Courage

My dashboard garden is back and I’m so happy to watch these beautiful creatures grow!

I feel really great in my body these days. I wish I’d known sooner what hormones could do for me. The experience of enjoying my physical body in the mirror and under my own fingertips rather than feeling trapped in it and persistently worried about how I look IS AMAZING!!! Seriously, I had no idea daily life could be like this. I think T is lifting a lifelong fog of depression and anxiety off of me and I’m very thankful for it.

To everyone who ever point blank told me to my face that “they just see me as a girl”, or “I just seem more femme rather than butch to them”, or that “I just look better when I dress girly”, or that “I’m not a tomboy b/c tomboys don’t wear dresses”, or any other reinforcement of the female femme ideal — which is already constantly crammed down my throat by the rest of the world (and to which I don’t usually choose to interact with face to face): You are a huge reason I didn’t get here earlier. I need you to know that. I need you to know that not because I want to tell you you were wrong, but because I want you to consider the weight of pressuring others to be as you wish them to be. It hurts to be told you can’t be who you feel you are. It is a painful lifestyle to persist holding a line you’re told to hold which feels wrong, and some of us are good enough at holding on, that we really need friends and to have role models who see us for who we are and who give us permission to let that line go.

I sincerely apologize to anyone if my words or actions have ever made them feel small about their identities or wrong about sharing themselves with me. It’s never been an intention of mine. I haven’t always understood as much about how my words affect each person I’m speaking to, and I know I’ll make mistakes in the future too, but I want to know when I do. I want the opportunity to reconsider the meaning of my actions. I want to be better than my mistakes.

I roundly thank everyone who has seen me and believed me and accepted me as I’ve journeyed and evolved and learned to articulate myself over the years. Without you I would still be desperately wanting things I didn’t feel I deserve to get (which is on me, but you all really helped me out a lot).

As I write, acknowledging this feeling of happiness I’ve been feeling since starting T, I want this moment to be a reminder to consider the impact of our very human desire to label others — especially to their faces — with labels we’re comfortable with rather than the labels someone else tells you they want to be labeled as. Almost every single bit of information we take in in this world is gendered, racially loaded, ableist, and constructed to tear our individualities down for the benefit of a privileged class. We can (and must) change that by considering one another not as objects, but as individual creatures with vibrant internal worlds which we will never be privy to the full intricacies of without asking first, without believing the answers we receive, and without caring to wonder more deeply about who we’re interacting with in the first place. When someone tells you who they are (and who they are not), consider believing them immediately before questioning what they’re saying. Consider asking questions about how that works if you aren’t sure you understand. Consider trusting people who gather the courage to tell you something about themselves.

Love from my glowing, growing, vibrant garden inside, and as always —

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature (Crea)

Please support my work at Patreon. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist 
~Thank you.

T is for TRUST

“Tiger Scratches”, from a delicious and fun pre-negotiated scene where I got to say “yes” to straight razor cuts happily, and feeling safe. Photo by Jon Gunnar

Lately I have been feeling growth uncurl within me. A number of “I want tos” and “I wish I coulds” have been calling. I am ready, I think… Gulp. I read an article, imagine a scenario, pen a response… I want these things. Yes, I do.

This matters because all my life wanting has felt very unsafe to me.

Trust is an elusive imp playing tricks on what we think we want, pitting our desires against the gut’s “mmm… I don’t think so, no”… We learn to push this imp away our whole lives, listening to those around us who we feel pressured by. We learn to say “yes” when it feels like biting off more than we can chew. It’s hard to swallow, the experiences we motion ourselves through, after negotiations like these. Trust deteriorates in time, and we don’t know where we are anymore, what is good, or what we do because we think we’re supposed to. It takes time for us to learn to listen better to our guts, to our trust imps, in this life full of advertisements about what we’re supposed to want.

I do not really love sex. Perhaps this is because my first sexual experience happened at age 4, and it was a coercive, threatening, and manipulative situation which robbed me of my trust in friendship and trust for my own feelings of attraction. Maybe it’s because I was punished directly after escaping the situation, and so I carry this eternal kneejerk reaction to sexual attraction of distrust. Relationship negotiation holds within it a visceral fear that I’ll get in trouble if I pursue the thing I think I want… I get quiet and go even further away when people get angry or frustrated during sex, I glaze over when people make demands, and it’s been hard for most of my sexual history for me to stay present. I feel generally unsafe around other people’s perfectly natural desires for sex. I don’t want this though. For a lot of years I just did what other people wanted, or I measured the success of my relationships based around how regularly “it” was done, because I didn’t know how to actually connect during sex. Sex felt like a game I didn’t understand, a game I was always behind on the rules about, and I did what I thought I was supposed to because I couldn’t find my own desire for sex most of the time.

