my body and other things that take up space
personal reflections on 'taking up space: love letters to our queer bodies', the lesbian urge to write a body politic manifesto
hi. this is my “newsletter”, and this right here is the closest i’ve ever come to writing something for the sake of being read. i’m kinda nervous. but one thing about me is i certainly always have something to say.
i’ve been thinking a lot lately about BODY. mine in particular i guess, brought on by an art event (taking up space, love letters to our queer bodies) i went to on a whim, after getting a free ticket from an amazing older lesbian woman in a facebook group who couldn’t go because she was having chemo for breast cancer.
here’s a diary entry i wrote while sitting at the event quickly between shows:
I came to the art show alone today feeling self conscious & vulnerable. Its shame I guess. My skirt felt short & its see through. What was my face doing? Was my smile approachable? Was my stare blank enough to look un-desperate and belonging? Did I dress cool & gay enough? Was my fringe behaving? I then met some nice gay people when I went to the smoko (sorry body). Being un-alone helped. But then the readings & performances grabbed me - the curator called out the idea of "belonging in queer space". Called out the lack of belonging thrust upon disabled people, POC, lesbians. I felt seen & I felt welcome. And EXCITED to be a LESBIAN! In a queer space! I feel empowered to make art - that's something rare for a swanky art night like this. My perspective & my art feels like it is of value.
when i got home i started a list of things i love about my body. this was prompted from something i was shocked by at this event: everyone was prefacing their love letter with an apology. these queer artists felt they needed to make amends, apologise, make penance for their acts against their body and it broke my heart. i don’t think i would have thought to do that, but maybe i would have, it’s hard to know in retrospect. but i do think there has to be a certain power with joining forces with one’s body, assuming forgiveness and unconditional love as a given.
dear body, i know you understand. and i just wanted to say thank you. thanks for being there, i love you.
i’m in one of my memoir-reading eras right now, they happen whenever i’m into reading, i love memoirs, and naturally i think what would the memoir of my body be about? what’s my body’s story? in the 24 years since i became a physical body what has she experienced? been subjected to? wanted? hated?
i’d HAVE to start with PUBERTY. that’s where body stories are juiciest. getting tits (biggest size at cotton on body by age 14, cup and band!). menarche. started inflicting violence against my own body. discovered orgasms. [gotta be the epitome of body wars, still stuck in that tricky one]
being a teenager is actually just an extended war between body and self i guess. i was CONSTANTLY!!! battling for dominance with my body, and every woman i know had that experience too. the social transition from ‘child body’ to ‘woman body’ is disturbing, and the rest of you can’t keep up.
all of a sudden you’ve got dangly bits hanging off your body, you’re leaking various liquids, men are weeaaaeeoowwww!!-ing you from their station wagons, men are pervy on omegle, men are hugging you but now its weird because there’s boobs there, men are masturbating at you in public, basically men sucked already but they start sucking in a uniquely special way.
from sharlene teo’s ‘ponti’:
“When I was eleven, I used to hope that puberty would morph me, that one day I’d uncurl from my chrysalis, bloom out beautiful. No luck! Acne instead. Disgusting hair. Blood.”
on pleasure as body liberation … this excerpt from ‘healthy questions about sado-maschosism’, a feminist b/d/s/m workshop/discussion transcribed in the November 1976 edition of The Lesbian Tide (excerpts of which will be a mainstay in this newsletter, i’m sure):
A: It seems to me that S&M sex per se has very little to do with politics
Q: I feel S&M sexuality is political to the extent that the personal is political. The way I conduct myself in my personal life makes a statement about what I believe. What I believe is that I want to open up at almost any expense! And that’s the way I feel about my masochism. I feel like it’s body work. I’ve done a lot of Reichian work, letting go, and making sounds, and getting out things that bother me. […] sometimes I really clearly define what I want with a lover and we’re doing it and before I’ve gotten off on it all of a sudden I’ll get real sad and start to cry, and stuff will come up. Then we’ll work with that and it will be therapeutic. I see my sado-masochistic experience as a very positive, progressive opening up of my body and emotions. For example, being restrained has helped me with releasing energy in my pelvic area that has been blocked. If I am tied up to the point that the only area I can move is my pelvic area then I really have to push and get out all the anger I’ve held in there, and all the feelings that I’ve blocked.
