I just finished watching The L Word all the way through for the first time. I know, I’m late AF to the party, seeing as the last episode aired in 2009. I was graduating high school that year and was NOWHERE close to admitting to myself that I was gay. Not to mention, in my hometown The L Word was seen as some weird, fetish-porn, “gay-agenda” TV show and basically spoken about like a demonic betrayal of all things wholesome and divine.
However, now, as a newly self-recognized and Out Lesbian, I loved watching it. It was so validating! Sure, it’s dated, missing a lot of broader and diverse representation, doesn’t address transphobia within the gay community, and guilty of stereotyping–but it’s also incredible to see a show that just disregards male significance and necessity altogether. It really shows the intimacy of the world of womxn. Lesbians specifically–womxn who do not identify AT ALL through their need to be connected to or validated through their relationships to men (or at least go through the struggles of that being their truth in a world that tells us we need male approval for survival).
It’s insane how cishet-white-male centric our society is–especially in the States. I watch my female heterosexual friends put up with such bullshit out of the men they date and pursue–and I used to put up with such bullshit out of the men I dated. They continue to put up with it though. The need for male acceptance and approval is so strong, so subconscious, and so necessary for hetero survival in this toxic society. Women are taught by society that we need to be accepted into the Male World (aka, the Patriarchy’s Constructed Society, because there is nothing real or natural about it). I see women who won’t call men out on emotionally abusing them or their friends.
How many women put up with emotional silencing or abuse for the sake of financial security? How many more will endure physical abuse or psychological manipulation for security and acceptance in a world run by men? How many do you personally know–because I know soooo many of these women personally. In many ways, I am still one of these women and trying to empower myself out of the mindset every day.
Why are we so trapped?
Internalized fear? I know my father made it seem like if one man didn’t want to fuck me they’d tell all other men in some secret MALE ONLY social network and I’d be forever blacklisted from being in a relationship with any male ever. I was convinced of that, ridiculous as it sounds.
Stockholm Syndrome? Learned Helplessness? We have been so oppressed by the patriarchal forces that be, accepting our roles (shitty and demeaning as they are) is a necessary means of survival without facing the severe internal depression that becomes expressed through “hysteria” and “women’s troubles” and now mental illness. (Not to say mental illness isn’t legitimate, but that we often don’t acknowledge that it’s cause is traceable and many of them are results of abuse.)
So many heterosexual women, even feminists, will cut men slack when they emotionally abuse others or gaslight women into thinking they’ve overreacted or are being overly-sensitive when we call them out for mistreating us–and why? We make it seem like they’re incapable of the emotional depth we have to get over their shit, and aren’t we all one species and one existence? The trap of seeing men as a NECESSARY part of one’s worth, value and ability to succeed is one deeply engrained in the average American woman. Ever so subtle, but undeniably present.
Since coming out, I have been able to see things in my own life clearer. Suddenly, interactions that were once confusing make complete sense. For example, I have always found myself to be the strong, independent girl in the crowd. The one who called men out of their assholery if they hurt my friend (though never able to stand up for mySELF), dead-eyed them for making sexist comments, and didn’t laugh at jokes that degraded other humans. When I was being myself, and not the Self I had to be to be accepted and approved of by men, I was a bad bitch–and I’m becoming that bad bitch again the more I permanently pull away from the belief that I need male acceptance and love to survive and succeed. I’ve definitely had moments of feeling down on my own worth because all of my other friends were receiving male attention and I wasn’t. It has made me doubt myself so much in the past–Am I too cynical? Too harsh? Too aggressive? Intimidating? Miserable? Ugly? Fat? Annoying? What is wrong with me that I can be hilarious and beautiful to all my friends and no men want me? How do I change myself to be more what they want? How do I become submissive, enjoyable, complimentary–fake–for their acceptance?
Well now that all makes sense. I never wanted them, and getting their approval was a temporary fix to a much larger problem. Plus male approval isn’t as satisfying as it promises to be when it’s first offered. The attention I sought from men was nothing like what I want (and deserve) from a real, loving, intimate relationship. It’s nothing like what I know Love to be. My reaction to men is nothing to how my body reacts to other Lesbians, or womxn in general. My attraction to men was simply a need for attention that validated that I fit into a world–a world I only wanted to fit into because I was convinced I needed to fit into it to survive. But many other worlds exist, and I’ve found I fit into another one entirely. It’s actually one I’ve been a part of for my entire life–though secretly and in the intimacy of my one-on-one relationships with significant carers in my life–my mother, my best childhood friend and first romantic love, etc. It’s a world I’ve live in, but closeted. Now, it seems the doors have been opened and I’m ready to exist in this world more openly. It’s always been here, but the world is only felt by those who know it and believe in its existence–the world of non-male centrism.
