I wrote this in the midst of the Stanford Rape Case’s travesty.
(Note: I am purposefully capitalizing the sexual assault Survivor’s pronouns and any words relating to Her to offer Her some of my respect for Her ordeal and perhaps, give Her a smidge of Power back.)
I’ve been following the story of the Stanford former champion swimmer, Brock Allen Turner, and the Woman he sexually assaulted as his sentence (if you can call it that) was handed down by Judge Aaron Persky. You simply must read the entire story to get the picture of the horrific injustice that was inflicted on an innocent Woman as She was unconscious from drinking too much at a college party.
Much has been said about the Survivor’s drunken state… that She deserved it, that it really is so common as to be irrelevant. She was unconscious when She was assaulted. Even if She was conscious (which she was not) still, She was in no shape to consent.
The incredible Survivor’s letter that was read aloud in court can be seen here: Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker. She recounts how Her life has been ruined by this attack and trial. Yet the judge, in his comment during sentencing said about Brock Allen Turner, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.” Fuck the impact on the Survivor.
As can be imagined, the backlash from women around the United States has been swift and intense. A brilliant piece by Katie J.M. Baker of Buzzfeed, entitled We With Pitchforks, aims to shame Brock Allen Turner, imprisoning him for life, all over the Internet, with shame because he never expressed remorse, apologies or was given an appropriate sentence.
I feel a kinship with this amazing Survivor because I, too, was young (I was 18-years old), very, very drunk and was raped with very little memory of the experience.
The legal drinking age in Florida at the time was 18 and I took advantage of that, spending inordinate amounts of money I made at a fast food restaurant on alcohol. I had loads of cash because I was still living at home. I felt free for the first time in my life.
I went to a local restaurant/bar (a famous chain) almost every night after work, drinking a few drinks, eating appetizers and socializing with the boys and men at the bar. The bartender and servers got to know me well because I was (and am) an awesome tipper. I would get delightfully tipsy, sometimes drunk, but could always get my bicycle-riding ass home at the end of the night.
However, this one evening, I met three men and they asked me to join them at a table. I jumped at the chance… they were adorable! I had just been paid and bought round after round of drinks for all of us. I shot tequila for the first time, several shots on top of the amaretto and creams I regularly drank.
One minute I was at the restaurant and the next memory was being on a bed, a gun to my head and being raped by each of the men, one by one. Then memories disappeared again and the next time I woke up I was at one of the guy’s houses, in his arms and hurting so bad it took me a great deal of energy to unwind myself, get up, call a friend (no cell phones) and get myself home.
Where I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw a face I did not recognize. My lips were bruised and bloodied, cuts exposed the trauma I’d endured on my face. My eyes swollen, not quite black eyes, but I expect I was slapped or punched in the face more than once.
I turned from the mirror and stepped into the scalding shower. And scrubbed my body, including the cuts, scrapes and many, many bruises I had all over my stomach, neck, arms, thighs and, most especially, my breasts. It looked like they had used razor blades? Sharp knives? Definitely fingernails. The bruises looked like they had grabbed my flesh as if it was bread dough, squeezed and twisted it. I could see finger mark bruises in several places. When I washed my bottom, the washcloth turned red; I was bleeding out of my anus.
And then, while showering, the image of the gun flashed into my head. Had I tried to fight and they felt they needed to threaten my life to make me lay still?
I especially scrubbed my vulva and vagina. My sore, swollen and bruised vulva. I used a washcloth and tried to shove it inside myself so I could get their filth out of my body. I soaped my fingers and used them to swipe the semen out of me. I know I was in the shower a very long time.
I didn’t cry at all. Of course I know now I was in shock. It took several days before I could think about it enough to feel.
And then cry. (Which I continued doing for years.)
But that day, I did not cry. I was due to go to work at the fast food restaurant so got myself dressed and had my dad drive me to work. (He kept asking, “Where is your bike?” I didn’t know.)
When I got to work, my manager took me aside and asked where I had been the night before. I was confused. Did he know something happened? My friend who came to get me that morning also worked with me, told our manager I had been raped. As if that part of my privacy being exposed wasn’t enough, the manager of the restaurant I had been at the night before called and told my manager that I stiffed the waitress and bartender over $300. Suddenly I remembered I gave one of the guys cash to pay the server when I went to the bathroom. Apparently, he pocketed it. And the server saw me leave a hefty tip… and one of guys grabbing it as he left the restaurant. I was so embarrassed and promised to pay them back immediately.
Talking to my manager, he asked if I knew anything about the guys. I actually (somehow) remembered they were servers at a local Mexican restaurant. My manager and the manager at the restaurant paid their management a personal visit and got the three of them fired that day.
That was the extent of my vindication.
Nowhere along the way did anyone suggest telling the police. It never even crossed my mind. If it happened today and I saw what happened to this assault Survivor, I would never dream of reporting my rapist. Why? It doesn’t change a thing. And, if anything, it smears, smashes and humiliates the Survivor even more… again and again.
It took years of therapy and rape survivor support groups to forgive myself for being drunk that night, to finally believe it wasn’t my fault, that I had not asked for it. The cuts and bruises healed over the first week or so. The inner torment lasted over a decade.
I no longer cry about the experience, have integrated it into a part of my life story and share it when I see a woman beating herself up for putting herself in that position. I beg her to see the reality that we never ask to be raped or sexually assaulted, even if we were out-of-our-minds drunk or drugged. It might take her years and years to grasp even a seed of what I say, but at least I offered her a counter to the screaming voices in her head… and the fucking crap “friends” and family might be saying.
