Making Peace #14

Doors Openings

In my last apartment, none
of the doors shut completely. I
hung hand towels over the tops

to make the seal tight enough not
to open with just the slightest
push. In this new apartment,

the doors all latch firm shut, but
I keep crashing into them, throwing
my shoulder into the wood, touching

them with my toe, a small kick,
an elbow, a slight push, expecting
them to open. Though the truth is,

they would all open, eagerly,
with trembling pleasure, if ever
I uttered the softest request.

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Shadow Comforts

“Put nothing between yourself and your grief.” —Tara Hardy

So I get raw. Strip away that which makes me numb. I try to substitute something else, unconsciously, until I realize and strip that away too. Showering feels good, turning up the water just a little too hot. That wakes me. Movement feels good, but I am so sluggish I can rarely remember to do it. Like my brain tricks me to stay still and not feel. Close and collapse and tighten, it silently urges.

But I don’t want to.

It’s so much easier to push it down, push it away. Easier to numb out the heart. Easier to harden. In some ways, I wish I was that kind of person. I miss the ability to turn things on and off. Or—can you miss something you’ve never had? I am envious of it. Want more of it in my own life. Want a little light switch on the back of my neck. That’d make for an interesting tattoo. I have enough marks but sometimes I seek more needles, more things staring at me, yelling, you survived. Marking time passing. Marking a different state, so I can remember that things always, inevitably, change.

I have thrown myself into shadow comforts. Films, tv shows, food, alcohol, sex, power. I even started smoking again. Quit now, once I left New York there wasn’t quite the need to regulate my anxiety so daily. I caught a cough the week I came here and didn’t shake it for long enough to stop wanting them every couple hours. I wonder if the same will happen for a drink. Still, in the evening, when I’m done working, when the boy comes home from work, I crave a little something in my glass. Something liquid and smoky to sip on. Ice cubes clinking.

I lied. I do want to.

But I’m trying not to. I’m trying to be aware. My brain that is seeking aliveness, awakeness is sometimes at odds with the part of me that screams, I can’t feel anymore of that stop just make it stop I don’t care what I have to do just stop. Take a deep breath. Feel down into my feet. It will pass. It’s probably temporary. Just wait, and feel it, and be still.

Those are the easy shadow comforts. There’s also Facebook, reading things online but not really reading them, being way too busy, sleeping until noon. I am on entirely too good of terms with all of those habits these days. I am not good at being still, but I’m not good at moving either. I’m not sure where my aim is, so I’m not sure how to move. The apartment where I’m staying has an arrow on the wall above the bed and I stare at it when I can’t sleep. How do I become an arrow? How do I find a target at which to aim? How can I make myself sharp enough and strong enough and capable of riding the wind enough to find something close to center? I filled out a form today for a coaching session with a I’ll-make-your-business-better coach and it asked, Where are you now? Where do you want to be? … That’s kind of what I need to figure out. Sometimes I think, I could do anything, if I only knew what it was.

But grief is a fog, something that envelops, “its tropical heat / thickening the air.” Something I am choking on, sometimes without warning. I’m all fine, thin sunny air with lemons and lemonade and ocean breezes through the leaves making the most pleasant sound, then I get a flash and I’m on the floor, searching for that one foot of air that isn’t already black. Floundering. Grief. I don’t know what happened. It feels like a before and after, the landscape devastated, muddy brown everywhere. The rage bubbles up like the electric tea kettle water which is probably done in the kitchen and now back to cold. Push the little button down again and make the blue light appear. Does twice-boiled water have any benefit? I’m floundering now. It doesn’t matter. Either way, I will make some tea and get another sweater because I haven’t been able to warm up at all today.

I’m trying to listen. What does my body need, what do I need, what do I want, what would feel good. Maybe not even good—nice. What would feel not like a football thrown by a pro straight to my chest. Anything but this. Anything but this. “Shadow comforts say, ‘Come home to your life.'” wroteJen Louden. I’m trying to come home. I know there’s a boy and some fresh vegetables, even a bit of chocolate, my most important things. Funny how little I have discovered that I really need. Thirty boxes in storage waiting for an address, four suitcases from sublet to sublet. I don’t need much. I’ve been looking at photos of myself all afternoon and now I feel the ghost of me behind each of these lines. My own image is starting to come into focus. I already know the answer to all of those questions. I don’t know what that means, but I know it’s true. It’s not time to sit still. It’s time to move. I have already purged. I have already fed myself full, gorged on honeysuckle and lavender ice cream, water with meyer lemon that puckers just right, all of my favorite things I am letting myself indulge in. I don’t know what else is going to happen, but I know I’m heading toward home. The compass of my body is telling me it’s time.

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Inner Emotional Landscapes and the Sublimity of the West

“Emotional landscapes / They puzzle me / Confuse …” Bjork sings in “Joga.” This has long been one of my favorite songs.

I am in love with the western United States, the pacific northwest in particular. If you followed my column on Eden Fantasys about my love affair with New York City, Mr. Sexsmith’s Other Girlfriend, you may remember that I also wrote often about visiting Seattle or San Francisco or other cities and my ongoing draw to being out west.

There are amazing things about living in New York City, like the Public Square and the community and the lack of bullshit and the lack of people offering you sliding scale energy work when you’re crying on the subway, and in a hundred ways, New York has been the diamond I’ve cut and formed my adult self against. Not a lot of things have been hard enough for me to form against—Seattle certainly wasn’t. I wanted something more.

But the actual geographic land over here … has never quite been enough for me. I drive outside of New York City and into the Adirondacks or the Catskills—places people call mountains over here but that I tend to call “mountains” or, more accurately, hills—and into the rolling baby green hills of pastoral New England, and I can’t really separate the cliche picket fences and porches and quaint mailboxes with this puritanical moral ideal of the nuclear family, sexual shame, and policed gender roles.

The west, though … the Rockies … I have such a different relationship with the earth when I’m over there, when I’m looking at towering peaks on my morning commute, when I see the canyons and the deep green forests, the earth cut by water and carved out by glaciers. I feel so much more at home, so much more connected.