My roommate is a brilliant person. She’s a writer, currently in grad school for English. We have had many conversations about the significance of Lesbian visibility. She’s been Out for a long time. As I watched The L Word, she rewatched it with me and we had a lot of conversations. Recently, we were talking about how the word “Lesbian” is not just a term that means “Gay Woman”. If we look at the analysis of words, being a Woman is another reminder of how we are simply seen as an extension of Men, about how our greatest sense of identity (where limited agenda, white feminists seek their empowerment even) is from a word that references to that which we are not–to our Oppressors!
I don’t want you to think I’m saying anyone who uses this word is bad. I’m just proposing that there is another option, and possibly to be aware of these things will help us move forward with more conscious use of our words, especially in regards to our self-identity and self-worth.
Words matter. Their context, origin, and implications validate, create, and instill our beliefs about them. Only half of your brain recognizes a word as a collection of letters strung together. The left brain understands and interprets language, but it is not the knower of conceptual understanding altogether. The right brain, on the other hand, takes these words (strings of symbols put together in a linear fashion and assigned meaning) and assigns them meaning on an experiential basis. The right brain understands wordless concepts outside of time or place. It can understand time and space if necessary for context, but it doesn’t think through things linearly–it comprehends them all at once. Like vision in a fourth dimension would be, the right brain sees all sides of the concept it looks at, all at once. The left brain then interprets that linearly. So if we have a word for something, we have to respect that the development of that word comes from a larger conceptual understanding with a whole lot of context, and psychological and historic implications. Your left brain receives the word, but then your memory recall triggers a whole UNIVERSE (made of many worlds) of meaning and connotation for that word. The collection of these meanings is taught in our use of language for understanding the past, and we are bound to the larger concepts after a certain level of knowledge has been gained.
That said, the etymology of the words “Women, Woman, or Female” does not necessarily prove that they were developed or derived in reference to “man, men or male,” their modern context and implication must be considered. The history of masculinity taking claim of everything must be remembered. When these words were developed, they were developed from the latin, and the “men” and “male” aspects of the words referred to humankind, not to a specific gender or sex. However, since the development of these words, a book has been written and widely regarded as Ultimate Divine Truth which states that the first ever woman was made out of a man’s rib, and that man was created by another masculine figure–God. (Yes, I’m talking about Ye Olde Testament–The Bible.) So while the word “woman” may not necessarily derive from this concept or principle, those brought up in a western, Judeo-Christian influenced society have an unconscious internalization of this concept as a means of our creation. Even those who don’t believe in Christianity will have a hard time reminding ourselves that the principles it instilled in us through societal conditioning aren’t real.
I know a woman who has a bad relationship with her birth father and, convinced that she needs love from a father figure to survive, she told me I needed to seek a relationship with the Heavenly Father like she had and I would feel whole and loved. Now, this may work very well for people who can’t get out of the christian dogma, but I’ve been doubting the details of that Patriarchy since I was about 8 years old so that didn’t sit well with me. On a personal level, I have a relationship with divinity but I think it is a concept beyond simplicity of our concept of gender identification and to assign it masculinity and tell people they NEED to seek HIS approval for an understanding of eternal and unconditional love from creation is just manipulative. God is not a man, and you don’t need HIS approval to feel whole. Frankly to gender the concept of God is to make God small–boxed into a definition that makes the incomprehensible into something minutely understandable.
Now, I’m not trying to say that I am not a woman, or that I am not perfectly happy identifying as a woman overall. In the context of society, I am a Cis Woman. For the recognition and importance of my trans family, I recognize my role of having the outward identity of “woman”. Maybe one day I’ll identify as non-binary but for now I don’t feel that is necessary for me. I won’t claim being misgendered (yet) if someone calls me a woman, because what I am about to propose is not a widely acknowledged concept and it will take time for people to understand it and me to further develop what this means to my gender identity. However, I think it is much more appropriate to say that my entire identity, both sexual preference and gender identity, is embodied in the word Lesbian.
