(The following is a Guest Post by Roman Rimer, describing his experiences at the Geography of Pleasure: Embodiment for Trans Guys workshop. Enjoy! ~ Pavini)
When it came time to write about what feelings came up all the words I piece together seem slightly off, empty. Perhaps this goes back to the adage that writing is the loneliest profession. By contrast, participating in a workshop with family members you never knew you had, feels to be quite the opposite. Feeling part of a larger group is huge, especially if it doesn’t happen often.
Warm, safe spaces exist everywhere; they’re just not always open to everybody. My first impression when I entered the space was that I was welcome, and not just because I was helping other people sign in. Often I feel I have had to be on guard, even when I am in familiar places with people I know. Quite often those most “comfortable” elements in my life have at points turned threatening. When I find myself in a new space, I am safe. I do not have to worry about where I will go next and I can be fully present.
There are too many themes covered in the workshop to fully process, and I’m sure with time a few moments will pop up when I am least expecting it; perhaps they will provide guidance for that particular moment and it will make sense.
A concrete reminder for me was how important human touch can be. Well-meaning touch is not always easy to come by, consent is only occasionally addressed, and at moments in my life I have wanted to fully separate from my body. I imagine if we were taught at a young age to establish and respect boundaries, how the human race could start to heal itself. Even when in relationship(s) I constantly crave human touch and to receive it in such a loving way as it was in the workshop was a much-needed gift.
I enjoyed the exercises in which we were placed in smaller groups, either two or three of us. In one we allowed the other person to touch us, told them where, how much pressure to apply. In the groups of three we asked our partners to remove article(s) of clothing. It was something that on the surface so simple, yet while enacting it felt incredibly empowering.
The actions that many take for granted, are usually much more weighted with trans folks. Perhaps it was because we all knew what it was like, maybe the safety quashed all fears. From talking with other folks I identified that I, too, have felt my body at times was stolen from me, misidentified, physically harmed, attacked with words.
Us transfolks must love our bodies more than anyone could understand, we have held on to our bodies through everything. And what a better way to treat our bodies than to allow them the tenderness from others?
I’d forgotten how satisfying it was to be around ones brethren. While it wasn’t my first time with a group of solely trans-masculine folks, it was the first time in a while.
I’d imagine for many trans folks we’re constantly surrounded by cis people, often well-meaning, but still for lack of a better word, at times, horrible. I constantly find myself in a teaching role, as I find that tends to be one of the more hopeful ways to reach out to people. Being able to talk about my relationship with my body and not take on that role, is something I really value.
Though most of us were meeting one another for the very first time, I felt as though we’d known each other forever. Coming from different walks of life, different generations, family dynamics, occupations, we fit together like puzzle pieces, the individuals so strong yet together creating something even more magnificent than us all individually.
“The space was sacred there’s no doubt about it. I could feel the spirits of our transancestors and those who have yet to be born, all there with us. Those who have been silenced helped give me the strength to speak. It was as though as soon as we formed a circle a spark was lit, igniting an everlasting flame, warm enough for all of us.”
The workshop the previous three days was a mindfuck in the best way possible. Imagine, always feeling like an outsider, feeling misunderstood, always wary of how much to disclose (if at all), the idea that many people might not get it, or their reactions could be harmful, even dangerous. And suddenly I was in a place where not only was it safe to share, but it was encouraged, and others spoke their truths, let their fears out into the air. Suddenly, I felt less ashamed of my own struggles.
Often I feel as eager to cover up as I am to shed my layers. Growing up in the States, feeling ashamed of my body, nudity, sex. While it was never hard for me to find my voice, it was always hard for me to trust it. The workshop provided the trust, part from within the community and building it within ourselves.
The day after the workshop I had an improv class. I was still recovering, emotionally. Thoughts zoomed across my mind. How comfortable I’d felt, while battling through recurring memories of trauma over and over again. In class there were about fifteen of us and I looked around thought, holy fuck, I’m the only trans person here. Improv is known for “gender role reversal” if anything this drama therapy helped me figure out my identity. Though I’d known most of these folks for months, and was out as trans to maybe a third of them, I instantly missed my kin. Though it was only in my mind, I felt I stuck out as the lone trans thumb, and I instantly missed those bonds I’d just formed.
