Identity Stories

My Identity is a series of stories I haven’t pieced together yet, and I never fully will.


Thank you Veris Meyer-Wilde for the flier design, and Jonathan Beckley and Rachel Leah Blumenthal for the photos

My Identity when I was young was often reds and tans and warm colors all around.

My Identity at nine was momentary red cheeks, shamed for struggling to put a sports bra on for the first time; pulling it on awkwardly from the feet up backstage in public. Other dance kid’s mothers looked disapprovingly on at my illiterate struggle with the things of a girl. I was told “never do that again”, embarrassment filling my face as I blinked the tears away and erased that moment with adrenaline dancing on stage. I didn’t want to wear it anyway, even though I was mortified by my puffy areolas and awkwardly budding breasts.

My Identity had been red fire-spitting anger and deep aching years earlier. 7 years old. Before I had breasts or other markers of a what-you-want-to-call-it body I was told I had to start wearing a shirt when I was in the summer sun outside. Told this by my father, shirtless himself, covered in dirt and tan in the garden working next to me. I bitterly went about the deed of covering up and never lost desire for my body’s bare skin in the sun.

My Identity was warm rust-red corduroy jeans, stitches attaching a tag picturing cowboys on the back, age 5. I thought I was so tough, so fine! I loved those pants, they made me feel like me when a lot of things made me feel disappeared like I thought I was supposed to be.

My IDENTITY, age 4: threatened and sexually manipulated by an older boy I liked. Escaping from the terrible situation, anxiety through the roof, and then punished for being out of my bed… It sticks with me, This Identity. I still don’t know how to feel safe with most people I like. I have a hard time trusting it will end up ok. I worry I’ll get in trouble or that I’m always doing something wrong. I don’t fight or flight, mainly I freeze and exist elsewhere…

  • Letting someone know I like them is so hard for me to do
  • Saying no follows close behind
  • It takes a lot of time
  • Embracing that I’m a survivor helped me know how to deal with my presentness in the midst of feeling terror and/or turned on
  • After years of struggle I’m still getting clearer

My Identity sneaked a lot. Quiet very early mornings exploring the knife drawer (and paying for it in cuts and blood), finding candy on a high shelf and trying not to make a noticeable dent while “tasting”. Makeup and hairspray packed secretly to school with me and I defiantly put it on in the Jr. High School bathroom. Put it on horribly… Oof my identity. I felt like I needed to be “a girl who looked good”, and I thought looking good meant make-up. I felt so uncomfortable with it on my face and in my hair; being seen like that — weird bad girl-drag in public and I didn’t even pass. I got called out by kids for looking awkward as I tried to fit in like they were doing so perfectly. Eventually I stopped trying and figured out how to comfortably wear me. I let my face be clean, probably mostly reading “dykey woman” to the world, even as my boy face sometimes likes eyeliner and a little tan color on the cheeks when he dresses up. Lipstick still never makes sense to me. Luckily I am a theatrical artist, and I can let my drag be drag; my characters tell me how they want me to gussy up for them, and I can hide behind my Clown Identity when bad make-up makes it to the stage.

My Identity was wrestling with boys and always winning for years through adulthood. I stopped that in large part when I embraced BDSM and Kink. Being punched kicks a cooler set of chemicals into my blood, and the people I play those games with don’t get as frustrated ’cause everyone leaves victorious. I feel lucky and like an equal when I get chosen to receive.

My Identity watched my father shave when I was a kid, so excited to have facial hair myself someday! I was crushed at the realization it wasn’t going to happen… Though who knows, I do want to take T.

My Identity also wished I would grow up to be a unicorn. It was every wish I made as a kid — “because I could be anything”. My young self was sure I’d have a bump on my forehead by the time I hit puberty and I was disgusted with life when I realized that it was never going to happen. Fuck the fourth grade.

My Identity is a lifetime of having biracial family. I care about friends, colleagues, and role models who have skin colors, nationalities, and ethnicities which are not predominantly european/white like my own. I learn every day to better love these people with struggles I can know about but cannot know. I also struggle to understand how to embrace the not dominant parts of me that are not-white, because I don’t look not-white. I’ve spent a lot of years listening, considering my internal emotional reactions to new thoughts, learning from and questioning the space I stand in concerning privilege, questioning what to do with the privileges that I have in this world… I’m not done.

