I once dated a couple that told me I was like a feral cat because I was wild and naive about social rules. (The wife also gave me a 2 page list of everything I did wrong on our last date so I realized the issue was not me.) Being called feral is the most blatant example of my being othered because I don’t understand and don’t care about social rules (or rules of any kind really – I prefer agreements). It was a contemptuous acknowledgement of my transgressive nature (I think they hoped to train:tame me).

I grew up poor surviving on welfare from ages 10-26 (living in a condemned house with no plumbing and going eeling off the jetty for food kind of poor). I had my first child at 17 and so I needed welfare and low income housing to get through college. All of our resources went to surviving, everyone we spent time with was poor, and we didn’t do things in the bigger world that would teach me the rules of being a socially acceptable woman:human. Between my lack of resources and innate rebel nature, I consciously decided at 15 to give no fucks about the rules. At that age I was already proclaiming the absurdity of wearing masks, and the ridiculousness of conformity and fakery in exchange for belonging. I’d rather not belong than compromise myself.

So while I get that there are rules on IG and I may be inspired to take a pretty selfie for my own reasons and that will innately grow my visibility, I have no interest in the rules of social media or algorithms or the 5:7:1500 rules to becoming visible and selling my work. While I’ve learned some things on my life’s journey that I will share, I am not interested in being a guru or thought leader. In fact, Transgressive Woman is all about being my own guru, thinking my own thoughts, and the freedom in such a life.

I prefer the idea that I am an emotional and relationship adventurer who came back to my community to tell stories about the medicine I experienced on the margins and in the wild. What you do with those stories is up to you, but I do hope you’ll share yours with me, too.

Illuminating Stories of the Transgressive Woman

When I was in college 20 years ago my art was all about women’s issues. I read poems about my rape and my grandmother’s incest at Take Back the Night and wrote essays for the women’s center magazine. I made my first vulva sculpture in my first sculpture class, which led to The Yoni Endeavor, a feminist art/web project that lasted into my 30s.

Then I felt like I had worked through what I needed to as a woman and started researching androgyny and ways that the masculine and feminine could come together within a person. I thought I would do an equally big art project on that idea, but it never came to fruition. Instead I started The Conspiracy of Blessings, shifting my art focus to gift economy, although I did eventually end up focusing on dolls for women in transformation, so maybe that should have been a clue that I wasn’t done.

After everything I learned from co-leading The Impropriety Society (2008-2012), I was focused on researching community building for a book, but it never quite sparked into passion the way my other projects did. When I invited my soul to take the lead on January 1st, it was revealed that it is time to focus on my story, which is entirely based in my experience as a transgressive woman saving herself, and is culturally relevant at this moment because we are suffering patriarchy’ s backlash against women and all that is perceived as feminine.

With #metoo and so much consciousness raising about consent, harassment, emotional labor, gaslighting, and the like, I am realizing there are a lot of stories embedded in my body and memory that I haven’t healed because I didn’t understand their impact on me at the time. Now I see how I was groomed by a married professional mentor to have an inappropriate emotional intimacy outside of work and to accept his flirtations as flattering. I was also groomed by a sociopathic dominant to endure emotional masochism I didn’t consent to (like using my rape I confided to him in a scene without negotiating it).

When I was a community leader men demanded my emotional labor and gaslit me when I called out their bullying. We were told by men that we were a powerful matriarchy (3 women leading), then they tore us down when they didn’t like our decisions or experience the power they believed they were entitled to. I was told my loudness was a bigger problem than their bullying and other women agreed. I couldn’t understand then why my women friends would tolerate the bullying we endured, but I do now. We are groomed for it by culture. Bullies, especially male bodied bullies, dominate our culture.

While I understand gender is a construct, we are still deeply embedded in that construct and it will take honoring all of our stories and experience to find our way to freedom. I still have a lot to work out about my experience as a woman – and mother – in this culture. We need to shine the light into our shadows before we can heal them and I hope to be part of that illumination with my work. I hope to share stories of how transgressive women (and others) can save themselves.

Happy International Women’s Day.

Speaking My Truth

I am speaking my truth about this strange place between raising children and being my own woman, this liminal space between mother and crone and being an Amma to my birth son, this experience of losing my faith and reclaiming my soul, and I don’t know that there are any new mountains, but I know it matters none-the-less.

