37th Story of Transgression: I Make Transgressive Art

One of my late adolescent poems was about expressing my big feelings by cutting my fingertips with a scalpel and painting with my blood. I didn’t intend to actually do it, but when my mom saw the poem she freaked out and cried (because my mom always made everything about her feelings and her pain). She didn’t listen to me when I explained why I wrote it. She was convinced I was going to self harm so she took me to her therapist. This was before cutting to process emotion was widely known as a phenomenon among young women. But this psychologist was one of the good ones. She told my mom that if I was writing about it rather than doing it, then I found a healthy outlet for my chaotic emotional world and that was good. (Perhaps my mom wouldn’t have died of her pain if she had found a healthy way to express it?)

This was my first experience with transgressive art. I went on to write poems about my rape and my grandmother’s forced incest with her brother. Then I started making vulva sculptures and digital paintings. I developed The Yoni Endeavor long before vulva art became popular. I was one of only 3 websites at the time.

After the vulvas came the gift economy project, The Conspiracy of Blessings. Why is it transgressive? Because gift economies are the antithesis of our transactional consumer culture. I find it fascinating that I can struggle to find recipients of my gifts because we’ve been taught to be suspicious of something offered for free. We believe gifting is reserved for friends and family. A stranger’s generosity is suspect in a world where we’ve come to expect everything is transactional.

And then, of course, there was the Impropriety Society. I was the art director and hosted a volunteer art making event before every themed party. We created a giant vulva and penis out of chicken wire, fabric, glue, and paint. We made artistic frames for all kinds of erotic art – fat, kinky, and queer. Everything we did was transgressive.

Now I am here writing the Stories of Transgression and considering what other kinds of creation belong under the umbrella of  the Transgressive Woman project.


📸 I love this piece of transgressive art by @_drasan_ on Instagram. It immediately brought up the memory of my poem and my mom.

36th Story of Transgression: I am a Witch and a Born Touch Healer

When I left Pentecostal Christianity in my early 20s I met two women, my first and second girlfriends, who would teach me about Wicca, Tarot, energy, and magic. 

Sidenote – my mom once brought over two friends from church when I wasn’t home to pray over my apartment and cast out any demons I invited by using Tarot cards so that my children wouldn’t become possessed. True story.

As a god-girl who needed a new way of relating to the divine, I quickly dove into deeper study and became a solitary practitioner. That was the first time I started practicing plant medicine. I didn’t have access to live plants then, I relied on the local herb store to build my apothecary. I made a variety of effective medicines for my neighbors and friends.

It was around this time that I discovered that I was/am a born touch healer. I believe all humans could work with energy if they learned, but this started happening without my conscious awareness. I loved to give massages to lovers and received feedback that people were feeling more than just muscle relaxation. I was moving energy and finding ailments by intuition. So I started developing the skill.

Our rational culture wants us to believe these things aren’t possible (magic is fiction), or if they are you have to be a trained expert (Reiki Mastery was being sold for thousands of $ then). My experience tells me energy awareness is a natural, not supernatural, part of life. We just need to relearn it.

I am now reclaiming my gifts/skills as a plant witch and magic worker. I haven’t done touch healing in many years, but I have been thinking about it lately. I have insecurities failing at it. What is most interesting to me is that I stopped doing these things when I began working full-time, and now that I no longer work I am picking them up again. It was like working a job to survive buried my magic.

 

35th Story of Transgresssion: I am a Misfit Because I am a Trauma Survivor

At 11 I had no idea how unusual my post-divorce/new-stepdad life would be. I believed my life was normal because it was all I knew. It was normal that Mom’s emotions and addictions ruled the world. Drug induced fights in the middle of the night were normal. Putting my mom to bed because she she was too high to walk safely was normal. It would be another 3 years of poverty and constant emotional pain before I would really start feeling like a misfit in the world. Another year and I would start looking like a misfit on purpose by claiming a hybrid of goth and punk aesthetic.

I recently read The Misfit’s Manifesto by Lidia Yuknavitch and I resonate strongly with her idea that misfits are often trauma survivors who don’t know how to relate to the normal world because we never experienced normal relating as children. This makes sense to me. I’ve been called feral for my naivety regarding social rules. I am forever awkward, quiet when shy, loud and “too honest” when comfortable, highly emotional, act like a fool for justice, and had to teach myself emotional regulation as an adult. I grew up in an emotional wildland where daily life was ruled by pain and avoidance of pain. I didn’t learn manners or woman things from my mom. Learning how to act like a normal human in the world was never in her lesson plan.