It’s in part because that is closer to my landscape of origin, that is closer to the drama of Southeast Alaska where I was literally created, birthed, and grew up.

But it’s partly something else, too. I think it’s partly because the grandeur, the sublimity of the west looks a lot more like my inner emotional landscape than the pastoral, serene east.

I talk about my “inner emotional world” or “emotional landscape” frequently. Lately, I’ve been talking about how many earthquakes it has endured, how much instability is in there now. Sometimes it helps to visualize the earth cracking apart, splitting, the magma of the earth spewing forth to destroy whatever structures I’ve put into place, like in that Joga video.

I like to talk about my emotional world in geographic metaphors. I’ve been deeply shaken this year. I’m still trying to clear the rubble and rebuild. A friend of mine recently said that she thinks the apocalypse—the impending end of the Mayan calendar, uh, tomorrow—actually is “all the hard stuff all at once” for everybody. It’s certainly true for me: the power dynamics in my life have dramatically shifted, my relationships have shifted, I woke up after a couple of months of being unconscious to find myself buried under a mountain of shit out of which I’m still trying to dig myself.

The sublime nature of the western United States matches my inner emotional landscape so much more than the east.

And if you’ll forgive the comparison, being out in the east feels incongruous almost in a transgender type of way—that my inner self does not match the outer surroundings, and I feel a serious disconnect. When the outer landscape matches my inner landscape, I feel integrated and whole in a much more comforting way.

Perhaps I should be aiming for more inner peace, inner calmness, such that the pastoral landscape surrounding me could be a goal, rather than a reflection. I don’t know about that. I’m a student of buddhism and tantra, and those lineages say that it’s not so much that I think our inner selves are peaceful, but that we separate our divine nature Self from the monkey mind self that is often chatter chatter chattering.

I don’t think a dramatic, sublime inner emotional landscape is bad. I think it’s real. I love being deeply in touch with emotions, experiences, divinity, the universe, energy, god, myself—whatever you want to label that. Lately, I have been incredibly reactive, moreso than I usually am, since my inner world has been such a disaster, but I usually have much more space between my reaction and my response, I usually have more control over my ability to respond, my response-aiblity if you will, and I am using all of my tools to lengthen the space between my reactions and my responses. (Meditation helps with that practice immensely.)

I’m getting better. Slowly waking up. Bringing myself back into alignment with these paths, my callings, my desires, following my goals, containing my time and energy and emotional landscapes. But I miss the west. I miss the mountains and valleys and deep lakes and rainforest. Sometimes I wish I was a better visual artist, that I could actually draw out an inner emotional landscape map, full of trails and paths and adventures, with maybe even a big X right over my heart to mark the treasure.

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The Beat of a Second Heart

I’ve started crying on airplanes. It used to be ginger ale, now it’s wine. I probably should have eaten more than a bagel, should have had more for dinner last night than a whiskey flight and a kiss, but now I am crying and beginning to hear the beat of a second heart in my chest.

I am exhausted. I’d like to sleep for a year. By which I mean, I’d like to turn down my consciousness in order to have some rest. My rest has not been deep enough, has not penetrated my bones. Too much has happened in the past year. I opened up my chest from the back and wings sprang out, and now I cannot wear my shirts or binders or coats or old patterns anymore. Nothing fits. I am running, running to catch up with myself, when really I’m supposed to be flying. Why else would I have these new tools?

But sometimes my pen won’t move. I love and love and love, aching to make sense, make meaning, make love with my every movement, and sometimes all I can do is collapse because I’m overfull and not full enough. An underactive nervous system prone to depression and shutting down, a blank page. Still I ache and move and nourish and detox and meditate. Still I feel this pulsing in my chest, faint like something coming from within the walls, this second heart beating and every once in a while blinking a tiny little light like a pulsar star. I want to build. To do something with all of this love and throbbing energy and heat and pure life force I am lucky enough to have. I hope to never forget to be grateful for every breath of air I magically take in, every moment of reception, penetration, release, surrender, power. I can’t help but course it all through my every vein.

I am starting to cry on airplanes. It is a place I can rest, so high above my email inbox and big loves (I count five) and the ground floor surface of earth’s crust. I am lightheaded up here, stripped of the daily needs of the world, and when I drop down under my days I find this ache. This exhaustion. This ongoing fear of misunderstanding. This curse of a body, of mortality, of injustice. I haven’t reconciled. I miss the clarity and discovery of youth, of innocence. I’d like to make sense of so many things, like how the black holes grow within us and what it could ever take to fill them, like how stone can trickle away through consistent gentle water, like why humans destroy each other from the inside out. I can’t seem to find meaning in wars, but still I engage, sometimes late at night with the ones I love most. Sometimes silently stowing my own cocks in empty boxes unworthy. Sometimes desperate sorrow. Sometimes the silent blank faith of the line without the next word.

The first day I had wings, it was awkward and inconsistent. The second day I toppled over, top heavy. The third day my errands were effortless.

I guess that’s all I want. Less effort, more sweetness. Less struggle, more radical empathy. To cry because it feels good to release, above, hurdling through the sky, the taste of wine on my tongue.

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Her dirty talk got me off. Twice.

“So,” Kristen said, arms around my neck, looking up from under me, my legs between hers but bent and wrapped around each other, both of us naked, skin to skin, sheened with sweat and still a little bit out of breath. “I guess we figured out what gets you off.”

Not that I – and she – and, let’s be honest, the entire fucking internet – didn’t already know what I like: blow jobs, strapping on, fingering a girl until I make her squirt. But this was different: I came twice in the few recent hours we’d been fucking. Probably mostly thanks to what Kristen was saying.

We’d talked about it the day before. “I want to be used,” she’d said. “Just … fucked with no regard for my pleasure.”

And so I did. And we liked it, a lot, both of us.

“Fuck my hole,” she whispered, “take me, fuck me hard, pound your big cock in me deep. I’m your slutty little girl.”

