16th Story of Transgression: I am She Who is Never Not Broken

“Akhilanda derives her power from being broken: in flux, pulling herself apart, living in different, constant selves at the same time, from never becoming a whole that has limitations.” Julie Peters

I am shattered. I work to gather each fragment, soaked in the blood of birth and betrayal, and lay them with great care on the hearth of my heart, to be tended with the warmth of compassion and the heat of self awareness.

My heart is as much scar as fresh tissue. Each day I pick up a remnant of who I was to study the edges where I am broken, to discern the shape of the wound and the medicine it needs to heal. I learn the language of bloodlines and grieflines to understand the unfolding of this story over the generations of my family, a lineage of broken mothers.

In the sanctuary of my home and emotionally safe relationships I do the healing work of unravelling my pain, discovering my inherent worthiness, and transforming my stories of breaking into stories of repair and restoration. I have a medicine bag filled with the things that help me sew myself back together – a good marriage, heartsisters, flowers, and tools for art making.

In a culture that thrives on the message that we need to be fixed in a million ways because they cannot grow profit without finding new ways to make us feel needy desire and less than for our imperfections, I claim my brokenness. Wholeness is not perfection, it is honoring all of myself, all of the pieces and the ways I turn myself into a radiant quilt or technicolor dreamcoat. My power comes from my many pieces and how they are sewn back together and move together after emotional dismemberment. While I will always seek growth and new possibilities, I am done seeking to “better” myself. I do not need to be better. I need to listen to the song of my tattered soul and where it guides me.

I am she who is never not broken. I am she who is always facing the unfathomable and birthing new possibilities.

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Image by Laura Keenados @badcatpomegranate on Instagram

15th Story of Transgression: I am a Birth Mother

Today is our son’s 5th birthday and the 3rd we will spend with him and the family. We missed the last two due to our fracture, so this is a special one.

Being a birth mother may be the most transgressive thing I experience because birth mothers are invisible in our culture. Adoptive parents are celebrated and offered tons of support for their journey. Birth mothers are neglected, ignored, and forgotten once they hand their child over to another mother.

Our grief is not allowed to take up space because we chose this separation from a piece of our heart walking out in the world. No one wants to know why we are too “selfish” to raise our own child, nor how much it hurts when our cells scream for a child who is not there. No one wants to know how much animal instinct is involved and how unnatural it feels to be in a mother’s skin without a baby to nurture.

This is the hardest choice I’ve made and lived with. I felt he was her child within moments of being told I was pregnant, but that didn’t stop the dissociation and grief from literally tearing my life to pieces. Would I make the choice now knowing how my body and heart would react? I have no idea. I don’t have the physical capacity for work, so I know I couldn’t I care for a child full time without significant suffering. And I would’ve been a full time mother from ages 17-60, which is not what I want. Though I struggled fiercely to move on from mothering, it isn’t everything to me.

When I called a beloved friend while I was considering my options, we talked about the necessity of me birthing myself. I feel as though I am finally bringing myself into life as an artist and writer through Transgressive Woman. These 100 Stories are shitty first drafts for my memoir project. And while a memoir project may seem self involved, it is also a framework through which I can share all that I’ve learned in my years as an activist and community builder.

What has being a part of an adoption triad taught me? Surprisingly transformational justice and the importance of learning how to repair fractured community relationships. It’s also taught me that the adoption world is a hot mess and we need to be having cultural conversations about how to handle the inevitable traumas of adoption instead of ignoring them. We need to shift adoption away from being a privatized industry where someone’s making money for talking a young woman into giving up her child.

14th Story of Transgression: I Wear My Heart on My Sleeve

“I was born to feel in public.” Andrea Gibson

I have this in common with artists like Andrea and Amanda Palmer and others who share deep feeling through their creative expression. Some of us don’t have a choice in the matter, we are emotional mountain climbers who come back to the village and are driven to share the stories of where we’ve been. Terror. Hunger. Grief. Loneliness. Betrayal. Ecstasy. Desire. We draw maps of these places and our community pins their “me toos” on the places they’ve visited.

Once a friend told me that I was like a big walking emotion. I feel everything. Even on antidepressants. Even smoking cannabis. I feel big. And I tell people how I feel. Which isn’t popular. People don’t want to know when their carelessness or bullying has an impact. People also cringe at being told how magical and beautiful they are. It doesn’t matter if it’s devotion or anger, we don’t want to talk about how we feel or know what feelings we are sparking in others.