I like the idea that everyone is trans, only some of us have realized it. Perhaps this meeting was for those of us with the courage to move forward. After feeling shamed by the medical community, by family, friends, all these aspects of my life I could trace back to deciding to live openly and authentically. Once I came out I couldn’t quite go back. And as exhausting as I am by the constant teaching, It’s worth it. All the people about to have kids, for all the people who may not have given transphobia a second thought.
Nothing has made me happier than the friends who have since given birth acknowledging gender can very much be placed on children before they are ready to express who they are and they need to check their own beliefs before imposing them on their children. And to meet other trans folks at this workshop who were parents themselves gave me quite a lot of faith in the next generation.
And while it may take cis-gender people a while to catch on, I believe it’s possible. Once they get close enough to our fire, they will see the warmth, the camaraderie that elevates us all once we accept ourselves, and by proxy each other.
I mentioned the importance of a warm space and there is no way I could omit the hot food. It might not seem like much to some, but I am always grateful to have a hot meal in a warm space. I still feel quite privileged even with trauma I’ve endured. Since transitioning my housing situation has been more uncertain than not. It’s all connected.
And while I would never give it up, or change anything, it’s clear the price I’ve paid to live an authentic life. To not have basic needs met, or at least a given, I’ve put myself at risk. Knowing where I will be at a certain time, knowing I will be fed – is a huge thing. It shouldn’t be and everyone should always have these basics covered, but by seeing once more how “outsiders” or rather, folks who don’t subscribe to a certain, limited way of being, exist, my empathy has grown and flooded from me. It’s easy to see we’re not alone.
To know that although we went through this all alone, we were finally able to be there with each other. There’s something that only we can give each other. And that was remarkable. The scariest part is in thinking that we are all alone. The Geography of Pleasure workshop proved nothing could be further from the truth.
~ by Roman Rimer
It is only now, four days out, that I can bring myself to write of the beauty, the heartbreak, the joy, the community and the exquisite pain that was the first Geography of Pleasure: Embodiment for Trans Guys workshop.
Here’s what I notice: my heart aching mightily with the openness we created together. I find my heart expanding into love and joy, and contracting into fear and anxiety, in a regular pattern. I find I want the rawness and intensity of the workshop space in my everyday life. It is hard to return to dishes, kids, and regular life.
How can I describe how the electricity in the room as we smashed paradigm after paradigm? How to write of the power of claiming our rightful erotic space, as humans who live on a trans-masculine spectrum? How can I describe the utter suffering that the people in this circle have endured, that has impacted every aspect of their lives? And how can I describe the fierceness and righteousness of watching the erotic call each of us home to our bodies, just as they are in this moment?
Truly, I cannot.
But what I can describe is the feeling of success I have as a facilitator of a crucible that created demonstrable transformation for participants. People looked different when they left. They felt different. They felt like their context around pleasure, their bodies and their relationships had shifted so much that it was difficult to articulate. They spoke again and again of feeling a sense of safety that they had never in their lives felt.
I knew the workshop was going to be potent, but I really had absolutely no idea to what degree we would change everything.
One of my favorite reflections comes from workshop participant Jun C:
“I came in feeling like I had nothing to offer. I now feel like I have everything to give.
“I feel like I finally found the kind of community and connection with other trans-masculine people that I’ve been looking for that I couldn’t find for so long.
“I had initial reservations coming in (didn’t we all?) I thought there was a very likely possibility that it was going to be some hokey new age-y type thing that usually strikes me as being disingenuous, devoid of real substance, with a false type of enlightenment. I don’t know yet how to articulate the sparkle magic that happened, but I’m so glad I was there.”
This workshop arose from a vision I had of a room of trans-masculine people, working together to banish shame, craft community, and communally welcome into our bodies the pleasure that heals trauma, brings sensation to numbness, and replaces fear with joy. And this bold vision actually happened.
As a facilitator, my heart grew larger and larger with each story, each sharing, each time I sobbed with the hurt we have all borne. The scars I saw this weekend, (and I saw many,) denote a strength and a resilience, a determination to live in our bodies and to be truly ALIVE, without apology.
Perhaps I will write in greater depth about the specifics of what we did, but for now, I am basking in the delight of a heart full of passion for continuing and growing this work. We have already been invited to Portland, New Mexico, Toronto, Minneapolis and the UK. You’ll be able to track our progress at http://www.geographyofpleasure.com. I’ll be posting participant written reflections on my blog, as well as spoken reflections on our website and youtube. Stay tuned!
Our dream is for every trans-masculine person in the world has access to pleasure and embodiment, in the body they are in, RIGHT NOW!