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The Human Tapestry Podcast
72 minutes | 7 days ago
Mark, Four Years Later
Today, I’m talking with Mark, another person I talked to about four years ago during my Intersections project. If you haven’t heard that interview yet, you can hear it in last week’s From the Vault episode, along with Leandra Vane. Mark is a gay, married man and I had a great conversation with him as we caught up on his life since we last talked, growth in his marriage, unique struggles of non cishet marriages, puppies, and lots of other things. Episode Transcript [00:00:36] Mike: So it’s been four years. Yeah. Um, and I know we were talking a little bit before we were recording about like, Identity and, um, yeah. [00:00:50] Mark: [00:00:50] Yeah. Well, I think everyone’s identity, of course is a very personal thing. Right. I think there are what 6 billion people on the planet. I think there’s probably 6 billion identities. [00:01:00] Right, right. And, um, if you’re gonna put me into a box, I’d tell you identify right now is as a gay male. Right. But I think the only true statement I could make is my identity is about being honest with myself about what I want in life. Right. So if, um, if there’s one commonality that has stretched from the time when I first told my wife, look, I, I’m pretty sure I’m gay too. [00:01:30] Um, today where I’m, I’m married to my husband, to what I want for myself in the future. It’s just the truth, you know? Not hiding, um, what I want for myself, not finding what I need for myself. Um, so with that, having said that I can’t promise that might any, will never change in the future. I can’t imagine a day where it would, but 20 years from now, I couldn’t imagine the day where I was talking to you today. [00:02:00] Right, right. But, um, so I just want to identify as a honest person, you know, honest with the people I love and honest with myself. So maybe, maybe that’s a cheesy cop out. I don’t know. But yeah, [00:02:18] Mike: [00:02:18] I like that. I want to identify as an honest person. That’s actually, that’s a good identity to have nowadays. Yeah. [00:02:27] Um, yeah. And I dunno, it actually is seeming like more now people are less. The generations coming up and the people that are really like moving forward with this kind of stuff, or like becoming less concerned with identity as much as just being able to be who you are. [00:02:51] Mark: [00:02:51] Yeah. Yeah. The, the freedom that younger people feel today is something that I think, um, is a big step forward. [00:03:04] Our society is made, right? The freedom to be who you are and the right to say, I don’t have to be ashamed of myself no matter who I am. You know, that, that, to me, that is a societal progress we’ve made. Hmm. [00:03:20] Mike: [00:03:20] Yeah, it’s looking better. I think. I mean, there’s still struggles, but it is definitely different than, um, even 10 years ago. [00:03:32] Mark: [00:03:32] Yeah. [00:03:32]Mike: [00:03:32] Four years ago. [00:03:34] Mark: [00:03:34] Yeah. Yeah. You know, I grew up in a small town in Michigan and in a farm community, there were less than a thousand people who lived in the town that I grew up in at the time. There’s like 1200 now, but there’s still no stoplight. There wasn’t a stoplight and Litchfield Michigan when I was growing up. [00:03:51] And there isn’t one today, but it’s only marginally bigger, but, um, being, uh, you know, a pretty feminine gay teenager, um, as I was at the time, I feared for my safety, you know? And I go back there today. That was it, my family. And I see 18, 19 year olds on grinder in Litchfield, Michigan, this little town of 1200 right now. [00:04:15] So young guys who grew up in that town, young guys who were building themselves in their identity and they don’t feel like they need to run away to Ann Arbor to do it. Like I did when I was 18 or 19 years old, you know, they can do it right there in their hometown, around their families, where they grew up in, where they were raised and not, you know, look over their shoulder and not be afraid. [00:04:35] You know? So I don’t know that I had anything to do with that, but I’m proud of my little hometown for at least making those steps [00:04:44] again, as it were they, I mean, they’re, they like. Because I know there’s still a lot of places where it’s still not really welcomed, is it right? I mean, are they, are they out there and not feeling [00:04:59] well? [00:05:00] So I don’t know. I don’t know the details. I’m not going to be, it could be 45 year old coming home to revisit his old hometown and start messaging, you know, young kids on Grindr like that, you know, I’m, I’m not going to do that. But, um, from the few people that I know who I, I went to high school with, there were, you know, three or four of us, none of them were out to one another in high school. [00:05:21] Now that we’re all adults, you know, we’re like, Oh yeah, obviously the three or four of us were friends in high school. We were all closeted homosexuals. And here we are grownups. And now we’re, you know, obviously all of us are gay. How it’s good in a bag. You know, I think you kind of drawn to your tribe. If your tribe is kind of hiding from one another. [00:05:39] Um, just talking to them and listening to them, they don’t feel any kind of fear about being who they are and living their life, you know, in, in their forties. So, um, that kind of suggests to me that there is a degree of openness, even for the young guys that wasn’t there before [00:06:03] it suggests that I don’t [00:06:04] Mike: [00:06:04] know it does. Yeah. It’s different. And of course, you know, in a, in the eighties you [00:06:09] didn’t have, um, you didn’t have apps [00:06:13] to connect. You didn’t have the internet to connect over. It was either find people in a place in person or newspapers or magazines or whatever. So I guess that’s the connected, the fact that we’re connected better helps because you can find your tribe easier. [00:06:35] Mark: [00:06:35] Yeah. The power that the LGBT community has today is we know how many of us there are now. Right? Right. So, um, we, we know there are hundreds of thousands, probably more than millions of us in this country. We know that, and we know that we’re not alone. We know we’re not isolated. We know that if we’re in trouble that, um, we can call one another for help. [00:07:03] There are organizations that are just, you know, an email away. I remember when I was a young kid and Litchfield and I was 15, 16 years old and I just tried coming up to my parents and it did not go well at all. I remember thinking to myself, well, I know there’s this place near Ann Arbor called the ozone house. [00:07:20] That takes LGBT runaway kids. I remember thinking, but. How, how do I get to Ann Arbor? You know, I don’t have a car. I can’t catch up there. That’s stupid. I don’t have any money. I can’t call them because I’d have to call them on the rotary phone, the landline that’s right there in the kitchen where everyone’s going to hear me doing it. [00:07:42] Um, so how do I even know if they’d take me if I just showed up at their door or would they just turn me away? Maybe they’re full. So all I knew that there was an organization that existed someplace where if I wasn’t physically safe, I maybe could go there, but I had no idea how I could pass them if they happen, or if they’re even able to take somebody like me or if they would just turn me over to the social services and God knows what would’ve happened then. [00:08:09] Right. So, um, young kids today don’t have that problem. You know, they can just go on Twitter and tweet apples on, Hey, you guys got any bags or, you know, they can just go, they can just ask this stuff with some degree of privacy. Right. And so there’s this degree of interconnectedness that didn’t exist back then. [00:08:30] And I think that is the true power that the community just realized know almost it’s almost, um, we’re in some ways, internet has facilitated this large avalanche of writing information at the same time. It’s also facilitated, um, the ability for people who once were marginalized in the press to connect with one another and realize their strengths and share numbers. [00:09:00] Yeah. [00:09:04] A blade that cuts both ways. Unfortunately. [00:09:07] Mike: [00:09:07] Yeah. Yeah. Everything kind of is, but it is it’s, it’s nice to, I mean, there’s things like this on the internet where people can go listen and find out who’s like them and who’s. So, yeah, it’s pretty cool. [00:09:24] Mark: [00:09:24] Yeah. And thank you so much for doing something like that. I mean, the, the, the 13 or 14 year old who was thinking to herself. [00:09:33] Wow. You know, I’m probably gay and thinking that my life was over today, that 13 or 14 year old confined the work that you’re doing. Right. And understand that there’s, there’s a whole life and a whole world ahead of them. That’s going to be good, you know? [00:09:50] Mike: [00:09:50] Yeah. Well, thank you for being, for doing this interview because otherwise they just listen to me talk every week and that would be boring. [00:09:59] Mark: [00:09:59] Yeah. You know, it’s not just, you know, 13 to 14 year olds. It’s also 30 year olds, 40 year olds, 50 year olds, 60 year olds who are, you know, finally understanding themselves in a way that they couldn’t before, who are scared that. [00:10:14] Their life is over there, that there is no good future for them. And if nothing else I’d like to dispel that, um, that fear and that shame. [00:10:28] Mike: [00:10:28] Yeah. There’s a lot to be said for finding out that you’re not the only one. Yeah. Because I think that’s where a lot of the power comes from is when you think you’re the weird one. [00:10:40] Yeah. And not that there’s a whole lot of other people that are, that are like you in some way, you know, finding that tribe. So, yeah. Yeah. That’s pretty cool. So speaking of the tribes, um, so you kinda, now, I I’m trying to remember, did you. [00:11:10] Realize you were gay or at least not straight before you entered your first marriage or? [00:11:19] Mark: [00:11:19] Well, I don’t know. So I knew that I was bisexual at least. Okay. So, um, growing up as, as a teenager where I did in a pretty isolated, um, rural community, isolated in terms of there not being other gay people visible. [00:11:43] Right. Um, I was pretty sure I was probably gay because I just wasn’t interested in the other girls around me. And then, um, I went away to college and I started sleeping with both men and women. And that was really confusing to me because if I was gay, how could I enjoy sleeping with on it? So I must be by, right, right. [00:12:06] And I kind of realized that whenever I felt anything romantic, it was towards other women. It wasn’t towards the other guys and thought, well, you know, maybe that means I’m bisexual leaning towards heterosex reality, you know? And I had, um, had a couple of girlfriends and a boyfriend, um, a lot of fun in between. [00:12:29] Um, and, um, so to me it was really an unsettled question in my mind, and it was really anxiety provoking to deal with it because, um, where, where I was at the time around the Ann Arbor, um, the LGBT community in Anarbor was very, um, um, what’s the right way to put it. [00:12:59] Tolerant, very vocal and yeah, [00:13:06] it seemed like most people I knew of who were openly gay were part of the, um, performing arts community. And, um, we’re very theatrical and flamboyant and, um, I didn’t really fit that very well. Right. And so I was like, well, these really aren’t my people. Yes. I, I enjoy, you know, the sexual aspect of it, but that’s not really where I belong. [00:13:31] Whereas when I looked at the woman that I was with that kind of really easily fell into that environment, although with a really big secret that I wasn’t sharing with that. Right. So I fit in because I wasn’t being honest or open. Right. But that was easier, easier for you. But the whole thing was very excited, provoking. [00:13:51] So after college, I lint. Um, off to, uh, um, a job working for a nonprofit that would take kids from the juvenile justice system and we take them backpacking and canoeing for Mount Sinai. And, um, so I kinda just put the whole question of relationships aside and just focus myself full time. And, um, in this position that I got, which was a lot like being in the peace Corps, you know, it was very much a, a way of life when it was a job or anything like that. [00:14:22] It was all consuming. It was 24 hours a day, weeks on end sometimes. And so I just kind of put it all away for all the sides, and we’re not going to deal with that, but I really want to do this. I’m going to do this. We’ll revisit that topic later. So I was, um, in that role and, um, my father had passed away pretty suddenly from cancer when I was 22. [00:14:53] No pardon me. I was 23 at the time. And, um, I kind of lost my ability to be an effective leader in that role, because I was just too torn up. You know, my dad and I, we were at odds almost all the entire time I was growing up. Um, but when I moved, [00:15:14]Hold on just a second. I got these shoes. Look at it. Rescue some shoes from my dog. [00:15:19]Sorry about that. [00:15:20] Mike: [00:15:20] No, no worries. [00:15:21]Mark: [00:15:21] So yeah. So you were just trying to pick this up. You were, your father passed away and you were kind of at odds with him. [00:15:30] I’ve been at odds with him until I moved to Georgia. And then, um, we didn’t, we grew really close and then a matter of months later he passed away. [00:15:38] So I was pretty turned off from there. So I moved back to Michigan and, um, kind of in the, in the upset and the throws of mourning, all the questions I had about what is my life now, who am I, where I’m going to do? Um, I met a woman and we became very close with one another. And, um, they, it was, um, I mean it was locked. [00:16:13] Right. And I remember thinking to myself, well, how could I be gay if I love a woman like this? You know, if we have this great sex life together, if we enjoy spending this time together, gay men don’t do that. Right. So I put that aside and said, well, that can’t be who I am. Otherwise, this experience I’m having right now, wouldn’t be happening. [00:16:34] Yeah. [00:16:38] We were together for a long time. We were together, you know, about a good 10 years before things started to really go South for us. And we divorced after 12, we spent two years trying to make things work. [00:16:54] Um, [00:16:56] but I wouldn’t trade those 12 years in for anything. We have a lot of good memories together. Right. A lot of there was a lot of love that was there. There was a lot of fun. It was a lot of good things to happen. There a lot of ways that we help each other grow. Um, but at gala day there was just something missing that couldn’t be felt in their relationship. [00:17:19] And, um, [00:17:25] if it was, you know, having the love of, and the ability to love another man, right. And