I was tempted to defend myself (I use PC terms when I can, I am not prejudiced against these folks, etc.), but I am leaving this piece to speak for itself.
Thank Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir for the Craft for this vomiting of things I have been too afraid to say out loud. He tells writers to “Be brave!” and write the things that are the most difficult to say.
There is this interesting dynamic that occurs in several kink & fetish communities. It is known as a Binge-Purge Cycle. Most of us probably recognize this term with regards to food, but in the kink community it takes on a slightly different guise.
I’ve witnessed and walked through this cycle several times with my phone sex clients over the last 18 months.
The Binge-Purge Cycle goes through quite predictable stages. I outline them below.
Bingeing: Buying items of their kink or fetish… panties, dresses, make-up, wigs, heels, lingerie, diapers, bdsm toys, sex toys and the like.
Indulging: A period of wonderful happiness, although it can also include some recklessness (unprotected sex, not being particularly careful about physical safety when hooking up, walking the fine line between having fun with the kink-fetish & tempting being discovered, putting pictures on the Internet, etc.).
Beginning of Discomfort: Sometimes this comes with a close call of being discovered (which I see happening almost as a subconscious set-up oftentimes) or someone threatening to tell the spouse or out them at work. Other times are when a life situation presents such as an upcoming business trip or hospitalization (“What if my spouse digs around and finds my stash?”), a near-miss car accident or a fall (“What if I was hospitalized and they saw my panties?” “What if I die and my wife finds my stash?”)
Deepening Shame: It is a short leap from discomfort to the shame that leads to purging. This often has religious overtones. I actually see this around Christian holidays a lot. As we would expect, the more fundamentalist the religion, the deeper the guilt and shame. Spouses and parents tend to really beat themselves up hard at this point. (“I would ruin my kids’ lives if anyone found out.” “My wife would take the kids if she ever knew I wore panties/sucked cock/saw prostitutes/etc.”) I do see this in single folks, too, though.
This Shame phase I have the hardest time with regarding my clients and those in my life. I will talk about this specifically in a few minutes.
Purging: This tends to be a cathartic rather than a sad event. Some feel sad, but most feel remorseful-relief as they pile everything into garbage bags to take to a faraway dumpster. (I try and put the idea in their heads to donate the items instead of tossing them in the trash.)
Newly Abstinent: Huge amounts of relief replace the shame and this phase also has a “high” similar to the Indulging phase. This place without any of ones’ accoutrements around feels safe, clean, unburdened. They are able to breathe easier for awhile.
Bargaining as the Building of Desire Increases: The urge to dress/play/have anonymous sex/etc. increases and intense bargaining occurs. (“I promise not to if you take this urge away.” “I will never cheat on my wife again if I can stop wanting to wear panties.”) No one takes the person up on the bargaining, of course. When they are in this phase, alcohol or medication/drugs often come into play to try and relieve the intense urges to fulfill their needs. As we know, substance (ab)use creates its own set of obstacles in relationships.
Bingeing: When the tipping point occurs, enormous spending sprees tax credit cards, their minds whir with how to not be discovered/where to hide the goods and an enormous high drives the entire production towards that reckless place once again.
Binge-Purge Kinks & Fetishes
A few of the kinks & fetishes that do this cycle are:
I could just as easily pick out any part of the cycle to discuss –and might do others later- but the Shame aspect is where my heart hurts right now.
It breaks my heart when I hear someone in this place. They speak to me softly, usually near tears, hiding in their car or locked in their office, telling me they can’t help it and how much they hate themselves for their horrible behavior. I want to bring them into my arms and comfort them (and do so in my mind).
Knowing how overwhelming and bad this feels, the first thing I do is tell them, with all the love in my voice, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with their desire. It is our society and culture that has the issue. That in other cultures and in other times, their kink-fetish was honored and revered.
I tell them it sucks to not be able to be who they really are and that I understand their fears of discovery and, if god is involved, how they think he will judge them and send them to hell.
I tell them I am not alone in believing in them and honoring who they are no matter what they wear or how they behave. I always encourage a kink-fetish-friendly therapist and have helped several find someone in their area. (Definitely not a part of my job and I am not paid for it, but feel it is a natural off-shoot to my love and care.)
My Own Shame
Shame makes me crazed sometimes. Surely because I have had (and am still plowing through) a lifetime of the sludge and muck that colors almost every aspect of my life. I don’t want anyone to feel this terrible filthiness and weight on the heart and spirit. 35+ years of therapy seems to have barely shoveled any into the incinerator. Or else it is self-replacing; some goes out, tons comes back in.
As a midwife, I worked with the shame of clients… sexuality being a common theme. What was nice was I had a proscribed schedule, typically 7-8 months, within which to explore the shame and help them find tools to lessen the guilt and shame they carried.