Just typing that makes my knees go a little weak. Why does that turn me on so goddamn much? Makes my head spin. I feel guilty for it, really, somewhere, just a little, a small piece of me that fears that treating a beautiful, smart, strong woman like that – objectifying, humiliating – is bad and wrong. I know fantasies and role play are so much more complicated than that, that the problematic power play and gender play that we oversexualize for pleasure is just that – oversexualized – in a very specific context, and it doesn’t mean I would ever do those things outside of that context. In fact, the context is what makes them hot at all – the consent – the way she asked for it, explicitly and specifically.

I’ve known this is what deeply gets me off. This isn’t new. I discovered that I could come while strapped on and fucking with Callie, and this is precisely what we used to play with, precisely the language we used, precisely the kind of thing she wanted. I had trouble with it, sometimes, partially because I wasn’t sure I could trust her (go figure) and because of how she demanded it, and that if I didn’t deliver correctly there were consequences.

So this kind of play does open me up in sensitive places, triggers me a little bit, pulls on old wounds of trauma.

I’ve known how much these concepts, this play, turns me on, but I haven’t really brought it up with Kristen before. Well – no, that’s not entirely true. We’ve been building to this, been learning each other and building trust and playing with consent and dirty talk and power play. We’ve been building to this, and it’s of course I wouldn’t have come to her on the first date – or in the first month! The first three months! – and say, I want to take you down like this. I want to fuck you until I get off and disregard what you feel, whether you like it or not. I wouldn’t say that! Even now, I have trouble writing it out – it’s more complicated than that being what I want, what I crave, because while it is, I just can’t get there to do that until I know for certain that my respect and honor for her are in place – and that I know she knows that, too. That I know some of her history and why she craves to be degraded in these ways. I need the trust to be there, and a deeply feminist understanding of sex and power play such that the issues of consent and degradation are clear, understood between us, and ultimately irrelevant to the way we play.

So I didn’t say it first. Honestly, it never occurred to me to this extent – if it had, I might’ve brought it up. We have played with elements of this, but nothing quite so specific or elaborate as we did yesterday. But I so needed that extra little piece of consent, that explicit permission which came from her – so I know I didn’t coerce her into it – that says take me. Overpower me. Use me.

We talked about this a bit recently – I wrote about it – about how hard it was for me to get off and how much she wants – we both want – me to get off more, and one of my major conclusions in exploring that has been that I pay so much attention to her, how she feels, what I can read from her tones and moans and body language, that I forget to pay attention to myself. It’s a strength of mine, to be observant, thoughtful, to pay attention to the person I’m with, I think it makes me a good lover and friend, but it doesn’t always serve me well: I loose myself sometimes, in ways even that I don’t always recognize at the time.

(I wonder how this relates to my history with Callie too, the ways I lost myself so totally and terribly with her. Maybe my getting off (easily) with her wasn’t actually deep connection with myself – or perhaps that’s unfair, since honestly that’s precisely the benefit that I took from that relationship: knowing that I needed to learn to deeply trust myself. But maybe the ways I came with her were about something else. Regardless, whatever connection to myself I began culminating with her was so challenging to keep while dealing with her neuroses and insecurities.)

And that’s precisely what Kristen brought up when we talked about it later: it makes sense that it is a big relief, and release, for me, when I stop doing that. When I no longer put someone else’s needs above my own, and in fact allow myself to override theirs with mine. I never do that, sometimes to my own determent. So being able – and being asked explicitly – to do that sexually is a huge, huge turn-on.

What I’m trying to say is, Kristen & I opened up something deep and wounded and complicated and beautiful and fucking powerful yesterday evening. It brings up guilt, it triggers some old wounds, brings some of my issues of overattentiveness to the surface, and makes me feel so strong and powerful, like the king of the world.

I know you want to know more about what it was we actually were saying, those dirty, filthy things that got me to come inside her twice while strapped on, during a blow job, during a punishment spanking for her being such a dirty girl, during some intense fucking with her ass in my hands and her legs in the air. It’s taken me all day to get through this, unfortunately, so I’ll have to write up the dialogue tonight and get it to you tomorrow.

Did I mention how much I am just totally loving my life? I can’t believe what an amazingly dirty filthy sexy hot freak I’ve found. And? She likes me as much as I like her. Grateful, grateful, grateful.

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Sexual Autonomy & Freedom

Written for the 15th Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom & Autonomy. Thoughts in response and reflection to my own call for contributions.

Let me say this: I don’t think, in this culture which vilifies sex and punishes especially female sexuality, that I will ever be “done” reaching my own space of sexual freedom and autonomy. It is probably an endless task, a lifetime battle.

Let me also say this: I have crawled up out of shame by my bloodied fingers and I am not going back. I stand on my own two legs, strong-cunted, and I am not going back. I drive the engine of my body hard, glide it through passageways I have previously thought unnavigatable, and I am not going back.

Maybe ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is freedom.

I would not have had the sexual awakening I’ve had if it wasn’t for feminism: the feminist health movement, the theories of consciousness raising, the lesbian sex wars of the 80s that produced porn and smut and BDSM with theories of liberation at their roots.

I am so grateful for all the things that have contributed to my gaining of sexual autonomy and freedom, to my sexual awakening. Nancy Friday’s book My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies. My high school boyfriend telling me kink was great and fun and he respected me, too. Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio and Cunt Coloring Book by Tea Corrine and Femalia and Nothing But The Girl; The Blatant Lesbian Image and the entire series of Best Lesbian Erotica (especially 1998). Kitty Tsui and that one scene in Breathless with a knife. S.I.R. Video and Hard Love / How to Fuck In High Heels and Sugar High Glitter City. Babeland, which taught me more than I thought there was to know. Body Electric, which woke me up to my own power, and still does. The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book. The Ethical Slut, which changed how I see relationships. Pink & White, which finally made porn I wanted to own and watch over and over again. My academic studies and my degree in women studies which taught me how social change works. Dan Savage and Savage Love.

The fucking INTERNET. From BBSs to chatrooms to the web to Wiki After Dark to Scarleteen to RAINN to the amazing sexblog communities. The connection to marginalized community despite distance and fear.

