Purveyor of Pleasure

Pleasure is my business, my life, my joy, my purpose.

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Lost

I got lost somewhere along the way. I often think I wasn’t supposed to look like this. I think life wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Somewhere my voice got lost. I forgot to speak up, then I forgot how to. I removed so much of myself that I started only using other people’s words, not my own. Then I forgot what was mine. I was rewarded for it; they like it when you’re obedient.

People used to comment on my appearance like I was either hiding behind it or using it to express myself. Neither assessment ever felt right to me. What I look like was always disliked, so why not wear what I actually enjoy?

I tried so hard for so long to be comfortable with my outsides and my insides. I was not always sure if either of them was me, really.

I spent so much time frozen and alone. I guess that’s what I got for growing up in Alaska (not really that, but it’s a good excuse).

I spent so much time paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. I guess that was what I needed. . . at the time.

Reflection and Confirmation

As I write this, I am heading back to Seattle after yet another weekend in Portland. It was a quick trip this time revolving around presenting Saturday at the Death:OK Conference on creating Soul-based Ceremonies for Honoring Death. I was able to squeeze in a few visits with people, but there are plenty more that I missed connecting with because of time constraints.

The weekend was a very reflective one for me, and quite an opportunity to gain perspective on my work in the world and my approach to life going forward. I was deeply inspired by everyone I met at the conference, such deep rich humanity showed up, and such beautiful life.

This is not so much a change as a confirmation. It is ever more clear to me that trauma and grief are just as central to my work as love and pleasure and desire, because they have to be. They are not separate. At the center of it all is the beauty of the embodiment of humanity.

When I talk about wholeness, which I often do, i am really taking about working ever more toward experiencing and expressing all aspects of our own divine humanity–all its vulnerable, often messy, and ultimately beautiful forums.

It is about turning toward the depth of our own selves. Turning toward the parts of ourselves that we disavow and embracing them. Turning toward the emotions we try to ignore or stuff down and bringing them up so they can serve their purpose and we can understand what they have to teach us. And so much more.

A Small Coming Out

My aunt asked me if I had a cold, referencing my more-gravelly-than-she-was-used-to voice. I took that moment to make the choice to share with her and my mom that I have been taking testosterone since January. This is only sort of true, as since I started I’ve raised and lowered my dose, paused in my taking it, started again, and am currently playing with the dosage/levels in order to find the right fit for me.

This was the first time I told any of my family about taking T. I was asked if I had a goal, an end result that I was shooting for. I said I’m not trying to go to male (whatever that means anyway), and I’m pretty close to where I want to be. And I realized this is true. Mostly femme-presenting, but not always. A little confusing in the right lights. Genderqueer femme. Pangender genderfucker. Genderfabulous. In the sometimes-called “middle,” though gender is not actually a line like that, but T levels are (or, at least, we talk about them that way).

I’ve gained so much of myself over the last a bit over nine months since I started, and I feel simultaneously more visible and more invisible for various reasons. When I started I didn’t know if or how long I would stay on. I had confidence that my body would know, that I would be able to feel if it was right for me, and I did. And I’ve thought a lot about what I’m getting from T, what I’m not getting from T, what it “means” to be on T, all of that. And I “altered” my “natural” hormones plenty before T through ten years of various types of hormonal-based birth control, so I also figure: how is this any different? It’s really not. And yet it also is.

Both my mom and my aunt were accepting. Not phased much outwardly by it, but clearly a little shaken up by it and the casual way that I shared this information. I was also shaken up by the casual way that I shared this experience I have hid from many people in my life for the last three quarters of a year. My therapist assures me that it’s my choice who I tell and who I don’t, that I don’t have to tell everyone, and I know that is true. And it has become an integrated part of my experience already, and it’s mostly the people who haven’t seen me or heard me for a while that would notice anything different anyway.