once I realized that there was just no going back, [00:17:45] Mike: [00:17:45] um, [00:17:51] Mark: [00:17:51] well you have all these great memories and then, you know, you start to realize that you need something different that just isn’t there. And there’s no way to make it there. And, you know, the person that you love and care about feels betrayed. You feel numerously guilty for having hurt and betrayed somebody, whether, whether you’ve actually betrayed that person or not. [00:18:13] It’s how you feel. Right. Um, I would never tell anybody today who was realizing things about themselves that maybe they didn’t fully understand before I would never characterize the asset portrayal of the other person. People learn, they grow, they change. That’s just reality, you know? And that’s the risk. [00:18:32] All of us take when we say I do, right? The person that we marry today will never be the same person, 10 years from now or 20 years from now. And you don’t want them to, right. Right. You want to grow together. You want to change together, but unfortunately, you know, sometimes growth and change. Doesn’t always keep you together. [00:18:53] Sometimes it leads you in other directions. And you have to be kind and gracious with yourself and kind and gracious with your partner. It’s it’s just life. Yeah. It’s just the truth. [00:19:08] Mike: [00:19:08] It’s true. [00:19:11] Mark: [00:19:11] So, um, I’m sorry. You, you were about to say something and I started, [00:19:17] Mike: [00:19:17] no, no, go ahead. Go ahead. I, I, I like store I’ll start up questions. So [00:19:24] Mark: [00:19:24] yeah, so, um, I fell on a pretty deep depression after that, and it took a few years of therapy and, um, it took some career changes to get to a point where I could really forgive myself and be pardon me. [00:19:50] And, um, be as functional as I was before. Um, So it was a lot of work, but important work. [00:20:05] Mike: [00:20:05] Um, so just out of curiosity, cause I kind of said, you asked the question of yourself a few times. Did you ever figure out an answer of, cause you were like, I sexually attracted it and like you had romantic relationships in sexual relationships with women, but yeah. Did you ever, I mean it’s okay to say no, but I was just curious if you ever like worked out what had happened at that? [00:20:32] Mark: [00:20:32] Well, so I, I don’t know the answer to that question about what happened back then. I can tell you that I know today that I only have emotions and feelings for other males, right. For other men. Um, I think. Women or allowed to experience sexual fluidity. And I think our society does not give them that same freedom to have sexual fluidity in their lives. [00:20:56] Right. I think that if a woman says to you, yeah, well, you know, I was with a man, you know, I loved him. He was my husband, you know, and now I’m a lesbian as a culture. We kind of go, okay, we’re done with that. We’re done with that. Right. We, we don’t think that that’s a flaw in the woman’s character. We don’t think that she misunderstood herself. [00:21:20] We don’t think that there’s anything there that she needs to feel bad about or apologize for women are allowed to do that. Right. Men are not. If, you know, if, if you love men now that means anything else you did before. That was a lie. And then I don’t think that’s true at all. I think that, I think that human sexuality is a tapestry. [00:21:43] Um, I think that everyone has their own thread and that tapestry and I don’t think everybody’s thread is the same. And I think that threads off and change color from blue to red, to green, to yellow, depending on where they are, you know, and on their path in that tapestry. And so I would like to live in a world where men were afforded the same freedom to be true to themselves, but their truth not have to be a constant from today to tomorrow until the end of time. [00:22:15] So I couldn’t tell you why. Um, but what I can tell you is that it was true back then, and I can tell you it’s also true today that whatever my ability was back then to. Enjoy being with women. I don’t enjoy that anymore. Right. You know, so I don’t know anything more to say, except that it’s, it’s just the truth is I can best express it. [00:22:48] Mike: [00:22:48] No, I like it it’s cause it sounds like you’ve um, cause you know, a lot of people have that kind of question or like, well I’m obviously not really, I’m not really gay because I had this thing where I had this attraction or whatever. And it’s like, yeah, it’s good to just say, you know, it’s who I am. Yeah. [00:23:07] Yeah, in the bisexual community we have, um, if you get 10, 10 bisexual or pansexual people, you’re going to get 10 different definitions of both of those words because everybody writes their own, their own thing. [00:23:21] And yeah, it’s good. I mean, it sounds it’s, it’s, it’s good to hear that you found, uh, you know, you’ve. You’ve integrated that into who you are and you’re okay with it. And it’s not a, it doesn’t sound like it’s a struggle anymore to try to answer, which is cool. Sometimes the answer is that [00:23:41] Mark: [00:23:41] you don’t owe anybody an explanation for who you are. Right. I don’t owe anybody an explanation for what I felt and who I was. I don’t even know myself an explanation. I just owe myself the truth. Right. So that we don’t ask women to explain themselves if they’ve gone from straight to gay, to back again, back to gay or lesbian or whatever direction that they go. [00:24:13] We never asked them to explain themselves. It’s it would be considered rude if we didn’t. Right. Oh, you used to, you’re a lesbian now. Oh, well, weren’t you married to a man at one point boy, he did something really awful to him. Yeah, we would never say that to a woman. We feel so comfortable saying it to men. [00:24:31] Mike: [00:24:31] Yeah. I will say I’ve, I’ve known some people that have experienced that on the female side, but it is definitely prominent. Yeah. It was definitely more prominent, I think when like, and I think it’s that if that masculinity thing know, you’re not a real man, because you touched another man and another man touches me. [00:24:55] I might turn gay. [00:24:57] Mark: [00:24:57] Yeah. All, all the horror, [00:25:00] Mike: [00:25:00] right? Yeah, exactly. If a gay man showers with me, I’ll turn gay if he looks at me. So [00:25:09] Mark: [00:25:09] yeah, if it was one of that simple there’s. [00:25:16] I’ve got it. I’ve got a [00:25:17] Mike: [00:25:17] list too. Everybody’s got a list. Do you and your husband have the, um, what we call it? Like it’s, it’s your, it’s your one-time list? Like this is your one pass list. I mean, I know you had at least had when we talked before it opened, but like a lot, you know, a lot of couples have that. [00:25:38] Here’s, here’s the one, you know, Jason, [00:25:42] Mark: [00:25:42] that’s a pass [00:25:43] Mike: [00:25:43] or something like that. [00:25:44] Mark: [00:25:44] So I think a lot of, a lot of gay couples just enjoy talking about men together. Right. And so we’re, we’re no different, right. So, um, He’ll he’ll tell me about someone that he knows or somebody that he met or this really have massage therapist or something like that. [00:25:59] And it’s only a picture and all this time. What if you can get that? You’ve got to get that I’ll be mad at with you if you don’t, if you don’t want to go do it for me and tell me about it, you know? Yeah. There’s just, Margaret show has this line in one of her, um, comedy acts, um, where she’s talking about gay men and says, you know, if you’re hated for who you want to have sex with, then when you do it, your dams are going to have a good time. [00:26:28] Right. And I think that applies to both my marriage and to so many, um, gay male couples that I know came home married, just that I know, especially the ones that last a long time is there’s this sense of fun and exploration and, um, laughter and just joy that revolves around, um, you know, Really your whole lives together, but the sexual component, especially. [00:26:54] Right. And so it’s, it’s not just a game, you know, it’s, it’s not, it’s not like that, but it is something that is meant to be enjoyed, you know, and we have a same, um, in, in our marriage together where I never want him to feel bad about doing something to feel good and vice versa. You know, my husband’s told me, I never want you to feel bad about wanting to feel good. [00:27:27] You know, if you want to do something to enjoy yourself, go enjoy yourself. Don’t ever feel bad about wanting to enjoy yourself. Right. And if, you know, there’s some sort of sexual component to that, that’s great. And if there’s not, that’s great too. Right. Um, obviously, you know, neither one of us wants the other person to do anything stupid. [00:27:45] Um, but, um, I never want to be the reason he doesn’t enjoy his life and vice versa. So, um, there’s a degree of openness. Um, then we’ve got, it’s not really structured around rules. Um, more like just common sense. Like, you know, obviously I’m not going to do anything stupid and hurtful and neither is he. Um, and in the era of COVID, you know, we’ve scaled that back dramatically. [00:28:16] Sure. Um, just it’s dumb to put your partner at risk, right? Neither one of us is going to do that to the other one. Um, but we’ve had a lot of fun, got a lot of fun together, got a lot of fun, not together. And then, and then share that time with each other afterwards. And what. What’s the point of being together. [00:28:41] If you can enjoy your lives together, you know, Dan, so, um, he’s always given me the freedom to go and do things that, um, maybe other couples wouldn’t feel comfortable with. I don’t know. Um, but I think especially after five years, so it’s just such an implicit trust. That’s been built up in our marriage that it’s just not even a question in my mind or his mind like, Oh, he wants to go do that. [00:29:16] I don’t think to myself, Oh my God. I’m so afraid that he might do X, Y, or Z. And it’s like, Oh, okay. You want us to go do that? I know I’ll take care of himself. I don’t know if he’ll conduct himself. Well, go have fun. I’ll be here. When you get back, go to Fort Lauderdale for a weekend. Go crazy. Come back and tell me about it. [00:29:33] I’m not going anywhere. Yeah. So, yeah, so like, I think, um, a lot of people, when they’re, if this is going off, course, just tell me. But I think like a lot of people who come out later in life, you feel like you’ve missed out. Right. And the fun and adventure that a lot of gay people have in their younger years. [00:29:58] Um, so there’s, um, there’s a week-long event and Fort Lauderdale and what term? Wilton manors. And, um, late November, early December, I think they call it pig week or something silly like that, but it’s basically just a bunch of sex parties. Right. And, um, I was always kind of curious about that. Like, okay, well what actually goes on there and is it fun and it’s a hot, and would it be enjoyable to take part in that? [00:30:24] Or is it just a bunch of guys getting high on drugs? Right. What what’s actually happening there? Um, so I had some friends, um, who are going, bringing in a house with a group of their other friends. And, um, so I went, I went with him, I said, Hey, look, I want to check this out. And, um, you know, sorry, my dog is playing with a toy and, you know, response was okay, go be safe, be good. [00:30:52] If you can’t be good, don’t get caught, just go. And, um, and I went down there and I ended up taking part in none of it, because there was so much drug use. And, um, a lot of the men who were down there were just either drunk out of their minds or scarring of their minds or worse. And, um, a lot of what was that like the social component of it. [00:31:20] It really wasn’t even all that hot because people were too high to fit in, like to really function, you know, So I feel like, you know, a lot of people talk about those events, like, Oh my God, it was such a halftime. And I consider myself as, okay. Are you remembering things as they actually were? Or are you remembering some drug-induced haze of what you thought happened? [00:31:43] Because it, none of that really seemed like it was all that great to, so I went down there, I participate in almost none of it. I watched a lot of stuff. Right. I, I observed it almost like an anthropologist. Um, went to the bar a few times. Um, I think I went to the bath house in Florida and hooked up with one really cute Colombian guy, but that was like it in the midst of hundreds and hundreds of guys who came from all around the world to go there and do nothing, but just have a bunch of sex parties. [00:32:15] I just didn’t want it. Right. So I went back home at the end of that week and I got home and, you know, my husband asked me how it was new ideas, you know, honestly, The fantasy of it was way better than the reality of it. And he was like, yeah, that’s often the case. The fantasy is better than the reality, you know? [00:32:37] And, but he also made some comment. I came here exactly what he said was like, you know, he kind of, you kind of expected that I would, I would think I would feel that way, but he wanted me to go there and figure it out for myself. Right. And that’s the kind of thing that, um, I really appreciate about him and the trust and the openness that he gives me and the idea of him, you know, it’s the freedom to go and see and decide for myself, having the faith and confidence that I’ll make good decisions and he’ll make good decisions. [00:33:12] And, um, [00:33:15] yeah, so that, that’s kind of, I think, I don’t know if there’s a good, abbreviated way to describe our marriage. Except to just say it there’s trust and there’s openness, there’s freedom and there’s fun. There’s responsibility towards one another, the responsibility towards ourselves. Um, [00:33:40] and, um, [00:33:44] just respect for each other as individuals and respect for what we’ve built together. [00:33:50] Mike: [00:33:50] Right. That sounds like a pretty good short description of it. [00:33:54] Mark: [00:33:54] Yeah. So I, I lucked out for sure. Right? Because I met this guy, um, two months after my ex wife left our home in Florida. He moved in down the street from me and I’m just barely said hi to me and scoffed or something like that. [00:34:17] And I wasn’t looking for anything. He was getting ready to go to school to finish those, um, degree in hospitality management. He wasn’t looking for anything. Um, as so often is the case. It’s when you’re not looking that you find it. Um, so [00:34:35] Mike: [00:34:35] yeah, that seems to happen a lot. Yeah. Like once you try to S once you, once you’re not trying to fit a relationship into what it’s supposed to be and fit the perfect person that you’re looking for, fit, whoever you look at into that, then all of a sudden you find the person that’s actually maybe right for you. [00:34:56] Mark: [00:34:56] Yeah. [00:34:56] Mike: [00:34:56] I think