Let me say this: I don’t know how any woman grows up and develops her sexual autonomy and freedom, let alone a queer woman, let alone a genderqueer butch or femme. These are not things that are built into us, no matter how progressive our families, no matter how much our parents loved us. There are so many layers to the damage, and the length of the legacy is long and wide, the depth of those wounds are long and wide.

Let me also say this: for me, the first step had to be seeing those wounds, recognizing the damage. By beginning to feel what a “healthy sexuality” (uh, whatever that is) felt like in my body, I could more easily differentiate between the damage and the strength. And I learned to use erotic energy to heal those places in me still reeling, still healing.

Why do you think gender dynamics are so erotically charged for me? I was damaged as a girl. As a girl, I was damaged. And I don’t mean “I was abused when I was young” but rather, that this culture hurt my girlhood. That’s why I turned to feminism as soon as I began to understand the power of social conditioning and gender roles: to learn how to undo the damage.

And why do you think I love femmes something fierce? Our wounds run parallel. We are the same, but opposite; opposing, complimentary, full of traction and friction when we rub against each other. Lay your wounds here next to mine, they fill and warm and comfort each other.

Why is gender so erotically charged for me? Because it has been the site of so much discomfort, so much damage. Not just for me: for my friends and lovers, for my sisters, for my parents, for the one boy I ever slept with, for our collective unconscious. So when I take it and corral it and tame it, when I become the Gender Whisperer and see the thoughts in its head despite our different languages, when I learn its language and teach it mine, I become strong. I take the lead. I win.

I know, I’m supposed to be writing about sexual autonomy and freedom – so let me tell you this: I cannot untangle gender from sex from power. They are all the spiraling sugar-phosphate backbone in the DNA of my sexuality, and it wasn’t until I unlocked my gender that my sexual liberation truly lived in my body, that my sexuality was truly realized and in practice. It wasn’t until I had a cock – no: it wasn’t until I had a girl who knew what to do with my cock.

My gender is the language of my desire, my attraction. The ways I communicate physically.

Say gender is a drag, but also say this: I wasn’t me until I discovered my own gendered space. Butch – but not just butch, high butch – but not just high butch, capital-H High capital-B Butch. My body has never made as much sense as it does, now, in button-downs and ties, in sweater vests and cufflinks, hell, even tee shirts and jeans feel right now that I buy them in the department that cuts them to fit my body, square, even lines, corners, dark colors.

It’s not that I want society at large to treat me as male. It’s not that when I put on men’s clothes, I liked the way I was subsequently treated differently – though I was. But the difference was greater than that: I gained autonomy. I gained agency. I gained my own voice, my own stride, my own body, my own control. And I love the disconnect that most people see – female body, masculine presentation – I love witnessing the subtle struggle of random passers-by.

Just by living in the world, walking down the street, I set out a challenge. I work hard to make this masculinity, this presentation, an acceptable way for a woman to live.

Say gender is constructed, but also say this: something in me lines up and sees clearly when I get to express myself just the way I want to. I know how to deconstruct – I know how to break down and examine and look from various angles and research and consciousness-raise and bounce ideas around. And I’m learning how to construct, how to create, how to make myself anew from the inside, all the way out.

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what happened with Penny

We split up; we ended things a little more than two weeks ago.

It’s more complicated than that, but I’m not going to go into it here, for a few reasons. She could be reading, she knows I run this place, so I won’t be writing things here that I wouldn’t say – or haven’t already said – to her directly.

I respect Penny; I think she’s wonderful and there were many great things about dating her. This is probably the most sane breakup I’ve had in years, and I’m grateful to her for that – likewise, it was probably the most sane relationship (and, duh, as you know, some of the best sex, too).

I’m working through unraveling my understanding of what’s happened, my responsibility, my part in things. This ending – this whole relationship interaction – has shed some new light on my own ongoing story, pulled on old wounds, brought up some new ideas, and I am spending time exploring them, writing about them privately. I do miss having this place as a space in which to do that, because a lot of you readers have been following my relationship adventures for the last two years, and a lot of you know a whole lot about where I’ve come from, how things have been for me, what I struggle with, and my conversations with readers via comments are often very illuminating.

My understanding (so far) is that we wanted different things from each other and out of a relationship. It does feel like a loss, I’m sad about losing the things that were beautiful. But sometimes it’s just not a match, I guess.

authority on the internet

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Buddha

I’ve quoted that before, but I’m reminded of it again recently. It’s a quality that I always seek in those from whom I wish to learn.

I’ve been using the internet actively for the past fifteen years, since I was fourteen, and that’s not actually exaggeration; I caught a little bit of the BBS days, but really got my feet wet with the telnet chatrooms that were gaining popularity. I’d use the public library’s telnet system and my dad’s engineering computer to chat – live! with people from all over the world! – in Coffeehouse and Shadowlands.

And, as many have said, including Audacia Ray in her recent study of sex on the internet, new technologies are always first used for porn and sex. So, as a teenager, not only discovering a new technology, but also discovering a new sexuality, my primary sexual awakening was online – writing, corresponding, typing out fantasies, and asking questions to a hive mind of various perspectives and orientations and kinks.

I didn’t experiment a lot in person, it wasn’t appealing; but online, I could do anything, and it was safe. Of course, it wasn’t always safe. But I did pretty well for myself. I learned lessons, got smarter.

I started my first personal web pages in 1996, and have had open diaries, livejournals, javascript notebooks, and finally, blogs, online ever since then, in various forms of anonymity. Sometimes totally anonymous, sometimes under my real name. I understand how these communities build and fall and swell and fade, I’ve watched many of them, I’ve built some of them, I’ve heard stories from others who are interested in these things.