I’m not always likely to volunteer information about myself, in fact I rarely do, but I don’t like to intentionally dodge or lie when asked directly about myself. I strive to be genuine in all that I do, so it felt good to share, even if it was jarring and a bit disorienting and if I had been planning it I could have fortified myself a bit more. I didn’t expect any other reaction than what I got, my family is pretty accepting, and also pretty stoic, and that combination is the reaction I received.

More than anything, though, this experience made me realize I’m closer to where I want to be than I thought, and I know more about where I want to be than I have before. It’s still amorphous, liminal, and difficult to describe, and I know it will change as I change. However, I’m no longer trying to grasp it so tightly, define it, dissect it, or understand it out of confusion and desperation. And that’s a big difference.

On Graduating

After an amazing weekend where I put on (with the help of so many other wonderful people) the first temple in my home and the first where I was the lead, the hierophant, the ultimate-in-charge person, etc. I am ready to spend the day relaxing and focusing on my own pleasure. Art, reading, snuggling, and funny videos are all on the menu, as well as some of the delicious leftovers from the catered weekend.

The weekend ritual-workshop-retreat went delightfully. Much releasing, much expressing, much being, much phoenixing (it’s a verb, you know), and so much more. I infused some bits of my own personal mythology into the programming, shifted and shared some parts of my own self that are often reclusive, and witnessed so much bravery in vulnerability and beauty of those around me that I was brought to tears multiple times. And so much gratitude. Holy fuck, I have so much gratitude for everyone who participated, supported me, shared themselves, and helped to make it what it was.

Back in the end of June, in the last week of my Master’s program, the week before graduation, I described the sensations of anticipation that I was feeling as standing on a precipice. I was looking down at the darkness beyond the jagged cliff below, knowing that I needed to leap into it, and not knowing if I would fly or fall.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote: “we have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” I had been growing and constructing wings throughout the process of school, occasionally testing them and often falling flat on my face. I knew I needed to take that step. Intellectually I knew that the wings would hold me, but I had never had the visceral experience of flying. I was terrified. I could only do so much development in preparation for these jumps, these leaps into the unknown, the rest had to be done mid-air.

I jumped.
I fell.
I caught wind.
I flew.
Then I fell some more.

I have been developing and refining and fixing the wings as I’ve been soaring (and falling and soaring and falling and…) since the end of June.

This last weekend was another cliff. This time, my wings were stronger, more developed. I already had the experience of flying embodied within me, so I was not nearly as terrified. Or I was a different kind of terrified, the kind that propelled me forward.

This weekend was another kind of graduation for me, the culmination of the priestess training I started five years ago. It was a moving more fully into myself and my leadership, and attempting to do so mindfully, with humanity, with gratitude, with compassion, and with the backing of a community.

It was heart-opening and deeply awoke me to another layer of my own worthiness I had not accessed before. Like so many of us I have long struggled with worthiness, of feeling worthy of love and attention and belonging. I’m sure I will continue to struggle, this is not the end of it, but it was a step in the direction of wholeness.

Now, I look forward to the next cliff. Still terrified. Still moving forward.

Embodied Movements/Moments

While walking today I was
enjoying the swing of the fabric
against me as I moved.

Hips swaying and dress bouncing along with them,
exposing slightly more of my thighs
than if I were stationary.

Each movement called me into my body
and into my wholeness
in a way unique to those moments.
Not only in the way that every moment is unique.

There was something deliciously erotic about this.
A re-collecting and discovery at once.
I gained more of my Self through this.

This is embodiment.
Every moment, every movement can be a breakthrough.

Heart Opening

I have so much aching in the heart of me
So old
So removed

The armor holding it in has been pierced
Slowly, access has been given
Tender smooth muscle exposed to the elements now
So frozen
So cold
So just daring to hope for more
Just barely daring

Just enough to be proven to that love can penetrate it
Love can penetrate me
Love can penetrate everything
Anything
That’s why it’s so important
That’s why I do this work

I look forward to be shown what love can do
Let myself open in ways I have helped others open
Blossoming into fullness
The completely bearable fullness of being
Being alive inside
Trusting to be held

Close to the End

Not quite there yet, but I’m working on it. I need to be done with writing my thesis soon. In the next few days, really. I will still have editing and other sorts of work to be done for it, and I will have to get on the task of figuring out what I will do for my symposium, so I will be far from completely done in the next few days, but I will have the writing of it completed and be in the home stretch.