it’s cool that you all, you two have, seem to have that trust and built into your relationship and defining it and putting a term on it. [00:35:06] Mark: [00:35:06] Well, it’s not something that happens automatically, right? There was a lot of, um, the first few years there was a lot of working that out, you know, when you’re still really getting to know each other know, Oh, you know, figuring out what your hot buttons are, figuring out. [00:35:27] What’s good. What makes you feel bad? Um, with the other person working through, um, misperceptions and building that trust, it’s a journey, right? It’s a fun time to get there, but we always kind of knew that’s what we wanted to work towards. So when we finally got there, it was very satisfying. [00:35:50] I might be rambling. [00:35:51] Mike: [00:35:51] No, I think it’s right on. Cause I was like, You have to, you still have two people working, working on it. So you have two different sets of perceptions and needs and, um, boundaries and all of those things. And yeah, sometimes it takes some time to work. Find the things that work for both of you for, for anyone else who’s, who’s involved in it. [00:36:23] It just, it takes time. [00:36:27] Mark: [00:36:27] Yeah. Yeah. Like I was describing to you earlier about going down to Florida for a week, we couldn’t have done that in year two, right? Sure. We can in year five, but in year two, no way, you know, there would have been arguments, bites, cold shoulders, things like that. It would have been tough. [00:36:45] Mike: [00:36:45] Yeah. [00:36:47] Yeah, because I remember it seemed like four years ago when we talked to you or kind of you you’re less than a year into the marriage, you were still kind of figuring some things out and, um, yeah, just, yeah, so it takes time. Yeah. It things do. So it’s good to hear that. You’re, you’re definitely in a good place with it now, though. [00:37:11] That’s pretty awesome. Especially nowadays, like you’re stuck in a, stuck in the house with this one person. If it’s going to be the one person you’re stuck with, it should be someone you like and can get along. Yeah. So, yeah. Um, [00:37:27] Mark: [00:37:27] yeah, we’ve had, yeah. You know, it, if you’re lucky enough to be with somebody who you really enjoy it, then something like this experience can be a lot of fun. [00:37:37] And fortunately for us, it’s been a good time. [00:37:39] Mike: [00:37:39] That’s good. [00:37:39] Mark: [00:37:39] You know, We we’ve had a lot of fun making meals for each other, watching movies together, going for walks on the beach. We bought the puppy who keeps interrupting. Um, he’s our COVID puppy. We got on the second week of March, right before Florida went on lockdown and brought him home. [00:37:56] So we figured, well, we’re going to be stuck at home for a while. This is the ideal time to buy, you know, a seven week old puppy, someone called sharp puppy. So, um, you know, that’s been a lot of fun for us, you know, it’s the closest we’ll have to raising the kid together. So, um, yeah, it’s, it’s been a trip. [00:38:14] It’s been a good time, but [00:38:17] yeah, it is a good time to raise a dog, I guess, a puppy. Cause you’re, you’re not going anywhere anyway. [00:38:26] Yeah. So it’s been a good time and I feel, um, really mixed feelings about all of this, um, because it’s been an absolute nightmare for so many people and my heart goes out to them. But it’s been an enormous boost for me and both for my husband personally, you know, it’s been good for me to have the time at home to be able to rest more, to be able to reflect more. [00:38:56] It’s been good for me as a career. Um, because the insurance industry is pretty recession proof, right? People have to have our insurance. There’s just no way around it. People have to have insurance on their homes. There’s no way around it. So, um, I’ve been fortunate in that respect. Um, my, um, husband’s constant new opportunities in his career. [00:39:20] Um, as, as COVID has kind of caused people to reevaluate where they’re at and make moves themselves. Sometimes geographic moves sometimes career moves. Um, some opportunities have opened up for him that he has been able to take advantage of. Um, and then we’ve got, you know, the, the new dog and, and the ability to just kind of, instead of commuting an hour, each way to the office in downtown Tampa, you know, I’ve got those two hours to live a more fuller life. [00:39:53] So the whole, the whole thing has been a really good experience for me, minus, you know, um, the societal breakdown caused by, um, I [00:40:07] think, [00:40:10] uh, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t, I don’t, I do not want to see this conversation about politics, but I feel like it’s been hard for people to know the truth of what they’re supposed to do depending upon their information environment. Right. And we’ve seen a lot of extreme reactions from both directions as a result, um, and the societal rupture that that’s causing or. [00:40:31] Um, that was already there that this isn’t claiming, I think has been, um, truly unfortunate. And then of course there’s the, the loss of life, the sickness, the illness, the loss of jobs. So many people have had, it’s hard to know if, um, has been a net positive for you, but such a huge negative for everybody else. [00:40:54] It’s, that’s, that’s a hard thing to process, right? Like I’m so glad this happened minus the many ways it’s for other people, you know, but the two are part and parcel of one another and I don’t know what to do with that. [00:41:10] Mike: [00:41:10] It’s true. I’m kind of wondering now with the way you’re with you saying that like, cause one of the things that I’ve seen, like, I, I, I’m kind of with you, I don’t think there’s anything necessarily new about the people. [00:41:30] You know, the last four years have had us become very polarized where people are seeing the differences more clearly, it’s been stressful for us. Then the pandemic hit and then certain events happen where people that are just, you know, living through a pandemic, living in having to quarantine and facing people that are like demonstrating their lack of care for the, their fellow human, by not taking the steps to protect each other. [00:42:08] And then you couple that, with the things that have been going on, you know, since we’ve been a country and the people that are on the victim on the, on the bad end of that are like enough so that, you know, the sparks are, there’s just that. My partner, I have, um, we call them Rhona moments where, you know, great, we have a great relationship, but there were some times that you just are like, I just can’t deal with this anymore. [00:42:38] And yeah. You know, and so, you know, country has had that around, you know, racism is yeah. And stuff like that. But at the same time, people like you and me who, you know, cause I’m the same way my industry is, is taking off. Like when we went into lockdown, I work with websites. So we went into lockdown, our business shot up because everybody was making a website. [00:43:00] Mark: [00:43:00] So e-commerce [00:43:02] Mike: [00:43:02] right. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s, it’s been very, very prosperous for us and already was already working at home. So I didn’t have to really make any career adjustments and yeah, I have good health insurance and you know, all of this and I can survive without having to leave my house to go to a job. [00:43:18] It was already there. So yeah, it was easy for me, but I think maybe people like us. Get to see how, how much, you know, cause it’s always been about knowing, understanding privilege. You know, we all have everybody, you know, you have those privileges positions of privilege you’re in and it’s, it was easy before to kind of not pay attention to that part. [00:43:44] And now like our privileges in our face in a way we can’t, you just can’t avoid it. And I know that that’s one of the things I’ve heard from people is that the, the response from people who it wasn’t just the people, you know, it’s not just black lives matter, being black people, having to speak up for themselves, but now white people and other people from positions of privilege or like. [00:44:13] Oh man. Yeah. What do I need? What can I do to help? Like it, it’s like, you know, it’s, it’s become very real. And I think just having to sit through this and be like, well, I have these inconveniences because of this. It’s just, it’s much more of a visible difference, I guess. I don’t know. [00:44:33] Mark: [00:44:33] Yeah. We’re in, we are insulated from death and disease because of, um, some of it’s because of the work we’ve done to allow ourselves to be in the kind of roles that we’re in. Some of it’s just pure happenstance, right? It’s like, it didn’t necessarily need to be the case that the insurance industry allows for me to work from home and be safe. [00:45:06] Society evolved in that way. Right where we’ve got webinars and zoom meetings and all this kind of fun stuff, but that didn’t need to happen. Right. If, if technology had gone a different direction or if it never developed, and I’d be in the office too, as a necessary feature of making a living. So some of the work that we’ve done, some of it, I think, is just society evolved in the way that rewards us, you know, in ways that in retrospect, maybe they’re kind of arbitrary, right? [00:45:45] It didn’t, it didn’t there nothing, there is no reason the world needed to happen the way that it did, but it did happen that way. And I’m the beneficiary of that. And I’m lucky in that way. [00:45:57] Mike: [00:45:57] That’s true. Yep. [00:46:00] Mark: [00:46:00] So, um, but it kind of. You touched on something, you know, we were talking about COVID and I, I, to me, that’s the biggest difference and what I see in gay marriages versus what I see in straight marriages. [00:46:19] Whereas I think in, in straight marriages, men and women are, are different river race, very different. Um, we’re socialized very different men and women are, um, there’s, there’s a bridge that you need to cross right. To come together in that way. But I think when you have two men together, there’s an implicit understanding of one another, that doesn’t exist the same way for men and women. [00:46:46] I mean, I don’t, so I subscribe to the idea that men are from, or women are from Venus and men are from Mars. Right. But there’s something to be said for just whether it’s innate or whether it’s okay. Terrains. Yeah. There’s differences there. Right. But those differences don’t really exist for two men together. [00:47:07] You know, we’ve been raised around one another, put into situations through sports, through gym classes, to classrooms, through, um, anything really, you know, where we learn how to be around one another, you know, and that’s really easy, easy way, you know, um, where we’re socialized and taught how to be around other males, um, and work together. [00:47:41] And, um, [00:47:55] You’ve kind of looked at there’s many differences, but, um, men, two men together don’t have the same degree of differences to cross. I think because of that, just being together is easier being together every day. Like that it’s just easier. Right? It’s like, um, um, [00:48:17] guys who practicing on a sports team every day, you learn how to be together and get along with other men, right. Or, um, guys who are in a band together, guys there there’s just this whole, um, and maybe this is a uniquely American thing. I don’t think so, but maybe it is, but there’s this whole, um, socialization component to our culture that teaches men and boys, how to get along work together. [00:48:44] Um, spend time around one another in a very casual way and just kind of shrug it off while the minor annoyances, you know, it’s just. Right. Yeah. So I think that when you have two men together and they can be stressful like this, I think, um, a lot of that socialization kind of kicks in right. Where, um, um, [00:49:09] it’s easy for things that are stressful to turn into laughter because that’s how guys handle things when they’re younger. Right. They make jokes about it, you know, or there’s like, there’s a, you know, a gentle teasing or poking fun on dad. And, um, so a lot of times when, when we experienced stress, um, or since March, since the lockdowns really started in this part of Florida, it changes from stress till after pretty darn quick. [00:49:45] Um, [00:49:51] I don’t know, it’s a, it’s a difficult thing for me to put into words, but, um, I’ve noticed this, not just in my own marriage, but, and, um, most of the male male couples that I know, and especially the ones that have lasted for some period of time, there’s just an ease of being around each other. That feels a lot like when I was growing up and there were guys who were like best friends, um, you know, it’s that easy, casual. [00:50:21] We like the same stuff we joke around with each other. It’s a lot like just hanging out with your best buddy, and there’s a sexual side to it too. Right. But then that friendship is just so much easier to forge and to maintain, I think for two men together. And there it is for a man and a woman together. [00:50:36] I think it’s, it’s a lot to do with, um, the fact that two men obviously are more similar than a man and a woman. Generally are not in all cases, of course, but generally speaking, but also just the huge amount of socialization that occurs, um, that teaches men how to be together and work together. And, um, how are you going? [00:50:57] And other’s differences to achieve a goal. [00:50:59] Mike: [00:50:59] Yeah. Oh yeah. Well, I mean, and in school and stuff, you have boys, girls groups and girls groups, and, you know, that’s where you learn all the cool social things. When the girls go away because the girls are icky thing and, and you know, and in a, in a, um, straight marriage or LA, you know, opposite gender marriage, you have those gender roles are there and you’re trying to fit into the gender roles of what you’re supposed to do in a marriage where if you don’t have those genders to work through, you just get to be yourself. [00:51:39] And all the things that go into a marriage are still there. You just don’t have to worry about. You know, is this the man’s job? Is this the woman’s job? Is this the, and of course, you know, every bachelor party or ever, you know, marriage is like, you know, every system that marriage is like, you’re giving up your freedom, you’re giving up this stuff. [00:52:04] I mean, we put out a whole thing of how, you know, marriage is a, some kind of prison it’s trap and yet, and for same-sex marriages right now, it’s, it’s definitely a huge freedom. It was only recently made legal nationwide. So yeah, there’s a lot of that. Yeah. Yeah. [00:52:24] It makes sense. [00:52:26] Mark: [00:52:26] So it’s kind of like, instead of, um, in a point you’d have to negotiate with, which is what I see in many of the heterosexual marriages out there. [00:52:35] Um, it