Purveyor of Pleasure

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

Tag: endless amounts of change

On the Love of Self and Selfies

August-September 2015.

August-September 2015.

Selfies are the self-portraits of this current technological age. They tell you a lot about how the person sees themselves; how they want to be seen by others. The angle, the tilt of their head, if the smile is candid or staged, forced or relaxed, or even there at all.

In this age of social media we can (to some degree) control our image: how we are seen, what info about us and our lives is shared, and what is not. Sometimes. Sort of. We can try to tailor our image to fit into what we want to look like, who we want to be, or we can bare it all, our prides and our failings, letting the viewer or reader decide what to keep and what not to.

At the same time, we can only control so much. Other people will post about us, post pictures of us. Other people will see what they want to see, what they can see. What people see will always be filtered, not just through their screens, but through their own perceptions and life experiences, their own projections and assumptions. Do they have context for your words, your hair, your clothes, your all of you? Do they have to fight against their own or your own illusions to see you, or are you real and genuine? Are they real and genuine enough to see you?

How much are any of us related to reality?

I love posed professional-looking glamour shots, candid photos when no one knows a photograph is being taken, group action shots capturing an experience, and everything beyond and in between.

Sixteen. December, 2002.

December, 2002.

I used to hate photos of myself or having my picture taken, a reminder of this body I also hated. This Self I kept hidden and locked up from the world, buried beneath flesh and blood and muscle. Buried deep in some hidden corner of my heart. I tried, often desperately, to stay alive in a world that does not want my kind, which in a world that desperately needs us.

I was praised for emulating others and discouraged from expressing what I genuinely thought or wanted or needed. So I locked myself up so tight I often forgot to breathe. I forgot to move. I forgot to dance. I made a small space inside of myself where I could be free, and I called it paradise. It was a cage. Bits of me leaked out, because I could not help it, but inside I was frozen. Lonely.

I learned to adopt others’ ideas, others’ perspectives, others’ personae just to keep me alive. Though there were plenty of times I did not want to be. I thought for many years of the ways I could end what felt like the torture of living. I never really had access to knives sharp enough in the hardest moments, never a hand steady enough to apply the necessary pressure in the right places with knife in hand. Some kind of self-preservation sabotage, or cowardice.

Just one more day, I would tell myself. One more moment. One more breath. One at a time until the numbness takes over again.

Feeling nothing was often preferred to feeling everything.

The suffocating overwhelm of hopelessness was always more than I could handle.

Sixteen. December, 2002.

December, 2002.

Paradoxically, perhaps (in that way that life is), I found my outlet on stage acting larger than life and speaking four hundred year old lines about love, longing, pain, death, betrayal, revenge, cunning, magic.

I identified with longing: longing for love, longing for belonging. I identified with the uncertainty of desire for life, search for a sense of self, and mistrust of others. I identified with fighting to stay alive against seemingly insurmountable turmoil.

I let other stories, other characters, other personae infuse my being. They lead me back to some depth of myself where I had been hiding. Slowly. Only ever slowly. I got little glimpses of life then through these, glimpses of what life could be, though I never felt like I was part of it. Always a little removed, always a little numb, always a little (or a lot) the outsider. Always terrified of ridicule and mostly indifferent to praise, unable to really believe just about anything as real.

Although acting brought me back to myself, it was still more for others than it was for me.

I woke up one day and realized I was terrified of the world, of the other people in it, and, most importantly, of myself. I had designed a life around this fear, attempting to keep myself safe through hiding, locked away from the world in hopes that would mean I would no longer be hurt.

Determined to understand and integrate the fear, I began to investigate it. Where did it come from? What is real and what isn’t? Why do I act the way that I do? I had already been asking myself some of these questions, but did not realize just how numb I was. Just how locked inside. Just how broken.

June 2014

June 2014

I began to crack open the shell I had built up around myself over so many years, letting the outside in and the inside out. I embraced vulnerability, connection, change. I began feeling again. Deeply. Not just when I was having sex, but all the time. Sometimes more than I could bear.

Somewhere along the way I realized I was missing love for myself and trust in the world. The more I love myself the more I am able to take up space in the world, to be comfortable with who I am and what I am doing. It’s cliche, I suppose, but cliches are cliche for a reason. As I began to love myself more, I began to take selfies and revel in them. Or maybe it was the other way around.

