Purveyor of Pleasure

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

Tag: worthing

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

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.

Struggle

I’m feeling small and sore from beating myself up today. I’m thinking a lot about what it is like to practice gratitude and self-compassion, and trying to practice it. I’m wondering what I will be like on the day I find myself much closer to the non-perfectionist end of the perfectionism spectrum and am able to marvel at the change that has occurred.

I’ve been trapped in life-paralysis for so long, waiting (not consciously) for some external force to knock me back into reality, but I’m realizing the messages I’ve been getting: the only way through it is through it; do the fucking work.

All of my life my self-worth has been connected to my accomplishments. I was told “what matters is that you do your best,” but then what was considered “my best” was also dictated to me. I was praised for excelling and giving disapproving and disappointed looks when I didn’t meet the acceptable standards. This wasn’t so bad, as I often excelled, but I also became terrified of not producing perfect work.

I have been struggling. The last year and a half has brought many things to light as I’ve worked to excavate my own self, my own darkness. I haven’t known how to ask for help. I still don’t know, as I don’t know what will help, but admitting it is a step. I have been struggling with so many things that I haven’t known what to do or where to start.

As I’ve been struggling, though I’ve also been working and I’ve been healing. I’ve been doing and changing and growing. I feel stronger and closer to that person that I want to be than I ever have felt before. I’m simultaneously nearing the end of one path and beginning another.

But, still, most days I’m struggling. I can find the strength in it and I can give it a positive spin, but I’m still hurting. I’m still feeling small and sore and there is still a part of me that is whispering “you’re wrong to feel this way” and “you’re not good enough” and “you don’t belong here.” There’s still part of me that is paralyzed and living in a state of constant fear of being found out. That part that thinks that some day everyone will realize I’m not really as interesting, intelligent, awesome, skilled, attractive, insert-positive-opinion-here, etc. as they think I am, that I’m really just unworthy of their time, energy, and love.

I know the things I would tell a client or friend who admitted this to me: everyone experiences this to some extent, some less than others, but you are not alone. I would tell them that part of themselves as their best interest at heart, it thinks that it is helping, that it is somehow keeping them safe against the threat of shame and judgment, that it really just wants them to be happy (even though its tactics are not useful). I would encourage them to feel love and compassion toward that part, to thank it, to engage with it, to work to integrate it. I would encourage them to hold themselves accountable, but also cultivate self-compassion and imperfection. I would encourage them to sit with their feelings and find where they’re rooted in the body. And so on.

These are all things I’ve told myself and am working on, but there are some days when that paralyzing part is the loudest voice inside of me. There are many days when I just break down and witness myself being paralyzed. Today was one of those days. I’m reminding myself that it’s okay to be imperfect. Telling myself to lean into the discomfort and embrace vulnerability. To fake it until I become it. To do the fucking work. To Breathe.

Adventures in Amsterdam: Reflections and Declarations

Adventures in Amsterdam is a series of updates about my time in Amsterdam from July 12th-August 12th attending the Summer Institute on Sexuality, Culture, and Society at the University of Amsterdam. This is a four-week certificate program focusing on eight topics around sexuality and sociology.

Yesterday was the end of the first week of classes, which also means the end of the classes I’ve had this week. Next week the two classes we move on to “Adolescent Sexuality” and “Sexual Politics in the Netherlands.” Both will be fascinating, I have no doubt, but I’m expecting the third week to be my favorite. You’ll understand why when I get there, I think.

I seem to be more outgoing here. More confident. Less shy and more expressive. I go through phases, of course, and there are times when I need to be quiet and alone and introverted, but there is something about having something to do every day that helps me. It’s different than back home, where I can spend an entire day–or multiple days–at home without interacting with anyone except for Onyx.

The lesson of the trip so far, though really of the last few weeks including before the trip, has been one of “worthing” or worthiness. What I mean by that is life seems to be conspiring to remind me of how worthy I am to be in it, and how worthy and relevant my work is to the world. I have struggled with this for a long time, as long as I can remember. I have been working on this and working up to this for a long time as well, and I have been slowly chipping away at the walls I built up around me during childhood. Chipping away at those walls that kept my tender heart safe, that kept me safe from the pain and grief of rejection and ridicule, but those walls that also kept out joy and belonging. As Brene Brown says: “you cannot selectively numb emotion,” which I would extend to you cannot selectively numb experience (though that’s basically the same statement, isn’t it?).

I have allowed myself to be disregarded and walked on because I got used to it. I put on a strong facade well, but inside I have been terrified by life. I have been terrified at fucking up and doing the wrong thing, making the wrong decision, saying the wrong thing. Of course often this experience means I keep myself from doing what I need to or want to. Often this experience paralyzes me into inaction. Often this experience keeps me from showing my full and true self to those around me, even those close to me.

I am sick and tired of living my life this way. I’m done. I’ve been dedicating myself to opening up, to connection, to vulnerability, in an intentional and conscious way now for a couple of years, and working to find the right direction for many years before that, and now I’m ready.

I’m ready to stop selling myself short and really embrace my strengths, rather than just focusing on my weaknesses and where I need to improve. I will still recognize those things, I will still work toward improvement, but I do not need to ignore the strengths in order to change the flaws. (In fact, I believe embracing the strengths will help me change the flaws; funny how that works.) I’m ready to stop cowering in the face of my own abilities.

I’m ready to stop inconveniencing myself for other people in hopes it will make them like me. What is inherent in that is the assumption that I’m not worthy of being liked, that I have to trick people into liking me because I am not good enough. I still want to offer my help to people and inconvenience myself for them at times, but to make it a common practice when first getting to know someone is just not useful. The reasons behind it are not useful.

A lot of these realizations come out of a relationship that blossomed and then wilted before I began to talk about it on here. I’ve had a draft of that up for months now and haven’t known what to say about it, which may have been a sign in and of itself. These are realizations I have needed to make for a long time, and there are more where these came from, but it’s a start.

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