I’m glad I’m not there anymore (entirely). For me the key to trust and opening up was learning to say “no” and having my “no” respected and celebrated by those around me.

I was at a sex party once, and the theme was “asking for what you want”. Everyone came to the party prepared to practice asking for what they wanted — nothing was off the table. When everyone arrived we started our opening circle, we all had a turn introducing ourselves and revealing our first “ask” to the group. Mine was this:

I want to practice saying no. Would anyone be willing to spend some time propositioning me about various activities so I can practice saying no to them?

At the time it seemed kind of silly and counterproductive to (at a sex party) ask people to let me reject them. However, I have to say, this was one of the most healing and brilliant experiences I’ve ever had. That night’s exercise launched me into years of being able to practice my nos, so that I can actually now locate my maybes and yeses.

It was so hard to do, it turned out I needed a coach. I was approached by a few people at the party who wanted to play. They asked questions, to which I was supposed to say “no”, or “no, thank you”. It turned out I was impossibly bad at just saying no.

Them: Karin, may I kiss you?

Me: Oh, I love kissing, but maybe not right now?

Them: Well, can I pour hot wax all over your body?

Me: Wait, no fair, I love that activity! Um, maybe another time, not right now…

And so it went, with my “I’m really sorry I have to say no right now”, “well maybe later, it’s not personal, I just can’t right now”, or “that sounds interesting but I don’t think I can right now”, and so on…” Every “no” I gave was actually a maybe (?) or in reality, it was a “not-no”. I was finding it emotionally and psychologically extremely hard to pause, find my actual “no”, and simply say it while looking in the faces of my friends — friends who actively wanted me to say no!

I don’t think I’m the only person like this. I believe it’s a pretty normal response from a lot of people. I might even go as far as to say it’s probably exceedingly common among people who have experienced sexual trauma, from AFAB people in general, and I assume it’s a well practiced response from other minority people too. I think the art of “not no-ing” is heavily enculturated in our society. Part of what not no-ing is, is positioning yourself passively around a larger animal that might hurt you. Compliance is self-preservation. We hope to ease away from a situation while appearing compliant when we “not no”.

Simply put, I couldn’t put my foot down firmly because I was afraid to. Deep deep down, even in this safe space surrounded by encouraging friends I was terrified of saying no. I had one friend, let’s call her Jane, who was amazing that night. She kept asking the same question over and over again until I simply said “no” or “no, thank you”. After every qualification I made she shook her head and re-asked:

Jane: May I go down on you?

Me: That sounds really nice, but not now…

Jane: No, try again. May I go down on you Karin?

Me: No thank you, but not because I don’t like the idea of it…

Jane: May I go down on you Karin?

Me: Um, no, but ask me again sometime?

Jane: May I go down on you Karin?

Me: … … … (deep breath, crying a little, terrified) … … No. Thanks.

Jane: (Looking me in the eyes) Thank you, Karin. I’m really glad you told me no.

(I’m still really emotional reading that.)

I wish I could say I was cured from that point onward, but I haven’t been. I do know a lot more about my feelings now, and I know how to slow down and listen to myself better. As a rule these days I pause after being asked for something sexual or sensual, I try to find my “no”, and I don’t say “yes” until I can imagine doing the activity and imagine (or feel) myself wanting to do it. If I can’t imagine doing the thing, or doing things leading up to the thing, I say “no”. If I can imagine doing it and enjoying it, I say “I’d like to try”, and sometimes also “I don’t know if I’m totally into the idea, but I’d like to see if I can get into it, so I’d like to check in a bunch while we try”. If I’m ecstatically into the idea of what’s proposed, I say, “yes, I’d love to!” Sometimes when I realize I’m not into a proposed idea, while I’m finding my “no”, I’ll think of something I want to try instead. In those moments I’ll say “No, I don’t want to ____, but I’d like to ____ if you’re interested in that instead?”. Honest negotiation is what ensues.