I have an ACES score of 7 for childhood trauma. Researchers are learning how repeated trauma predisposes us to health problems. It is really no wonder that I have Fibromyalgia, a condition that is about pain, when I am carrying my own pain, my mother’s unresolved pain, and the pain of past generations. And all this pain makes me a misfit now because I am disabled by it. Instead of having a life absorbed in work and family/community, I am first and foremost absorbed with managing my pain.

It doesn’t matter that I have done the hard work to be emotionally healthy and now have a thriving marriage. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have to work and can be kind to my body all day long. It took 38 years to create this body of pain, who knows how long it will take to heal?

 

34th Story of Transgression: I Believe in Radical Inclusion

What is radical inclusion? It is actively including all of yourself and all of other people in relationship. It means that beyond the boundary of no harm, I strive to honor the dignity and complex humanness in myself and every person I meet. I strive to have no judgment and to accept whatever is real in the moment for me and the people I am relating to. This is why I am able to tell my transgressive stories so easily, I accept what is real about myself and my life. It is the same with others. I accept what is real about you.

What does radical inclusion look like in practice? It looks like having a diversity of friends and lovers my entire life – white, BIPOC, men, women, straight, queer, cis, trans, nonbinary, able bodied and/or minded, mentally and/or physically disabled, neurodiverse, sex positive, asexual, polyamorous, monogamous, liberal, conservative, spiritual, atheist, sober, addicted, old, young, etc. It means that I don’t exclude people from relationship or community based on a single aspect of their identity because human beings are infinitely complex. It means I actively look for something to like or connect to in a person. It means I talk to any person who talks to me on the bus or in the bar. It means I acknowledge and relate to the people on the street that are invisible to most. It means that if I have resources available, from shelter to money, I will share them with you.

It also means that you could tell me anything and I will hold space for you and your story. If I can’t easily empathize, I will try to understand you and the choices you’ve made. And if I can’t understand, I will still accept you. It means that if you cause harm to me or others, I will practice transformative justice if at all possible (but you have to be willing to do the work).

Radical inclusion means my default is to include, to love, and to see beauty in humans, even if they are very different from me. Every human has a story and every human has a gift for the community if we are willing to pay attention.

For more see the Agreements for Radical Inclusion.

33rd Story of Transgression: I Live from My Bed

This is a series of self portaits taken this morning, reflecting how I feel. I am experiencing both fatigue and pain.

Since Sunday I have been in recovery from Saturday’s storytelling event. Being unwilling to force myself to endure the kind of pain I did when I first experienced Fibromyalgia 6 years ago while parenting (and pregnant!), working full time, and volunteering means that I spend a lot of time in my soft bed. Pushing through is something I’ve done some kind of way for 20+ years. I’m over pushing through unless I really want to. 

Activity that can require recovery time in this phase of my illness = walking more than a mile, an hour on my feet doing chores, or sitting on hard surfaces for long periods (which means 98% of public seating in all venues). An event like Saturday, where I was out of the house for 8 hours, is hard on my body and requires days of recovery. As did my daughter’s graduation, sleeping in beds that weren’t mine, and travelling by plane and car. Essentially if I leave the house for more than an hour to two I will have to manage more pain. There are some things that are worth the extra pain – like following my creative dreams or spending time with people I love. Some things are not, like working a desk job. 

Alcohol makes these things easier in the moment because it helps me forget my pain entirely for a few hours. It also costs me loss of sleep and potential hangover symptoms if I get carried away so recovery takes longer.

I am isolated because of my disability and my inability to leave the house consistently to meet people. Social networking is my lifeline for human connection. I spend a lot of time in bed with Instagram.

Mostly I get bored. I am a highly intelligent woman that likes a lot of intellectual stimulation. But I’m not capable of reading books for hours or thinking deeply on a whim. The brain fog is the worst. I’d write and create a whole lot more if I had a clear mind.

Learning to honor my limitations is a big lesson in a world that would have me push through every kind of pain with a smile on my face. Today is not a smiling kind of day.