Of course, I’ve thought this before, and every time I think I’ll be done something happens to get in my way. I had set aside all of this past week, from Sunday to Saturday, for thesis writing, and what happened? I woke up Monday morning with strep throat. Of course. But I’m on track again and actually getting writing done. Just have to actually let myself focus and not get distracted with everything and anything else.

There is no longer a question in me as to if I will *actually* be done, if I can actually get it done, if I can break through all the internal barriers and beliefs that I have held for so long that tell me that it’s not okay for me to do a work like this for one reason or another. I have done so much work on myself in the last few years since I started grad school, and it seems to have hyper-condensed in the last thirteen months since I started writing my thesis.

Thirteen months! Sheesh. I hoped to be done in nine, but often life doesn’t turn out the way we plan. Of mice and men and all that. I’m excited, though. I’m excited to be done, to move to the next chapter of my life, to see what lies beyond grad school. Grad school, this thing that has taken up so much of my time and my life for the last nearly-four years. I come out of it a completely changed person. So many of my patterns have been investigated and bent, at least, if not broken. So many of the things I thought were part of me, that I would never get out of, like my depression or certain anxieties, have been nearly completely abandoned for other ways of being. In short, I have changed.

Now as I am nearing the end of this monster of a project that I chose to undertake, this 150-plus-page beast that I have chosen to slay tame and ride on the back of as I go into the future, I am amazed at the work I’ve already done. It’s going to be my first masterpiece, this Master’s piece of mine. It won’t be perfect, it probably won’t even be super polished, but it will be finished and it will be mine. The culmination of my past learning and desires for the future all wrapped up into one long-ass Master’s thesis. Here’s to that.

Two Months

Today I did my ninth shot of T, which makes two months that I’ve been adding testosterone to my body intentionally. I have had so many shifts and feelings about it since I started (since well before I started, really), and I’m endlessly glad I am doing this. It is showing me a lot, more than I can even hope to articulate. It still feels right and I still want it, though I’ve definitely had my struggles so far along the way (which I’m told is usual in this process, but I think often we just hear the positive side of transition because it’s an easier narrative to give and it’s way more vulnerable to show uncertainty with something so often misunderstood).

I am also so grateful for the support I have in exploring this and making this shift, this transition. Everyone I have talked to about it has been understanding and interested in a way that hasn’t felt objectifying, and the comments on my first post about it were so lovely they still occasionally bring me to tears. Onyx​ has been amazing on every level throughout this whole process, and living with someone going through similar experiences has been so useful.

It’s been interesting to experience my conceptual and embodied experiences of my non-binaryness, femmeness, and genderqueerness in this new context, the context of taking T. These aspects of myself have been central to my identity and embodied experience of the world for a good decade now, but I find my relationship with them is shifting as well as I go through this new experience. I am more confident and comfortable with them as I engage in what is often thought to be only for binary masculine people. I’ve been eating up as much media from other femme, non-binary, and/or genderqueer trans guys, which has definitely been helping, and I know that I am not alone in the way I feel and experience my gender and the world, but it’s also a struggle to be so outside of the norm.

I have had to challenge a lot of the narratives I (and others) have about testosterone and what it means to be taking it while also occasionally succumbing to or fighting off the urge to look and present more masculine to make it easier for others to see me and understand me and for myself to really embrace this transness of mine. I have had to define and redefine what it means for me to take testosterone, and I’m still not completely sure what it means, but I do know I want it. I like how it feels and who I am when I’m taking it and I like what it is doing for me, even if I’m unsure sometimes. It’s this body-based knowing and sense that I am doing the right thing that keeps me sane a lot of the time through this process.