My Identity is thoroughly and completely used to being rejected and admonished, used as an example and embarrassed by religious folk. Even family on Thanksgiving. I’ve been put down for not having Jesus Christ as my saviour, and been unable to engage mythologically or philosophically at the table without being made to feel defensive from personal attack. “Born Again” bizzarro meaning-making has trumped my words and ideas about how to find goodness in humanity outside of organized worship… I’ve been harassed by friends who wanted to convert me, and thrown away/disowned/cut off by family who will not accept the queer love beating in the center of me.

My Identity when I was younger, on a basic level didn’t know what “no” meant, because my no, when I said it at 4, hadn’t created a stop. It was run over and backed up on and sarcastically negotiated with before being picked up, violated, and punted out of sight. “No” begs me ask questions. I want a clearer understanding of meanings, wishes, desires, and dissatisfactions going on behind the scenes, attached to the word and moment. Hearing “no” can feel like opening the doors on a fancy grand ballroom I have never been in before — there is so much to look at and I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing and I can’t stop staring at things and asking questions about what they are. I’ve learned this is not generally the conversation someone telling me to stop wants to hear in response… Now I know what it means, though I still sometimes feel lost on the road of knowing what (after stopping) next to offer or do.

My Identity would come home from a show, and numerous times has had partners turned on by the male drag or female drag or any number of character masks I walked in within. I secretly have perseverated on and worried that the heightened personas I was wearing were more attractive than I was underneath. Worried my identity will never be as stimulating as the lines I draw on my face, wigs I don, and other people’s clothing I put on — to look like identities other people recognize, desire, and accept.

My Identity fears it cannot be seen, though in reality I think my friends sometimes see and accept me more easily than I see or understand myself. There is a special blindness caused by not seeing yourself in culture everyday, celebrated on TV, depicted on billboards and in magazines, or even clearly championed in the safe-spaces one seeks out to feel free, that I am afflicted by. I think it’s probably a good thing — a reason why I think and critique artistically — but I mostly don’t exist comfortably or easily.

My Identity dressed in the trappings of high femme-ininity feels dumb and inadequate. When I put on those shenanigans I am often disappointed and even angered by the people who compliment me more, smile at me more, buy me drinks, or touch me and speak intimately with me after shows without asking. My everyday dress and presentation isn’t a hetero-normatively acceptable or popular display of “female” which I am often assumed to be (nor do I feel particularly feminine), so when I slide into a more femme look, with stockings and sparkles and skirts and bras and wigs, and I am immediately handed that mixed bag of privilege-and-abuse which (while I enjoy looking in the mirror at the charade) also makes me feel alone and all-wrong and invisible and objectified and insignificant next to this “look’s” obvious priority. If I were a girl-identifying-girl I don’t know if I’d feel differently. Who I am is a fish out of water dressed this way, people’s opinions aside… And on top of the internal argument quietly happening, I experience a rush of those sub-conscious teachings I’ve gathered through the years and worked to peel away piling back on me. I start to feel like the real me, without this femme costume on must be shameful and ultimately ugly. I re-feel the crisis-creating dirty impulse to hate what I have, who I am, and who inside I want to be.

My Identity feels so fucking powerful onstage — sharing myself fully, deeply, authentically, and nakedly with a room full of people who know they should not touch me — it doesn’t even matter if I’m in the clothes of another or not. My presence on my terms in front of humans who want to be there and will let me lay out the rules of the evening. Being a Performance Artist makes calm powerful playful fun consensual safe outrageous anything can happen it’s going to be ok sense to me.

My Identity read “The Leather Daddy and the Femme” by Carol Queen, and for the first time absolutely understood what being turned on by erotica meant! I felt my sexually submissive side come alive and knew I wasn’t alone in my fantasies of gay leather culture, Tom of Finland, for some reason ok with my cunt, deeply desiring to be Mastered as somebody’s boy…

My Identity enjoys the freedom and feeling of dresses (it still just wants to be naked) and feels like a tomboy regardless of what I put on. I feel like I’m in costume or in drag as my dress gets more “appropriate” or “girly” or “straight passing”. Give me high fashion dresses and designer heels, and with a sculpted haircut I’ll bind my breasts to match — those looks play with feminine as its own righteous narrative story. Power inside of drapery. The boy me really likes those clothes and I enjoy this not-a-girl feeling of femininity.

My Identity has been told by countless Butches over the years that they just see me as “a girl”, not androgynous or butch enough to be like them. Especially by the ones who’ve been attracted to me.

My Identity has been told by a quadrant of lesbians that the variety of people I fuck and feel makes me wrong, dangerous, a fake, worthless, unloveable, unfriendable, and not welcome or ok.