In 2000, two major things happened for me: I went back to college after taking four years off after high school, and I came out as queer. At college, I further my informal studies of feminism with gender studies, queer theory, and postmodern theory. I have two degrees, one in Gender Studies with an emphasis on social change, one in English with an emphasis on creative writing.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading books, watching films, going to workshops and conferences, seeking out mentors, reading blogs of personal expeirences, going to feminist sex toy shops, talking to friends, about gender dynamics, their personal relationships, queer oppression, social change, labeling, sex, sex techniques, sex toys, seduction, pick-up artistry, androgyny, lesbianfeminism, the 1980s sex wars, intersexuality, transitioning, binding, packing, taking T, putting on makeup, shopping for dresses or bathing suits or earrings or purses, shopping for ties or cufflinks or slacks or a tuxedo, radical acts of subversion, generational differences, strapping on a cock, the history of gender in the US, kink, domination and submission, rope bondage, BDSM, and uh all sorts of other things.

Not to mention that I, personally, have experience with these things in my relationships, my life, and my communities.

When I think about it, all of that history makes sense that here, fifteen years later, I’ve finally settled into this small niche of my varying interests – writing, inner emotional landscapes, sexuality, queer theory, gender theory, feminism, butch/femme dynamics, self-awareness, love, and relationships.

I’m not writing this to brag.

I’m writing this to show where my authority on these subjects about which I write come from.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll continue with all this research into these topics if or when I meet someone and develop a successful, fulfilling relationship, I’ll be disinclined to continue, because I can simply live it, instead of theorize about it all day every day. Perhaps I’ll move on to my next obsessive research subject – building alternative families or aging or performance poetry or who knows what. Perhaps all this has just been my own research into How To Be Me – chivalrous kinky writer, queer butch top, and feminist lover of femmes – In This World. Sometimes I feel like once I “figure it out,” I won’t have to be constantly doing all this work all the time.

Of course, there’s no easy way to simply figure this out, and once it’s “figured out” it’ll probably change, anyway, because it’s increidbly fluid; not only my own understanding of it, but the cultural understanding as well. It’s amazing how much has changed in the past ten years – even five years! Things are moving and growing, and I want to be a part of this activism, this forward motion, this quest for us all to be our highest, best selves, accepted by the world in our freakery.

(I digress.)

My point is, I was reminded recently how easy it is to get online and create yourself as an authority about something on which you are not. And it’s sad to me, and disappointing, how easy it is for people to get sucked into something so false.

I know the internet. Know these blog circles quite well, I correspond with hundreds of people, read intimate, detailed blogs, have friends that I’ve never met but whom I’ve followed for years online. There are some amazing, lovely folks here who are using these tools, this digital medium, to express what is the most true and beautiful and real about them.

But that’s not true of everybody. I find I can usually spot those who are not authentic; they stand out, somehow, I go to their site or read their work and think, something’s just not quite right. It puzzles me, because I don’t use the internet that way, and because there’s such a better way to use this digital tool to connect, so why would you do it the other, less effective and more inauthentic way? Probably out of pure ignorance, frankly – but I don’t really know.

For y’all out there reading, especially about things as completely personal and delicate as your butch/femme gender and sexual identities, this is just a reminder not to believe somebody unless you have reason to do so, don’t take them purely on their word, wait until they prove themselves to you. Identities are fragile, and can get damaged so easily when we don’t have adequate support and validation around them. It’s so easy for one big, painful misunderstanding to put someone off of something entirely, when in fact it is not indicative of how it could potentially function.

Dan Savage had a great call on his Savage Lovecast last week (seriously, it’s now the #1 podcast on the internet, and you’re not listening to it yet?) about developing a bionic bullshit detector, which has also got me thinking about all of this.

Many of us place our trust in people too easily. And when it comes to the very personal and delicate subjects, such as what I discuss here on this site, I really hope you do (respectfully) disagree with me sometimes, I hope you don’t assume I always know what I’m talking about, I hope you question me sometimes, I hope you ask who the man (ahem, “man,” don’t get the wrong idea) behind the site is, I hope you check authority credentials and expect proof of authorty.

I also hope I’ve earned it, from you, from visitors to this site, from readers, from friends, from acquaintances, because I work hard to do so, to stand behind my philosophies by living inside of them, to have a consistent personal narrative, to have reliability in my character, to admit what I don’t know, to speak on things that I know well. In some ways, I’ve made a formal study of these things too, since the one particular ex who manipulated me into such a frenzy.

There’s no easy way to know who’s conning you and who is authentic except to be cautious, I think. (Dan Savage and his caller had a few ideas, too; see, now you really have to download the podcast, don’t’cha?)

As much as I have made a semi-formal study of these topics, and as much as I do have some authority here, I also will always say that everyone needs to figure it out for themselves. I’m thrilled that my process is useful to others, and I’m curious about the processes that don’t look like mine, too. This is me, doing this work, going through the processing, reaching these identities for my own self – now, you go do yours.

On Butch Breasts, Binders, & Bras

I’ve returned to earth – mostly – from the altered state of consciousness of the Power, Surrender, & Intimacy workshop by Body Electric that happened here in New York City over the weekend. I have so very much to say about it, but that’ll have to wait for now, I need more time.

What I do want to write about is breasts. Specifically, mine – more generally, butch breasts.

Last week, I went for one day without my binder, which is really just a tight sports bra that clasps in the back rather than being a solid over-the-head slip-on. I wanted it laundered for the workshop, since I’ve been wearing it practically every day since I bought it.

I wore a backup bra that day, and all day long I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror, in storefront reflections, in my button-down work clothes, or when I looked down. I remembered how I used to hate the uniboob problem, which many of my friends and lovers deemed unsexy or mannish, and it’s not that I like the uniboob look particularly, but as my gender has changed and grown and dropped into itself, the uniboob doesn’t look like a uniboob anymore: it looks like a chest.

It is not that I want to do away with my breasts. Don’t misunderstand me here: I think breasts are butch, just as I think the menstrual cycle is butch and pregnancy is butch and cunnilingus is butch – everything the female body does can be butch, because butch (in my use of the word*) has to do with masculinity on a female body.

And because I believe that the things a female body does are butch, and because my gender philosophies are deeply rooted in love and acceptance of my body as it is and in not classifying human experiences as owned by one gender or another, I have been holding back my desire to delve farther into my own masculinity. I’m afraid of it. I’m afraid it means I’ll be leaving my roots in female-ness behind, I’m afraid of being seen as reproducing the heteronormative paradigm or embodying penis envy. I’m afraid of being rejected by feminist and lesbian communities for being too masculine, for becoming the ‘enemy,’ for rejecting femininity instead of reclaiming it.