feels more like having a partner in crime. Yeah. And a lot of, a lot of men described their husbands as their partner in crime. And the crime might be something as silly as, you know, a ton of cheek way of saying, you know, we have extraordinary vacations together or, you know, we engage in all this, um, you know, sexual exploration together, or we, um, you know, have this career that we built together. [00:53:01] We run a business together, whatever it is. But, um, there, there’s this thing that kicks in where, um, the same thing that makes it really easy in our culture, in our society or men to be friends since kindergarten and to stay friends throughout their entire life. I don’t know anyone who can say that because, and I think a lot of it is, well, certainly don’t know any women and men who can say that except for me being day and. [00:53:32] My lesbian friend who I’ve known since kindergarten. Right. But, um, that’s a totally different dynamic and I think exists in 99% of the world. But, um, I don’t know many women who can say that. Oh yeah. Well, you know, she’s been my friend since kindergarten. Hmm. I don’t know that I ever seen that. I’m sure it exists out there. [00:53:50] But what I do know for sure is that our society pits women against one another in competition for men to such an extent that our society would discourage that kind of friendship. That’s true. Lasting that long. So, um, I don’t know. I I’ve, I’ve noticed repeatedly, just an ease of being around one another, um, which makes it easier to deal with the kind of conflicts that come up with quarantine together. [00:54:20] And most of the male male couples that I know, and especially in all the long-term ones. [00:54:25] Mike: [00:54:25] Yeah. Huh. Interesting. [00:54:32] Mark: [00:54:32] Yeah. I don’t know if it’s interesting to anybody but [00:54:34] me, but it’s interesting to me, it’s interesting to me. So [00:54:39] the little by little stuff I see, you know, I don’t know. It’s kind of a weird thing. [00:54:42] When I think about boy, what, what would this be like if I was still married to my ex wife and, and I think about how, um, we would really miss going to the movies together because now we love to go see movies together. And that was one of the big sources of drive. We’d miss going to see live music together. [00:55:03] We love to do that too. Um, I think we’d be really bored with the food at home. Um, I know that me being a messier person than her would have driven her absolutely insane, um, to have to be around that 24 seven. Um, yeah, it it’s, it’s difficult to think to think of, but what I, what I. What never enters my head is if we have little conflicts, we’d be able to just shrug it off in there. [00:55:36] Maybe that says more about our particular marriage than it says anything about heterosexual couples in general. I don’t know. I can only speak from my own experience there. Sure. But from what I observed, something tells me maybe not, I don’t know [00:55:56] what I, what I can say though is, um, [00:56:07] Ooh boy. Maybe I should have thought about the words for that before I went down and I often have, I often have so. I haven’t had a boss before. I have words for them. Like sometimes I’ll know that I have an idea and then it’ll take me all day to, to figure out what my, to work on that express that idea. [00:56:26] So I’m sorry about that. [00:56:27] Mike: [00:56:27] Probably as soon as we disconnect you, we like gets the word. That’s [00:56:33] Mark: [00:56:33] embarrassing. [00:56:34] Mike: [00:56:34] That’s all good. It is all good. Yeah. [00:56:40] Mark: [00:56:40] I’ve been yakking out a bunch. I’m [00:56:41] Mike: [00:56:41] sorry. Don’t be that’s. That’s what we’re here for. So, um, and I know like when you talked to them a little bit and it sounds like that’s kind of what you were getting out of here a little bit was like, cause you’ve been through, what was it? [00:56:58] 14 year marriage, right? Well, 12 year marriage with a woman and how five years with a, with a man and like you see differences in the two types. So, um, [00:57:12] Mark: [00:57:12] So, yeah. So I think another one of the you’re going to ask them and I’m so [00:57:16] Mike: [00:57:16] sorry. Go for it. I think you’re about to answer it. So go for it. [00:57:19] Mark: [00:57:19] Yeah. So like, one of the things about heterosexual marriages is that they feel, um, it feels like there’s like a, um, predetermined stage of development, stages of development for that parents that you come together, you get married, you know, the script is you have children, you raise the children, your children grow up, they graduate, you have grandchildren girl together in your older years, you to volunteer where hopefully he garden, he enjoy your life, but there there’s like this. [00:58:03] There’s a script for how a couple grows and develops together. There’s a script for how change occurs. And you almost don’t really need to do anything to follow that script, except just follow the script. Right. But there is no script for a gay marriage. Yeah. And that’s both good. And it’s also kind of tough, right? [00:58:30] Because how do you grow together? What, how do you become something over time? How do you become something new? What is the goals for you together to grow into? But it’s not to become grandparents. And I think, [00:58:51] Mike: [00:58:51] um, [00:58:54] Mark: [00:58:54] if you don’t know where you’re going, then you’re going to look back five years later and wonder how the hell you got there. [00:59:02] Right. And I think that’s a real danger for a lot of gay marriages is you’re together. And maybe what’s brought you together is. You enjoy each other’s company? Um, communicate really well. The sex is great. Um, you have fun. Oh, that’s wonderful. But what are you going to be in seven years? And if you just leave that to chance, then there’s a really high risk of things going haywire or off the rails. [00:59:31] Right? If not seven years than 14 years, 22 years, how do you grow together? How do you become something more over time? Or what are you becoming over time? [00:59:49] Mike: [00:59:49] Yeah. Yeah. [00:59:50] Mark: [00:59:50] And to me that the, I think I was talking a little bit about how I think some gay marriage was in some way, um, better and easier than straight to speak. Just because two men have an easier time. Dealing with communication issues and have been socialized in such a way to that makes life and proximity, I think probably easier. [01:00:13] Um, but I think one of the ways that gay marriages are more difficult is that there’s not a script and that’s both a blessing and a curse because you can, if you’re a couple who has the ability and the, in the first site to think about those questions and plan out an answer, um, obviously, you know, life always throws you curve balls, but just the fact that you have something that you’re working towards together, I think is something that helps you grow together. [01:00:40] But in the absence of that, then it’s really, really easy to kind of grow apart and become detached and become disillusioned. [01:00:50] And it, and you know, talking about how men are socialized in some ways they’re socialized to cooperate and be in proximity, but they’re also socialized to compete. Right. So the guys who are on your team, you know, you learn how to, um, cooperate with them and be around them and deal with each other’s flaws and strengths and weaknesses and work together, overcome them. [01:01:16] But the guys on the opposite team, you know, you’re taught as, as young males to go after them, give no mercy, you want to win. And, and there’s a real danger, I think, amongst male couples for the other person to become, to be seen as part of the opposite team, if you start going apart and then every argument becomes one of those things where you just want to win, because you’ve been socialized not to cooperate or to compromise. [01:01:49] Um, but just to beat the other team down. Right? So where, where I’ve seen relationships go really wrong. You know, aside from issues of addiction, you know, which is sadly all too common and in gay life, um, where I’ve seen marriages go wrong is when two men can’t, can’t compromise with one another, but they need to win against the other person. [01:02:18] Yeah. And you know that, I think that manifests itself in terms of, well, this person’s career is going one direction that person’s career is going the other direction. There is no compromise. This is, this is my life. And I’m going to win this argument. Right. We’re, we’re, we’re going out to California, whether you like it or not, or, um, right. [01:02:39] You know, that kind of stuff. So, um, or even little things like, um, I, I know of a couple who moved into a new place together, and then they got divorced when they couldn’t decide how to decorate the place. Right. Which is like one of the greatest things in the world, right. Either that goes, or I go, well, you better pack your bags because that lab stopped going anywhere it’s over, you know, but it’s, it’s true. [01:03:07] That’s a true thing that actually happened. [01:03:09] Mike: [01:03:09] I was wondering, it sounded very, very specific. [01:03:13] Mark: [01:03:13] No, that, that is a true thing that actually happened. There was this couple, I know that they were together for quite some time. They go to a new place and what drove them apart was they just couldn’t compromise and how decorate the place. [01:03:23] Wow. One guy wanted it one way. The other guy wanted the other, they weren’t going to compromise on it done right now in straight marriages. The husband would say, okay, yeah, happy wife, happy life. Right. And, um, and a lot of gay couples that I know. Who tend to be more cooperative, you know, they’d say, well, you can have this room and I’ll take that room to make some kind of compromise, um, or even gay couples. [01:03:53] I know who look at their husband and say, yeah, happy wife, happy life. Yeah, that happens too. Um, but, um, it’s, it’s the guys who just, things become a competition, which I think as, uh, um, stems from the way that we’re taught to compete against one another, you know, in class environments, in sports environments, you’re put up against one another, you know, to win who’s better. [01:04:23] Who ranks higher, who gets the lamp, the competition. And you can’t lose. I don’t know why maybe because become the time that we’re kids we’re taught that we can’t lose to the boy down the street. We can’t lose to the classmate. Can’t lose to the opposing team. [01:04:43] Just a lamp. [01:04:51] That’s interesting. And they’re [01:04:53] both miserable, right? They woke up, they couldn’t compromise on the house. They both, they left the marriage, they broke up and are both miserable. Neither one of them is any happier than they were before, but God dammit. They didn’t have to look at that lamp. I don’t even know what to say. [01:05:11] Mike: [01:05:11] Yeah, yeah, [01:05:12] Mark: [01:05:12] yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think, I think that kind of stuff, I think that’s where like the dangerous come in for, um, homosexual marriages is, um, the lack of a prescribed. Well, the lack of a societal script, I think, um, can lead some couples who don’t think about how they want to grow together to grow, to part, grow up out easier. [01:05:38] Great. And then I also think the social issue to compete sometimes can overcome the socialization to cooperate. [01:05:45] Mike: [01:05:45] Yeah. [01:05:51] Yeah. And there’s this, um, I actually got to interview an author of few weeks ago. Um, and Garen, she called it the relationship escalator. [01:06:03] Mark: [01:06:03] Oh yeah. And [01:06:04] Mike: [01:06:04] it’s like, that’s the thing. And I mean, I know, I know gay couples that try to S to, to make the same sex version of the relationship escalator. Yeah. Without the script. [01:06:17] And maybe it’s trickier though. I don’t know. Yeah. [01:06:22] Mark: [01:06:22] Yeah, no. Yeah. But I don’t even know if it matters what the details of the plan is. I think it’s just looking at the other person and in casually saying. Yeah. In seven years, I want us to be together. Talk about, let’s talk about that. You know, I don’t, I don’t think it mattered what the plan is. [01:06:42] I think just the fact that you’re having that conversation or something. Yeah. [01:06:45] Mike: [01:06:45] No, well, you have the conversation and have, it has to be two people that are both looking out for each other’s best interests and your own best interests and yeah. Finding what’s going to actually work for both of you. [01:07:06] Mark: [01:07:06] Yeah. [01:07:06] So then you start visualizing things and that’s powerful. [01:07:13] Mike: [01:07:13] Yeah. Cool. Wow. We talked about a lot. [01:07:19] Mark: [01:07:19] Yeah. Sorry about that. [01:07:20] Mike: [01:07:20] No, no, don’t be sorry. That’s that’s I love it. Um, was there anything else that you were like wanting to make sure you covered or had to say, or. Other like profound thoughts about stuff. [01:07:38] Mark: [01:07:38] Um, [01:07:51] Oh, I can’t see anything really. I mean, um, I feel very lucky in ways that, [01:08:05] um, [01:08:07] I can’t even put into words [01:08:09] sometimes, [01:08:12] but what I want is for other men, maybe they’re 38 years old. Like I was at the time, maybe they’re older, maybe they’re younger who think that they’ve made a set of life choices and, um, [01:08:31] there. Somehow hurting other people or, [01:08:36] Mike: [01:08:36] um, [01:08:40] okay. [01:08:41] Mark: [01:08:41] Sorry. They’re back on commitments that they’ve made, you know, if, if you’re that person and you feel that way, because you’ve come to learn something about yourself that maybe you didn’t fully understand before [01:09:00] then, um, you haven’t hurt anybody. It’s not to say there won’t be pain, but, um, you haven’t done anything on purpose to anybody else you just grown and what is life, if it’s not growth, [01:09:26] Mike: [01:09:26] so [01:09:27] Mark: [01:09:27] true. Be kind to yourself. [01:09:33] Walk ahead into the world. [01:09:36] Mike: [01:09:36] Yeah, that’s good. [01:09:44] Mark: [01:09:44] It took me many years of therapy to be able to say that, [01:09:48] Mike: [01:09:48] Hey, whatever it takes. Right, [01:09:51] Mark: [01:09:51] right, right, right. Yeah. [01:09:54] Mike: [01:09:54] No, that’s good. I like it. I mean, and it’s, it was really fun to, to just, to just listen to how much [01:10:06] like who you are. Hasn’t changed. I don’t think in four years, but what you definitely, where you are, has come a long way. Maybe your understanding of yourself and your relationship and everything is just, it sounds awesome. So [01:10:25] Mark: [01:10:25] yeah. Thank you for that. Thank you so much. [01:10:31] Mike: [01:10:31] Yeah, thank you for doing this. [01:10:35] Mark: [01:10:35] Anytime. Anything else I can do, please just reach out to me. Definitely. [01:10:41] Mike: [01:10:41] Definitely.
