I'm an author, stripper, anti-misogyny educator, and coach.
As an undiagnosed neurodivergent person, I really struggled throughout my childhood and teens. I was outgoing with a naturally curious personality, and, because I was so talkative and friendly, no one caught my autism. By the time I was in middle school, I, like many verbose femmes, had learned to mask my neuroriotousness by modeling myself after what I learned were socially acceptable forms of femininity.
Although I’ve always had a few reliable friendships with other brilliantly strange kids, as school became progressively more rigid and demanding over the years, I grew unable to cope with all the rules and restrictions. There were so many grownups telling me what to do, how to behave, and, once I went through puberty, they told me how to dress. I was repeatedly punished for what adults perceived as my “promiscuity”, and often told to cover my body. Rather than acknowledge or blame the predatory boys and men around me, I learned that I was the problem. I learned that I was a temptation, a taunt. Wicked, even.
The “bad girl” role suited me okay, and worked as a survival strategy for my adolescence, because at least that way I still got to play the rebel and do my own thing. The trouble is, the “bad girl” stigma comes with a high price: I learned to believe that I deserved it when I was abused, mistreated, mocked, dismissed, and outcast. I learned to believe that my inability to thrive in high school wasn’t because my school was an oppressive environment, but because I must be stupid. And, lemme tell ya, that was a shitty set of ideas about myself to carry into my adulthood.
I lived through an abusive relationship in my early twenties, and another in my late twenties, under very different circumstances. The first time, still in my “bad girl” confusion, I really believed I was to blame for the ways my boyfriend hurt me, mentally and physically. My second abusive relationship occurred after several years of therapy and self-reflection, in which I was able to process the misogyny that had pinned me in place throughout my adolescence. The second relationship was also different because my abuser, although extremely misogynistic, was a lesbian. At thirty years old, I was standing in a vast river of lived experience as a femme, a sex worker, and lifelong target of misogyny and gendered oppression. Standing beside me in the same river were millions of femmes, including many of my own friends, coworkers, and family members. I was able to see a fuller scope of what we’d been up against our whole lives.
These days, I teach strategies for contextualizing/recontextualizing our experiences, beliefs, and relationships to account for systemic oppressions like patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism. The goal of this approach is to reduce the harmful impacts these systems have on us, while we nurture a deeper intimacy with our own potential and foster greater closeness and connection–with ourselves, each other, and the world at large.