So I share here for the Woman who was terrorized by Brock Allen Turner and Judge Aaron Perksy so She might know She is not alone. I am another woman who knows and understands the shame and humiliation they try to push into our Souls via our vaginas. I also want Her to know there can be joy in Her life again one day. I want to tell Her how proud of Her I am She faced this animal in court even if the judge buried Her in shit with his sentence.
She is not alone. I will think of Her and send Her healing light every single day.
Most of you know I identify as lesbian. Really, the words are “femme Dyke“… a more political, descriptive explanation of how I walk in the LGBTQ+ community.
Buzzfeed recently asked folks to share their first gay bar experiences as a way to express the good and bad of the atmosphere in what used to be seen as a safe space. I wrote mine out and wanted to share it here as well, especially since my babies have asked me to write my life here on the blog.
There is so, so much more to the story, but here is the outline of my life at the Parliament House in Orlando.
What Gay Bars Mean to Me
I was 17-years old in 1979 when my gay boyfriend and I ventured to the Parliament House in Orlando, Florida. It was like walking into Wonderland; an alternate Universe I never knew existed. For once, being a fat girl didn’t make any difference… I was embraced and accepted for all that I was. In fact, I found myself in the midst of brilliant, eccentric, artistic and whirling-twirling misfits that pulled me into the middle of their all-male fold.
Besides dancing to Donna Summer and drinking watered-down gin & tonics, the PH had a Show Bar where Drag Queens performed twice nightly. The Divine Miss P emceed, her biting snark gave me a view into humor I’d never experienced before. There is nothing quite like being the object of a Drag Queen’s dart.
Divine Miss P
For some reason still unknown to me, the Drag Queens took me under their wing. I was not even in the bar legally, must have made a fool of myself with my ignorance of gay culture a hundred times, yet they sat me down in front of the make-up mirror and taught me how to “paint my face.” For years afterwards, I was asked if I was a Drag Queen (although the huge rhinestone brooches and bracelets, the feather boas and glitter in my pink hair might have had something to do with it, too). It took until I had kids that I learned to tone down my make-up enough that strangers didn’t think I was about to lip-sych a song for them.
I initially wrote this on my Navelgazing Midwife blog, but it needed to be shifted over to here. It was written on July 4, 2016. I remain endlessly in awe of those that responded to the call for help in saving lives on June 12 and 13, 2016.
I have wanted to write this since 3am on June 12, and every day since, but it took awhile to even begin to formulate the right words; there was simply emotion and incredible sadness hindering my fingers.
I was a midwife and doula for 32 years, holding lives in my hands many times, resuscitating babies and stemming the tide of postpartum hemorrhage in mothers. Yet I have but a whiff of what our First Responders (and others named below) experienced the night of June 12 and all these days since. I have tried to think of a way to thank these people, have an intense urge to seek each one out and hold them close to my heart while whispering, “Thank you,” over and over again.
The scope of actions from those that were there… are there… for my gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and straight family, Latinx or Anglo, (for they are family to all of us) is enormous. The incredible amount of love, care, detail, sweat, tears and even shock must be acknowledged. As a care provider myself, I listened to the incredible unfolding of the hospital staff’s descriptions of their work as the waves of dying and injured flooded through their doors. I sat through their first press conference with survivor Angel Colon front and center, enraptured, yet sobbing with gratitude and awe at their choreographed and executed dance to save lives.
I know I could never begin to thank every agency that pulled together those first 24 hours, but I need to try. Each profession or organization I list is a thread in the whole, beautiful tapestry that is #OrlandoStrong.
Please feel my overwhelming love and gratitude… and know there are thousands and thousands of others who feel the same. You people, my Superheroes, are a gift to humanity. Never, never let the finger pointing touch you. Do not claim that bureaucratic static that will certainly grow to a cacophony before too long. Stay true to your knowledge that you did everything right, you saved so many. You did the very best any of us could ever have done. No, you did far, far better than most of us.
Thank you a hundred million times plus 102 to those mentioned below. If I have forgotten you, just add yourself to the list; it was merely an ignorant oversight. You, too, belong here.
Thank you to:
– The entire Orlando Police Department who risked their lives, over and over again, to save as many people as possible. I am filled with so much gratitude, my heart overflows with tears streaming down my cheeks.
– Everyone at the Orlando Sheriff’s Department who also risked their lives multiple times and kept communications between the different agencies running smoothly. I also weep with gratitude for your agency.
– Orlando’s amazing SWAT Team who found ways to get into the building to save people and then removed that evil animal from this earth. You all are incredible.
– All the tireless Paramedics who used their minds and skills, even when the solutions were unorthodox, to help save lives.
– All the Ambulance agencies that responded and tended to the wounded while getting them to the hospital as fast as possible.
– All the EMS personnel who had many roles to fulfill in saving lives.
– All 911 Dispatch Operators… my heart aches for you wondrous folks who comforted the injured and dying throughout the several-hour ordeal. You gave genuine love to those that died while you were on the line with them and helped keep others alive until help arrived. Your professionalism and note-taking will not be forgotten as the information continues being disclosed. I send you special wishes for emotional and spiritual healing from this horrific experience.
– Orlando Regional Medical Center Hospital, especially for their readiness drills that helped set them up for success with extreme situations such as this. No words can possibly express my pride in your response, care, and skill when you were least expecting it.
– The ORMC Trauma Team, all those years of study, school and thousands of hours working in the hospital and learning specialized skills culminated on June 12, 2016, saving untold lives.
– The Emergency Room Team, thank you for always being ready for anything. You were there. You were there for all of us that night.
– The dozens and dozens of Doctors – ER, OR & ICU – for utilizing everything you’ve ever learned (and things you surely had only heard about) to save so many. There really are not enough words to offer my gratitude and love for you all.
