I check a lot of masculine boxes. Sometimes to extremes.
I’ve almost died mountain climbing. I’ve successfully led extremely complicated engineering projects. I’ve started a company. I’ve pulled a four hundred pound deadlift. I’ve been lost in the woods alone and found my way out.
Rah. Me, man.
And about five or six years ago, at Burning Man, I discovered that I had a feminine side.
I had dressed in a ninja costume for the night, and one of my campmates had offered to draw a ninja eyeliner pattern on my face. I’d accepted it, in good fun, not thinking that much about it — and then later in the night, I looked in a mirror and was shocked to realize that I looked 🌺 feminine 🌺 as fuck.
I’d never really explored my feminine side before then. Or acknowledged that I had one.
I think a lot of men would have scowled and rejected it, or washed it off.
But — I live for new territory. I live to explore the full spectrum of experience.
And when I find myself offered an experience in a realm where most of [the male half of] our species would never dare venture, that’s fucking playtime for me. That’s where life gets fun. Game on.
I leaned in. All the way. I could feel invitations from my body to move differently, converse differently, flirt differently, speak differently, feel differently. I accepted all of them.
I found myself in conversations that flowed with an ease and into topics that I’d never experienced before. I had interactions that were totally new territory for me.
It was magical. My world was rocked.
I didn’t wake up the next day thinking, “Huh. I’m a woman.” I’m not. (This did take some time and reflection to get to)
It was more, “Wow. I have a hell of a feminine side.”
(And several months/explorations later — “DAMN I look good in a dress”.)
I experienced it as a new swath of life to explore. It was as if the map through which I had been navigating my internal world had actually been folded in half all along, and now there was this whole other side that I’d never realized was there.
A lot of my aesthetic explorations and costuming and art in the years to follow were in that spirit. These were mostly in the magical context of parties in particular well-held Bay Area communities where anything goes and exploration is encouraged.
What would it feel like to show up like this? Like that? With ferocity? Grace? Fluidity? Gentleness? Silliness?
What could I mix and match? What aesthetics and energies seemed to want to combine?
Fierce feminine? Gentle masculine? Miyazaki nightmare? Androgynous glitch embodiment? Sparkle bae?
What personas did I default to, and what new things would emerge when I didn’t?
I began using frameworks like Jungian archetypes to suggest parts of the map that I hadn’t explored and reclaimed. What was I already embodying? What would be interesting to explore that I’d never allowed myself to be before?
And as I kept exploring, I found that the most potent explorations came from surrender.
Releasing my rational engineer mind’s egoic analytical death grip on the world, and just letting everything emerge in sublime ways I could have never come up with otherwise.
Maybe setting an intention, but not controlling anything. Opening the bin and letting the whole ecosystem express itself as it wanted, without filter or judgment.
Then going out and exploring what I could be — and what dormant aspects of my being I could reclaim as my own.
And figuring out what that looked like out in the world. In life. At work. Integration. It’s a thing.
It was a life-changing experience. It opened my eyes. My horizons of how I could experience my own life and the flavors of connection available to those around me exploded beyond what I could have ever imagined possible.
It was challenging, and it was FUN. I highly recommend it if you have a safe context in which to do so.
— -Part 2: Pronouns and Fluidity — -
Since then, my M.O. has evolved quite a lot — I may step back into that world, but I’ve felt sated on that front for awhile now.
A lot of my journey the past year has been in reconnecting to the subtleties and powers of my masculine side. And more deep/spiritual/subtle/energetic than aesthetic.
But I embody and explore as broad, deep, subtle, and high across as many spectrums as I can.
Which brings me back to pronouns — I view myself (and everyone) as fluid and infinite.
I find he/she/they/it* to all be interesting, according to how someone experiences me.
I don’t want an identity or a label or a box. I don’t want to comply with anybody’s autopilot.
I find it more powerful to stand in my complexity and force the systems around me to deal with it, than to reduce it.
I actually find joy in feeling the Matrix’s spellcraft wobble, as people shake into does-not-compute and their autopilot doesn’t know what to do, even if just for a few seconds. It’s fun.
It also means they actually have to engage with me as a person. For a few seconds.
I don’t expect most people to play along. Most people aren’t there yet. Most people have no idea or concept or experience to anchor to. They eventually choose a box and go with it.
And if somebody doesn’t accept my experience, I know that they are usually coming from a smaller world and my existence is triggering something in them. I know this because I’ve also lived in that world, and been that person, albeit not violently.
Sometimes, their system sees something that I’m not embodying, and I try to discern if that’s the case — because that means more to explore and embody. But usually reactivity doesn’t point to that.
I also don’t expect anybody from the gender-nonconforming world to mirror me. My path has been exceptionally fertile, kind, and nurturing, and I’ve been fortunate enough to sidestep most of the trauma that tends to come with it.
I haven’t been on the receiving end of violence or death threats or discrimination. I can just show up as a long haired white man. Often, that’s all I authentically feel called to do. Challenge mode off.
— -Part 3: Desire, Embodiment, Future — -
That also comes with lots of privilege. Which I’m learning to wield.
Not out of any sense of obligation to any political movement (I don’t give my agency to anyone, and I hold especially strong energetic boundaries with anyone who tries to weaponize shame to induce my compliance), but out of my own desire to live in a world in which people are fucking awake enough to meet each other in curiosity and love and allowance instead of the combative petty bullshit that so much of our species is caught up in.
I enjoy embodying permission. I love creating permission through example and presence. I’m happiest when everyone around me is free as fuck and knows it.
And I’m perpetually interested in exploring and awakening and reclaiming our powers as fluid, infinite, living beings. In healing our traumas and participating in the world from a place of strength instead of wounding.
I don’t give a shit about what it looks or sounds like or what words we use, as long as those words and sounds are coming from a place of love and truth.
As I’m exploring what to do next professionally, I’m also asking myself what I feel called to do.
I’m getting a lot of answers at the same time. One of them is to help people wake up and explore.
Support them in their parallels of the journey that I went through. Look at where their maps might be folded. Share experiences that might help them bypass months of guesswork.
Give them directions and journeys and integration to explore, and love, and reflect what my intuition sees in them wanting to come alive.
And then let them explore it for themselves. It’s their journey.
I’m not attached to any form of it. I’m not attached to it being primary income. I’m not attached to doing it at all. And I’m enjoying just sharing as I am.
But, the possibilities are interesting.
Everything is mutable. Everything has a life of its’ own. Everything is emergent.
And that’s how I like it.
* ”It” in the spirit of “sovereign cluster of stardust holonically formed into cells shaped as a human”, or “being that I don’t know how to make sense of”, or “cloud of motion and effect that involves a humanoid” — interpretations of being that get more expansive than just a human body.