… yeah 🥺💕
it’s the longest running gag (wrong word for it) between me & my psychologist since we started therapy almost 2 years ago that i’ll tell her something very upsetting/traumatic, or talk about a strong emotion i’ve felt, and she will say “where do you feel that in your body?”. it used to annoy the hell out of me, and we would go something like this:
me: *very emotional thing to say, delivered with the energy of this emoji 😐*
her: what does that make you feel?
me: what do you mean? nothing i’m feeling normal
her: is there anything you feel in your body? i would expect to feel sad or scared if it was me.
me: no … i’m literally fine can we just keep analysing this thing emotionlessly
after a loooong time, i could finally identify body feelings in our sessions. i’d have to focus hard, and she would guide me through it and make sure i knew i was safe with her, and i was allowed to feel, and i started off just kinda guessing where my emotions were, but eventually veeeerry very slowly i got there. this is the chapter of my body i keep writing in my head. this change is happening right now and feels really important.
the big bad feelings (i do schema therapy, so for me it’s when my abandonment schema is set off) feel like a rising sensation, a tightness in my head and chest, a numbness in face, arms, hands and feet. though this is not a physical sensation, one of the first things that clued me in to what was going on here was that overwhelming desire to GET OUT, STOP WHATEVER WAS GOING ON, DON’T FEEL IT, DON’T THINK IT. the split second of total flood of everything, before the nothingness of dissociation, that i eventually learned to catch before it gave way.
one of my favourite parts of my favourite book, we were witches by ariel gore, a memoir, is about Body.
(in the chapter before, Ariel invites her abusive drunk ex boyfriend into her home, and the next night gets a call from an ex girlfriend who tells her about her new girlfriend being suicidal, and she compares her inviting male violence into her home with the new girlfriend’s suicidality - “I wondered why female violence was so quick to turn on itself”.)
she tells us the story, in this chapter, of Augustine Gleizes, a traumatised teenage girl famous for her publicised hysteria hospitalisation in 19th century france. her body had been raped, humiliated, imprisoned, betrayed. her captor, some french neuroscientist, is putting her on show.
Excited by her condition, her doctor introduced her to his class, saying, “One of the patients in our service, afflicted with hysteron-epilepsy, has developed a rare pathological condition that as such is worthy of being placed before your eyes. it is by nature essentially unstable and mobile, as is the sex it prefers to afflict".”
this passage in ‘radical feminist therapy’ [x, x] ignited my passion for body work and god i want to do this work one day. me? in a candle and salt lamp lit draped in paisley cloths room, dressed like frankie bergstein, with ambient music on? tell me you don’t want me releasing your emotions through frankincense scented oil new agey massage?????? MY DREAM. anyway:
We can assist in the physical side of liberation in many different ways. … We can point out gently and supportively when they are looking at their bodies through patriarchal eyes or white people’s eyes or Anglo-Saxon eyes and help them find/regain their own eyes. By engaging them in breathing and other energizing exercises, we can help women to experience the joy of energy coursing through their bodies and to feel both physically and emotionally. By touching, warming, and caring for what is numb, we can help bring back life. By engaging women in anger exercises, we can help them get in touch with their anger and their strength. By encouraging and nurturing women as they dare to feel sexually and as they explore those sexual feelings and inclinations, we can help them find/build/enjoy a sexuality that is their own.
to return: my love letter.
I love your:
the way you cry a lot
the way you look like all the other women you’re related to
that curve of your waist/hips
nice regular cycle and not too heavy periods
good at hugging (fat)
big surgery scar
perfect circadian rhythm (w/ assistance)
company on long walks
and I love you - the way you look, the way you feel, I really wouldn’t choose any other.
thanks for being there.
PS if you read this, thank you, it means a lot to me. like. thinking about someone reading all of those bits from my brain makes me wanna cry.
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PPS i’ll be going to this somatic healing dance therapy in a few days, maybe expect an addendum to this newsletter … :)