Here, however, I never know if the call I am on will be the absolutely last call before a purge, so I feel compelled to discuss shame with many clients, especially if they are in what I would consider a high-risk-for-purging kink or fetish.
Delightfully, I’ve talked to a couple of folks who’ve found peace in their kinks and fetishes and have created safeguards against discovery.
Fascinatingly creative, I’ll share one person’s solution.
One gal, dressing (in girl/women’s clothes) almost since toddlerhood, had gone through at least 8 binge-purge cycles in over 40 years when she had the profound realization this need/desire to dress was simply never going away. There was not any lightning bolt moment where she saw herself… the rest-of-her-life Self… not willing to purge again and Be who she knew herself to be. The dawning took many, many years, she telling me that each purge brought her closer to never doing so again.
When the final decision to stop purging was made, she decided to be proactive in keeping her family from ever ever ever finding out about this part of her, yet be able to resume dressing whenever she went out of town on business.
She moved everything out of the house, only bringing something home to wash occasionally and only when the family was gone.
The list of her off-site storage solution is astonishingly brilliant. Mind you, this took her about 10 years to iron out the details, but still… incredible.
• Pays cash for almost everything
• Has an air conditioned storage unit
• Has a post office box and uses this as her address for almost anything requiring an address
• Has a separate bank account, out of state, in her chosen name
• Has a separate computer she uses only for her alter-ego, including buying clothes, going to chat rooms, etc.
• Has a separate phone in her chosen name, out of state phone company
• Has a key in a tiny lock box that opens the safe deposit box at a large bank outside of town
• Debit cards, phone and key to the storage unit kept inside the safe deposit box
• Inside the storage unit, she had a private closet consultant make a lovely closet for her to store her clothes, lingerie, shoes, stockings, wigs, makeup and jewelry
• Inside the storage unit, she has her phone
• Inside the storage unit, she has luggage that she packs in anticipation of the out-of-town business trip coming up next (prepared ahead of time except for clothes that can wrinkle, putting those in before the flight)
Isn’t this the most ingenious solution to leaving shame behind?
She did these things so that if anything ever happened to her… a heart attack, a car accident, any kind of emergency that would keep her from protecting herself, her family would be protected (her word) from knowing this part of her. The several keys and combinations to even get into the storage unit, the storage unit not being in her male name (if she died, they would simply sell her things off), the phones, the debit cards… all for her self-protection and piece of mind.
We did talk for a few minutes about if she was out in a club dressed and some tragedy like Pulse happened, she could possibly be discovered, but I did tell her that most EMS and hospital personnel would keep that part of her secret, it being irrelevant to the next of kin.
All in all, she covered her tracks beautifully.
I asked if I was allowed to share this with others and she said absolutely because she wished she’d had someone help her all those years ago.
I believe there can be ways to offer others support and information for, if not removing, at least relieving, some of their guilt and shame.
I know I am not alone on this side of the amazing people’s journeys. Are you here, too?
I became the Navelgazing Midwife (NgM) right around 2003 or so. The first blog I had was on Blogger, but when they snatched pages from it and censored me because I had nude women (birthing and breastfeeding!), I moved to Squarespace after making sure they would not be censoring.
My first post on the Navelgazing Midwife Blogwas July 3, 2004 and the last post I put there was July 31, 2016, directing folks to my new blog, the Navelgazing Writer (NgW). I’ve debated closing the NgM blog, but know there are still wondrous birth stories there and some midwifery history we would be good to remember as time passes.
My NgM FB Page holds much history as well, including the moment-by-moment births of my grandbabies Gabriella and Preston… and included the postpartum hemorrhage that nearly killed Meghann 36 hours after Preston’s birth. The news of my angel grandbaby Eliott is also enclosed within these pages. My newest granddaughter Alexandra’s early cesarean birth was announced there a mere 3 months ago.
If you’re reading this on the NgM FB Page, you already know I have been weaning for a while. I left birth completely 2.5 years ago (except for my grandbabies), having left midwifery 5 years before that. News has gradually lessened; my commentary barely audible anymore.
I’ve turned to chronicling my life for my kids and their kids, sharing my knowledge of and inclusion in the early LGBT communities in Orlando, Florida, Frankfurt, Germany & San Diego, California. I have barely begun to share the story of my 2+ decade-long relationship with Zack (previously known as Sarah) and the impact of his transitioning on our lives.
Interspersed will have to be birthy stories… I just wrote 2 about the immigrant populations I worked with in San Diego and El Paso, Texas. Birth has been an integral part of my life since January 1983… I could not write my autobiography without including it. I just have a different viewpoint now that I am above and far away from the stories that once affected every aspect of my spirit, emotions, relationships and friendships.
