Content warning: this is a personal account of my weekend. It alludes to the violence at Pulse night club in Orlando, and to personal sexual experiences.
I must have cried 7 or 8 separate times over the past few days, for various reasons. Although this is posted on Sex Positive Sacramento’s blog, this is written from a personal perspective, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect the perspective of everyone at SPS, or who attended the described events. But the personal is political.
I have been feeling fragile lately, but a kind of fragile that reveals strength, and re-connects me to what matters. Layers are breaking away and revealing new ones.
Dr. Vixenne describes the purpose of OY in her blog:
“Ultimately, the point of Orgasmic Yoga is to use breath, movement, sound, touch, placement of attention, and setting of intentions to weave into your self-pleasuring practices, moving away from outside stimulus like porn and fantasy. Mindful masturbation. Sensual exploration. Really taking the time, the scenic route, to see if you can find new things to enjoy, or that may arouse you, or that you don’t like. It’s all learning.”
The experience at our three-day intensive was a bit like summer camp, with attendees feeling out the space and the situation on the first night, but a sense of excitement about what was to come. Dr. Vixenne skillfully created a comfortable container of safety, both emotionally and physically. Paired with the low amber glow of candles, her gorgeously curated Spotify playlists inspired curious, introspective self-exploration. The second night saw the greatest amount of vulnerability, discussion and processing, with attendees sharing our stories, and even giving a bit of feedback about what might serve us better in our remaining time. Dr. Vixenne listened to our comments graciously, and expertly incorporated the feedback, reinforcing the experience of being heard and safe. By the end of that evening, a softly held intimacy had formed among the group.
Being able to bring this kind of deeply personal, sexual learning to our community has been a part of Sex Positive Sacramento's vision for years. I teared up as I told the group how meaningful it was for me to have everyone present, and to have helped make the workshop happen. I shared, “I connect with and discover myself through relationship to others. This kind of work is what I want to do when I grow up – and it’s happening right now!” To experience it simultaneously from the perspective of an attendee and event organizer felt dreamlike, powerful, and deeply emotional.
I feel so grateful to be doing this work with Sex Positive Sacramento. Our culture often trivializes sexuality – shunting it off to some dark, scandalous corner; holding it up as some kind of holy grail; framing sex and sexuality as an afterthought, extraneous, frivolous. As if it’s not central to our humanity and our relationships and our understanding of ourselves. Even asexual folks are usually compelled to define and explain themselves in contrast to deep-seated sexuality norms.
Among other things, this weekend’s experiences really drove home to me just how much Sacramento wants and needs this work in our community. Thank you for showing up, from the bottom of my heart, and for giving me faith that you will show up time and again – whether we’re teaching therapists how to work with sex workers, or we’re providing space for you to teach yourself about yourself.
I am still processing how OY affected me, and I expect I’ll continue to discover bits and pieces of its effects in my life for days and weeks to come. A few themes have already surfaced. First, I found myself face to face with a reminder to accept and respond to things as they come, and to respond from a place of mindfulness, rather than holding tight to expectations. Expectations often lead to disappointment, which is definitely NOT sexy!
Much of the rest of my experience is tangled up with what happened in Orlando. Between the second and third night of the workshop, the horrifying news about the hate crime at Orlando’s Pulse club broke.
Before I speak of my own experience, I want to say I honor ALL of my friends’ responses – of anger, outrage, fear, outspokenness, sadness, choosing to organize and attend vigils and rallies and dances in the street – equally. Personally, I have been bouncing around from emotion to emotion. Numbness and disbelief. Avoiding. Horrified. Uplifted by community. Physically sickened. Crying. Angry at the murderer, and at the Islamaphobic reactions. Afraid of violence in the spaces my loved ones and I frequent in Sacramento. Proud to have a mayor elect who urges us to replace our campaign lawn signs with ones that read “PRIDE OVER PREJUDICE”, and a City Council member who is not afraid to call for a ban on assault weapons. Wanting to make meaning of all of it, but not knowing how, or even if that’s possible. Mixed in with all the deeply positive experiences of Dr. Vixenne’s visit to Sacramento and her workshop. And guilt about how I could be enjoying myself (taking Victoria to Gunther’s Ice Cream; luxuriating in orgasmic yoga; enjoying the Delta breeze on my porch late last night) when there is so much grief and fear being experienced by my community. I suppose there’s probably a word in German for this weird combination of feelings, but I don’t know what it is in English.