– The Orthopedics teams… your amazing skills working with the back and muscles was most assuredly crucial that night. I am sure you saved so many from being paralyzed with your gift during surgeries. Thank you so very much.
– The Microsurgeons, your extremely specialized skills surely saved so many from bodies that would be unable to feel or move properly once healed.
– The Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeons, your specialization was crucial with the horrific injuries to the chests of too many. Thank you for keeping so many hearts pumping.
– The beloved Nurses – Trauma, ER, Triage, OR, ICU & Surgical Recovery… it is beginning to sound trite, but I promise, I am absolutely speechless with gratitude for your gifts of kindness and skilled caring. Nothing that night (and since) could have been done without you incredible human beings. You are the Angels of Mercy.
– All the Surgeons of an endless variety, thank you for specializing in your individual areas and to the General Surgeons, thank you for attending to the multiple types of injuries that night. Thank you all for remaining strong and focused during the assembly line of cases that surely seemed never-ending at times. Your hands, in the most direct way, saved so many lives that night. Thank you.
– Residents – who used every moment of training to step in wherever you could.
– OneBlood blood bank personnel including Blood Collection sites, thank you for assuring there was ample blood at the hospitals for all the cases that needed it. Thank you, too, for opening up sites on Sunday to collect blood and organize getting that blood back to those whose lives depended on it.
– The Phlebotomy team, your job had to have been incredibly challenging that chaotic night of terror, finding veins and arteries, keeping the vials organized and then running the thousands of stat samples to the lab, over and over again… thank you for your skills and dedication.
– The Radiology team – your job was infinitely complicated by the sheer numbers of people working on each person, yet crucial to examining the patient in a life-saving manner. Thank you for knowing how to peek inside the bodies that needed so much help.
– The Respiratory Services team who were called into action to keep massively injured people breathing, either from the assault or the incredible shock and fear they were experiencing. You all are wondrous healers for those who cannot breathe.
– To Environmental Services, who were said to have cleaned and set up a room in 30-45 seconds; miraculous! It is challenging enough to keep things pristine and safe from cross-contamination under normal circumstances, but that you worked with all that blood, tissue, drapes, gauze, tubes, gloves, and then cleaning beds, rails, the floor and emptying the contaminated trash while patients were waiting for a place to lay… doing all of this in mere seconds, really is worthy of immense gratitude.
– To you amazingAnesthesiologists and Nurse Anesthetists… while I know you are highly-trained for emergencies and working with people in dire pain or unable to communicate their medical history, I am sure this night multiplied the need for your skills and knowledge dozens-fold. That you were able to anesthetize our precious friends and family so they might be saved under such circumstances is a miracle to behold. Immense gratitude.
– ToORMC Laboratory Services, the tasks thrown at you June 12 and the days immediately after had to have been enormous, yet you were there as the backbone for the entire health and safety of the injured, getting blood to whomever needed it, organizing the lab results so all providers could coordinate proper care, the list surely continues endlessly. Thank you for your amazing skill and meticulous attention to detail under extreme duress.
– To the Orlando Medical Examiners, especiallyJoshua Stephany for your immense sensitivity in keeping that madman separate from our lost souls. The unbelievable task you all gently and respectfully undertook is appreciated beyond words.
– To the Physical Therapists who began working with the survivors almost immediately so they could have as full a life as possible once they are recovered, thank you for your skills and knowledge of the body and its nuanced possibilities through movement and touch.
– To theChaplains of the Orlando Police Departmentand the others around Orlando, thank you for rushing to the spiritual aid of our First Responders, the families of the injured and dying and praying with the mass of disbelieving friends and relatives in their moments of spiritual questioning and anger towards God. Thank you for your love and patience with so much inner pain.
– To our Mental Health Therapists & Psychiatrists who flooded the different locations where families waited for news of their loved ones, knowing crisis counseling was an immediate need and you provided it, with zero regard for payment of any kind except knowing you were helping someone in emotional pain. Mental health needs will reverberate for years and years for so many of us, so thank you in advance for all you will do for everyone as time unfolds the mental and emotional anguish of this horrific night.
– To the Pharmacists at ORMC, your enormous task of providing the correct medications for scores of critically injured patients has not been overlooked. Filling order after order in the middle of the night had to have been daunting, yet when you, too, called for help, it came in in droves. Thank you for your education and extreme attention to detail.
– To the LGBTQ Center of Orlando, who immediately opened their doors to anyone who needed a place to talk, be held, cry or mourn. No words can express my gratitude for all you have done, are doing and will continue to do for our incredibly awesome and diverse community. May our Center grow as much as our hearts have for you after this disaster.
– To the Cell Phone companies for keeping those injured and dying in touch with loved ones and 911 operators.
– To those inside Pulse that struggled to save lives as the horror unfolded, who shielded others with your bodies, who comforted the injured and dying as you hid anywhere you could, who held friends as they bled to death in your arms… no amount of tears and thanks can explain how full my heart is for you beautiful people. Your unspeakable pain will never be forgotten or taken for granted. You are incredible human beings who were in a horrible situation, but your soaring kindnesses outshone any evil that man tried to snuff out. Bless all of you.
– To those who work at Pulse for your belief in human rights and dignity – you will never be forgotten… especially Barbara Poma – you are so loved.
– To the civilians who just happened to be in the area and helped the injured, comforted the dying and transported anyone they could to the hospital, thank you. Clearly, we needed you there that night.
– Special note to the Religious Community… Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and many denominations of Christians… who pulled together to pray and offer support to all who needed it. In the days afterwards, church services were held to assist the mourners who found solace in religious healing.