I’ve had a sort of hidden life for a long time… one of intense sexuality and BDSM. I was a lifestyle submissive with my former partner Zack and am writing about these things as well.
I was addicted to opiates for 8 years, it sliding through my sister’s dying of an accidental overdose on opiates, Fentanyl being the actual cause of her death. I am now 2.5 years clean and share that story in my new blog as well.
My body, at almost 56-years old, is tired, disabled and in a lot of pain; Mindfulness Meditation and 800 mg. ibuprofen are my pain relief. I struggle with a plethora of issues, most fat-related. It is crucial for me to write about my life as a fat woman, someone who’s tried a hundred times to not be fat anymore, but still fat after trying it all. My feet have arthritis and keep breaking just from walking. I have osteoporosis (from the gastric bypass). My diabetes, while okay at the moment with a HgbA1c of 5.9, that is with 2 insulins on board.
Since leaving birth, I’ve become a sex worker. I’m not writing a lot about it at the moment, but it colors my life tremendously. Amazingly, all the years of birth work and therapy have armed me adequately for caring for the men, women and transfolks I work with every single day. There is not one day when my birth experiences do not figure prominently in the interactions with others.
Because of the state of the United States right now, I explored different topics about which to write, but quickly saw that, not only did some topics affect my mental state, but a zillion different ones joined the list every day. I needed to focus my attention and have chosen Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press as my main demonstration issues against 45.
It’s been an interesting shift in my thought process, from birth to politics. I’m observing my Self intently, monitoring my emotions, mental state, my body’s physical responses and lastly, what those around me have to say about what I’ve written. The NgW Blog is still really small, very few readers with each post, but it took about 2 years for the NgM Blog to pick up steam, so I’m not sweating it. Also, I really am writing for myself, giving flight to my thoughts and experiences, and if others find what I write helpful or creates a visceral response, all the better.
There were only a couple of posts in the NgM Blog that were written with the reader in mind and whenever I did that, I regretted it. Of all the posts, only one was removed and edited because of the backlash I got from my licensing organization. (I cannot tell you how freeing it is to be completely unrestrained now, writing writing writing without someone threatening my livelihood. There really are nasty, ugly parts to midwifery politics in the US.)
I know many of you reading have followed me for a long time. I cannot thank you enough for considering my views and listening to my thoughts, even when you disagreed with me. Thank you for challenging me, making me think… allowing me to shift and change and grow. I am not the same woman who created the nom de plume “Navelgazing Midwife,” but you are not the same either. Isn’t it amazing to witness our own growth and transformations?
Endless gratitude to all of you and may your lives and the lives of those around you be filled with boundless love and light. You will never be forgotten.
“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.
I am watching the Women’s March on Washington and while I had learned about Intersectional Feminismpreviously, seeing how women’s lives overlap with race, religion, genders, abilities, histories (jail, being on welfare, etc.) and more, live right in front of me, is profound.
And then, as I am writing this, I see that intersectionality itself has been a controversial part of the Women’s March! Well, the organizers made it clear, to me at least, that intersectionality is a major part of the event.
It did not come without conflict, even causing white women to stay away from the March after they felt left out of the planning and implementation of the event.
“Intersectionality simply means that there are lots of different parts to our womanhood,” Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, explained. “And those parts — race, gender, sexuality, and religion, and ability — are not incidental or auxiliary. They matter politically.”
So, reading about intersectionality in general and the March in particular, I am learning the history.
Crenshaw also pointed out that she came up with intersectionality to address a specific legal problem: As she put it, “To capture the applicability of black feminism to anti-discrimination law.” An example she frequently cites in explaining the need for intersectionality is the 1976 case Degraffenreid v. General Motors, in which five black women sued General Motors for both race and gender discrimination.
I know that understanding where intersectionality comes from gives me context from which to pull.
I was raised completely different than who I am now. As a young girl, I learned the ways of the white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied and middle-class world. Yet I am a super-fat mother & grandmother, a femme Dyke, Cubanx/Latinx (knowing virtually nothing about my culture), mentally ill, disabled, a-theist, sex worker, non-TERF feminist who loves a Muslim man and who learnt Spanish as an adult. I don’t know how I would figure out my intersections without all those labels… and the ones I forgot to list.
Watching the end of the March’s rally, I am incredibly happy to see the wide variety of women represented , many of whom do intersect with my identities.
I’m sure the arguments for and against the Women’s March on Washington are being formulated or written about even now, but I am extremely pleased… more than that… excited, energized, inspired… by the speakers, poets, musicians, singers and leaders who were on that stage today.
My daughter Aimee and I got into my red Explorer with my two puppies, Cash & Lilo, and headed east, bound for Orlando.