Lesbian is a word that stands outside of the traditional need to identify through an attachment or relation to men. My roommate mentioned something this morning about how the word Lesbian is non-human. This isn’t to say we are lacking in what is commonly referred to as “humanity”, or that we aren’t a part of our species, or that we are aliens (though lez be honest, I could be an alien). It means that calling our species “Human” and then giving one acknowledged gender identity in the forced binary the default option of being called “Man” and the other a connection to that with a prefix of “wo” is an immediate means of establishing inequality. It established 1)a binary in an unlimited universe of options and 2)a “Default” and an “Other”. (Another thing instilled in us through Judeo-Christian dogma is the idea that there is a good and evil, and that which is not like you must be against you.)
I want to further this idea by comparing it to the oppression and struggles of Black Americans. They, too, are seen as the “Other” and White is thought of as the “Default”. Everything between is seen as a part of some weird greyscale by White America, rather than seen as the true diversity that racial and cultural diversity is in truth. This has been the case for a long time, far before American Slavery (as the roots of White Supremacy are not strictly North American). The greater piece of toxic society in America doesn’t even really consider Black Culture to be a part of American Culture, calling their own world “America” without being inclusive of any experiences People of Color have with oppression, immigration, racism or prejudice.
This said, I feel the word Lesbian does not attach me to this archaic, binary concept that the word “Woman” with the adjective of “Gay” does. For the sake of society understanding and putting a simplified, reductionist label on me–sure. I guess I’m a homosexual woman. For the sake of a binary believer’s need to understand me–tell yourself whatever you must to get to sleep at night. However, there is so much more to who I am than just being an Other-who-likes-Others.
There is a mindset, an intimacy, and a private world in which non-men exist. Toxic masculinity couldn’t understand it even if we let it in to try (and it has been let in plenty of times, trust). It’s a deep sharing of stories, feelings, pain, pleasure, and endurance. It’s the intimacy of having shared similar oppressions, as well as the multitude of intersections at which our DIFFERENT struggles can be related to with vulnerable empathy and understanding. It’s the inclusion of more and more people into our world–not because they identify a certain way or look a certain way, but because they have become in touch with themselves and their self worth OUTSIDE the world of male approval. This world is ethereal, abstract, made up of feelings and based on the principle of true equality. It is the recognition of Namaste–That which IS in me acknowledges that which IS in you. We are both valid in our existence as we experience it simply because we exist, not because we exist in relation to others. This is a world all its own–like a secret and special club in which our main goal is to live our lives the way we were born to live them, not the way we were taught to live them.
Not everyone in this “club” is a lesbian, and not all those who identify as Lesbians fit into or understand or seek to remain in the understanding of this empathetic existence. However, I find that I know who I am when I am here, and I know who I love and how I love them. I found this world through finally accepting that I am a lesbian. It didn’t come when I accepted myself as a woman–and that never felt like a full or apt definition of my existence.
Another reason I love the word lesbian is the connotations it has been assigned historically. Lesbianism used to be considered a mental illness. Literally, men couldn’t comprehend that women didn’t need or want them and so they decided it was an ILLNESS that could be treated with electro-shock therapy. Let that sink in for a moment. Men were so threatened by the idea that women would leave them, that they could do NOTHING to manipulate them to stay, because some women just weren’t attracted to them at all that (white, cishet, male) Doctors decided it was a condition which needed SEVERE treatment. If we consider this on a large scale, its a disgusting show of dependency, not to mention oppressive AF.
The word Lesbian has also been used as a derogatory slur, along with queer, fag, dyke, butch, and others. Like those words have been reclaimed by our community, the reclaiming of the word “Lesbian” is an act of empowerment for me.
Some of the lesbian community are TERF af, I’ll admit, and seek to make the word more about being a cis gay woman who is attracted to other cis gay women. I’d like to reclaim the world from them too, as this is a grave reduction of the word’s importance. Some lesbians are trans! Some lesbians date trans men! Some lesbians date trans women. Some lesbians care about your genitals and some don’t! Some lesbians fall in love with non-binary folks! Some lesbians are non-binary themselves! Some lesbians even date a cishet male once or twice (or for the first 23 years of their lives in my case). All of these intersections are valid in the identity of “Lesbian”, because being a lesbian isn’t just about being a “gay woman”. That is an outdated definition, in my understanding. I don’t have to be dating anyone to be a lesbian–not a man or a woman or any other gender outside those.