55 minutes | 14 days ago
This week, I’m talking with Amanda VanderBroek, who I interviewed about four years ago under her pen name: Leandra Vane. She’s a kinky, poly, sexually fluid woman, and we had a great conversation talking about all that’s changed over the last four years, including being outed and having to fight for the validity of her identity, facing gatekeepers within the queer and erotic writing communities, living as a bisexual, kinky person in the rural Midwest, how writing about monsters and zombies can help reveal things about the treatment of sexual and racial minorities, and a lot of other things. Links Amanda’s blog, The Needle & Bow. You can also see her archived work at The Unlaced Librarian. You can also find her on Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads. Episode Transcript Mike: [00:00:00] Welcome to the human tapestry podcast, the podcast where we explore the rich tapestry of humanity through conversations about gender, sexuality, relationships, and sexual practices. This week, I’m talking with Amanda Vanderbroek, who I interviewed about four years ago under her pen name, Leandra Vane. She’s a kinky poly sexually fluid woman. And we had a great conversation talking about all that’s changed for her over the last four years, including being outed and having to fight for the validity of her identity, facing gatekeepers within the queer and erotic writing communities, living as a bisexual kinky person in the rural Midwest, how writing about monsters and zombies can help reveal things about the treatment of sexual and racial minorities and just a lot of other things. So let’s get to the conversation. So it’s been four years. Um, you’re still female. Um, you’re still writing. Erotic romances. Um, and, uh, it’s still poly and sexually fluid, but I’m sure I’m sure things have, uh, have changed some in that the last four years we talked a little before, so I, but Leandra: [00:01:32] yeah, so I guess so 2016 was kind of the height of my sex blogging. I was blogging as the Unlaced Librarian doing non-fiction sexuality book reviews. I was speaking at like sexuality conferences. Like I was just really out about so many things like polyamory and, uh, kink and BDSM. And I wrote a lot about pornography and whatnot. Well, then I got a day job that, uh, cared about that stuff and I live in the Midwest and, you know, I have to be vague about the details and I’m a little uppity about it, but, um, essentially like, uh, yeah, like. I was open about it. I was out and some people found it, even though it was not to be found, it was just there and tried to get me fired from my job. So it was like a very big thing and I have chronic health issues. And so, you know, kind of threatening my health insurance was very, had held a lot of weight. You know, it really made me question a lot of things about, you know, if I’m going to die on this Hill, it better be a good one. And that just impacted how I saw so many things, my writing, um, the, the work that I was doing with my blogging and my speaking, um, I was trying to sort of marry it professionally, um, you know, trying to bring in resources into my field and things like that to sort of give it validity. But then I was, you know, fighting for my validity for my whole identity, because it was so tied to it. I couldn’t sort of separate it. And then shortly after that, there was sort of a big cancel thing on, on Twitter with like a lot of gatekeeping. And I completely questioned like my bisexuality and using that label and I didn’t feel validated up there. So I’m like, okay, well, I can’t be online. I can’t be in my real life. I can’t be anywhere. And so things just sort of exploded and I sort of had a crisis for several years and I took stuff down and put stuff back up. I took stuff down and yeah, so it’s been, it’s been a time, but I have emerged from a lot of it. I feel, um, having learned a lot and the experience is, has been very good for me. And I think I’ve come out of the other end, um, more. With more fortitude in my purpose and my work and what I want to do, because it needed Polish. There was lots of things that maybe I just said, Oh, well, that’s fine. You know, I can just let that go until well, it’s like, no, when, when you sort of have that attention on you, you, you can’t have loose ends. You have to sort of show up and polish your work and, um, be prepared to defend it. So that’s kind of what that whole process taught me. And I’m grateful for that. Mike: [00:04:15] Wow. So, so yeah, it was a journey. Leandra: [00:04:23] Um, yeah. So to condense four years into, you know, two minutes, there you go. Mike: [00:04:29] Yeah. I mean, it sounds like, I mean, I didn’t hear anywhere in there where you, I mean, I, I get sometimes wondering about the label. Especially with, like you said, sometimes people are like, I’ve, I’ve seen that you’re not really bisexual. Or if you’re bisexual, you’re transphobic. I was like, no, I, it just means I like my gender and I like other genders, but some people yeah. But like, I didn’t hear a word of doubt in there of who you are. It was just, Leandra: [00:05:06] yeah. And I think it’s so interesting, right? Because like, in other areas of my life, like professionally, I am totally able, like, I don’t have imposter syndrome. I can step into a room and say, you know, um, this is my job and this is my style and it’s not wrong. It’s just different from how maybe someone else in the position had done it. And I’m absolutely fine with that, but it was, it was weird. Like, um, I started questioning a lot about my bisexuality. I’m married to. Hitman. And, um, you know, and even though I understand, like, cause you know, I have a disability and I have both visible and invisible disabilities. And so I understand the, sort of the things that come with, um, the visible side and the things that come with the invisible side. And I had always kind of put that on my relationship that like, you know, my bisexuality had visible aspects and invisible aspects and I had always been okay with it for awhile, but then something just happened, I guess it was just since it was coming from all sides, I just was like, maybe I’m not, I take it back. I’m sorry. But, um, but yeah, it’s really weird because it’s like, uh, inside, I’m fine. But it’s like trying to go and speak another language and no one’s speaking that language and then I’m like, well maybe I am wrong. Mike: [00:06:23] Yeah. Yeah. I know how that feels. And um, Yeah. It’s when you’re in one of those relationships that you can pass for what the standard is for people. It’s easy to say, Oh, I can just hide here and not worry about it. But, um,I dunno,it’s, Leandra: [00:06:56] It’s tricky, right? It’s almost like you, you don’t want to say anything, but, and I think it’s interesting too, because a lot of my writing, you know, has been hinged on that as well. And I’m just right now on social media. Cause I, I went away from social media forever. I’ve just logged in like literally in the last couple of weeks. Um, but there’s kind of a big thing right now about a bisexual author being outed, um, because she wasn’t openly. Uh, queer, but she was writing queer characters. And then, um, there was a whole conversation about, you know, gatekeeping and who writes queer characters. And if you’re not out and forcing someone out in order to write or, you know, whatever. So I think it’s also because it was like so closely tied to my creative work is kind of why it was extra sensitive because that’s always been my sort of central outlet for it or central way that I’ve explored things. So it’s just a little bit more, uh, sensitive of a Mike: [00:08:01] spot. I can imagine. Weird. So on the one hand, if you are out, you’re going to get, you’re going to face harassment. You’re going to face people wanting to, hating you because of who you are and identifying. So if you’re protecting yourself from that, you’re going to get hate from people. Leandra: [00:08:26] Online. And so then it’s like, what do I want, do I want a day job? And I’m quiet about it, or do I want like personal fulfillment or loud about it? And it’s like, you take my, I guess, well, I can, I, I do now for now, but we’ll see how long that lasts, I guess. Mike: [00:08:43] Yeah. Yeah. I’ve gotten fortunate to where I’ve gotten in a position now where I don’t, I don’t have to feel like my livelihood is in jeopardy, but I mean, it took me 40 years to come out to myself and it took me a few more years to come out publicly. And this is the first place I’ve been where I’m like, okay, I don’t think I’m going to be in a problem, but that’s not the norm. And all I keep thinking about what we’re talking about is, cause I think last time we were talking was close to around the time of the, um, The SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage. Yes. And that was that fixed everything according to a lot of people. And obviously it didn’t because I don’t know, coming out, being out and being public is so tricky because like you said, you, you want to be, I don’t know how, how your process is when you first came out, but it was like, I know for me, it was like, uh, I’m tired of hiding who I am, but then several times after, and I’m in a mixed oriented marriage too. I have a cis, straight wife. And after I came out and things were happening, there were so many times I looked at her. I was like, I just, can I go back in the closet now? Cause yeah, I don’t know. I think that’s. That’s why I like having conversations like this because we like all of us face the struggle, all of us face issues, all of us have some privilege and all of us have some areas that we don’t. And I think we all have to eat. We have, especially nowadays we have to stick together cause it all intersects, um, cause like, and disability cause, um, for people that haven’t listened to the last one, um, you’re, you’re disabled as well. And um, I know that was, we talked about cause that’s like part of the kink also that I don’t know if you still are, but we’re involved with, and um, that intersects with gender identity, with sexual identity, it or intersects with race for people it’s like, we all have this. So. That’s interesting. This, the writer, is that a thing? Is that like a thing in the writing community or I can’t keep track anymore since you’ve been offline, I guess. Leandra: [00:11:34] Yeah. Yeah. Um, yeah. I don’t know. Honestly, I feel like I’ve always kind of been a lurker. I’ve never really kind of like commented in the public forum of things, you know, and, you know, writing is, is like very odd anyway, because like I do a lot of polyamorous multi-partner stories or kinky stories. And I think I talked about this in the other interview or maybe not, but like for me, that’s always kind of been more at the forefront. My kink has been much more at the forefront than necessarily my sexual fluidity or my sexual orientation. So, um, that also is kind of getting me in trouble because like, I don’t think I would’ve gotten in so much trouble. If it was LGBT stuff, it was mostly the kink stuff and the polyamorous open relationship stuff. Um, I think, you know, even in the Midwest here, there’s a little bit more, um, advocacy and, um, education and outreach that has been done in the LGBT, um, community that is, um, showing, you know, great progress. And, um, whereas like in kink or open relationships or polyamory, um, not so much mainstream understanding of it. So that’s kind of where I got most of the heat was from the kink stuff. And so a lot of times with my writing and whatnot, it’s like, yeah, I have, I have queer characters, bisexual characters, polyamorous characters, kinky disabled characters, but like all of that kind of comes together. And then I don’t really feel obligated to speak about anything. Cause I’m like, I don’t know. I’m just over here on the Island. Writing weird stories that I like. And some other people like them too, oddly enough. Um, but it, it is interesting because I feel like there’s, there’s like a lot of there’s a lot of hot takes and, um, it can be, it can be overwhelming sometimes to know which seconds, which Mike: [00:13:29] yeah. And it’s an unfortunate side effect of the internet. I read years ago, someone said that, um, by its nature, social media and the internet has it leans towards disagreement. And because if I agree with you, I’ll probably just click. Like, I won’t have to comment on it because everything you said, it’s cool. If I disagree with you now, I’ve got a lot to say. So it that’s what ends up being highlighted. And then. It just divides us more and more. I don’t know. And I’m willing to bet your writing. Um, I haven’t read, I think I did read some the last time we talked, but I haven’t read it in a long time and I’m willing to bet you haven’t done all the things in the books you write. I might be wrong, but, Leandra: [00:14:41] um, well, I, I mean, I wrote one with zombies and stuff, so I mean, I haven’t killed any zombies lately, but, um, um, yeah, no, it is really interesting I guess, because if fiction, you know, is fiction because we can explore all that stuff. Right. We can go there. We can, you know, we can go into like these dark, gnarly places. Um, Like, for example, the zombie book I’m talking about, um, was inspired by a real article that I read from the 18 hundreds about like, they shipped some disabled people off to the poor farm, but they also chipped some criminals there too. They were like, everybody can just stay at the port. And I was like, so literally back then, in my hometown, there was no line between disabled person and criminal. They were the same. So that’s an idea that I wanted to run when, um, and then I put the zombies in there so we could have monster criminal, disabled person, and it was kind of a free for all fight. And, you know, the deeper that I got into that, it sounds like it sounds like too much like, well, blessed polyamorous romance with zombies and disabled people fighting. And, but this project just like is the thing that I love the most that I’ve ever written. And I just was able to just like, go into those like gnarly places. Um, and some of that is experiences stuff that, you know, that I’ve, I’ve had, you know, come in contact with, with people that like, you know, that don’t think I should be alive or that people with disabilities should, you know, be alive or have, you know, choices and things like that. And it’s just a way to be like, well, guess what, now I have a pistol and we’re going to go into like this weird violent place. Um, Mike: [00:16:16] I kind of want to read this book, so Leandra: [00:16:19] it’s called Castro and I love it. Um, but so I kind of feel that like, once you get down to that like place, and then you have somebody, you know, being like, well, do you have every single thing that your character has dealt with? Do you have a personal background that, can you speak on this? And it’s like, well, I, you know, sort of, but I don’t know, you know, you know, where do we draw that line? And I just. I don’t know, I, I’m not trying to judge anyone because I’m a person that came to age with, uh, right before the internet. I guess I didn’t have a smartphone till I was 21 or 22, but I had my laptop before that. And I do believe that I would not be happy without the internet. Um, as a person, you know, finding information about my wackadoo, sexuality and desires and my body and being disabled and everything like that. I found connection and I found information and I had conversations that no one in my real life was able or willing to have with me. And so I’m not dissing the internet in that capacity whatsoever. It’s very necessary for, um, a lot of us. And I think that that’s great, but then it’s also kind of like, you can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s like, this is our self soothing thing. And it’s where we find connection. We find all this good stuff, but, um, when left unchecked, we can kind of get too