If I can’t trust your “no”, I can’t trust your “yes”. This is where I have learned to stand, and it’s a radically helpful idea to hold onto. It has helped me communicate more directly, clearly, and unapologetically about sex, BDSM, and my boundaries with people. After practicing it over the years it’s become more and more easy to communicate about (and even feel) my feelings. I’ve found a lot of people I’m negotiating with appreciate these conversations too. Most people are struggling on some level with social expectations or worse when it comes to sensuality and sexuality. When I am direct and lead with my boundaries and desires, I find other people often feel safer talking about what they do and do not want as well. I’ve been able to negotiate lovely and crazy-seeming things with people consensually and to great end because we negotiated by asking one another about what we don’t want, which then frees us to outline exactly what we each do want. This in turn leads us to more deeply trust each other and ourselves in the process.

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature (Crea)

If you like my blog, please check out my Patreon Page and support me. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist

~Thank you.

Power of Right and Wrong

Don’t let my tits stop you from calling me “Sir”.

We all like different things. While there are a lot of objects, experiences, activities, places, etc. many people enjoy, there are probably no things which everyone enjoys — certainly not enjoys equally. There are multiple ways to do the vast majority of tasks… So, why do we frequently teach within the paradigm of “right” and “wrong”? I think there are better ways. What is the value of teaching without an exploratory sense of one’s subject? Is critical thinking an important skill across the board? When we make mistakes are we resilient enough to call them out ourselves or do we cling to the intention we had when we made the mistake? Are you willing to look at the ways you might harm someone? How hard is it for you to apologize when that occurs? Can a conversation be reset when it gets tense? How? Do you prefer thinking of yourself as “a good person” who’s intention is not harmful — end of conversation? How do we learn if we believe we are “good” at our core, instead of accepting that we also sometimes fail which may make us look “bad” to others?… How do we reconcile these points of view within our communal outlook and interactions with others?

When navigating conversations with actual people intersectional understanding can come in handy. It is entirely possible to be knowledgeable about one community and fail interacting with a person from another affinity group when we don’t understand that a different approach is more respectful than the one we’re used to. This does touch on the dreaded concept of identity politics, but there are more and less useful ways to look at the politics of one’s identity than black and white rules of conduct. People’s identities are more complex than their affinity groups, and even identity itself is not “who a person is”, it’s simply representative of aspects of that person.

I’m suggesting what’s potentially helpful in this scenario rather than what exact phraseology should be used, but take these two phrases:

  1. “Never say things like that to a ___ person”.
  2. “I don’t appreciate being approached in that manner, it feels disrespectful considering my identity as a ___ person”.

The first sentence, though straight forward, condemns a person for not knowing something, for making a mistake within their engagement of the speaker. It implies they are bad for having done something wrong and could feel like a scolding. The second sentence takes responsibility for the speaker’s feelings, tells the other person something about why it’s important to change their approach, and invites them to engage in a more respectful way. Obviously there are many different ways to have this conversation, and wording preference or tone consideration can be helpful but shouldn’t be taken to extremes. Intent also matters (to a degree) within the imperfect conversations we all engage in. Nothing is all one or the other completely.

What this boils down to is power dynamics. It seems to me that people who don’t think a lot about power dynamics (often because they have been more empowered throughout their lives as they’ve navigated the world) frequently complain or double down when it’s brought to their attention that their approach toward another person isn’t working or is actually hurtful. What if instead of needing to be “right”, that person could find it within themselves to be curious — to know that they meant well yet also failed at being good to the person they meant well towards?

To open my heart to others means getting bruised sometimes, and it also means unintentionally bruising. The alternative to trying and failing is to be shut down, shut off, incapable of compassion, not curious about possibility, and eventually, I think, to become nihilistic above hopeful concerning the human potential for peace and evolution. I believe in our better selves. I believe in struggle leading to understanding. I believe in being uncomfortable for a while while I struggle with situations or concepts which hurt my head or heart. I believe in these things because questioning will make me understand the mechanism I’m confronted with better than arrogance. When I treat people as they wish to be treated (rather than how I wish to be treated), when I apologize for my mistakes, when I care to learn better ways than the ones I am familiar with, I become a better person to the people I am around. Learning to fail gracefully and adapt graciously is far more useful, in my opinion, than being right all the time within a small world constructed from a  bubble of self-congratulatory homogenous ease.

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature (Crea)

If you like my blog, please check out my Patreon Page and support me. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist

~Thank you.

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