Breasts are a big piece of this fear for me. Mine are not so small – part of why I rarely pass: a 36DD, and have been since middle school. I’ve said since I was a teenager that a breast reduction is the only surgery I would consider. I read about Jess’s surgery – or others’ surgeries and body alterations – and I’m jealous.

But I’m afraid of what it means to want that alteration, to want to physically change my body to better fit a gendered idea.

After that day last week of wearing a regular bra, I started wondering: why do I even have this in my closet anymore? Why do I own this? My exploration of my own masculine/butch/boy/male embodiment is young – I’ve been calling myself butch since 2001, but only in the last three years have I really embraced it and actively, consciously developed it. And now, the farther I get into my explorations of gender, the farther I want to go.

It takes time to cycle through a wardrobe, and I don’t quite have the disposable income to go purchase all new bras – but I certainly won’t be buying any regular ones anytime soon. I’ve gone through this with my underwear already, years ago now, have cycled through all the old girl undies and haven’t owned any of those in years, only have boxers and briefs now. But that feels less obvious than binders and sports bras – no one can tell I wear only briefs except my lovers, I guess, but everyone can tell I bind my chest.

And see, what’s what it is now: my chest. Very different than boobs, breasts, tits. I have those, sure, but they’re underneath, they’re the other layer, the inner ring, something that now gets protected and covered, not out of shame or denial but simply out of layering, complexities, performance, a rich inner life, a duality, a whole person – me.

* Some say men can be butch, that “butch” is a term for a queer masculinity, or a non-traditional, progressive masculinity. I’m not certain I agree, but we definitely lack language to discuss different types of masculinity, and I have definitely observed some men who have a sense of butch energy.

In Praise of Femmes: Trust

I’m going to attempt a new series of writings in praise of femmes. This is the first officially, but it follows in line with in praise of stretchmarks.

This past weekend and some amazing time with Penny (more on that later) has me thinking about trust and femmes. I wrote recently in a dramatical moment, “I just don’t trust femmes anymore” – with immediate caveats and retractions – and I want to expound.

It is femmes that I perhaps trust the deepest. The way I am received – not just cock-and-cunt, not just my fist inside the muscular bowl between your legs, but all of me: when my strong hands weaken and flutter, when I cry, when I laugh too loud, when I give up give in let go, when I feel my power slipping and you put it right back into place with a gentle flick of your wrist.

It is within your embrace that I make the most sense. Callie was the first femme I ever dated, the first relationship where my affections were returned tenfold (before that, I’d loved a femme, my best friend, for years, but that was tragedy. After that, The Ex, who I thought was more femme than she was and that caused constant tension between us).

I know who I am around you. My carefully manufactured, deliberately manifested masculinity suddenly has a purpose, a function, a use, and it excites you, makes you cry out and give in and let go, turns you on. My gestures are held by you, witnessed, caught gently and cradled, and oh my god thank you for that.

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

This dynamic runs deep in me. Who knows why – nature, nurture, socializing, fetish. I need it, ache for it, me a teenaged pretty-boy (you say), you a powerful goddess. And you must know I never use words like goddess to describe women (too cliché, too overused) but yes that really is what I mean here: magical, strong, miraculous, seductive, creational.

I was made against you. I can think of a couple of you specifically against whom I break and become myself: Callie. DateDyke. Muse. Strong enough to catch me, strong enough to let me sharpen myself against you.

And it is this power that scares me, that now brings these feelings of mistrust. Because I love this dynamic so much, fetishize it even, it touches deep primal nerves in me. I become carried by it and have trusted it – the dynamic – more than I trusted the person. I let her use her femme-ness to get what she wanted, I let her use beauty, seduction, soft skin and flirty submissive eyes. I watched it, I even knew what was going on, and I let it happen anyway.

I know better now, I guess, I hope. I should pay attention to the red flags of constant “conflict,” I shouldn’t have gone to Mexico, I should’ve been more honest, I shouldn’t have fucked her if I didn’t have the aftercare in me.

I’ve said it before – it is one of my greatest flaws: I trust what people tell me. I am convincible.

There really are charms that only femininity, only femmes, only queer femmes who know how to treat sugarbutches like me, possess. Charms that unravel me deeply, that pull me apart. When it’s good, it clears out the cobwebs, shines light into every dark corner, exposes all the cracks and flaws and structures that hold me up, and then, even, fixes them, or attempts to. I am made more whole, more complete. When it’s bad, I have been destroyed foundationally, or attempted to be. Piece by piece picked off and explained in a new way that suited her. My dick in a mason jar under a sink, punished. My every action her fist closed tight around.

It is good I am strong. I come from a strong family who gets along, a queer lineage of kisses, teachers who respected and taught me, who sheltered me and pushed me hard, who said I was worth something, who said we all are, who said stories of marginalized groups and communities must be told, who said I could and should change the world, who said I could do anything, who encouraged me to come alive, who said they liked what I had to say. And I have this place – this personal writing project I refuse to call a “blog” because it is so much more than that, it is revolution, it is community, it is self-awareness and witness and a very lighthouse.

I have built up these tools around me so I don’t fall prey to this problem of trusting femmes. It is because femmes are who I love, who I partner with, for whom I deeply ache that they are capable of such unraveling. If I partnered with butches it would be a problem trusting butches, if I partnered with straight boys or trans women or blondes or tennis players it would be a problem trusting them. And perhaps this is why women as a whole – and femininity – are seen as untrustworthy, sneaky, manipulative in our culture: because men – hetero men – are the ones who partner with this, and men are the ones who have held the pens to write our histories, to write their great love stories, which have involved many broken hearts and many malicious women, because love is scarce and precious and delicate.

Femmes are not untrustworthy. Femmes are who I trust the very most, with whom I make the very most sense, with whom I am more myself than anywhere else.