deep into that and sort of forget the things that were. Connecting us and bring us together in the first place, I think. Mike: [00:17:48] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I know the internet, like, especially nowadays with, with COVID and you know, everyone’s self isolating and stuff like that. Like I’m closer, I’m, I’m more connected, literally connected more connected to people on the opposite side of the world than I am with my neighbors here in town, because I see people globally over zoom and other things. And I don’t, when I get around people in person, I get nervous, right. Because of all the things, because I have some immune system stuff that I’m like, you have to keep my distance. So it’s like, it’s different, but I kind of see where the, I can see where the resistance to people that haven’t had an experience comes from. But. Like you said, like, I, I don’t know many people that have fought zombies or been a zombie, but some of my favorite books and movies are about people, you know, from the zombies point of view. Um, and, but then again, you know, especially like in erotic fiction, you get those ones that are written by the, um, you know, the 20 year old dude who writes in the novel exactly what he, he thinks a woman should be thinking about him and sex and isn’t, isn’t real. Right. And I know that whenever you’re in fiction, you have to, even, you have to, you have to keep the, you have to keep within the rules of the world you built because yes, people can fly, but they’re not going to go do something stupid unless that’s. Something they would normally do within the rules. You know, they’re not gonna, uh, I can’t think of anything because, and so I get, you know, a trans person should have fairly real view of what trans people experience, which you can find out by talking to a trans person. Yeah. Leandra: [00:20:05] And I mean, the zombies example is kind of, you know, uh, you know, obviously exaggerated, but, you know, you know, like growing up, um, in middle school, we were supposed to read like all these diverse books with disabled characters in them. And I was just mortified. I was like, you guys have no idea. And then like, come to find out, you know, they were just written by able-bodied authors that were, you know, putting these characters in because it was like the trendy thing to do and like the nineties to have disabled characters and stuff. And then you see that trend sort of happening again with, um, other marginalized identities now. And that’s, I think obviously what the idea is against is that, you know, if you don’t, you know, have at least, you know, if you can’t portray this in a way that is, you know, fair and, um, cause I’m not even going to say good. Cause I mean, like there’s some stuff in that disability book or in cast from the earth about disability that is like, I don’t know, you know, this is. This is kind of a scary thought to have about disability, but as a person with a disability, I’ve had it. So it’s going to go in there. Um, so yeah, like I definitely agree that that, like, you know, you don’t want these like really bad, very obvious like inspiration porn books, um, or media out there. Um, but then when you take it to the extreme of like forcing identities out of the closet, if that’s what they’re writing about, that’s when it gets, you know? Sure. But, so, yeah, I agree. Like I think that there should definitely be conversations around it. Um, I just found for me that social media is not the place for me. I get very, I get very like anxious and nervous and like, I don’t know. Maybe it’s like my peacekeeper. Attitude. I just want people to get along and I just want to attend to them. And then when they’re all fighting, I’m like, Oh, I can’t do this. Mike: [00:21:55] Yeah. Yeah. I get that because yeah, you got to kind of, you got to pick your battles. You only have so much, like I’m thinking of a conversation I got in on it where I was like, Oh, I’ll engage with this person. But as, cause I could stay at a reasonable thing, but you know, sometimes you just like, you just can’t because it either touches nerves or it’s just, it’s just arguing for arguing sake or whatever. I don’t know. Safety is a big part of it, you know? Like you should be able to write and not have to come out as something you’re not like you should be people in a perfect world. Yeah. It’d be good to be safe. It’s good to be safe. It’s a good to have a safe place to be able to be out, but it should also be safe to not be out if you’re not ready because sometimes the coming out is unsafe for any number of reasons, which most of them are probably none of our business. Right. Yeah. It’s true. Leandra: [00:23:13] Yeah. And I think that’s just really the, the, the corner I was stuck in that I was having so many issues with is how do I balance this by being, you know, having this, you know, fulfilled an out there life and putting it in my art and then keeping the stuff people don’t want to see out of my professional life when it’s like cars are already, when I became a sex blogger and everything, I didn’t care. I put my face out there. I did videos. Um, And I was like, you know what? I don’t, I’m not ashamed of my work and I don’t see it as detrimental. Um, and I, I really wasn’t thinking about a life that I might have in my thirties when I was in, you know, when I was younger. And, um, but I don’t regret anything as of right now, I don’t regret anything. I went through a phase where like, why did I ever tell anyone, why didn’t I just keep it a secret? Why didn’t I just have a fruit part, you know, a profile picture and everything would be fine now, but that’s not how I want to be. You know, it eats inside of you when you have this part of you, that’s so important and you can’t have it. You can’t, you know, experience it unless it’s just all in your head. I did that for too long and I don’t want to do that again. I ain’t got time for that. Mike: [00:24:33] So I gotta ask, cause I’m looking here and. And if this is, uh, something you can’t really go into that that’s fine. But like, I know the last time we talked, you were the unlaced librarian. So you were a librarian, but now you’re S you’re still a librarian, but it’s, it’s different now that that’s become a more of an exposure for you or is it Leandra: [00:25:02] yeah, I’m a, I’m a youth librarian. Uh, Mike: [00:25:05] okay. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. You know, funny enough, um, someone I talked to a couple of weeks ago who was another person I talked to a few years ago and, um, he teaches and he teaches, he teaches sex ed to two sex ed teachers. Uh, and he was talking about. That exact thing about, about things to reach youth with queer identities and sexual things in ways that kids can understand. Um, sounds like maybe that’s not considered a good thing everywhere where you are maybe, Leandra: [00:25:56] right? Yeah. So yeah, it’s really complicated because I serve my community and I do, and that was like the other thing that like got me in trouble online because, um, because I did defend things. So like just one example I can think of like, um, A few years ago when I sort of withdrew from the internet was I kind of got into a conversation about how, um, I thought like Christian sexuality books should be, you know, included in like library collections, for example. And I was like, you know, we should also have, you know, other things, but like we shouldn’t like not develop a sexuality collection without like Christian sex books or, or viewpoints. And I was kind of called like that, that was harmful, um, in some ways, and that I was too conservative and I was like, well, I come from a conservative community and that’s what I served. And I was kind of told, well, I’ve internalized it. And I was like, well, there’s, there are things about the Midwest that I really, um, feel are valuable. And I have values from where I came from and I don’t feel like they’re internalized anything. Um, so that was like really kind of funny because. You know, online, I’m sort of like accused quote, unquote of being too conservative or harmful, whereas in my real life, Oh no, don’t bring any sexuality books near our children. Um, so it’s an odd place to be, I suppose. And yeah, but I do, I mean, um, not to get like too detailed or whatever, but I, uh, I, I oversee everything from birth through college, so that’s pretty wide range. And to go through that whole timeline without any sexuality information is a little, Mike: [00:27:46] Oh, not even, not even at the high school and college level. Leandra: [00:27:53] I include that stuff too, but it’s been contested before, but, um, but I mean, like I pride myself on having a good collection and I’m serving my community as best as I can. Mike: [00:28:06] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, age appropriate is a thing. I mean, I’m not going to give a, four-year-old a book, a how to book on, you know, bondage. Why not? Well, not a how to, but maybe it’s a thing of okay. Things that you can do, things that other people don’t or something, you know, if you put it in kids, kids terms, kids can understand. Leandra: [00:28:32] Right. Cause like sex education for like youngest kids is basically like what it’s like to be a good friend. If your friend says no respect that answer. If you feel, you know, like you’re not being heard when you’re talking to your friend, that’s not a good sign, you know, it’s like, it’s about friendship and boundaries and that’s good education for, you know, kindergarten age, you know, Mike: [00:28:54] consent. Yeah. That grows into consent in every area of your life. Okay. Let’s see this it’s it just, it makes too much sense burner. Anyway, it’s too sensical. It makes too much sense and it makes me uncomfortable. So no, you can’t make me uncomfortable. I make sense at the same time. Leandra: [00:29:20] And I don’t mean to, I really try not to get into, um, a cycle of like paranoia that like, Oh, everybody hates it and nobody likes it. And I’m it’s me against the world. And I don’t feel that way. In fact, I’m probably a little too naive. That’s probably why I got into so much trouble because people were like, why are you putting all this out there? You have to know that people don’t like it. And if you don’t expect somebody to say something, you shouldn’t have said stuff. And I’m like, well, I guess I just figured we could all get along. But, um, so I’m a little naive in that. Um, but I dunno, I’m becoming more paranoid as you can see, uh, not wanting to be on the internet. I’m still trying. Mike: [00:30:03] I mean, all I got to say is I see a bunch of courage and things you’ve have done with it. So keep going as far as you can. I mean, it takes, it’s all kinds. You’ve got some people that can handle the activism and handle the I can handle is even not even the right term, but you know, people that are willing to deal with having it all thrown at them and, and have whatever traits it takes to be able to deal with that and be activists in a very open in your face sense to push change against hard resistance. Leandra: [00:30:47] Actually something that was really good for me was to realize that that may be not where I am. Like, I’m a word, like a, I’m a librarian. Like here’s some good books, here’s some good conversations. Here’s some resources, that’s more my, my thing. And so that’s why I’ve really wanted to focus mostly on my writing and my message instead of doing so much, um, necessarily like sex educator outreach work, because I found that that isn’t a good fit for me and that’s fine. And like, um, you should definitely, you know, do what you’re you’re best at and, and play to your strengths. And so realizing that was also really important for me too. Mike: [00:31:24] Yeah. Yeah. Cause they say we also need the, the person that just is there and living their lives and showing a good example and you know, is kinky and still a human being. Who’s a nice person who you can get along with and. Go out for coffee, you know, and both of those are okay. Being bisexual and only liking two genders. Uh, I believe they need to open their minds more, but you know, being straight is okay. Being SIS is okay. Being trans is okay. Yeah. It’s all. Okay. If you at least acknowledged that the other people still have a right to exist and are just as much a person Leandra: [00:32:24] I don’t know, want to be heard. Mike: [00:32:26] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I guess that’s what the, a lot of maybe the resistance with the writing stuff is too, is like, Cause I think, I mean, and it sounds like that’s what you’re doing. It’s we have to get, you want to give voices to the people that are marginalized, not, not be the voice, but give them the voice. And neither one of us can speak to what it feels like and what it’s like inside of a trans person. But I can speak to what a trans person, how a trans person explained it to me. And if I, if it’s in your fiction, I mean, it’s probably harder to get a zombie to explain how they feel, but it’s, you can, I think I’m going to read this book. I read another book once years ago. That was not, it was not, uh, it was not a neurotic or romance. It was just a zombie novel, but it was from the point of view of the zombie and. It was really good. So, um, and I think if you write it well, it’s, someone will have maybe gain insight into what someone else is experiencing. So, Leandra: [00:33:52] yeah. And like some people ask me, like, why did you put zombies in it? Like it, you could have just written like a realistic sort of fiction. And for me, like in my art and things, I’ve just always gone to the paranormal. I need ghosts. I need, I need the angels or zombies or whatever. But I also think that that’s like another filter because honestly I’m not saying like in throughout history, there was never happy endings for disabled people. There certainly were. But, um, for me that still grazes a little too close, you know, when I try to do research, um, the scant research it’s available in my. Um, hometown or in my area, because I’m very much so writer of, of my location, of where I’m at, um, because that’s really important to me, but, um, you know, I, I find so many, you know, sad, broken stories. And so I guess for me to sort of transform that into fantasy is also something that’s sort of necessary. Um, but it lets me go to the, to the places I need to go. So I’m really grateful that it exists. Mike: [00:35:01] I mean, it kind of gives it, it lets you introduce those other things in a context of fantasy. So people can kind of come at it instead of having to come directly at it, they can kind of come around it of, Oh, it’s the MBAs. And also this, um, I don’t know if you’ve seen the, um, Oh my gosh. It’s just Europe, Frank, on what it’s called. Hold on. Oh my God. Thank goodness for the internet Lovecraft Country, Lovecraft Country. To see that show. It’s a it’s, um, it’s by Jordan Peele and we’re watching it and it’s amazing if you ever know his stuff, he does the same thing with racism. He comes from a horror movie. And then all of a sudden you’re like faced with the reality of racism in our country. Um, you know, his two movies, he did, he’s done the Twilight zone and he has it in there. And this is like that it’s Lovecraft Country is Lovecraft horror in Jim Crow era. So you just have these people dealing with Jim Crow is a fact of life and also like monsters attacking them. So, you know, and it works, it works. That’s, you know, I’m a huge, I’m a huge horror fan. So if you show me something with zombies, I’m probably going to read it and enjoy it. And then, and if I get a bonus of finding out other cool things about people, um, I know of several offers, authors that do that. Um, one of my wife’s favorite authors is, is, is all about that. She writes, um, a world of zombies and where. Animals of all kinds and stuff like that. And the main character is Polly and kinky and, um, yeah. That’s