It took me until Tuesday to choose to crawl out of a difficult downward spiral. And it doesn't always feel like a choice but it is. Most of my self care choices are around preventing or relieving chronic depression, a condition I inherited from a lineage full of folks who chose to self medicate with alcohol. This self medication also contributed to traumatic events and violence I experienced as a child that I continue to heal from today.
If you are interested in hearing a smart woman talk about owning her body, performing erotic dance, selling sex toys, living a very realistic NYC performance artist life, subverting beauty standards, and finding a place to express yourself while being weird or exaggerated, you should watch this documentary.
I met Bryn almost ten years ago at a Mixer party (I think that's what it was called) at Levi Braslow's loft apartment. I thought she was a cisfemme who was really into conventionally masculine trans guys but it turned out she was trans. It took me a few weeks, she told me and laughed at me. She also didn't tell me she was HIV positive until years after we met (she got progressively more out about it). She moved from rural Ohio to Michigan to New York City, if I'm remembering the whole trajectory. Even though she was from Ohio she was in rural Appalachia and definitely identified strongly with my West Virginia loves. She was queer country, through and through.
Bryn was slow to get to know. I was in the phase of my life when we met (around 26/27) that I was quick to make friends. If I thought you were awesome I would trust you right away. She was more like a cat who comes into the room you're hanging out in, scopes it out, but it takes a long time to hang out and chill. We talked about that, years later, when I realized that my overly trusting nature was getting me fucked over by people. She and I agreed there was probably a healthy middle between her inclination and mine. I wonder if that shifted for her?
Inspired to create a series about self love by the People Magazine series "Half Their Size," the Half The Self Hate series is about how artists and activists have put into practice the radical act of loving oneself in a society that commodifies self hatred. This is a series about self love triumphing over self hate, and valuing yourself as a radical act of resistance.
Gender Outlaw and legend Kate Bornstein joins the conversation about learning to let go of self-hate:
"I don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules about gender and sexuality—rather, I can explore the non-binaries of me. The struggle? I’m a double Pisces. I don’t struggle so much as I wriggle. I’m wriggling toward being the most fun me I can be. The challenges all seem to come down to someone else’s respectable rules, regulations, standards, and values. I’m wriggling away from all that, as best I can. "
There are lots of ways to deal with anxiety, of course, but this is what has worked for me and what works for some of my pals.
1. Pay attention and course correct.
I treat feelings of anxiety and overwhelm as warning signs. They’re my own personal “check engine light,” some kind of acknowledgement my body, mind and/or spirit needs attention. If I’m having anxiety come up more often than usual than I know something is wrong and I need to do the work to assess what’s going on in my life and where the imbalance is. If I were on Car Talk and talking about running a diagnostic, I would do the things I know to do when I need to diagnose what’s going on with me. Journal, phone a trusted friend, stop and look at what’s going on in my life. In the January example, I knew what was going on--I had three friends and one of my cats pass away in a three week span in December on top of being primary caregiver for someone with cancer. Any one of those things is a lot! I needed to be gentle with myself and take care of myself.
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“Marriage is like a chlorinated community pool that we now have access to. I think that people forget that queers have been swimming in the ocean the whole time. We have always had to be creative about how we create our love relationships and, now that we don’t have to be creative, I hope we still can be.”
As part of the THX4SUPPORT hash tag project happening today on Twitter, I wanted to point readers to a resource I think is totally invaluable! Kate Bornstein, gender warrior and auntie to so many of us, provides this free pdf of the "Lite" version of her book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws.
Head to this link for the free pdf download.
I just want to say about suicide that I've been there. I've thought that life wasn't worth living anymore and gone to great lengths before to end it all. And I'm so grateful that each time I even started down that road that there was something by the grace of the goddess that got me to reconsider, or at least procrastinate about it long enough to decide not to. I'm so grateful.
You can keep the learning going, single or while in relationships, with a cadre of lovers or while between regular bouts of getting banged. Doing the work of getting to know your body and getting to know yourself sexually is a gift you give yourself for the rest of your life. There are lots of different ways to learn about sex--there is so much knowledge available to willing explorers. Below are three body positive resources that will help you get in touch with your sexuality from a body positive perspective!
And beyond just telling us the who, where, what and how of her life, she's extremely revealing about her process. Not just some of the deepest parts of her personality (as Kate says in the book, "Life's better without secrets,"), like her diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, but also the internal process of what it was like to be here. She cracks open her heart and shows us the internal realities of growing-up and adulthood prior to transitioning, many ongoing touchstones of what it was like knowing she was "girl," how she related to it and how she either leaned into it or away from it with facial hair, women, weight and clothing. Her lifelong battle with anorexia, how she learned to starve herself and then how she learned to think she could be pretty while being voluptuous. What it is like as a cutter, the pain and relief and how she used it to get through. Vivid plans for suicide attempts.