One national speaker, Victoria Kirby York of the National LGBTQ Task Force, spoke at a local church service and she must be held aloft and applauded. In a sea of religions not understanding the LGBTQ community, Ms. York stunned everyone with her ability to use Scripture to affirm the LGBTQ experience and right to love who we choose. Her words were a spiritual salve for so many who have been alienated by the religions in our neighborhoods and the policy-makers’ pens.
To the hypocrites among the religious folks (you know who you are), I hope you are able to rectify the doublespeak you drooled off your tongues after our tragedy because our LGBTQ family keeps dying because of your hate and damning judgment. It needs to stop. Now.
Ongoing Love & Support
While the above list, surely not complete, reflects the care and love from only the first day or two post-massacre, I could continue for another three days thanking the multitudes of restaurants, airlines, hotels, businesses, those that brought Comfort Dogs to love on those that needed a tender doggie hug, and then the ongoing monetary donations to the Pulse GoFundMe Page.
I must also thank the rest of the United States and the World for their endless support through vigils and moments of silence for our 49 beloved murdered friends and 53 recovering victims.
Please take a moment to offer thanks to everyone I’ve mentioned and those I have forgotten to name.
And lastly, please remember the families of those who have died and been injured. Their lives are forever changed. May they find at least a moment of peace through all of our love.
To our most precious doves, we will never forget your names or who you are:
In “My First BDSM Experience,” I shared how I stumbled into BDSM via the Internet in 1996. Here, I introduce Gerald and how our meeting unfolded.
I got off the plane and was terribly nervous no one would be there for me. I had zero money, knew no one in San Francisco and would have been absolutely stranded if Gerald was a no-show.
But there he was. The compulsion to kneel in front of him was overwhelming. Instead, I lowered my eyes and gave him a warm hug. He was fucking gorgeous. Filipino. Much taller than my 5’2″. I was not disappointed in the real person.
He never did tell me how he felt about seeing me the first time, but I can only imagine seeing how fat I was was a disappointment. I was determined to make him forget my appearance with my subservience.
I was driven to a lovely hotel and Gerald took me right up to my room. It was great! Overlooking San Francisco, it was a beautiful room. On the desk was a computer. I was stunned… and thrilled. It looked a lot like this:
Hotels didn’t have Internet connections back in the olden days, so he also brought along a modem. If you’ve never heard what connecting to a Dial-up modem sounds like, CLICK HERE. I called it the Orgasm Sound. (Yeah, Net Addiction is a real thing.)
Once I was shown how to log in, Gerald sat in the big desk chair and I knelt for him. It was the most natural thing in the world. He petted my cheek and I am sure I coo’d softly.
He had to go back to work, but would leave early to come back to see me, told me to be prepared to Scene with him. “Yes, Master,” was my answer.
While I was in Orlando, doing cyberBDSM with Gerald, he decided he wanted to mark me in some way. I mentioned I had about 12 ear piercings and he said that was perfect. He wanted me to get my labia pierced. Shockingly, I didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes, Master.” He sent me the money, I found a piercing studio, then laid on the medical table, legs in stirrups waiting. I called Gerald on their phone, collect, so he could hear me be pierced. I got 6 inner labial piercings, graduated gold rings, and every one of them hurt like fuck. I don’t remember if I screamed or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I did. Gerald was surely masturbating to my pain; quite the Sadist he was. Blessedly, the vulva heals quickly, but walking out of there… sheesh.
Right before I left for San Francisco, I got waxed for the first time. Did not get waxed again for 20 years. Good LORD does that shit hurt. The waxer was my hairdresser so I felt comfortable letting her in my nether regions. Waxing was pretty rare for the masses back then… no spas to do it. So, in her back room, I laid there, legs splayed like a frog, and she applied the wax, then the strip, then pulled that strip off, taking the hair with it. Pardon. She ripped the motherfuckin’ strip off. And not only did my hair end up on it, but a goodly amount of flesh did as well. Getting waxed was 100 times more painful than the genital piercings. I left bloody, but naked as a young girl. Holy crap does the clit get stimulated when the hair is gone! I was walking sex.
Waiting for Gerald to return, I gave myself two enemas (a must for anal play) then took a long shower to make sure I was clean and smelled yummy for him. I then laid out the collar he’d gotten me (waiting for him to put it on for the first time) and impact toys we were going to be using. And the ropes, whipped and wound beautifully; I couldn’t wait to show him my handiwork.
Mostly, though, I couldn’t wait to show him my submission with my mouth, giving him oral sex… something we had anticipated for many months. We both did get an HIV test and share the results with each other. A condom was never even considered.
I heard the key in the door so knelt near the entrance. He came in and the Scene began. He petted my cheek again and told me what a good girl I was. I am sure I blushed. He reached for the collar on the bed, then came back to where I was kneeling, asking me if I was willing to be his slave, with my own free-will. “Yes, Master.” My head swirled and tears flowed as he wrapped the collar around my neck, buckled, then locked it closed.
Being collared is an experience difficult to translate into mere words. It’s more visceral, a flood of emotions coursing through the body. It is an intimate acknowledgement of a powerful relationship dynamic, although many collarings occur at wedding-type gatherings. Wearing a collar is an outward expression that, among other things, says: Someone loves me enough to claim me for their own. I could not believe I was so blessed as to be collared by Gerald. I wept with gratitude and the immensity of love I felt for him.
Then, in Part 2, Opiate Addiction: Detox, I shared the details of detoxing from opiates, including the difficulties of withdrawal symptoms.
Here, I speak about finding support for recovery, not always easy when one doesn’t want to participate in the Anonymous/12-Step programs.