Ironically, 15 years before, to the day again, I arrived in San Diego from Orlando, believing I would be with my Zack forevermore.
So many changes.
(The litany of changes are playing in my head: gastric bypass, fires, coccidiomycosis, buying a business, losing a business, having lots of money, having very little money, getting a dog, the dog dying, kids moving in, kids moving out, getting more dogs, getting fat again, midwifery in El Paso, studying midwifery, getting licensed, being ostracized, opiate addiction, mental illness struggles… and then Zack coming out trans.)
Zack coming out trans.
Zack Coming Out Trans
I know I wasn’t, but it felt like I was the only partner who struggled with the transition of a loved one. I mean, I wanted him to be authentic, wanted him to be happy… but what about me? (That sounds so selfish! And it was/is. I have had to come to terms with that, but clearly still feel guilty.)
There were two options when Zack came out:
He comes out, transitions medically and surgically and is happy as a clam.
He comes out and stays in the body he hated and possibly commits suicide.
The real life options for my response to his choices above, to his coming out were:
I miss his female body terribly, try to be happy for him, but struggle for years to find balance and mental stability.
Breathe easy that he doesn’t transition physically, being as selfish as can be that my life won’t be changing very much at all.
Of course, we know he medically and surgically transitioned, I freaked out and we physically parted 2-years ago today.
We had emotionally parted several years before, probably in the exact moment he came out.
A non-drinker, the first 3 days after he came out, I got very, very drunk and then we had sex. We did recognize my actions finally and I immediately stopped drinking, but sex became painfully challenging. Whereas we had always had an amazing, physically fulfilling sex life (pheromones!) before his transition, after, to me, if felt like we were strangers in a completely unemotional, clumsy struggle to connect.
This, the first of sure to be a dozen or so posts of my processing Zack’s transition, took 2 days to eek out. My heart hurts, it’s hard to breathe and the tears won’t abate.
For some odd reason, I decided to put on Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits this morning and suddenly found myself back with Zack and the little kids in Frankfurt, Germany, circa 1987-1988.
Good lord, we were in love. Crazy, all-consuming, mesmerizing love. Emotional, yes, but also physical. We could not keep our hands off each other, having sex several times a day. Zack, being in the Army and nursing two young babies, barely slept. In the morning, home to nurse for lunch, when he came home and then all night long. How he ever functioned is beyond me.
Zack made me feel beautiful for the first time ever. Until him, I had never had sex without a shirt on, covering my ugly body, but especially my belly that bore the effects of three huge babies. I remember the first time in bed with him, me in a shirt. He looked at me flabbergasted and said, “Fuck that shit!” and took my shirt off himself. Then he made love to all of me in a way that had never happened before despite having had several lovers and lots of casual sex.
The way he touched me, sliding his hands over my body, nearly worshiping every soft and gooshy part of me, kissing me (and my entire body) with complete abandon, learning quickly how to pleasure me… and doing so over and over again.
(Words seem so inadequate, so trite, so overused in trying to describe these experiences. Forgive their mundane-ness.)
The babies were in our bed so we had pillows, blankets and sheets kept under the TV in the living room and as soon as all four kids were asleep (and I do mean as soon as!), we were laying on our make-shift bed on the floor, touching, kissing, licking, fucking… and orgasming over and over and over again. I never came so much in my life as I did when first with Zack. Insatiable doesn’t begin to describe that ravenous time together.
Sometimes we tried to have sex in the bed, the babies settled on either side of us. We had a fiber-optic flowery thingie up in the top of the closet and when we were going to have sex in the bed, we opened the tiny upper door, giving us faint light that shifted and rolled as much as we did with each other.
(Writing, Whitney continues singing, not stopping to allow me to catch my breath from crying so hard, memories nearly drowning me. How can she be so unaware of my need to stop for a moment? That I need to feel, relive, remember these sensations lest they vanish into the ether once again. I keep having to stop writing to wipe tears and blow my nose.)
The babies were really young… right at about a year, year and a half… so were nursing often. It was not unusual to have to stop our lovemaking session to walk to the bedroom, climb onto the waterbed and nurse one or both of the babies back to sleep. I used to be s0 frustrated with that process; Zack was matter-of-fact about it. (A much better attitude, for sure.)
Resting here, “seeing” that time flowing inside my mind. I could write for years and never cover the expanse that was our love back then. I write, yes, but he and I share secrets with each other we will never tell another soul… the Take-It-to-the-Grave sort of hidden thoughts and experiences.
See me sitting in the middle of the living room, waiting for Zack to come back after nursing the babies? Me, listening to Whitney Houston singing songs I would listen to in 30 years, my quilt of memories covering me from the cold of old age and loneliness.
Oh how I love that man. I’ll call and tell him so today.