To speak to my sexual preference, I find myself personally attracted to all kinds of womxn. However, I also am constantly having my definition of “womxn” challenged and broadened to be more inclusive of more lives and experiences that differ from mine. I believe that anyone who truly lives their identity and calls that identity womxn IS a womxn and thereby defines the word itself. We are the creators of words, afterall. We control them, and we can’t let them (and such specific, manipulative definitions) control who we are–its unnatural. We are the existence, we are the creator of the word, why would we have to be forced to its definition.
To be a Lesbian is about so much more than the simplified, patriarchal definitions of identity. It is to live outside of the definition of existence which attaches us, our worth, and our identity to others, specifically Men.
To be a Lesbian, for me, is to be Free—
—Free of the mental conditioning, free of the isolated emotional pain, free of the chains that bind me to a false Self I created to survive 20 years in a homophobic environment I couldn’t escape.
I’ve been struggling with intimacy more in the past three years than at any other point in my life. I’ve spoken and written and shared about my past experiences of trauma and abuse, but I haven’t really spoken or considered the last time I had sex and how traumatic it was. It’s such an experience I feel I need to share it. Trigger warning–rape, sex, dissociation, oppression, heteronormative fantasies, #metoo.
I met a guy on OKC who seemed really nice and kind. He came from a family that seemed chill, had a diverse past that he seemed unashamed to speak about, and seemed pretty well awakened to some things he’d been through. We had a lot in common. He brought me to Cafe Gratitude for the first time.
The first few dates we went on were very innocent. He was kind and understanding, he was interesting and interested. He took things slow and seemed like a good guy.
He stopped acting like such a good guy after we had sex for the first time though.
The date after our first sexual encounter I let him take me somewhere–a surprise location. I was a vegan at the time and he decided to take me to the San Pedro Fish Market. When we got there, I was peeved. Like–who brings a vegan to a place that hella glorifies and smells of meat? (Not the first time a date had done such a thing btw) But, I went along with it and got some fried veggies–which I didn’t eat because they were definitely fried with the fish and tasted like fish oil and made me wanna puke because I hadn’t had meat in over a year.
I let this all slide, thinking I was just over-reacting or being selfish or too dramatic. I let him take me back to his place for the second time, which was a huge, disgusting mess. The understanding and helpful person I often am (to a fault in the past), I suggested that I could help him clean some things before we hung out and watched a movie.
I was washing his dishes as he picked up some stuff. He came up behind me and started touching me. I was flattered, but also annoyed like–we’re doing something here dude. Can’t you be a little more patient? He would go do some other things and then come back and mess with me–but not ME the brain in the body, the person with cognitive decision skills and autonomy… just the body. I was boobs and ass and curves and vag.
At one point, without warning, he started undressing me. It wasn’t sexy, or cute. It wasn’t slow, or kind. There was no kissing or admiration or care for whether I enjoyed it at all. It was aggressive, forceful. (It should be noted this guy was about 6’4″ and built very muscularly and big. He was easily twice my size.) He pulled my shirt off of me even though I was standing right in front of a window, at night, that was open and overlooking a street. He pinned me against the counter and laughed that I couldn’t escape him. I asked him to stop, he continued. He’d successfully undressed my top half and was working on getting my skirt off. I got more pissed off and told him to stop–which seemed to excite him more. I didn’t have the ability to be more outwardly pissed off. Patriarchal conditioning told me men didn’t like mouthy girls, and I needed a man to survive in this world.
I was seething inside, but also telling myself I’d brought this on, it was somehow sexy, it was a part of some fantasy, I just needed to learn to enjoy it, sex was always uncomfortable when it was new, this was somehow totally normal and fine and I was the one making it seem not fine. (Rape culture, internalized, at its fucking finest.)
He ended up getting my skirt off, making me stand there in his kitchen–naked and powerless, exposed by bright lights and an open window. He picked me up and brought me to his room, there was hardly any kissing. He entered me without permission or a condom or foreplay–making it very painful, dry and unwelcome. It wasn’t even slow or gentle, not even a little–it was quick and forced. I was powerless.
After, I told him it hurt and that I was pissed off and I wanted to leave. He acted sorry for a second, then brought up some girl on his facebook that he had a crush on and started talking about her in front of me. I left, saw him one more time, then cut him off entirely. He reached out once to “explain” but didn’t actually say anything. I refused to see him in person, telling him he could say what he needed to say in text, and he only wanted to see me in person to say what he needed to say. So I never heard his explanation. This was my first real point of empowerment. I didn’t want his explanation. It was an excuse, and what he’d done shouldn’t, couldn’t, be excused.