My Take on the 12-Steps
Coming out of the detox fog after a month of withdrawal hell, I began feeling the need for support with my cravings and need for medication, so went on a Google Search & Destroy Mission.
For a variety of reasons, I cannot abide by the Anonymous (12-Step) Programs. I am a-theist for starters. Yes, I know the party line of making anything your “Higher Power,” (“It can be a tree!”), but it is just not an emotional, even spiritual, barrier I can cross.
100 years ago, I attended Sexual Abuse Survivors Anonymous (another post for another day) and, I kid you not, they (not me!) recited the Lord’s Prayer at the end of every meeting. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” Even ignoring the incredibly insensitive-to-other-religions-besides-Christianity issue, there was the whole “Our Father,” part. For crying out loud, many of these women had been raped by their fathers! The ghastly myopic blindness horrified me.
Another major issue I have always had is the “I am powerless” recitation in Step 1.
We admitted we were powerless over our addiction —that our lives had become unmanageable.
Well, I am absofuckinglutely NOT powerless. I am power-FULL. I refuse to think of myself as helpless. I did that already and it did not serve me in the least. Fuck that.
I have attended probably 100 12-Step meetings for a variety of issues over the last 3 decades. Different groups, different locations, always the same spiel. It annoyed the crap out of me how meetings became pity parties… and then the, I-Got-More-Fucked-Up-Than-You-Did stories, members trying to one-up each other with how low their “bottoms” were. It also did not escape me the clandestine drug deals and bar dates made for after meetings. I have been told by many present and former Anonymous attendees that the meetings are the best places to score.
Clearly not a good fit, so searched for those alternatives I knew had to exist.
My first stop was Rational Recovery (RR). I was starving and it spoke to my a-theist Self, so I grabbed onto the program, ordering all the books and pamphlets they had to offer. Once they arrived, however, I quickly figured out, uh… no… this won’t work either.
Their main theme is the belief in an “Addictive Voice” aka “The Beast,” that compels one to use. A sort of devil on one’s shoulder, whispering in your ear, imploring you to do your drug-of-choice.
The Beast: Addictive desire. The animal desire for addictive pleasures, to get high. Your Beast is a perverted survival drive that speaks with awesome, sometimes God-like, authority, but takes on charming and seductive tones as well.
One more negative for me is they have no Support Groups, in person or online. I am a Support Group Junkie, so that was a big turn-off, too.
I moved on to SMART Recovery and very quickly knew I had hit on the right solution for my needs. Scientifically based? Yes. Believes in a person’s being powerful? Ayup. Support groups? You bet.
SMART Recovery is the leading self-empowering addiction recovery support group. Our participants learn tools for addiction recovery based on the latest scientific research and participate in a world-wide community which includes free, self-empowering, science-based mutual help groups.
I started attending the online meetings immediately as well as grabbing their FREE material online. The Tools are the cornerstone of SMART. Based on Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), SMART has whole exercises for re-training the brain to recognize the issue/craving then working with it.
The central idea of REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) is that our emotions and behaviors (how we feel and act) are strongly influenced by how we think. Therefore, changing our thinking can be a very powerful way to change our emotions and behaviors.
I really cannot say enough good about SMART. I saw me through my first year of Recovery. If anyone has any questions about it, please don’t hesitate to ask!
It was 1996 and I had been online for only a year. The kids had gone to live with their father and I was recovering from surgery, on disability, so it was no problem to spend 23 hours a day online. I was deeply involved in irc… Internet Relay Chat. I got bladder infections from refusing to leave the screen to pee. That Net addiction lasted about 3 years.
During that time, I met Gerald in a fun room I hung out in on irc. The connection was wonderful… he was so smart, clever, entertaining… and, incredibly important to me in chat, wrote quickly, with very few typos. The fact that I was lesbian was irrelevant.
During one session, Gerald shifted gears from our usual scene. “What would you do if I put your arms above your head and held them there?” Hmmm. “That would be fine.” He continued pushing the boundaries of any sex I’d had in real life (irl) and it felt wonderful.
I knew nothing about BDSM at the time. There was no Google or even search engines to learn about it, either. Until I began reading books, all I learned came from Gerald. My computer was ghastly slow (2400 baud), so surfing the Web took forever, but I still managed to look at the sites he sent me to, reading me the URL over the phone. (Laughing remembering how difficult it was at the time to get all the characters correct to even get to the sites!) He introduced me to Shibari, artistic rope bondage, his especial kink.
I’m fat. I’ve been fat all my life except a teeny short time after a Gastric Bypass in 2001. Telling Gerald I was fat was terrifying. He said it didn’t matter. It was incredibly difficult for me to believe that, however. There were too many hurdles to sending him a pic via snail mail, so he just had to take my word for how fat I was and what I could and could not do when he gave me online commands. As in the pic above, he loved pulling women’s arms behind them, but because of my size, that wasn’t going to happen. I felt bad about it, too.
There was no Cam back then, either. When I was directed/ordered to do something, it was a matter of trust that I complied. I didn’t even consider faking it, but know now that, by far, the grand majority of folks saying they are doing something sexual online are really just watching TV and having a beer. (I encounter this daily as a Phone Sex Operator.)
He started sending me packages, small toys at first (a ball gag with leather straps, for example), then, as time went on, the gifts became more intricate, culminating in three enormous coils of rope: red, black and blue. (Note the symbolism, yes?)