I struggle with using the words “man” or “male” as I don’t feel those are accurate for me, though they also feel so much better than “woman” or “female” ever felt. Therefore also “he” feels way better than “she,” and this has been true for a while, but “they” is still where I live. Guy feels good, in an almost gender-neutral sort of way, but genderqueer is still where I live. As I’m feeling more comfortable, though, too, I am caring less what others refer to me as, and that has been one of the best gifts of this so far.

I’m slowly discovering this thing that I’ve kind of known for a while, but that I haven’t really had the experience of: that I can actually be me. I can actually be me the way I want to be and be seen. I can be a non-binary femme trans genderqueer (guy) and I can also be comfortable with people not really getting it and misgendering me (to a point, of course, and it still stings sometimes more than others), but because I’m actually doing the things I need to be doing for myself I’m much more comfortable. I’m more comfortable in myself, and that’s what’s most important.

A Second Shot

If you’re reading this and you haven’t read the previous two protected posts, I highly encourage you to go back and read them, it’s the same password.

Experienced my second shot of T last night. This time I did it myself (while supervised) in our temple rather than my doctor’s office and with Onyx and a couple friends around. It was a similar and also very different experience than the first shot (though I’m sure each shot will be its own unique thing).

Even though I’ve thought about this for so long and have felt confident that upping my testosterone is a good thing and what I want, I am still surprised at how good it actually feels to be taking this medicine. It feels like medicine for my body, soul, and spirit in ways I don’t even know how to articulate. It’s still really strange for me, though.

I know it’s really only been a week–and I want to give myself room for changing my mind about this in the future–but it feels so right. Surprisingly right. Way more right than I ever even let myself hope it would feel. I’m pretty much blown away by it.

I had a dream on Saturday night before my first shot that seems really obvious symbolism-wise and also blew me away. I was a little boy and I was playing in the yard outside of my house. I looked over and realized I had the shriveled-up, leathery carcass of a little girl next to me that I had been dragging around with me. She had been invisible to me, but I had been carrying her around for as long as I could remember. I realized I needed to bury her. I dug a hole in what I think was the neighbor’s garden plot, put her in, and covered her up. I knew she would be great fertilizer and beautiful flowers would grow on top of her.

I went inside, went to the bathroom, and then started running water for a bath. I looked at the floor and realized there were traces of her everywhere. There were very obvious marks on the wood floors where I had been dragging her around. I knew I needed to take the time to clean the marks up, to get rid of her. At that moment I heard the front door open and realized my dad was home (not my actual real-life dad, but my dream dad, who was not the same as my real life dad–this seems important to note). I felt a little embarrassed that he would see the marks the girl had left all over as I had been carrying her around with me, but then realized he probably could see her before, and that she was gone now.

I woke up a little confused and surprised that my subconscious was apparently ready for that. Maybe it was just trying to tell me that I am actually going in the right direction. Maybe it’s not as obvious as I seem to think it is.

On Writing a Thesis Focused on Embodiment and Emotions (thesis excerpt)

This is an excerpt from my Master’s thesis titled “Erotic Embodiment and Integration of Soul, Spirit, and Body: Toward a Sacred Erotic Psychology Healing Praxis,” it is a piece from the Introduction

To say it is difficult to write about embodiment is an understatement. Writing is a tool of the mind and splits us off from bodily experience. Language cannot fully capture the essence of being embodied, of being in a body, or of bodily sensations and emotions, but it can try. For the most part, language brings us out of our bodies and puts us apart from ourselves, especially language in an academic framework where one is compelled to be aware of sentence structure, word choice, proper citation methods, and so on. The question of how I can write an academic work on embodiment is one I have been grappling with since before I began writing it. The language that most closely aligns with the body is imaginal and poetic. With exception of the praxis chapter, my use of poetic imaginal language has been limited. I have not engaged with the imaginal and poetic nearly enough. Here is an attempt.

