come feel that out.”
Kieran is notable as the first genderqueer person* to win the annual Los Angeles Pup Contest. (Think pup play meets Best in Show.) As with many corners of queer culture, cisgender gay men tend to dominate the pup community. For Kieran, it’s important to nurture diversity their pack, including all genders and orientations.
“While I really appreciate all the effort and energy all the cis men have put into our community, that absolutely should be recognized loved and respected. But we need to look beyond as well too. That everyone has a representative place.”
Embracing the eccentric, no matter one’s gender, sexual orientation, or persona, is the beauty of SoCal’s counter-culture.
And for more on Chewi’s Kennel at Bullet Bar, hit up their invite page. Stay kinky, SoCal!
*This was originally posted as “cisgender woman,” and has since been corrected. To all our GenderQueer Angelenos, we see you!