This is an extremely personal post, so I apologize in advance for that awkward familiarity that comes with spilling your life story onto the internet for the world to see. It’s very important for me to finally share this story, and it will have a big impact on the way I run my business going forward, so please be sure to read on! This post does come with a big trigger warning. <3
A few days ago, my 6 year old son asked me if I’m actually a man in my heart. I laughed and asked him what he meant. He told me that his brother said something about Mommy being “a fancy rainbow man, but just in her heart”. I laughed even harder because it reminded me of a private joke between myself and my sweet dear friend, Kevyn Aucoin (not to name drop but he was such a beautiful soul and I love to honor his memory). I explained to my older son what his brother probably meant, and he promptly told me, “Mommy…you are a very confusing person. You need to explain that to the world.”
So thanks to my very wise little man, I am doing my best to get out of my introvert shell and explain myself, and explain my past, and explain why it is so crucially important right now that others develop a better understanding of people different than themselves. So here goes….
In the past year, I’ve gone through a complete physical and emotional transformation. Last year at this time, I was fairly certain that my uterus was finally going to succeed in taking me out of this world. When I recovered from my hysterectomy and realized I faced my greatest fear in life and survived, it gave me a new lease on life. The process forced me to finally get comfortable with myself and with my past. My body has been through more trauma than any one person should ever have to endure, and it has left me with lasting physical pain, but that daily physical pain is my constant reminder to be the change that I hope to see in the world, if nothing else, to leave my two boys with a strong sense of themselves. One morning a few months back, I was giving my boys a pep talk about believing in themselves and speaking up when they know others are being harmed. I realized I was talking to myself too with that speech, and it was time that I get out of my own way and speak up too.
So I thought back to the self-awareness that my very wise grandpa gave to me as a child…I am a woman who is in possession of a soul with very balanced masculine and feminine energy. It’s who I am to the core of my being. My grandpa explained to me that it’s an inherited trait, passed along from the branch of his family tree that originated in Baja California. For many years, I thought he was making that part up to make me feel better, then recently through the beauty of the internet, I realized that he had indeed been telling me the truth about that all along. It’s why people in many indigenous cultures realize that those with a balanced spirit have a unique roll in the community. In the Native American culture, this is called 2 Spirit. In our American society, this is often referred to as a variation of the gender-queer spectrum.
My own identity in terms of sexuality has changed and evolved over the years, starting out identifying as a (very closeted) femme lesbian, to then suddenly developing an interest in men and assuming that then made me straight, to realizing a couple of years later that I actually identified as bi, and eventually settling on queer. There was a two year period of my life where I went through unspeakable hate crimes, multiple traumas; multiple rapes, beatings, a fractured spine, multiple break-ins into my apartments, even being run over twice on my bicycle (both times with cars with no license plates and tinted windows!). My life in that two year period made every Stephen King novel seem like a cakewalk compared to the reality my life had suddenly become. The punchline of the story….all of that happened during the TWO years of my life that I happened to identify as HETEROSEXUAL.
So let’s unpack this for a moment. When I got put on a “rape the lesbians” list by my neighbors (who happened to be on the college football team), I actually identified as straight at the time. If that doesn’t prove to you the inherent evil of homophobic hate crimes, I don’t know what will convince you. Even though I was temporarily in denial about my own queerness, the rest of the world caught on easily. Having previously identified as a lesbian and having grown up in the inclusive environment of Long Beach, CA, I was immediately outraged at the situation. I complained like crazy to the university about what my friend and I were dealing with and it repeatedly fell on deaf ears. I complained about our professor trying to force us to go out on a three-way date with him and suddenly we both found our grades suffering. When I started complaining about the campus gynecologist who sexually assaulted me (and I assumed every other woman in his path), it all fell on deaf ears. After I was raped, I was then refused medical care, even after I miscarried, all because the doctor claimed it was his right to refuse me medical care because he assumed I was a “man-hating dyke”.
So I gathered up my own inner strength after my hysterectomy last year. I signed up to join in on the class-action lawsuit against that horrible gynecologist who was allowed to continue treating women that way for nearly 30 years. There’s still a good chance that my case may not mean much financially since I am outside of the statute of limitations, but I am speaking up because what he did was incomprehensible. It’s not about the money…It is repulsive that the university allowed so much violence and assault to continue against women (and queer men) without any consequences. So a few months ago, I packed up my suitcase and headed to the state capitol to join a group of other women who survived sexual assault from this doctor, ready to do my part to make a difference.
Then I got emotionally insulted to my core. At the end of a long day of walking around the capitol building in my 5 inch Christian Louboutin heels, trying to make my best impression on everyone I encountered, one of the other victims tried to argue with me that I shouldn’t be considered a woman or a part of the class-action suit because my hysterectomy “should legally make me not a woman anymore”. I was crushed. Obviously I’m invested enough in my gender that I love my expensive heels and will gladly walk around in them all day long. I realized that the level of transphobia and homophobia in this country has reached absolutely toxic levels and I cannot continue to stay silent in this situation. So I am rising up, I am using my voice to speak up for what I believe to the core of my being is right and just.
My lawyer’s office gave me an incredible pep talk a few months ago. My bladder was left in incurable condition after my medical needs were completely ignored that first year of college. It left me with scars that shows the injustice of discrimination in this world. It completely re-routed my life in every way. I’m ready to bring my grumpy little bladder everywhere, even to the Supreme Court if needed. I’m ready to speak up about the insults that doctor made to me about being mixed race and because I am obviously inherently queer in many ways.