I am scared, and skeptical, about what it may mean for me to trust, to explore, especially around the specific ways that I can lose my head in this dynamic. It’s new to me, and it affects me deeper than any relationship ever has – I’ve never lost myself so completely in a lover before. So now comes the fusion: the combination of the intense, passionate sexual dynamic that comes with gender play, and the knowledge of relationship tools that I have been collecting and building upon since I began dating fifteen years ago (half my life, now. Amazing). I have the support, the community, the friends, the knowledge, the inner strength.

So.

Bring it on.

declining politely

I saw a girl on the subway this morning so beautiful that I have considered writing a Missed Connections ad on Craigslist:

Red bag, paper cup of coffee, black tank-top, silver necklace, boots with two rows of big buttons marching up the front. Tossing your slightly feathered hair, talking to your friend, then when she got off, you pulled out your compact and began applying face powder, lipgloss. It was such an intimate act, and something about it felt so familiar, like I could see you at your mirror in the morning, getting ready for the day, me pulling my tie through the knot, slipping on my jacket, sipping coffee, pretending to read the paper, legs crossed, at the kitchen table, when really I’m watching you in the reflection of the mirror in the hallway while you’re in the bathroom. And, though perhaps I don’t want to admit it, I felt a little crackle in my chest when I watched you.

Probably it was just my being half-asleep on my commute that gave more meaning to this girl than I would otherwise attach. But this is not the first time this has happened to me lately – I see sudden, recognizable familiarity in a femme and think, maybe that’s her.

I’ve been sleeping awfully this week. Every night, I’m having restless dreams, vivid and sometimes lucid, often full of imagery and messages.

Tuesday night, I dreamt I was stuck in my family’s crypt, a small mosoleum of some sort, which was above ground, walls covered in stained-glass colored mosaic windows. I couldn’t leave this crypt, though there seemed to be some sorts of tours going on, with people in small groups of twos and threes coming in and out. Some of my family was there, my maternal grandmother and her mother, I specifically remember – and things somehow began to turn horrific, and the crypt tourists were zombies, or dripping blood, or other horrible things. I had some sort of perch in a corner, somehow removed, they couldn’t see me, but I was terrified.

I woke myself up at this point, and lulled myself back to sleep only to re-enter right into the same dream, the same crypt. This time, my mother was there, talking to me through the gated door, saying that it was my responsibility, my job, to stay there, that I inhereted this, that it was passed down through generations and all culminated in me.

I awoke feeling that I had remembered something, rather than dreamed something.

Two personal asides: in my astrological chart, I have many planets – Venus, Mars, and Mercury – in the 12th house, and also in the sign of Pisces, which is the 12th house’s natural ruler. The 12th house is often spoken of as the unconscious, and also baggage. In fact, it’s specifically related to family in many ways:

The 12th house may also likely have connections with “family life issues” or “gifts” that our parents (and perhaps our parents’ parents) were given… but they refused or were emotionally unable to give expression to and/or resolve these “family life issues” during their own lifetime. And now it’s been left up to the child (you) to experience and resolve these energies for the parents. (source)

Second aside: I am the fourth generation of first-born daughters. My mother, her mother, and her mother were all the eldest child in their families, and there’s actually a word for that (which I can’t remember or find) and some sort of significance of, again, inheritance.

I spoke with a friend the other day about this, and she said, “The thing is, you don’t have to “inherit” it. You can politely decline the ancestral karmic stuff. It’s not your baggage. You can honor it and honor your ancestors, but it doesn’t have to define your life now. You don’t have to live in a tomb of their making.”

Politely decline.

Decline politely.

Right. If only I could remember that lesson – and, clearly, it is a big one for me. I don’t have to take on everything from everyone, I don’t have to save the world.

I do, however, have to save myself.

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loose ends

I don’t think I was very clear about this whole contest entry request thing. I’ve had more than a few emails and comments about how much detail I’m asking for, and I am realizing that I should’ve given an example for what kind of information I’m looking for. I was hoping the form would help with that, but that ended up not being so clear either (and then had a character limit, and was cutting entries off).

So, to be totally clear: this is an example of what I mean when I’ve said details and lots of information:

Characters: Sinclair & Claire Danes. Claire: redhead, petite, great legs. Particularly proud of her pouty mouth, that could be a nice detail somewhere.

Setting: Central Park & Claire’s apartment. We are both in the park to watch a free concert and catch each other’s eye. Claire approaches Sin, flirting insues, Claire invites Sin to walk her home.

Story: Claire is very bold and asks Sin up for a nightcap; proceeds to seduce her with jazz music, fingers in Sin’s hair, a short skirt. When Claire gets Sin to the bedroom she gives Sin a blowjob and then straddles Sin, fucking until they both get off. Claire then ushers Sin out kinda fast and laughs at her attempt to get her number.

See? Some major things for me to elaborate upon, major plot points and details, but not TOO much. I mean, if you want to write the story yourself, you are welcome to do that – actually, I may have another contest in the works (possibly – we’ll see how this one goes) that plays out that scenario. You’ll have to hold onto your hat for that one.

One more thing:

Say you’re a little kid and you wake up in the middle of the night, and out of every window you see huge flames, fire, crackling wood, glowing red and orange. Scary, right? You think the world is ending. You think the entire world is on fire. You panic. Your parents are already engulfed in it and your dog is probably gone too. All you can hear is tree limbs falling and snapping.

Then, your door opens. Your mom comes in. “It’s okay, honey,” she says, “it’s only a forest fire.”

Get it?

That’s why this is only a broken heart. Because for the past two months it has felt like my world is ending. My sense of self is crumbling. Things I thought I knew were wrong, and twisted, and twisting my very sense of reality. But I had a moment this week when I realized this is only a broken heart this is not the end of the world, this is not the end of love.

I hate being misunderstood. Add that to the character study of myself.