Culture conditions us away from feeling because if we were in touch with our feelings and knew how other people felt we wouldn’t tolerate the oppression of ourselves and others. We numb our feelings with all the things and hide away in isolation so that we don’t take a risk of being hurt again (because we’ve all been hurt before).

One of the core aspects of all anti-violence and non-violence strategies is being aware of our feelings and able to communicate them without causing harm to others. We must become emotionally literate if we are to find a way to cohabitate this earth without violence. We must feel our pain and process our traumas if we are to relate to what is real rather than our projections.

And so there are artists like me who reflect what is real in the heart space and invite others to share what is real for them.

Feeling is resistance. 

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Art by Anjelika Apocalisse @apocalissea
I had to have this piece when I saw it at a Makers Market on the Square downtown about a year ago.

13th Story of Transgression: I Love Transgressive Artists

Sinead O’Connor was the first transgressive artist I fell hard for during that time of transition my sophomore year from Christian, mainstream, good girl to a goth-punk who opened her mind:heart to what the world had to offer beyond family and religion. She reflected the rage and pain I felt in my center but was unable to express in my mother’s home. She tore up the photo of the Pope on Saturday Night Live just after I left a church where a pastor I adored for years was revealed to be extorting money and having sexual relationships with parishioners, including one of the girls in our youth group.

When my eyes opened to the existence of alternative worlds, I immediately began seeking out other transgressors who might show me more pieces of my weird and dark self. My favorite artists are those that transgress both art form and content in extreme ways. They defy what is believed to be safe and normal. Salvador Dali and surrealism. Joel Peter Witkin and documenting the strangeness of life and death. Diane Arbus photographing “freaks.” Annie Sprinkle and showing people her cervix. Laurie Anderson’s unique blend of music and spoken word performance. David Cronenberg and Crash. David Lynch’ s strange worlds. David Bowie embodying alien archetypes. John Cameron Mitchell and Hedwig and Shortbus. Saul Williams’ fierce word art. Amanda Palmer breaking the rules regarding the relationship between artist and patron. Steven Shainberg and the films The Secretary and Lars and the Real Girl. Robert Maplethorpe and kinky photos. Octavia Butler and her sci-fi featuring strong Black women and an empath.

I didn’t know in the beginning that I am a transgressive artist, too. I just knew that these people spoke to my soul through their art in a way that no one else did. They moved me, deeply. They made me feel seen. They pushed the edges of what I believed to be possible, pushing me to grow. They held/hold up mirrors to the doom and glory of this being human.

Image: I made this collage when Sinead O’Connor was one of my favorite musicians. The pieces around her are from an Oprah article about dark things women suffer from like abandonment, perfectionism, etc.

12th Story of Transgression: I am Queer

I discovered I am queer the same way I discovered I am kinky – by reading erotica. I started reading erotica when I found a book in the home of the teacher who hired me to clean her already clean house so she could give me some money of my own (since I was 17 my welfare benefits for me and my child went to my mom and she never shared beyond necessity). Weekly I was alone in this big fancy house and I admit I snooped. I was a 17 year old with stars in my eyes for a beautiful teacher with speckled eyes who treated me like a person. I was curious about her.

When I found the erotica book I was fascinated because I had only ever seen my stepdad’s porn magazines. It was not a surprise that the writing appealed to my literary mind. What was surprising was my body’s response to the couple of stories that featured women exclusively. They turned me on more intensely than the heteronormative stories. When I moved out on my own two years later, I started buying erotica books and that’s how I came across the lesbian vampire stories that turned me toward kink.

The first time I kissed a girl I was 20 and partying with friends. I was drunk and so was she. But my next encounter with a woman was life changing. I first noticed her and her girlfriend as they lived in an apartment across the sidewalk from mine. I would see them coming and going when my curtains were open. She was tall, taller than me, which is rarity. She had long curly black hair, pale skin, and she dressed and held herself like like a goth queen. I was mesmerized. Eventually they moved out and I didn’t see her for months, until we started attending the same weekly queer dance party at the one dance club in town. And she no longer had a girlfriend that I could tell. She came with two men, a tall lanky goth boy and a husky Viking.

So I got brave and I wrote her a poem. I gave it to her one night as she was leaving. She went outside and then returned and kissed me. We dated and went to the local Pride event together, which was everything to my young queer heart.

What came after is a complicated history with someone who is now the longest member of my chosen family. She introduced me to queerness, kink, polyamory, and witchcraft. She spoke to my daughter in the womb and they still have a special something between them. She was my first woman love and will always hold a beloved place in my heart.

Image: portrait taken by a friend when I was pregnant with my daughter. I was 6 months pregnant when I approached the woman in the club.