The ropes were not whipped on the ends; that was my assignment, to do the whipping. This was in preparation for our real life meeting. Gerald was sending for me, bringing me from Orlando to San Francisco to spend a week with my new Master. It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. At that time, I had not met any CyberFriends. Since, I have met hundreds (mostly through Disney groups), but way back then, it was unheard of to meet people you had cybersex with. I have no recollection of worrying if I was going to be assaulted or murdered when I arrived. Baffles me that I wouldn’t: 1) have any memory of that concern OR 2) have that be such a great concern that I would remotely consider doing something so stupid.
But prepare to go to him, I did.
I knelt. For. Hours. whipping those ropes. Each coil was a different length and the way the ends are whipped tells the Top/Dom how long that length is without having to measure.
About the time I finished the rope assignment, it was time to go to him in San Francisco. I knew he was married; there was never an expectation of his leaving his Vanilla wife. But, I was going to meet my Dom. I was giddily nervous, wanting to please him so badly.
I’ve always been femme. When I came out in 1979, I didn’t have one clue about the different nuances of lesbians, that took years of experience and then reading lesbian novels, books and magazines.
Meeting My Butch
On April 22, 1986, when my youngest, Aimee, was 2 days old, I went to a La Leche League meeting and among the 20+ women, pregnant and nursing alike, I saw Zack, 7-months pregnant. (Zack was presenting as a het woman at that time.) My first thought when I saw him was, “How the FUCK did this Dyke get pregnant?!”
A tad of backstory. I’d had Aimee in the car and finagled leaving the hospital in 3 hours and Zack heard about me at his childbirth class, wanting to leave the hospital right away as well, so got up from his nap to come to the LLL meeting specifically to meet me.
After the meeting, Zack hightailed it right for me. Damn, he was intense. And so, so Butch.
Just This Side of Being a Man
Once I met Zack, my taste in Dykes was sealed. I was fond of saying I liked women just this side of being a man. (Of course, now knowing Zack was trans all those years, he wasn’t on this side of being a man, but that side.) I really cannot find a Dyke Butch enough for me. Stone Butches make me weak in the knees.
(The topic of transmen begs to be discussed here, but it has to wait for its own post because it is one of the most convoluted emotions I have whirling around inside at the moment.)
Butch & femme – a Sweet Balance
When Zack and I got together a few months after he had his baby, we barely recognized, much less understood, what the Butch-femme dynamic meant. We knew we balanced each other well. (Yes, I really am going to flaunt stereotypical male and female characteristics.) I was an awesome stay-at-home mom, nursing the babies, reading to them and researching better ways to parent.
Zack, on the other hand, was mechanically inclined, great with spacial relations and was the “fun” parent.
Delightfully, he also co-nursed the babies. (We always said how great it was having 4 lactating breasts in the house.)
Then Political Correctness Intrudes
It was a gradual realization that what we were doing wasn’t the most acceptable way to be lesbians. I distinctly recall hearing that Butch-femme relationships were “aping” het marriages. (Could there be any uglier word to describe something?) I was really confused because we weren’t imitating anything; we just Were. I see now, on the periphery, as gender roles are smeared away, hints of Butch-femme acceptance again, but I promise you, there were the lean years when we were mocked and told how disgusting we were for acting like het couples.
I find it interesting I never tried to be anything but femme, even when doing so was incredibly looked down upon. And my Beloved Zack, never wavered in his ButchSelf either. I love that we simply ignored the winds of Political Correctness, living our lives in delicious balance.
While mama isn’t on the LGBTQ spectrum herself, I am a Dyke, my niece a lesbian and one of my daughters is bi.
On one of my Facebook groups, someone asked what the difference was between a lesbian and a Dyke. I thought it was an awesome question.
This is how I answered:
A lesbian is a woman who has sexual and emotional relationships with other women. A Dyke is the same… but only more so. Dykes tend to be more political, louder, more out there/in your face. Defiantly lesbian. My actual label is femme Dyke, an added descriptor separating me slightly, saying: I pass as heterosexual and it bugs the crap out of me even though I embrace my ultra-femininity fervently.
Definitions in Flux
Through the nearly 40 years of my Dykedom, I have watched the words gay (referring to a woman), lesbian, Dyke, femme, Butch, baby dyke, androgynous, woman, womyn, wimmin and more go through various incarnations. Sometimes it was Politically Correct (PC)… or Socially Correct (SC)… to use a “softer” word like gay or lesbian… terms like Butch and Dyke reserved for inner conversations and brought out in public during Pride Weekend.
As lesbians became more visible in the media, I watched the shift towards using Dyke in the lesbian community more common.
(And I capitalize Dyke and Butch because, to me, if we were to put them in a BDSM – Dominant/submissive – context, those words are distinctly more Dominant to me. And yes, I can hear the screaming now, but it’s how my mind works.)
Flux of Appreciation for a femme
As a femme, I’ve experienced a great deal of prejudice over the years.
When I came out in 1979, I hung out in gay bars because anytime I went to the lesbian clubs, the women turned their noses up at me because I was in a dress, wearing sequins and glitter. The uniform of the day for lesbians was Levi’s, flannel shirts and desert boots. I so didn’t fit in. Trying my luck several times, I always ended up retreating back to the gay bars where they treated me like royalty.
Being a femme with kids complicated things even more at times. 25 years ago, it was rare for there to be babies/kids in LGBTQ households. Not so much today. I would walk in Homoville, San Diego, unseen as a member of The Family. Even when I wore rainbow necklaces or other gay-identifiers, I was overlooked. Quite frustrating.
At a Dyke club one night long ago, I was dancing with a woman who was inviting me to go home with her. I was delighted, but told her I had to call the babysitter and ask her to stay longer. The woman gave me this horrified look and say, “You have kids? You’ve had sex with men?!” It was clear I would not be having sex with her that night or any other. I was pissed and asked, “Gee, before we have sex, should I douche?”