A selfie, for me, is not just about finding the right pose, the right angle, though sometimes it is. It’s about sharing a moment in time, even if my smile often looks the same. It’s allowing myself to open up to myself, open up to the camera, open up to the viewer in a way I used to abhor. It’s showing myself off to the world. It’s taking my place in the world through allowing myself to be in it and take up (digital) space.

January 2016

January 2016

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

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.

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.

Thoughts and Experiences of Gender

Someone in a facebook group I’m in asked the question “What are your thoughts and experiences figuring out where you fall, or don’t, on the gender spectrum?” so here’s my response.

A big part of my gender experience at the moment is being sick of being seen as female, though I don’t exactly feel male either, and I strongly identify with being femme. I have played with gender consciously for years, got a degree in gender studies to help me figure some of this out (I hoped it would, anyway), and have been contemplating medical transition type stuff pretty seriously for a while now.

I have known myself to be genderqueer for over a decade (that’s when I started having language around it), and definitely have been genderqueer and worn a mixture of “masculine” and “feminine” clothing for as long as I remember. When I was very young in playdates with friends I would rarely put myself in a masculine or feminine role with things we were playing, but would choose gender neutral things (such as, we were playing wedding and I would be the officiator rather than the bride or groom–though that wasn’t 100% of the time). My mom encouraged me to wear pants and more androgynous clothing, but I also really enjoyed dresses, skirts, and more feminine clothes as well. In high school I began consciously developing my own genderqueer style, which included wearing suits one day, and a skirt and fishnets the next; or sometimes a “men’s” button up shirt, tie, skirt, and fishnets all together; or a suit jacket with a corset; or punk-y bondage pants and a tshirt; or all sorts of other things. I wore a suit to my Junior Prom, and then a vinyl dress to my Senior Prom. I shaved my head when I was 16 and kept my hair short through most of the rest of high school, constantly dying it crazy colors. I have so many other expressions and experiences that make me really realize how long I’ve been non-binary genderqueer, but that’s enough for now.

I was one of the very few out people in my high school, having come to understand myself as “bisexual” (so I called myself then, I usually go for “queer” now) in seventh grade. This and my style of dress managed to make me an outsider and weirdo, but I always felt comfortable there too. However, I had little experience with people who wanted to date me during these years, mostly people were interested in fooling around a bit, but not actually in a relationship.

In college I started experimenting and expressing femininity more, at least partially (unconsciously) because I thought that would help me get a partner. I also lost a good chunk of weight and could fit into the very high end of standard sizing (or mostly the in between sizes, but sometimes that meant standard sizing). When beginning to delve deeper into femininity and explore that I immediately was most identified with a femininity I found expressed by gay men and drag queens, but I also immediately rejected that I could express that type of femininity due to being AFAB, and was confused and sad about it.

I did find myself a partner during this phase when I was attempting to be femme cis woman, and luckily he is someone who supports me in all of my gender expression. I have struggled for years to figure out how to express myself in a way that felt truly authentic, and so I’ve just tried as best as I could. Over the years I’ve amassed a gigantic makeup collection as well as clothing all along the “gender spectrum.” I really enjoy a wide range of gender expression, as I always have. I began packing and binding quite a few years ago, and do so off and on. I also enjoy to wear push up bras, corsets, and high femme dresses. I enjoy it all.

I tried for so many years to be content with being a cis femme or femme genderqueer for a long time. Now I’m beginning to work on being seen more and read as a guy, even though I don’t identify as male or feel male really fits me, but I know female doesn’t fit me even more. If I have to choose (which I both do and don’t), I would much rather be read as male than female. So I’m much more interested in being read as a femme guy than a femme woman at this point, because that at least feels closer to who I am, even if it is not quite right. I actually have an appointment in a few hours to begin testosterone to see if it’s right for me. As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m really sick of being seen as female, which seems to happen no matter how I dress or what I do. I wholly embrace my femininity and the closest way I have to describe my gender at this point is as a non-binary genderqueer femme trans person (maybe trans guy if I need to orient myself slightly in binary land–which seems to help some people see me–plus “guy” feels slightly gender-neutral at this point too). In the last few years I’ve been able to see (digitally, mostly) a number of femme trans guys and realize that aspects of transition are an option for me, which has definitely shifted my idea of what my future could be like.

All that said, I’m not sure I’ve figured out gender at all. I’m getting somewhat close, maybe.

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