PS: Sugarbutch hit 50,000 hits sometime this morning. Thanks, readers. Despite my occasional bitchings about details and misunderstandings, I really appreciate the comments, feedback, and presence of everyone.

a study of my own character

Sometimes we all wonder how things come to be. A chain of events: A leads to B leads to C leads to Z. Each life is made up of big decisions and each day is made up of a million little decisions. What shirt to wear, what street to walk on, what to eat for lunch. Now all of these seemingly inconsequential choices may change your life forever. But who can handle that kind of responsibility? It would paralyze you to think about it. So you have to trust your instinct, what the Greeks might call your character. You better pray to whatever god you believe in that your character knows what the hell it’s doing.

– opening monologue from the 1997 film Playing God

I’ve been thinking a lot about character lately. Not only because one of my long-term goals, especially now that I’m getting back in touch with my own life path and am less preoccupied with throwing all my emotional/mental/creative/romantic/leisure energy to someone else, is to write fiction – by which I mean novels. More than one. And I love character studies, it’s one of the reasons I love writing, reading, psychology, drama, humans, living.

That sounds cheesy, perhaps, but it’s true. Sometimes I realize how much all my interests come together to aid me in what I really believe is my own life’s ‘higher purpose’: writing. And encouraging personal expression. (I have lots more to say about that, but I’ll save it for another time. Most if it is still formulating anyway.)

So, I’ve been reading Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist can Learn from Actors by Brandilyn Collins, and it’s not just any actor from which to learn these secrets, but the famous Stanislovsky “method acting” approach. Very interesting stuff, I tell ya.

(I’m also reading Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose which I’d also highly recommend. Trying to keep myself inspired literarily. It seems to be working, though I haven’t been generating much work that I would call particularly notable.)

And I think I’ve also mentioned that I’m in therapy, and have been seeing the same therapist since mid-April or so. I really like the idea of long-term therapy, but I’ve never actually been with a therapist longer than a few months. I tend to get discouraged because I’m pretty good at being able to put together a narrative for my life, I’m pretty good at drawing my own conclusions and making my own connections, which I think is what most people get out of therapy. So I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what it is that I could get out of therapy, how to approach it, what the ‘arc’ of the story with my therapist would look like.

Combined with this recent, more serious literary focus of mine, I’ve begun to see therapy as a form of character study for my own self. The point isn’t so much to change myself, at least not at this stage. The point is first to watch my own stories, to listen to my own stories, to notice the patterns and recurrences and sticking points and issues and whatever else might come up. To begin to bring to the forefront some of my unconscious character traits, the ones that I am so far inside of that I don’t notice.

You know, like how you have to leave your home country – or, hell, your home state – to begin to understand and notice what the localized culture was where you grew up? I have to have some new perspective, a fresh glance, at my own self, in order to get an accurate gauge of my character.

I think getting a new perspective on your own character, re-setting or re-defining your own character, is why people like falling in love so much – or, at least, maybe it’s why I like falling in love. I get to tell my best life stories all over again. I get to explore and express my views and outlooks and ideas about life and love and worship and desire in slightly new, sightly refined ways each time. I get to see someone else’s life presented to me in a beautiful way, and get to shine my own life back at her. It’s a personal study of character: mine, and someone else’s, someone who is particularly interesting, and intriguing.

Problem is, I suppose, that sometimes those character studies are terribly inaccurate. What we present is a selective view of ourselves, of course. Sometimes we present ourselves under false pretences. Sometimes we have even fooled ourselves into believing that we are something we aren’t. Sometimes those guises can be kept up for a long time.

And sometimes, someone else can seem so appealing, so shiny and authentic and intelligent and connected to me, deeply, that I begin to believe her, rather than believing myself.

I know, I know: you all have told me that I’ve listened to myself all along. And you’re not wrong, I know I’ve been voicing my suspicions from the very beginning of this relationship. But there’s still something there I can’t quite put my finger on. Because, see, despite my voicing my concerns, I was so high, soaring so high and felt so limitless with Callie. My own character developed in serious, shattering ways, ways that I feel like I’ve been waiting for for years. In some places, I was willingly torn down, willingly built back up. In other places, she attempted to tear me down and I wouldn’t allow it – there we had conflict. Yet other places in me she put a springboard underneath and I flew, I soared, I rocketed up to a new level, felt things I never expected to feel.

Maybe I’m being vague here. I’m talking about sex, and gender. I’m talking about the ways that I felt like such a powerful, strong, capable top with her. The ways that I was able to take control, harness desire, my own and hers. The ways that I was butch. The hundreds of tiny moments in our interactions where she was femme and I was butch, and I made so much sense, I made so much sense to myself, sometimes for the first time. I’ve always done these things – I’ve always taken care of the women around me, my friends and family, I’ve always been the one to open doors and flag down the waiter and refill a water glass, but suddenly it had purpose, it had reason, it had some sort of intense sex and gender play behind it, and it was so, so hot.

I should be grateful to her for all that growth in me, but it’s still hard to actually feel it, not just know that I should feel it. I’m still too angry. It was as if the lenses all came into alignment over the last four weeks or so of our relationship and then everything became painfully clear.

And there’s still something here I can’t let go of. I hate that she continuously bubbles up to my conscious thoughts when I’m doing nothing, walking down the street, reading a book, sitting on the train. But there’s something underneath all of this that I haven’t figured out yet, and so I haven’t let go.

What is it?

Something to do with my own character. Something to do with figuring out who I am in the world, who I am as an adult, a woman, a caucasian queer/homosexual/lesbian/dyke, an American, a butch, a top. She helped me make shifts in my very identity make-up, shifts I’ve always wanted to make, but she changed other things too – and now I am having difficulty navigating the world, making all those millions of tiny daily life decisions unconsciously and trusting my character to pull through, because I’m so skeptical of what she has left me with.

How much of my changing was conscious, and intentional? How much of it was for me, and how much was for her (under false pretenses)? How do I figure out what she has changed in me? Sometimes I fear it has run deep, deep within, where I gave her so much permission to go. Where are the places that I wanted to change, where are the places she changed for her own gain?

So, I am beginning an official character study of myself. Through therapy, through writing. I’ve always done it through writing, really, but now I’ll just call it “official” and maybe it’ll get me somewhere new.

Meanwhile, like the buddhists and yogis say, I’m still trying to remember to breathe into where I’m already at, and accept it.