How a person identifies (or not!) says so much about how they walk around in the world. As a femme Dyke, I choose to only wear dresses, paint my face when going out and wearing a colorful variety of Birkenstocks (anything but black and brown. And how funny that I wear the stereotypical Dyke shoe?!)
Even though I am still a neophyte in the Gender shifts going on, I find much of the movement an enormous relief because I am now able to stand tall as a femme Dyke, someone I have been for 37 years.
My mom worked at Disney for 41 years, retiring a couple of years ago. She has felt rather useless since, applying here and there for server jobs, but when they see how she teeters while walking, they tell her “Thanks, but no thanks.” This inevitably leads to tears, my comforting her that she is not worthless and she will find something. Something that helps others, not just herself.
As we know, on June 12, 2016, the horrific slaughter happened at Pulse Nightclub here in Orlando. As dawn presented herself on that Sunday morning, the LGBT Center opened its doors as hoards of terrified and in-shock community members flooded in for companionship in their grief.
I’d called my mom about 3am and we watched as the terror unfolded, sick to our stomachs and our hearts breaking more with each passing moment.
When we heard The Center had opened, she got herself dressed and headed over. She spent the next twelve hours, holding, crying and touching hands with complete strangers, yet precious hurting humans. While mama isn’t on the LGBTQ spectrum herself, I am a Dyke, my niece a lesbian and one of my daughters is bi. She felt these people in front of her were, quite literally, family.
Over the next three weeks, she went to The Center several times, not sure what she could do, but always finding someone needing her grandmotherly love and attention. I could not be more proud.
Filling Out the Application
Without telling me, mom applied to volunteer at The Center. When she told me, I am sure I squealed with delight. She said, with tears in her eyes, “I think this is what I have been waiting for, to be with the LGBT community.” I beamed a smile and said I absolutely agreed.
She didn’t hear from them for several days, but she kept going down there anyway. She mentioned they hadn’t called and I thought it kind of odd, so asked what she’d said on the application. She said when it asked, “Why do you want to volunteer at The Center?” she answered, “Because I’m bored.” My eyes bugged out of my head. “WHAT?!? Did you, perhaps, mention the number of Dykes in your family?!” Blankly she looked at me and said, “No, should I have?” (Such innocence.)
I marched her down to The Center myself and met with the Volunteer Coordinator who had mom fill out one of the extensive applications as we talked. On the app is a list of skills you can offer The Center. I could see her out of the corner of my eye that she was not having fun with this part. I asked what was going on and she stammered, “I can’t do anything!” I said that was bullshit, that she had so much compassion to offer, just write in capital letters at the bottom: LOVE.
The Volunteer Coordinator said, “You start Monday.”
Inner Work in Progress
The LGBTQ world has shifted a lot in the last decade, and at ever increasing speeds. I’ve found myself, a lifelong Dyke, struggling with my own inner homo/trans-phobia. When I learned about them/they pronouns, I was really unhappy. Angry is a more apt description. My partner of over 2 decades transitioned from female to male, me gritting my teeth the whole time, begrudgingly supportive and gradually dissolving all tenderness about the situation. And the idea that someone could wake up one gender and go to bed another completely baffled me.
I’m not really proud to say these things out loud, but there you have it.
I’m working on it.
It is with this knowledge that I felt I should try and get mom up-to-speed with lingo lest she find herself talking to someone whose gender doesn’t “match” the outside trappings or she constantly discounts that she heard no pronouns at all.
I prefaced the lesson with what I shared above, that it was all confusing even to me, so not to feel she has to learn everything immediately or worry if she makes mistakes or even has to ask for help or clarification several times. I also let her know that definitions can shift depending on who was speaking and that all the words people shared were valid and right.
When it comes to asking personal questions… “What is your birth sex?” “Have you had any surgeries?” “Are you a boy or a girl”… are incredibly invasive and inappropriate. So while I encourage asking questions, there are, most assuredly, some that need to remain unasked.
I, most especially, let her know that I am a neophyte with the Non-Binary community and that these words/concepts I share are a mere outline of the scope of language and identities out there, so to please know I am not the best educator… that those that claim/use the words are the leaders and guides. Once again encouraged her to ask for help and clarifications any time she wanted/needed to.
1. denoting or relating to a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.
1. a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.
“a younger generation of self-proclaimed genderqueers explicitly reject ‘transgender’ as an identifier”
Genderfluid – “Gender fluid is a gender identity which refers to a gender which varies over time. A gender fluid person may at any time identify as male, female, neutrois, or any other non-binary identity, or some combination of identities. Their gender can also vary at random or vary in response to different circumstances. Gender fluid people may also identify as multigender, non-binary and/or transgender.”
They/them pronouns – “What is a gender-neutral pronoun? What does English need a new pronoun for, anyway? Many people have expressed the need for a singular gender-neutral third-person pronoun: that is, a pronoun to use when someone’s gender is unknown or when the individual is neither male or female. Such instances occur when addressing transgender and genderqueer people who don’t feel comfortable being addressed with masculine or feminine pronouns, computers or robots with artificial intelligence, sexless fictional creatures, angels, and the God of many monotheistic religions. ‘He,’ ‘she,’ or ‘it’ won’t do, ‘one’ doesn’t work when speaking of a specific person, e.g. ‘Samus washed one’s dishes,’ and in some cases even a singular ‘they’ just won’t work – specifically when a name is used, e.g. ‘Charlie tied their shoes’ or ‘Sam thought they were late to the party.'”
It was difficult for me to make the choice to go ahead with the Suboxone because I still had about a week’s worth of Norco and a month of Percocet due for refill in 10 days, but I was so upset about stealing others’ meds, I felt I needed to start right away.