After this, I decided I was not interested in sexual pursuits unless they were with people I knew very well and trusted–but then I began the journey through my mental health and wellness that I’ve been on for the past few years so sex has been the last of my priorities. My intimacy between now and then has been very limited. I am lonely often, and I wish I could develop sexual intimacy, but I do not trust myself or others in that context so I keep pretty much everyone at a physical distance. This is hard… as a human being I need physical connection and yet I am so traumatized by it that I often reject it and deflect it from even the most platonic of friends.
The thing that was the most disturbing about this last major encounter was that it was like being in a porn or some romantic film. I was living in someone else’s fantasy. Like, I know I’d seen this all somewhere before. I’d seen someone romantically pulling the clothes off of a woman as she is doing chores and lead her to the bedroom–but to live it with someone as if he is trying to recreate something he’d seen on TV… with no warning, communication, or boundaries… it was absolutely horrific–scarring. I felt out of control. I think I completely detached, dissociated and derealized the situation before it even happened. It’s taken me years to see that this was rape, and that my silence was accepted as consent, my struggle was seen as a part of the role play he was living out with me though he hadn’t asked me, and my words were completely overlooked. I was literally an object to his fantasy. I could have been any woman. He just needed a warm and compliant body.
I don’t see the point in sex in this manner. It’s a grotesque misuse of human connection. It’s a disrespect of who we both are as individuals. However, I know there are women who might have been totally down–hell I might have if situation had been completely different. But he treated me like we were on the same page–he assumed it and acted out of that assumption. Role play is totally cool and some people like it but it must be spoken about out loud. There must be rules and boundaries established FIRST. If you can’t have the conversation, you’re not emotionally mature enough to participate in it safely, and *you’re going to hurt someone*. Period. Same with S&M, and power play, and polyamory or ethical non-monogamy. These things are all awesome–beautiful even! I am super sex positive in the means of supporting what people want for themselves. I see it working for individuals and they love their sexual lives! I know its all valid and good when done with proper consent.
But you can’t, in any situation, ASSUME that someone else is on board just because they are present. You can’t assume based on body language. You MUST have the conversation out loud. Most of the women you know, if not every one of them, have been gaslit to believe that we have no authority over our own bodies. Even politics reenforce this in our minds. If you make the assumption that someone is interested in the same sexual things as you and act on that without a conversation, you’re taking advantage of that person’s oppression. You’re abusing your own power and privilege. You are a fucking rapist and you deserve to be punished–locked the fuck up and put through extensive therapy.
I am not brave enough to reveal the names of those who have sexually assaulted me–and I don’t even remember his name honestly. It’s been years and I’ve ignored it. Maybe I’ll gain that empowerment someday in a call for justice but I know now that the world would and could do nothing for me. The law is against me in this story. The timing is against me. The patriarchal forces that be are too strong.
Still, I share this in gruesome detail because it has the ability to open some people’s eyes to the importance of verbal consent–especially (but definitely not exclusively) in heterosexual encounters. I say that because these are the encounters that we see most on TV, movies, and in real life playing out these kinds of scenarios and making the lack of verbal consent seem like some kind of romantic connection. That’s not real. You may read body language, but you read it based on who you are and how you might react. You may think you know this person, but it doesn’t mean you actually do know them as anything more than a projection of yourself. The normativity of hetero sexual abuse is so harmful.
Frankly, if you can’t talk about sex, consent, etc… you’re not mature enough to have it. You’re not mature enough to act consensually, and I guarantee you will assault someone and think it’s ok and fine because you assumed you knew them well enough and there’s no evidence to hold you accountable. You’d still be fucking rapist piece of shit though.
I know that it’s really difficult and embarrassing to talk about sex sometimes–but it is infinitely harder to recover from rape and go on with a positive or hopeful attitude about sex and intimacy. The damage you could potentially do is not worth sparing your embarrassment for a couple of seconds. Also, if your hard-on depends on the lack of consent and asking consent is going to somehow ruin the mood, you’re turned on by some fucked up rapey shit and you need mental and emotional help so you don’t act on that in a way that will hurt others. It’s fine if you’re turned on by that, some of us can’t help what turns us on. But what you can help is how you know yourself and the tendencies you have to harm others so you can be conscious and outspoken in a way that keeps others from being harmed by you. We need to protect others from our darkness sometimes too, not just ourselves. Our traumas gone unchecked, our fears gone unspoken, these things project themselves out into the world and they harm us and others. The only way we keep others from being caught in our darkness is by bringing light to it ourselves and exposing ourselves for exactly who we are. Secret secrets are no fun. Secret secrets hurt someone–and this is how.