awesome. Yeah. So yeah, I love it. And takes, takes talent to write that takes guts to be out with it. So, yeah, I mean, I’m impressed. Sounds like you’ve had a good journey. I mean, it’s really interesting cause it’s like, um, you know, this is all about people’s all of these concerns I’ve been having are mostly about, you know, people’s journeys of discovering who they are and where they are and stuff. And like, I think the last time we talked, you would kind of mostly settled into who you were, who you are and you know, where your identity is. And, um, How you fit and it seemed all fine. I don’t, it seems like we didn’t really have much conversation about you doubting where you were on much of it, but how you fit in the world with that now seems to have evolved a lot, which is cool. And I guess the timing was really good. Cause it sounds like I’ve cut you right before and right towards the end of a big chunk of that journey. Leandra: [00:38:36] Yeah. If you’d caught me like last year, I would have been like, no, never Mike: [00:38:39] again. Leandra: [00:38:44] I’d probably talk to you. Just it’d be like, I am, I am not a person. I don’t do anything. I sit at home and, and look at the law. I swear I don’t do any. No, you know, it’s just like anything you can say can be used against you. Mike: [00:38:58] It’s true. It sounds like last year spending last year preparing for this year for the rest of them, because most of us now spend our time inside. Staring at walls, so, Oh man. Was there any other, so are you doing conferences and stuff now, or are you pretty much just kind of doing, doing your new blog and doing your books stuff, but Leandra: [00:39:34] yeah, I don’t know. I, um, obviously with the current pandemic, the conference, uh, horizon has dried up a bit. Um, I think that like, well, and my big thing was coming back to, um, my, my writing and my work, because I thought about like, you know, like I’m going to launch like a YouTube channel. I’m gonna do a lifestyle thing. I’m going to do all this other stuff. I’m going to start a psychology blog. Like it’ll all cover up all this month that I’ve written and nobody will ever know. And I just realized that, like, I wasn’t happy doing any of that. So I’ve really like focused in, on, on some projects that are really important to me. And also like the long vision for it. I think one of the reasons that I was so gung ho to get everything and do everything was because, you know, I grew up with a disability. I’ve had a billion surgeries, you know, um, living with chronic issues really puts an urgency on things like, you know, I don’t know if I’m going to be healthy enough to have enough energy to do this. Um, for example, I had, uh, uh, like I want to make an independent film, but I knew like the research and the shooting and the editing was going to take, like, this project is going to take like three years. And so I never wanted to do it. I was scared because I was like, what if I’m not well enough to finish it? And that would break my heart. So I had all these projects that I never really went after because of the longevity and like really getting down deep into things. And so now I think that. That I’ve sort of like, sort of calms the whole thing where it really is like, okay, you know, other people’s opinions, you know, get feedback and everything like that, don’t be delusional. Don’t be like, Oh, nobody else matters. Like, listen, but like, don’t let it blow you off your course. And so I’ve really settled into, what’s really important to me. Would your, you know, like a lot of my writing projects and just working on that and also my career, because my career is important too, but it’s, um, I am drawing a bigger boundary between those two things. Um, but I’m trying to do it in a way that’s not drawn out of shame or trying to, to validate myself or like begging for approval. It’s just, no, this is the best decision for me and my life and how I’m going to be happy and how I’m going to grow the most. So I think that’s been the biggest thing and it’s been awesome because it’s like I can do the work that I want to do and I can invest. The time and, you know, it’s, it really comes, it’s kinda more of it, but it came down to, you know, would I rather die in the middle of the project that meant a lot to me, or would I rather finish seven projects? That didn’t mean a lot to me. Well, I would rather go for the one that does. So I think that shift in perspective has also impacted some things. So I’m really focused mostly on my writing now and, um, which is why I was glad to have the needle in bow. Cause I mean, I love the only side brand and everything, but you know, it is my profession and I do want a bit more of a, of a boundary between my writing and my profession. So the only side brain still exists. It’s an archive and I’ll probably contribute to it every once in a while. But, um, my writing and all my creative stuff and maybe some film work and everything will be through that and it feels a lot better. So. That’s cool. Mike: [00:42:58] I’m checking it out now. Yeah, yeah. That boundary of sometimes you don’t live to work. You work so you can have a full life. And it sounds, I mean, it’s, I don’t hear that you hate your job or hate your, what you do for a career. It’s just, there’s another, there’s different passions that you bring to your writing in here, and I’m sure your experience as a librarian, it’s gotta be helpful when it comes to, and especially like books and how they work, because that’s a whole thing in itself. And that’s cool. And, you know, you said you’re not really involved in sex education, but. Yeah, kind of our way of fiction. Leandra: [00:44:02] Yeah. And I have a couple of non-fiction projects. The film is actually a non-fiction kind of education. So I’m not, I’m not, I’m not diving away from it completely. But, um, I also think like that was the other thing, like, um, when I started sex blogging, everybody’s like, you have to be a sex educator. That’s, that’s the only way it will be valid. And so I like really pumped that, but I was like, I’m not really happy doing that. I’m a writer. Like I would rather write fiction. I’d rather focus on these other projects. And so I think that that was a bit of an identity thing. Once again, just kind of like, uh, I don’t know, searching for that validation, like, please take me seriously. I swear. But it’s like. Yeah. Uh, I don’t need to ask that for validation. Like, like my work is valid, no matter, like, no matter what you think, so I’m proud of your work and that’s the thing, at least looking back, um, the stuff I did put out there and publish, I took down a lot of blog posts. Cause I thought they were a little too personal, but as far as my published work, my short stories and my fiction, I’m proud of all that work. And so at least I was able to stay true to that, but I think everybody has to navigate that, right. Like in society and that layer of social media and, you know, approval and, you know, picking your battles and just where you fit in is going to apply to everybody and all artists of all stripes have to deal with that. And so I think that’s just kind of part and parcel of being an artist. Mike: [00:45:29] Yeah. Yeah. Cause you, you have to be your true self or you’re not going to like. If you, if you just say, I’m going to write this thing and do it this way, because that’s what people expect of me. Um, like the creative process is, is bringing yourself into it. And if you can’t be free to do it, then you’re not being, you can’t be as creative. Leandra: [00:45:58] Right. Or you see like, um, you know, YouTube artists that like get billions of subscribers. And then they’re just empty hollow shows because they were just doing shallow entertainment or things that they didn’t really want to do, but it got clicks, it got clicks. And then now they’re beholden to that, you know, that thing. Yeah. And they’re not really happy. And so. It’s a, it’s a fine line. Right? Cause then there’s a lot of artists that need to hustle because you know, that’s how they pay their bills. And I tried that for a while, but I realized it’s not, you know, it’s not what I want to do. And I totally respect people that, you know, do do the hustle and make it work, you know, um, be your own boss and, um, put that work out there because it’s vicious. It’s hard. Um, but I’m really happy that I found a career that I really enjoy as well as being able to do my art. So I really couldn’t ask for anything better. Yeah. Mike: [00:46:51] Yeah. Some people thrive in that stuff, but Leandra: [00:46:56] I don’t, I couldn’t imagine like being like, Oh, the lights are going to get shut off. If you don’t write a story, I’d be like, I can’t even read a story. I want to write, like I can’t Mike: [00:47:04] do that. Follow the formula. No, this isn’t my formula. Yeah. And I mean, do you grow in your craft, but. You’ve got to grow into your, your craft, not someone else’s definition of your craft almost sounds like how you, how gender and sexuality and I don’t know life. Okay. All right. So you have like a it’s sounds like, even though you’re not doing as much, you’re doing a lot. Leandra: [00:47:52] I was like going Mike: [00:47:53] through the things here is like, you’re still doing your full-time work and working in your community, your local community. You’ve got a, um, a short story collection coming out. You’ve got a film project you’re working on. Leandra: [00:48:08] Yeah, I think, um, I think I have too high standards for myself sometimes. Like I just need to go stare at a wall. Yeah, I do a lot. And that was like the thing, cause this year, like on top of everything, I’ve been sick. So I, I dealt with like a really big, gnarly medical thing this summer and like, felt like ridiculous. Cause I wasn’t doing anything and I’m like, okay, well your leg almost fell off. So, you know, give yourself permission to just like not, but I don’t know. Maybe that is something I just feel, I just feel like I always need to be like doing stuff, I guess. I don’t know. It’s and that’s the chronic illness thing too is like some, you know, I don’t know, some days I’m gonna wake up and have a flare up and I’m going to be, you know, running on bare minimum stuff for three or four or five days if not longer. And then so when times are good, I’m like, we gotta go, we gotta get stuff done. Like we’re here now. So let’s do it. So I don’t know about that, but Mike: [00:49:10] we’ll see, that’d be cool. Cause, I mean, I guess it sounds like if nothing else, that’s giving you the ability to really be able to understand yourself and where your capabilities are. Like, I know I can do this much today and that is all. And I know like a lot of people with chronic illness, it’s a, you know, the concept of the spoons is like, this is how many spoons I got today. And when I’m done with my spoons, that’s it. And I don’t know. Does it feel like maybe that’s helps you do more because you know, when you can, or Leandra: [00:49:48] yeah. And I’ve gotten better about standing up for my myself, like, um, being able to say like, you know, I am going to take the morning off work or I am going to wait to edit this till, you know, I’m feeling better because I know it’ll be better quality. Right. Like I can just like write something when I’m pushing myself. Um, On survival mode. It’s not going to be that quality that I’m looking for. So, and the perk of that is that I get to take care of my body and rest and feel a little bit better. So I’m learning that that’s a good for me to do so, so yeah, it’s all like learning and trying to help other people too. I think that’s a big part of it. Um, sort of like moving on, like, I was really focused on trying to figure out about myself and now I’m wanting to help other people and, and just realizing, you know, how I can best do that because I’m not this kind of person that can just go do this. So I’m going to do this and focus on this so that it can help others. I don’t know. It’s kind of all complicated. Mike: [00:50:56] Yeah, well, life’s complicated, but it sounds like, I mean, it sounds great. Like seriously, I am, I admire your courage and your willingness to keep stepping out and doing the things, especially like, it really would be, it is easy sometimes to just be like, I’m going to go hide and just stop and not do any of this. And you’re, you’re still here and you’re still doing good things, so, yeah, sure. Um, so is there anything in particular? Well, I guess before I, is there anything else that we haven’t talked about that is this, do you want to talk about. Leandra: [00:51:47] I don’t think so. I think we touched on a lot of Mike: [00:51:48] stuff. We did. We did. We covered a lot. Is there anything like, um, cause you’ve got your website, needleandbow.com, um, is that where people would be able to find out too when, when your book is released? Leandra: [00:52:01] Yeah. I just released my newest short story collection, um, like two days ago. So yeah, I was going to wait a couple of weeks, but then I’m like, no, we’re doing this now. So here you go have a book. Um, so yes, that collection is out is called a body beneath light and it is a very short, short story collection, but they all have our erotic romance stories that take place in or around a museum. So. Cool. Very cool. And it has a range of pairings pretty much any pairing you could imagine there’s seven stories, so, Mike: [00:52:32] okay, cool. So maybe this will be a couple of weeks before it, after we recorded that people will hear it, but we’ll definitely, I’ll drop a link in there too, so people can go get it. Um, And then know what the next thing is going to be your film project? Leandra: [00:52:48] No, my film project is going to have to wait. I’m actually going to have, like, I planned to spend actually like a solid two years just researching. Oh, wow. So yeah, this is going to be like a very in-depth process. Um, but I am planning. I still have more fiction projects in the works that I’m going to put out and a couple of non-fiction projects, so yeah. Oh yeah. I’ll be, I’ll be here. Uh, I don’t think I’m going anywhere. I was even thinking about it, like in 2020, I think I had three books that had my short stories in them come out and then I had my own short story collection. So for not doing anything this year, I guess I kind of did. So Mike: [00:53:32] it’s funny how the times you don’t do anything or the times you get more done sometimes. Yeah. So, yeah. All right. And, um, Yeah, so P uh, other than needleandbow.com, is there any where people can find you or is that the best place to go? Leandra: [00:53:49] That’s the best place? Um, depending on my mood, I might be on Twitter, @Leandra_Vane, needleandbowofficial is my Instagram page. Mike: [00:53:58] Okay. Very cool. Awesome. Well, thank you. Thank you again for coming back and maybe we’ll chat again in four more years. Leandra: [00:54:07] Yeah. Thank you. No, it should be like every four years. I think that’d be interesting to see how people change and evolve because like, I feel like a lifetime happens in four years. Mike: [00:54:17] It’s true. I have been really amazed by how much people have grown and that what seems like a short amount of time. So. Cool. Right. Well, thank you, Leandra. Thank Leandra: [00:54:31] you so much. Mike: [00:54:34] Thanks for joining us today, if you haven’t yet be sure to subscribe, so you don’t miss all the great conversations I’m having. You can listen or subscribe on the human-tapestry.com website on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, the iHeart Radio app, or your favorite podcast place. Be sure to leave us a review and maybe share the podcast with a friend or a couple of hundred. The Human Tapestry podcast is all about starting a conversation. So get in touch with me. You can contact me at the website human-tapestry.com, on Twitter at @HumanTapestry, or on Tumblr at humantapestrypodcast. We’ll talk again next time.