I know it matters when we are real in a world of illusions and sparkly attention grabbers. I know it matters when we refuse to play the game, when we speak truth amidst liars, and when we show up as our whole selves, even the raggedy and sharp bits or dark and heavy bits. I know it matters when we tell the true story of what it is to be us, to experience the world in our skin, both the joy and the grief.

If there is anything I know I am here in this life to do it is to model radical inclusion of all that it is to be human, in ourselves and in the other. In order to radically include all of myself I must honor how my particular experience of what we call woman is shaped. In the beginning of intentionally practicing radical inclusion in community I didn’t understand that we must begin by radically including all of ourselves, for in honoring our own humanness we become open to the full humanity of others. If I can’t face my own truth, how can I face someone else’s?

White supremacist patriarchy would have us cut ourselves into pieces and only show the world our prettiest and shiniest bits. Oppression in all forms is oppression of what it is to be fully human and to name our experience for ourselves. It is in naming ourselves and telling the fullness of our human stories that we throw off the yoke of oppression and begin knowing what it is to be free.


Longing for Gift Culture

The same way that it took a process of discovery, experimentation, and distillation to nurture plant medicines for human use, for many of us it is a similar process to discover the shape of the medicine we bring to the community. Because our culture doesn’t teach us how to identify and distill our own medicine, or how to offer it to one another in healthy exchange; but rather it exploits our gifts, teaches us to repress our gifts to meet the system’s needs, imbues some gifts with more value than others, and treats all gift sharing as transaction rather than a vital part of healthy community life.

Mothering, as in holding nurturing space for growth and evolution, is part of my medicine. But there is more and I’ve been confused by the need to make a certain amount of money to survive and how to do that in the least compromising way. I was distracted by ideas for online business, ideas that capitalize on who I was rather than who I am now. Every single thing in my life has changed these past five years and I was clinging to what felt safe, what I confidently know, when it comes to work. It is lot safer to sell my services as a bookkeeper or community building consultant, or to write learning content based on what I know, than to face the unknown as a memoir writer and non-commercial/gift economy artist.

I’ve always been a misfit (by Lydia Yuknavitch’s definition – see her TED talk). There isn’t anything other than my white skin that fits in this culture. But I was able to camouflage enough in the nonprofit world of Humboldt County, CA (which is countercultural by nature), to make a decent living without compromising myself more than I could live with. Now there is a small chance I don’t have to conform at all in the expression of my medicine, and that is both exciting and scary. I think being a misfit is part of my medicine, but also makes me more vulnerable to rejection and exclusion the more visible I become in a culture I don’t belong to. I long for a gift culture where all of our medicines are honored, because I don’t known if mine distilled to its purest essence will be in this one.

Finding Ground

In this midlife quest:crisis it is the constantly shifting yet rooted truth of the land I live on that keeps me grounded. The beauty of creeklife keep me from losing myself completely in the cycles of existential angst, directionlessness, and worthlessness that invade some of my days. And in staying grounded in this way I am able to recognise that there is a hormonal influence behind the darkness that needs to be honored (hello perimenopause), as well as a dark belief about my dignity that needs to be released.

It is coming to my awareness that being raised by parents and community to believe that everything true about me is an affront to their version of god is the source of my sense of inherent worthlessness. Despite my shifting sense of god and spirituality these past 25 years, it seems I’ve subconsciously taken hold of the idea that if I don’t matter to god because of who I love and how I live, then I must not matter to most everyone. And even if I do matter, I don’t matter deeply and am easily  discarded. It’s hard for me to imagine:see that my absence matters, that I would be missed, or that I can hurt loved ones by withdrawing into myself.

Over the years I found power and identity in being the rebel and owning my transgressive nature publicly. But now that I am shining the light on the deepest pain inside of me, I can see that my sense of empowerment was shallow and groundless. If I don’t believe I belong anywhere because I am so objectionable that I offend god and family, then how can I build my foundation on solid ground or know a sense of rootedness?

At the moment it is through my marriage, where I feel the deepest belonging I’ve ever known, and then connecting to the literal ground around me and the life that emerges from it. I hope that in illuminating these old beliefs that I will liberate myself and finally know my own dignity as fiercely as I regard everyone else’s.