Suboxone is one of the major treatments to help with opiate withdrawal. I’d gotten the prescription from the Pain Specialist, but didn’t fill it for about 6 months. Once I did, not taking the Norco and Percocet was a reality and it scared me to death.
Before taking the Suboxone the first time, you have to have actual withdrawal symptoms or it can make you really sick. I was disturbed that I had to feel like shit before I could feel better, but I didn’t want to end up in the hospital, so sat in my chair, waiting for the symptoms to begin. I breathed deep most of the time when I was not in the bed. Tried to meditate, read, Facebook, staying “in-the-moment” as much as I could, but my mind was bouncing around, trying to convince me I was a nut for doing this.
After 20 hours or so, many of which I did end up tossing and turning while trying to sleep, I began feeling bad, then worse, then I was really feeling sick, nauseous, jittery, diarrhea and a very deep fear without taking a couple of pills. I used Dr. Google for the zillionth time, making sure I was using this unknown (to me) medication properly. I’d read reviews of how amazing it was, others who said they became addicted to the Suboxone itself and were trying to detox off of it!
I read over and over how to put the film in your mouth. Don’t drink anything near time, but don’t have a dry mouth. (Ugh. Contradictions!) Don’t drink anything after. It can take up to 20 minutes for it to completely dissolve. Don’t chew it. Do not swallow it. Don’t hold it in your hand for a long time or be sweaty lest it melt on you.
I stood in the mirror, tongue up, wanting to make sure where I going to put the film. Can I lift my tongue high enough? Is that the area there? My mind so worried I was going to fuck this up because I couldn’t follow the instructions properly.
Then I opened the package and quickly laid the strip on the (clean) counter, staring at it. I ran to the toilet for the 10th time that day and came out determined to get this underway already.
I took a deep breath, picked up the film, looking in the mirror, lifted my tongue and laid the Suboxone on the underside before lowering my tongue carefully, closing my mouth and going to my chair to wait while it melted and relieved my detox symptoms.
Once the Suboxone began relieving the symptoms -and I swear it started working within a few minutes, totally a placebo reaction- I felt myself relax, not realizing how incredibly tight I had been. I set alarms on my phone when to take the next dose in case I fell asleep after being so darn tired and feeling like crap.
This is when time smeared away, feeling like a pretty watercolor having a black & white liquid poured on it. I would fade in and out of awareness… alone most of the time, I cannot really say what I did and did not do.
What I Recall Over the Next 4 Days:
Being in the chair, TV off (very odd for me) when Zack left for work at 7am, then still sitting there when he came home about 9pm. TV off, dogs not fed. I don’t even know if I peed or drank anything. I am sure I didn’t eat.
Zack asking me to go get tacos. I remember being there, at the counter, but the next memory is being home and Zack asking where the food was. I shrugged that I didn’t know. Shockingly, he asked me to go back to get our dinner already. No memory of driving or being there again. I assume I bought food.
I kinda realized I was zombie-like, so called the Pain Doc to discuss my dosage. He never called back. I cut the film in half for the next dose. Vanished again after it kicked in.
I was in our room and Zack looked over the balcony and asked where the car was. I said I didn’t know. Days later, when I was off the Suboxone, he told me he’d sent out a search party for the car and I had crashed it into some bushes and, apparently, got out and walked home. It was a mile away.
After the lost car incident, Zack said I couldn’t take the Suboxone anymore. I am sure I had no comprehension of what that meant. It took another three days for me to gather my wits about me and be present in my own life.
Weaning Off Meds (snortylaugh)
As soon as I stopped the Suboxone, I went back on the Norco I had left, still 10 days away from the Percocet. Zack handed me the bottle and said, “Have at it, babe.”
Looking back over the years of addiction, it really is quite a miracle I didn’t die. I remember waking up at times thinking I was dying, not quite gasping for air, but I felt suffocated. In 2011, my sister died of a Fentanyl overdose (same medication Prince died from). Even still, I was so deep in my own delusions, I refused to acknowledge my sickness. Knowing what I do now, I know that opiate overdoses slow breathing down and eventually it ceases. An easy death, but tragic nonetheless.
I knew the detox would go easier if I weaned off the Norco. I swear I tried, but the 7 days of medication was gone in 3. I was then thrown into full-on detox with all that goes with it.
I cursed my lack of control to wean at least 100 times an hour, laying in bed moaning that I was dying. The dogs were not sympathetic and Zack wandered in and out to check on me, but there really was nothing for him to do. While one can die doing a sudden detox from alcohol and Benzos, it isn’t a risk for opiate withdrawals, so all I could do was deal with it.
By the time the Percocet was in my hand, I had kind of evened out, not quite so miserable, yet still feeling like crap in general. Sitting here today, I cannot, for the life of me, figure out the rationalization for taking the Percocet and knowing full well I would be starting all over with the withdrawal as soon as they were gone. Bizarre thinking is all I can attribute it to. But take the Percocet I did. I picked them up in the drive-through and before I put the car in drive, I popped 3 in my mouth.
I felt so much better within an hour. All the symptoms vanished and I felt normal again.
The month-long supply of Percocet was gone in 10 days.
And that withdrawal cycle I show up there started all over again.
All told, I had about 30 days of agony with a few days of a Percocet respite inbetween.
Coping alone, I researched support groups (something I enjoy and have utilized for 30 years), refusing any Anonymous program because I am A-theist and, besides the God stuff, I will not ever say I am “powerless”; I am Power-Full. There had to be others like me, didn’t there?
“Opiate Addiction: Tools for Recovery” comes next.