I’m getting some new headshots done today by the talented Meg Allen, with the aim of reflecting me as a little bit more west coast and a little more joyous.
All the recent headshots of me, while technically beautiful, like this one by Kristy Boyce, which is one of the most gorgeous shots of me I’ve seen, have me looking so … miserable. The agony just seeps through and it’s depressing. I can’t use it for much. “I don’t mind earnest, or stern, or serious—I play all of those things a lot, and it kind of goes along with the bad-ass-top thing I am portraying,” I wrote to Meg this morning. “But these just look … sad.”
I keep thinking about this head shot of Sherman Alexie’s from a few (10?) years back—he’s open mouth laughing and it’s gorgeous. I remember being captivated by it when it was on the back of his book Ten Little Indians, and thinking how it was so unconventional, and also had so much deep joy.
So that’s what’s on the agenda for today.
We were together four years, and had sex six times in the last two years. Six times! I counted! I was going crazy, tearing my hair out with desire and want, getting off in secret and feeling guilty, feeling depressed and anxious and unmotivated. I wasn’t writing. I couldn’t write anything without writing I want out of this relationship but I wasn’t ready to face that. I couldn’t get sex off my mind. So I decided that anytime I wanted to have sex, I would either go to the gym, or I would write erotica.
… So of course I wrote a lot of erotica (and didn’t really go to the gym). At first, the writings were all what I wished we’d done, what I was daydreaming about.
“You did this little twist with your hips this morning that made me want to press you to the wall, hard, and take you right then.” … “Mouth open eyes closed, fingers pinching your nipples, working every lingering inch of me inside you. It didn’t really happen this way but it could have.” … “I can’t even hold a conversation with you anymore because every word in my mouth is clouded with why are we not kissing right now?”
I started writing things, sentences, syntax that I actually kind of liked. And as I started breaking through, I started discovering what was inside the block: a deep unknowing—on both of our parts.
I was struggling to become butch, but I was also struggling to become myself.
So I did what I knew to do with writing I kind of liked and was afraid to own: I put it online. I wanted to study myself, more than anything else: to study sexualities, genders, and relationships. To make a graduate study of these things, to read all the books and read all the blogs and listen to all the podcasts and ask all the facilitators I could find what their best philosophies are for these tricky topics. It became a sanctuary, a writing prompt every day, a practice, a deepening of what I knew about myself and how to be me in the world.
It has been a personal study. This place has been the place where I’ve become me.Of course, my college girlfriend (here known as “The Ex”) and I broke up. When I started writing and telling the truth to myself again, I couldn’t stay. It was a mess. I didn’t know how to leave. I didn’t know that not having good sex in a monogamous relationship was enough of a reason to leave, but I now do believe it is. I fell in love, hard, and got burned. I started healing, and grieving. I dated and explored and studied, I wrote and wrote, I started teaching. I fell in love again. There’s a lot more to all of those stories, but you can mostly read those for yourselves in the archives.
Somewhere along there, I started asking myself: “Now that I got everyone’s attention, what do I have to say?”
I’ve been puzzling through that, trying desperately to make a living to enable me to keep doing my work these past few years, which is part of why you haven’t heard as much from me. I’ve been trying to come into integrity, into integration, bringing who I am offline together with the vision of myself I came to know through words. I’ve been struggling to create myself a life I can settle into, one that is sustainable, that can last, that can feed me and carry me into the work that I know I have to do in the world.
I haven’t figured that out entirely, yet, but I am getting closer. My life has been radically restructured in the past year, and I need some retreat and some quiet and some inner work so I can feel into what the new mission of my work is here beyond my own personal liberation. Telling my own story has been and will continue to be an important part of it, but there is more to it than that. I seek structure and vision in a bigger way, and I don’t quite know what that means yet, but I can feel that I’ve been moving steadily toward it.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for all of your comments and support. Thank you for your emails (even when I don’t have time to write back as thoroughly as I’d like). Thank you for coming to my workshops and buying my books. Thank you.
I love my job.
Some of the other anniversary posts:
- Sixth Anniversary
- Fifth Anniversary
- Fourth Anniversary
- Third Anniversary
- Second Anniversary
- Bed Death, Standard Variety: the post that started it all.
(The anniversary of Sugarbutch starting was Monday, April 29th, but that was my first day after a long 6-day training and the day before I left for a two-day trip to Madison, Wisconsin, so it took me a few days to get to it. Now I’m hitting “publish” from an airplane 30,000 feet up, zooming back to the Bay Area. We live in the future.)
I have so much to tell you about. My arrival in California, sunshine, really good kale and well all of the vegetables here really, my feelings and grief, surviving heartbreak, what it’s like to have skipped the very end of winter and the very beginning of spring and moved on to full-on blooming, how the fog rolls down the San Francisco hills, that I’m staying at a place without indoor plumbing and electricity and cell service and wifi, how I really like staying at a place that relies on candles and one small solar outlet to charge my cell phone, how I am grateful to be staying at a place with chickens and mud and daffodils and raccoons that stole my cereal last night but how much I marvel and am grateful for the two warm showers I’ve taken this week, how forget-me-not flowers grow everywhere here, how easy it is to keep falling in love, how I’ve been getting re-focused on work, how I recorded the first audio file that may become a podcast that might be called Butt Buddies with my good friend Amy yesterday, how many events I have coming up in the near future including University of Tennessee Sex Week (can’t believe I haven’t written a press release about that yet) and UW Madison and judging at IMsL and another tantra training and a Lambda Literary Award reading of Cheryl’s book since it’s a finalist and the IMsL Bawdy Storytelling and maybe that’s about it.