A vigil was held for the victims at 20th and K Streets, the epicenter of Sacramento’s Lavender Heights neighborhood. But when Victoria and I arrived a few minutes before the vigil was scheduled to begin, I felt confused. There was a street party happening in front of Mango’s, a Latinx LGBT club, and on a stage, loud, cheerful Spanish pop music was being played over the speakers, an enthusiastic emcee energizing the crowd.
"What the heck?” I thought. “Isn’t this a solemn vigil? This seems like a celebration?" There was an entry table set up on 20th St between K and L, with event organizers directing us to enter through Faces night club, if we were here for the vigil. We made our way through Faces and stood outside for a bit, watching beauty pageant participants on stage, and the mixed crowd below.
And then it hit me.
I turned to Victoria and said, "I think this is the thing. What's happening right now IS the perfect counter action to the shooting. People I’m reading as Latino, Muslim, queer… we’re all here together. Peacefully sharing a public space." I got chills, and the tears came back to my eyes.
This peaceful confluence of LGBTQ folks, Latinx folks, Muslims. The intentional collaboration between Muslim and Jewish community leaders with LGBT community members as a response to the media/politicians’ framing of this event as an extreme Islamist terror attack - THAT is what is going to bring change. THAT is what shows that change is already happening.
It’s important to remember that the shooting at Pulse occurred on Latinx night. I’m not sure if the shooter was motivated by racism as well as homophobia/transphobia. But many of the victims were Latinx. Mango's is a Latinx club. In Lavender Heights. So this intersection of these parts of the community, the venue, the collaboration of the two programs – a joyful celebration and a grief response – make so much sense to me. Although things are far from perfect in Sacramento, we're a very multicultural city. The fact that the street fair organizers and the crowd were willing to yield their stage to the organizers of the vigil for 45 minutes makes a lot of sense, simply because we ARE one community, even though we are many. I feel so GRATEFUL that this is Sacramento’s response.
And so, a few hours later, on the third night of the OY workshop, I found myself setting my intention for the evening of finding connection with others through connection to myself. After we were settled into our “nests” of yoga mats, pillows and blankets, the playlist began with “Seasons of Love” from the RENT soundtrack, inspired by the performance by the Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus at the vigil. Tears fell again.
And then: the feeling that finding connection, pleasure and joy, even while there are tears, is a DIRECT AND MINDFUL ACT OF RESISTANCE against the hate, homophobia, transphobia, and racism behind the Orlando shooter’s actions. The feeling that this self- and other-love STANDS IN DIRECT OPPOSITION TO the reactionary responses of the media and politicians to whip up anti-Islamic fervor. The idea that this is an INTENTIONAL refusal to be terrified, to respond to hate with more hate. It is EXACTLY the kind of thoughtful response that people who choose to spread hate and violence want to quash.
Today, I decided it was important to be gentle with myself. To honor the fragility AND the strength. I shared on my personal social media some ways I did that. I won’t list them all here, but I welcome your comments about how you’re caring for yourself AND holding others through this most recent and public manifestation of homophobia.
I think this weekend has also underscored the importance of breaking down binaries in our individual AND public lives. We can care for ourselves, WHILE ALSO lifting others up. We can stand up against homophobia and transphobia AND Islamophobia. We can honor ALL experiences of grief.
Maybe we can even find orgasms among the tears. Or maybe tenderness toward ourselves and others. Or maybe both.
I’ve had the song Loud Like Love by PLACEBO stuck in my head since yesterday:
“Can you imagine a love that is so proud/
It never has to question why or how?/…
Breathe, breathe, believe, believe/…
THAT WE ARE LOUD LIKE LOVE”
THEY WILL NOT TAKE PRIDE MONTH AWAY FROM US. WE ARE LOUD LIKE LOVE.
In kindness, gratitude, and connection,