Today, I watched an incredible interaction between parent and child.
The child came into our music school for his music lesson– crying uncontrollably. His mom told his music teacher he was in a little bit of a mood, then she turned back to him and spoke to him very calm and reasonably. She asked if he was taking deep breaths, and told him he knew what he had to do to calm down. He started breathing bigger. She encouraged him, reminding him that music lessons are only 30 minutes, and he could make it through. He listened to her and asked for water. She asked him to say “please”. Kindly, and through tears, he did. She got him water, she talked to him until he was ok (though not done crying), and she left him deal with his emotions. He proceeded calmly to him lesson and made it through the half hour without another tear.
Here’s what amazed me about this interaction:
His mother wasn’t upset that he was upset. She wasn’t shaming him, she wasn’t embarrassed by him, she wasn’t taking his mood personally. She didn’t tell him to shut down his emotions, or speak to him like he didn’t have the capacity to manage them or that they were something out of line or burdensome. She didn’t tell him they were ridiculous or that he was being dramatic. She didn’t shame him for being male and crying–she didn’t tell him he should buck up or that boys don’t cry or to be “strong”. He was not in defense mode. His ego was not triggered. He was able to help himself with her guidance, patience, and calm support. She did not compromise her role as his teacher, nor did she take a disciplinary route I’ve seen so often.
I don’t see this kindness between parent and child often. I mean, in general I don’t see too many kids crying in public since I stopped teaching in the elementary classroom, but when I do usually the parent is trying their best, but they’re also tired and worn out and so I see emotion reacting off of emotion.
Often you’ll see a child’s emotions shut down, or a parent trying to help their kid but not totally understanding how, and so growing impatient. When a vulnerable and hurting emotional self is met with ego (defense or offense) the self will harden up and get more resistant to help or helping one’s self. Ego triggers ego, especially with children. When we can be mirrors for those we love in crisis instead of judge or fixer, we give others the safety and the support to help themselves.
I don’t mean to make judgments of parents who would react any other way. This mother has her privileges, some mothers don’t and that can affect their patience. I am just pleased to see this kind of enlightened parenting happening around me, to children I care about. This woman is clearly psychologically aware, and sees her child as able to comprehend his own mind and mental awareness. This is the kind of awareness that will lift the stigma off of those suffering from mental illness, as well as those of us who just have a lot of emotions.
In my mind, there has always been a lot going on. It’s weaving together stories, debating itself, deconstructing and reconstructing things, performing intense and almost constant cognitive behavior therapy–spinning in circles, round and around. I struggle with major depression, anxiety and ptsd, but I didn’t know that until a few years ago so before that I was just, circling around to avoid any one thing in particular.
In addition to having a fast mind and a soft heart, I’ve endured some intense trauma–emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse, plus the normal tragedies and happenings of life (privileged as mine may be, they have had a big impact on my sense of self and mental stability as an adult). The things which have always grounded me and helped me cope through abuse and moments of adversity, even before I understood what I was coping with, were acts of creation. Music, singing, sewing, crochet, jewelry making, painting. Even as a small child, my fort-building-game was competing with the best of them. The act of making something out of other things calmed me and brought me back to some unnamable, inexplainable sense of self-truth.
Creating centers me and always has, even when my center is hurting.
In addition to my mental health and abusive history, I have ALWAYS been fat… overweight, obese, plus size–however you’d like to say it. (We all have different preferences. I personally like to turn the hurtful words into empowering ones so–I’m fat and fabulous.) I’ve always struggled with my self esteem for so many reasons, but it all seemed to manifest in self hatred over my weight and my body. When I was younger I desperately wanted to be thin, with big hips. But, I’m fat with small hips and lots of love on the handles. I don’t lose weight easily and I, frankly, have bigger battles than that. Plus, I hated the idea that I needed to change my appearance to feel better in this world. I wanted to accept myself as I was. I knew there was someone to love in here, and she didn’t need to be thin, she needed to be accepted.