My Identity has been told by scores of gay men that I’m meant to be nurturing and not sexy and my cunt is fishy; that I do not deserve to exist in the world because they do not [sexually or otherwise] need me.

My Identity has been told some version of that last one over and over by all types of men my whole life…

My Identity was pressured and coerced during social and sexual situations many times growing up and through adulthood. By men mainly. Men who are cis, though there were a few trans ones in the mix and a Butch or two reminding me that misogyny is equal opportunity. My identity sometimes doesn’t know how to navigate my attraction to dominance with my sexual trauma from childhood. Who am I if I don’t do what I’m supposed to do? What is my worth? How do I get this one right for anybody?… And I most often click with other submissive people in relationship — not historically the most rewarding or satisfying combination sexually.

My Identity often just wants to be collared and treated like a cat. No, really.

My Identity likes a pat on the head. So even though it’s more depressing, some days I choose passing.

My Identity has often been labeled “femme” by others even though that has nothing — NO thing — to do with how I feel in my body. I have never even once wanted to be thought of as femme (and I love and celebrate femmes), I’m just not one of them. It makes me want to scream and punch, and I get embarrassed really quickly when I’m called that or am treated that way; I don’t even know how to be in the room any longer — in part because I realize, clearly, that “I” am not.

My Identity my whole life gets called “lady” in restaurants and by random people who shouldn’t be calling me anything, and has fired back numerous times:”I’ve never been a lady, and I don’t think I’ll start being one today”. Lately though, since moving to the South it happens so frequently I find myself not saying anything at all. Why? Because I’m afraid; because I don’t want to make the people I’m with uncomfortable; because I’m not used to it being such a normative norm, and because I don’t trust Southerners to understand (as I do the Northerners or Coastal people); because I feel my identity around others — my self-ness — is a dangerous imposition to claim. I break my own heart every time in that silence.

My Identity intersects with family whose gender is named “interesting”. It flirts with ex-lovers who have been butch, trans, fluid, and androgynous. It is informed by so many friends who are trans and on their various three-dimensional journeys through everything… I have spent years quietly asking myself if I am even allowed to identify as something other than that space I’ve held for others over a lifetime? I’ve been “the girl” in relationship and in the world as a comfort service, I’ve played that role as an act of submission to a universe who hasn’t cared to ask me who I am. It has felt good to make my masculine-of-center partners, friends, and family feel visible and valued as different from me, or my feminine-of-center partners, friends, family feel comfortable, loved, and empowered as similar to me… but it isn’t my inside feeling of self at all.

My Identity lit up the first time I heard the term “social dysphoria“. I don’t have much physical dysphoria when it comes to gender, but that other one, oof! Yeah, I’ll take two. Dysphoria has nothing to do with transness at all, but it was the first time I had words for what I actually do feel and it helped me know that my feelings were ok.

My Identity often tells people I might play with that I’m kink-sexual rather than sex-sexual. It’s the safe thing to do so that I don’t have to deal with the messiness of sexual coercion or disappointments or wrestling with myself later to say the no I mean now but don’t know if I’m safe yet to say… And it’s “pat”. I like pat, but sometimes I feel like I’m betraying my rabidly sexual side because of always being afraid first. Upfront cock-cunt-or-junk-blocking is easier than disappointing, but when our connection warms up, I don’t actually know how I’ll feel. In truth the thing that turns me on most is not having sex expected from me at all, so I guess this plan works even though it seems like throwing up a wall. I’ve learned it’s ok to get there a lot slower than I used to.

My Identity breathes easier because in my old age I’ve found more and more beautiful people who gracefully and playfully accept and celebrate my boundaries and definitions of me.

My Identity goes something like:

  1. a submissive masochistic playful boy wanting a SirLady/Daddy/Mommy/Queer-ass Kinky Family
  2. androgynous sensual sometimes animal rough-and-tumble creature-body, and
  3. powerful Artistic Woman who doesn’t want to hold that space in bed for most yet thoroughly enjoys saving Menstrual Blood in a bottle for spells against the Patriarchy, calling out misogyny, loving on other Women, and tasting/feeling/fucking/pleasing pussy.

My Gender is:

  • Creature/imp
  • boy
  • Woman

And I am so many things, but of note I like these:

  • photo-on-11-27-16-at-12-46-pm-6Boy on a runway in a skirt and heels
  • Feline
  • Connection Slut
  • Experimentalist
  • Sensualist
  • Shapeshifter
  • Grandpa
  • Artist
  • Genuine
  • Courageous
  • Karin
  • Me

To Breath and Being,
~ Karin

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~Thank you.

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