But I don’t have time to write a big feelings post about everything, so meanwhile I have a few small things to share.
I was at Smith College in Northampton recently and they—students, faculty, alumni, and community supporters—are fighting for trans inclusion. The group Queers & Allies (Q&A) has started a petition, and I encourage you to read about what’s going on and sign it.
Also, if you are in or near Vancouver, BC, there is an amazing exhibit coming up. SD Holman has been collecting a series of butch portraits—she took my photo at the BUTCH Voices Portland regional conference in 2010—and now, her photos are displayed on Vancouver bus stops everywhere with the caption, BUTCH: Not like the other girls. She’s also got an exhibit of these portraits April 9 to 25. Here’s an article and more information about that.
Wish I could be there, but April is pretty damn busy in my world. I’ll be all over the country and working a lot. I’m really excited to keep refocusing on work and writing, and I have so many ideas and things in store for Sugarbutch.
I’m reading a lot. Light things, but well-written things, because I need something to completely occupy my mind that I don’t have to really think about. I’m journaling most days, but not writing anything worth reading, just a lot of purging. Emotional vomit. Navel-gazing, which I used to sometimes think was a good thing, self-insight, self-reflection, but now seems trite and self-indulgent. I’m waking up and most of the time going to sleep. I’m staying up late and then not being able to wake early. I’m waking early and not being able to get back to sleep. I’m reading reading reading on the subway at the cafe on my breaks when I can’t sleep anytime I need to try to stop thinking all the thoughts that are circling circling circling like predators. Like hawks. Like something big and heavy that you see from far away and it doesn’t look that bad but when they get close your pores start to shake. You start sweating and your pupils dilate. Those kinds of thoughts are still stalking me. All the things I did wrong. All the ways I have doomed myself. All the things that I could’ve changed didn’t change am never going to be able to change. Reminding myself that I am not doomed. Telling myself over and over again that I did the best I could we did the best we could no one is at fault no one is at fault. Sometimes I even believe that. Loss happens. Errors of judgment happen. Perfect storms of chaos happen, all the best movies know how if any one factor in the plot would have slipped out of place, it wouldn’t have happened that way, but that the universe conspired somehow to shatter that rain of misunderstandings and missed connections and opportunities down upon our heads. But I try to remember that sometimes all of creation is conspiring to shower us with blessings too. Could that be true? Could I really believe that people are fundamentally good, at the core? It’s what I say I believe, and most of the time that belief is not tested. This is when I need faith. Hope.
Hope is when you look out the window and you go, ‘It doesn’t look good at all, but I’m going to go beyond what I see to give people visions of what could be.’ —Anna Deavere Smith
I don’t think I can tell the truth yet, because I don’t yet think I know what the truth is. There’s not just one capital-T Truth anyway. There are many truths. My truths and your truths and our truths are perhaps three different truths. I think I’m done believing in objectivity. I don’t think it’s possible. I distrust people who start sentences with, “Objectively speaking …” How can anyone see objectively? Sometimes I can squint and look at things sideways and sometimes, just sometimes, I can take myself out of the way of the experience for a glance, a frame, a whisper of smoke. But usually only long enough to get one thought, one perspective, not long enough to really grasp the three-sixy view.
I don’t know what happens next. I know I keep trying. I know I keep writing and striving and crying on my sister’s couch in the mornings. I know I stare at the tree’s brittle branches scraping against this window in the wind and wondering which will break off and which will make it to bud and which buds will pop open to that baby green spring. Oh right, it’s springtime now, isn’t it. When things long dormant start to wake. When things waiting waiting for this freeze to thaw start to tentatively uncurl and test the air.
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. —Anais Nin
It’s such a risk. Everything is, from this cup of coffee to that service I just cancelled to the appointment I made for next week. No one really knows if next week will exist, but now that this week is here, we proved last week that next week existed, and I am trusting that’ll keep happening, until it doesn’t. That’s all I can do, anyway. I think I have some more trust in me, though it’s thin. I’ve been paving the roof of my mouth with it for months. It leaves a coat all sticky like too too sweet honey. Makes me crave mouthwash, some salt water gargle to cut the aversion of the over-sweet. Some crumbs of sourdough bread. Good thing I’m heading west, back to the salt water where the sun sets over the ocean instead of over the land. Somehow, it has always seemed more correct. And in the absence of light, I’ll look east.
Power in the silence. Power in the sound of a lover’s name.
Book notes: Excerpt from Carrie’s Story, when her dominant says he’s going to sell her at a slave auction. Cleis calls Carrie the “thinking readers’ submissive.” Cecilia Tan about the Slow Surrender series: “I would call it the “BDSM billionaire” genre, also known as BDSM romance, also known as “If you liked 50 Shades of Grey, you might like this book.” Buy them through my Amazon store and you’ll toss some pennies my way—see the store for more of my erotica recommendations, too.
When Kristen & I were in Toronto for the Unholy Harvest kink conference in October, we had a photo shoot with Kristy Boyce who is doing a project called What Dyke Looks Like. She’s a professional who had a vision, and Kristen and I were at her apartment and out in an alley in many different settings in front of many different backdrops with all kinds of light and flashes and fancy things to help her complete her vision. We had a blast.
These are just a few of the shots—there are many, many more and I’m excited to show you even more. Kristen looked so hot and there are so many of her in lingerie and a bomber jacket and looking badass and epic.
All this is to say, Kristy is coming to New York City! She’s shooting folks here this week, 8-15 January, and is specifically in need of subjects who are dyke-identified. If you might want to have your photo taken, contact her directly to make an appointment: email@example.com.