You can sense my inherent gender-queerness in my mannerisms and the way I walk. You can sense it in my lower than average fat-to-muscle ratio. It’s why misogynists have always reacted violently when meeting me. It’s why I will fearlessly teach my friends and children how to defend themselves against attackers larger than us. It’s why I will continue doing everything everything in my power to lift up women and the LGBTQ+ community.
If you’ve known me for a while and know that I have a husband, or know that I’m deeply religious, all of this may be a bit confusing, and I totally get that. So I will explain…For many years, I was confident in my inherent queerness. I had been studied enough by doctors trying to understand why I had so many problems with my uterus and why I was actually physically allergic to many men. After years of tests and research (and insults to my gender from misogynistic doctors), I became comfortable with the fact that I was indeed born “barely female”. It wasn’t a result of any accident or trauma, just an inherent part of my design. A family friend joked when I was a kid that God read a manual of “how to create a tiny lesbian” when He designed me, and I can tend to agree that felt pretty true on many levels.
I was confident in my identity as Bi, although I had a hard time understanding why some men that I liked literally gave me hives from just being in close quarters with them. Then I eventually realized I think I was literally reacting to the men who were the most homophobic. There may have also been a component related to their own hormone levels that reacted with me in a negative way. I eventually realized that I was madly in love with my cishet male roommate, and it kind of irked me for a while. I had a talk with a wonderful friend who sat me down and reminded me, “love is love…you can’t help that you’re in love with this man. He’s a good one, the kind who softens even the angriest dykes’ hearts.” And she was completely right. <3 I did find a good one, and I can’t imagine myself with anyone other than my husband. I felt when I married him that I had to turn in my “queer card”. I then realized in doing so, I am myself contributing to bi-erasure in our society, and that’s definitely not something I’m comfortable doing.
People often hate being labeled as “Bi” because there is the assumption that means you are incapable of being monogamous or that you are attracted to everyone you see (which makes everyone feel a bit awkward). I have learned over the years that most Bi and Queer women I’ve known personally actually lean more toward the demi-sexual end of the spectrum, and aren’t the hyper-sexual end that most heterosexuals mistakenly assume. Even when a horrible medical care professional insisted that my uterus pain two years ago was being caused by an un-diagnosed STD from my husband (which in reality couldn’t be further from the truth), I still couldn’t imagine myself with anyone other than him because no one can compete with the bond that he and I have. I’ve learned I’m definitely on the demi-sexual end of the spectrum. My friends and I joke that my husband and I have such a close bond because he’s unlike most men we meet, and maybe he might have been a trans man or a butch lesbian in another dimension or another life. He didn’t appreciate the sentiment at first but he’s grown to realize we mean it as the highest compliment lol.
To anyone who wants to argue that queerness is inherently “wrong” or “evil” or goes against their religious beliefs, I am happy to sit down and share my own knowledge, research, and experiences. My own in-depth analysis of the Bible and other world religions only confirms my own belief that God is Love and we each are created unique for our own individual purpose in life. I’ve been on the brink of death more times that anyone I have ever known, and the God that I’ve gotten to know and love through the course of my life (and near-death) experiences is a Divine being of endless love and patience. I did however have a dream when I was really sick with swine flu a few months ago that He was getting impatient with my lack of courage, so now I’m doing my best to speak up and be heard. 😉
So how does this all affect my business going forward?! I realized I am done offering maternity sessions to the general population. I had such a challenging experience with my own infertility journey, which is what shaped my love and appreciation of babies. Going forward, I will only accept maternity bookings from parents who have gone through infertility or infant loss. I want the rainbow pregnancies, the miracle pregnancies, the magic of science pregnancies. Those are the parents I’ve enjoyed working with the most for maternity sessions. My own boys were both miracle rainbow babies, and the same was true for my sister and myself. It’s literally a miracle that I even exist and my boys exist. It’s literally a miracle that I’ve survived the brink of death so many times. That’s what I want to celebrate and document. No more of the “I hate being pregnant so let’s get this over with” sessions. I want to celebrate the miracle of life. I am still offering newborn sessions but I will be revamping slightly, with more of a focus on family interaction with the newborn, since those are the photos I regret not taking when my own boys were born.
I am also going to be expanding into women’s portraits but with a unique twist. I know that within each of us, lies a spark of the Divine…both masculine and feminine energy. On a personal level, I love helping my masculine female friends get in touch with their feminine side, and vice versa. It is a gift that my friend Kevyn trained me well with, and it’s something I haven’t been incorporating into my professional life for a long time. It’s time for that to change! I am equal parts Alice and Mad Hatter. Did you know that one theory behind Alice in Wonderland is that she was on a journey to get in touch of all of the parts of herself? One of my favorite quotes…”In a world full of princesses, be an Alice.” I know that the masculine portion of my own personality has helped pull myself up from the most desperate of situations. It’s time that more women learn how to do the same.
From the bottom of my heart…Thank you for reading. I know a lot of people (even those in the queer community) could look at me from an outside perspective and judge…why is this straight chick covered in head to toe rainbows all the time lately? Because it’s Pride Month, and today is the 50th anniversary of the first Pride, which was a riot protesting brutality and hate crimes against the queer community. My own queerness has defined my life in every way. My first memory of my queerness actually goes back to preschool (it wasn’t a positive memory unfortunately and a negative comment left me uncomfortable speaking to people outside my family for years after that). Our society still has far to go so it’s time we all speak up. As a wise friend told me recently, representation isn’t for ourselves…it’s for the next generation. In speaking up and finding my own support and strength in my community, I’ve also finally let go of my own regrets that life didn’t eventually bring me back to Long Beach. I’m still Alicia from the LBC, but I’m happy with where I’m at, just a short drive over the bridge from Long Beach. I’m happy to spread Pride over on this side of the bridge where it’s much more needed anyway. 😉