In December 2014, after a series of unfortunate events and witnessing a friend’s death, I finishing my Bachelors degree in Opera Performance. Given the chance to breathe, alone, for the first time in my life–I mentally bottomed out. I was lost, confused, hurt, alone, suicidal and terrified. I didn’t know where to go, what to do, how to live or move forward or get out of bed some mornings. Plus, my mental health had been ignored for too long. I had no choice but to deal with my head and the trauma of my past.
I had to begin to get to know and accept my body, my illness, and my strange mind. I needed to switch from a state of resistance to a state of acceptance. I needed life to be just a little bit easier so that I knew it was worth living. So, I dedicated myself to a lifelong journey of self discovery, self love, and healing–a journey I am still on today.
The process of healing was very traumatic in the beginning–as healing usually is. Lost, and desperate, I painted and journaled, wrote music–anything to get through the pain I was reliving. I eventually turned to metaphysics and found my pagan roots in Wicca. This led me to wire wrapping stones and crystals as a meditative practice. From there, the progression into the jewelry I make now was natural.
About two years into that journey, and a year before starting STONED, I began crocheting again for the first time since community college. It felt different though. My mind wasn’t so clouded. I wasn’t so pressured by my perfectionist tendencies and an over-compensating ego telling me my creations weren’t worthy of being completed. (Or at least, when I was burdened by that I could overcome it). I could count stitches, focus on long term projects, and undo mistakes without destroying my motivation by insulting myself into defeat. When I started making clothing, instead of the usual scarves and hats I’d made for years, I began looking through the market–on Etsy and IG– and noticed that there are a lot of people crocheting cute clothes–but usually only for a limited number of sizes. This is an issue I’ve encountered my entire life as a “Plus size” person, and a bigger busted woman. Some of the cutest clothes are only made for thin women, or certain body types. If they are made for bigger women, they are not made with the bigger woman’s body and insecurities and comfort in mind.
I began making things for myself and my friends–who all have a variety of beautiful and diverse bodies and styles and identities. I listened to their insecurities and modified the patterns and the fit so they felt comfortable until I figured out what worked. It came together so effortlessly, I took the hint from the universe and went with it. I finally did something I’d been wanting to do for years–I started an Etsy Shop.
I wanted to make clothing that allowed people to be bold, present, and empowered by their vulnerability. The name STONED has many inspirations. Primarily, it comes from the large line, the totem of spirits who have endured the suffering of oppression long before me–the people whose stories of perseverance and strength get me through my day. Women, men, queers, POC, differently-abled and mentally stigmatized–those who fought and lived and died in another time for me to be here, now, standing on their shoulders and fighting this newer battle… a piece of the same war. A war for money and power. A war against freedom, uniqueness, progress, truth, acceptance, equality and freedom.
Here’s one of my truths–All bodies are beautiful!!!!!
We should all be able to celebrate our selves with unlimited self expression!
I’ve created to cope for so long. Now, I’m creating for me. I’m creating for you. I’m creating to create.
I believe in the ability of handmade items to empower us to be unique, outstanding, and fearless. A hundred people could be making the same type of pieces, but they’d each have their own uniqueness because they are made by an individual human’s hands–not a machine. Every stitch is personalized. In a strong handmade economy, many artists can all be successful with their own audiences–allowing each customer to find a truly unique style instead of buying a shirt that has been mass produced for a million other people in the world. We aren’t all the same, why should our styles be?
Additionally, the expansion of the handmade market is feeding our local, working class economy (putting money in the hands of artists and makers directly instead of into the hands of a large corporate stores with billionaire CEOs who barely paid the artist for their original design before mass producing it). When you support a handmade artist you are supporting their family, their community, their daily life. That money will likely go directly back into the local economy. When you support me, you’re helping me feed myself and my fur baby (a lovely little ESA cat named Embyr) and pay my rent. You’re helping me support other local artists and farmers, since I spend my money at farmer’s markets primarily. Handmade is fiscally, economically, and communally responsible!
I believe in individuals–ordinary humans–and their ability to change the world simply by allowing their true selves to be present and make conscious decisions in it. The ability to be present in a world like ours is dependent upon an empowered sense of self, and a fearless commitment to expression of that self regardless of our socialization. I try to instill some sense of that in every wire I bend and ever stitch I complete in hopes that it will gift some of that magic onto the person who eventually welcomes the garment or piece of jewelry into their life. A world in which we are all fearlessly expressing our personal and vulnerable truth is a world in which we all, eventually, can live free and equal–happy.