I really value each of the realms of spirit, soul, and body and the various ways they each manifest in the world, and I know that of these three realms the body is the most denigrated. This culture has a body problem. It has a problem in all three realms, really, but the way we approach the body is so much more backwards and twisted in my experience. We do everything we can to avoid focusing on our bodies, and that includes me. I have spent a lot of my own life hating my body, treating it as separate from my essential self, or ignoring its needs, feelings, and warnings.

My body has stiffened from the chore of sitting in front of a computer, writing (or attempting to write), while fighting against all the internal blocks I have against doing this work, my work. I can feel it in my shoulders and the back of my neck in the tension that creeps its way up and down from my head to my lower back. I get hit with it when I stretch, arching my back to hear the cacophony of crunchy popping sounds as my vertebrae realign themselves, and suddenly the release of tension sends a momentary throbbing spiraling up all the way to my temples. I can feel it in my knees and hips, the way I hold myself as I walk, where on my feet I place emphasis. I can tell when I am resisting the process and when I am not coming to my work with all of my strength by the way that I sit, passively and slouched or tall and engaged. I can feel it in how I am holding my teeth and tongue, the crack of my jaw when I yawn, the bend of my left knee when I take a step (am I fully bending it, or dragging that foot as I move?), or the pop of my right ankle when I get a twinge or stiffness in it that needs to be rotated out. My body tells me things, and I choose to listen to it or not, though the more I do this work the less I can ignore it. I notice the tension, I breathe, I move.

I do not claim to be perfect at my own methods, or to have mastered embracing the theories and praxis described in this thesis. In fact, what is driving me to do the work that I am dedicated to doing in the world, the work that this thesis is but a fraction of, is my own struggles with embodiment, connection, and belonging. I have been experiencing my own process as I have been writing about it, articulating only as far as I have been able to traverse my own self. Thus through this process I have had to feel my way through it just as much as I have had to work my way through it. I have had to nurture my own self, to build up the strength and self-love and self-compassion. To bring awareness to the things that I do, conscious and unconscious, and the patterns that I am enacting and reenacting within myself and with my lovers, friends, and family. I have gone through some major shifts and realizations within myself through this process, and also know that it is not over. This is just the beginning.

In going through this process of embracing my emotions and letting them flow, of excavating my own shadow and my own past, of working to understand the patterns laid inside of me back in the time of childhood and pre-verbal processing that still run me, of attempting to experience exquisite embodiment of the Self that is called Tai in this incarnation, I have had to confront most if not all of the parts of myself that keep me back. My self-sabotage. As with everyone, all of my issues are interlocking, threads in the tapestry of my life that interact and intersect, not just discrete problems that can be approached completely independently of each other. I have had to face head-on my own fear, grief, shame, anger, some nasty patterns of internalized oppression and repression. I have had to confront my fear of taking up my own space and what it looks like to put something so large as a personal sacred erotic manifesto into the world. This work details the entirety (so far) of my life’s purpose and my understanding of spirituality, sexuality, psychology, and their interactions with each other, and I am really taking up my own space by declaring my own mastery of it. I have also had to process and move through the grief I experienced surrounding the very sudden death of my father, and the emotional and psychological patterns instilled in me generationally and personally through him. I have recognized the shame I have held on to around being my true authentic self in a society that reviles people like me in multiple intersections of my identity. I have had moments of intense jealousy and shame around my relationship with my primary partner, and due to our interlocking patterns around intimacy and attraction we have, on occasion, fallen down the rabbit hole of destructive behavior.

Shame has been a large factor in my excavation process, and shame is necessary to face when doing this work. Emotions are necessary to face when doing this work of the body. To this end the work of Brene Brown and Karla McLaren have been indispensable to me. I have realized the amount of emotion processing that goes on in the face of change, and know that is a vital aspect of becoming. All emotions are particularly powerful, necessary, and important. They each have a reason for coming up when they do and a particular purpose or gift to share with us, if we are open to them. This entire thesis process has been an emotional one, and has impacted my body as such.

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