55 minutes | 17 days ago
From the Vault: Leandra and Mark
You may have noticed a shift in the music. Since I’ve moved editing platforms, I didn’t want to take the music from the creators on my old platform, so I found this nice song: Innovation by Jon Sib. I know it’s just for the background, but I hope you like it. I’ve been fortunate to have a few guests back who were on my Intersections YouTube project a few years ago, including Leandra Vane and Mark. Before I share their interviews, I’m sharing those original interviews, so you can get to know them. First up is Leandra Vane, also known at that time as The Unlaced Librarian. Leandra is a bisexual femme who is in an open marriage. In this interview, we talked about her life and relationships, her exploration of BDSM, how her physical disability has influenced her sexuality, and many other things. Next up is Mark. Mark is a gay man who is romantically monogamous with his husband of, at the time of this interview, two years while enjoying a sexually open marriage. In this interview, he shared his identity, life, and journey with us. Enjoy the conversation! Episode Transcript Leandra Mike: [00:01:05]Well, welcome again to our next Intersections interview. I’m very excited to have Leandra Vane with us. Uh, Leandra is actually runs her own YouTube page and blog, uh, where she’s the unlaced librarian doing book reviews and things like that for various, uh, um, erotic materials and things like that. So I’m very excited to have you welcome Leandra. [00:01:28] Thanks for doing this. I appreciate it. [00:01:30] Leandra: [00:01:30] No problem. Thanks so much for having me. [00:01:32] Mike: [00:01:32] Absolutely. Uh, so I’ll just jump right in. Um, You said you identify as bisexual. Uh, so what’s that identity mean to you? [00:01:42] Leandra: [00:01:42] Well, it’s interesting because I’ve actually only just within the last few months started identifying as bisexual. [00:01:48] Um, before that I identified as heteroflexible. And before that, even I just said that I was sexually fluid. I, um, have known for a really long time that I’ve been attracted to. Both men and women, but there just seems something so concrete about saying bisexual, that I was kind of scared of it, I suppose. [00:02:10] And there’s a lot of quote, unquote, bad press about bisexuality, I guess, a lot of stigma attached to it. So I kind of kept thinking like, I must just be sexually fluid or I’m mostly straight, whatever, but I just finally got to a point where I, I am attracted to both men and women. I’ve had crushes on both men and women. [00:02:29] I’ve been sexual with both men and women. So, um, that’s what it means to me. It means that I’m attracted to both men and women. So that’s very cool. Okay. And you also identify as, as fab. Uh, so what’d you mean by that? Yeah. Um, I do have a visible physical disability, so when I was growing up, especially. In my teen years in my early twenties, like, I always felt very feminine, but because of my visible disability, I was authentic sexualized. [00:03:03] And so I felt that like, I wasn’t the right kind of are women the right kind of feminine. And so, um, and especially in like the ways that I dressed, I wore leg braces, I had all these things, these issues. So I couldn’t, um, I felt really exposed wearing feminine clothing or having a feminine identity. So I really kind of went the other way. [00:03:25] Like I cut all my hair off and I was like, totally like androgynous for awhile, but I was never really happy. I wanted to be feminine. I wanted to be a feminine outwardly person, but I always felt like I would be. Kind of judged or mocked or kind of like, you’re not really a feminine person. So for me, excepting the term, um, was almost like rebellious act. [00:03:49] I know that it has its connotations and sexual orientation and a fem lesbian. And though I don’t identify as entirely lesbian that queer sort of identity that associated with them. Really at home for me. So once I kind of got that in my head that I can be disabled, I can be queer. I can not fit into the nice, pretty box that is femininity. [00:04:14] That was really awesome for me. It really helped me kind of find my way that way. So I like looking at femininity as some. [00:04:22] Mike: [00:04:22] Okay. So you’ve actually, um, found that that fem is like better for you than any other term to identify you just that’s perfect. [00:04:32] Leandra: [00:04:32] Yeah. [00:04:35]Mike: [00:04:35] Okay. Now, um, you’re in an open marriage with casual sexual relationships that are secondary or not defined, not long-term. [00:04:42] So can you kind of expand on what that, what that is about? [00:04:47] Leandra: [00:04:47] Sure. My husband and I have been in an open relationship for four years now. So I’m relatively short time. I know a lot of people have been in the lifestyle for. 10 20 years, but we decided to open up our, our relationship and our marriage fairly early on in our marriage. [00:05:03] It wasn’t even a year into our marriage that we decided to have open relationships. So at this point, neither one of us have had any long-term relationship. We’re open to the idea, but especially where we live, we live in a really conservative place. And so most of the people that we have relationships with. [00:05:20] They’re also married. They also are looking for other things. So the sexual, or even the emotional relationships are more casual. They’re not as longterm. Um, but we’re open to that in the future. We just haven’t got there yet. So we’re still, we’re still exploring and we’re still growing. So I don’t consider myself polyamorous that you think that kind of would connotate having longer relationships. [00:05:46] But as of right now, we’re open. [00:05:48] Mike: [00:05:48] Okay. So you’re not closed to the idea of a potential longer relationship coming down the road, but you’re not looking for it. [00:05:55] Leandra: [00:05:55] Right. We’ve got a lot going on life. [00:06:00] Mike: [00:06:00] Life does that. Um, now you also, you also engage in BDSM play, um, how’s that affect your relationships and [00:06:10] Leandra: [00:06:10] It opens up to a lot more relationships, actually. I think BDSM. Um, there’s so much within it that you can do. You can play at smaller parties, you can go to munches. So I found that people who are not open to being like in a, in an open relationship sexually are interested in going to a play party so I can invite people to explore things. And then we get to talking and I just made a lot of friends, just friendship and. [00:06:40] The relationships that kind of go a little bit further than friendship because you’re experimenting with these sensation play or, or scenes, and they’re exploring their sexuality as well. So it’s just kind of a great way to be able to talk to people about these kinds of types of things like sex. And so I found that, um, BDSM, it has a place for me, but for my relationships, it really has opened me up to people that I would never think that I would have such relationships with. [00:07:11] Mike: [00:07:11] Yeah, that’s very cool. Um, now you kind of touched on that you have a physical disability. Um, can you tell me more about that disability and how, like, what kind of impact it’s had on, I know it’s kind of what brought you to identifying as fan, but kind of how, how that all came about and how it influences your sexuality. [00:07:34] Leandra: [00:07:34] Yeah. So I was born, it’s called lipomyelomeningocele. That’s a fun word to say. Um, but basically I have nerve damage. I can’t feel about half of my body. I walk with like braces, so I am pretty visible when it comes to my disability. So I think that that visible stigma is kind of. Always been with me, like ever since I was a kid on the playground and like kids were pointing out like the things I couldn’t do or the differences. [00:08:03] And that has followed me up to now, like, you know, that’s always in the back of my mind when I go to job interviews where I walk into a room or potential dating possibilities and things like that, it’s always kind of there. So that battle has really been the driving force. Um, In a lot of, a lot of ways and it is attached to my body. [00:08:24] So physically I had to learn, you know, how do I have pleasurable sex? When I can’t do half of my body and, um, what things are safe for me and what things, you know, that totally don’t work for other people. For example, the Crick of my left elbow is totally an erogenous zone who would have known that without like exploring. [00:08:44] So, you know, that’s why I wanted to explore BDSM because I wanted to do all of these different sensation things and all of these different. Things that were not traditional sex, um, because it felt good to me because it, it, it was a way to connect with my body in a totally different way and with totally different people. [00:09:01] So, um, but that, that visible thing is always there because people want to put you in a box. They want to look at you and say, you’re a man, you’re a woman. This is what you do. This is your role. They want to be able to categorize you. And so having a disability totally messes that up and people will make up all these stories about you. [00:09:20] And try to categorize you. A lot of times, people were just like, treat me like I was a child or like I was inspirational. Like I was a super nice girl, like, and I didn’t want any of that. So I guess it was a little, just a big rebellion kind of coming into myself as well. But the, the disability, I think is really a driving factor behind a lot of things, at least in a way that I was really unhappy with the way society was judging me. [00:09:47] So I had to basically. Take it from myself and realize what makes me happy. [00:09:55]Mike: [00:09:55] Just wondering, because I’ve, I’ve heard of this happening and um, if you’re not comfortable with this, that’s fine. But have you ever, have you experienced the other extreme of that, of being fetishized because of having the disability. [00:10:09] Leandra: [00:10:09] Oh, yeah, there’s a, uh, have you heard of devotees? They’re, uh, yeah, so basically there are different types of disability, fetishists. Um, so some people are really attracted to amputees, for example, and then some people are attracted to people with, um, braces or just different things. So. When I started interacting online with people in disability communities online, that’s when we found out that there were some people who were fetishizing the disability, they were there to meet people with disabilities because they had a fetish for it. [00:10:47] Um, and at first I was really upset by it. Like I was, I didn’t know how to take it. I was upset. And like, I was grossed out. I was freaked out. Like it was, it was really terrible. Um, but I, upon, learning more about the fetish of this and about the attraction to disability. Because I think that there are both fetishes, but there’s also like a, an attraction to this disability. [00:11:11] That’s a bit more complex and I’m not saying fetishes aren’t complex, but there it is. But anyway, um, I was really upset at first, but after, um, processing it quite a bit. I realized like a lot of my reactions were because I was so sex negative. Like I’m like, nobody’s supposed to want my disability, so why do you want it? [00:11:33] Like that’s, you know, and when you put it that way, that’s kind of, you know, that points out a huge insecurity that I had with my body. So. Plus I had fetishes of my own and I didn’t want to acknowledge that had I had fetishes. So like if I said that disability fetishes for okay. Like I would have to accept that I had them and I wasn’t prepared to deal with that. [00:11:55] So it was a big, yeah, I had, I’ve been exposed to people that have disability fetishes. [00:12:05] Mike: [00:12:05] All right. Thanks. Um, I just, uh, I’d like to hear about the journey. You talked about how you kind of went from, um, uh, [00:12:18] you know, dealing with the fem identity and the disability, and then also going from being sexually fluid to heterosis, to heteroflexible to bisexual. Can you just kind of tell me your journey to reaching the identity you are at today? In regards to bisexuality specifically, or just in general, kind of, how did you, how did you reach to realize how you are, how you identify yourself today? [00:12:50] Leandra: [00:12:50] Well, I think it’s really interesting because I remember being a kid and, um, Like I would ask my parents about like gay people and like, they would kind of brush it off and I’m like, why are you like, like, why aren’t you answering my questions? Cause this is the best thing ever. Like I just, I just like identified like from a very early age, once I found out that there was a gay community, I was like, so excited, like in middle school and the pride groups and everything like that. [00:13:15] I was totally involved with that, but I was never, I was always as like a ally. Or a friend or whatever. Um, so I’ve always been attracted to this community and I’ve always been attracted to many different types of relationships and I’ve always been a really sexual person. I started reading erotica on the internet when I was 13 and I’ve just been just, I love erotica. [00:13:39] I love fantasy. I’m a total proponent of like fantasy and erotica and all that. So I hid that all within me for a very long time, because who wants anybody stumbling upon their kinky horde of erotic fan fiction on the internet when you’re a 14, not many people. Um, but as I grew up, I started relating, you know, with more people and meeting more people outside of my very small conservative community. [00:14:05] So as I started meeting more people and I started kind of forgiving myself and letting myself actually express, you know, who I really am and. I found that people accepted me. Like I didn’t have to fit myself into this nice tidy little box. So a lot of it, I think was just kind of changing what I thought society wanted from me. [00:14:26] I thought that, you know, I would have to be in a straight relationship that I would have to be, um, accepted as this. Able-bodied person. Like I had a big, a big thing with trying to dress in my body so that my scars weren’t visible so that my braces weren’t visible. Like it was like all this stuff every single day, just trying to make sure that people thought that I was straight, that I was normal, that I was able-bodied and it just became too much. [00:14:56] So, um, I guess it was a combination of meeting the right people and. I guess just frustration, just like I have to do something I’m going to explode. Um, but then I started reading more about sexuality in college and got into the sex positive community. And then I think that gave me the space that I needed to, by the way, just embrace these things that were inside of me, that they weren’t bad and horrible, not to mention 50 shades of gray happened. [00:15:28] And then everybody was buying erotic fanfiction at Walmart, like. So things change, I guess [00:15:36]Mike: [00:15:36] They do. Okay. And, um, I kind of want to wrap this up with kind of going through just different areas of your life and how, how your sexuality, how your gender, how your relationship, uh, configurations, how they affect you and just different areas of your life. [00:15:53] Um, so I’ll just kind of go through them. Um, so how has all that affected you socially? [00:16:00] Leandra: [00:16:00] It’s really interesting because I still do have friends that I don’t, uh, share that stuff with. I don’t even share that I write erotica and stuff like that. I just don’t share it. But it’s with most of my friends, it has opened a lot of doors because I’ll just say like, You know, this is what I’m doing. [00:16:20] I’m reading this book. And the next thing I know people are like, Hey, I have a question, or can I talk about this? So with a lot of my friends is actually opened a lot of doors and actually brought me closer to a lot of friends because they’ve told me that like, I’m the only person that ever had certain conversations about sex with. [00:16:38] So I think that’s really cool. And I’m kind of embracing that because I know there are some friends that would like totally disown me if I knew what was really going on. So it is nice to have so many people that are interested in to make that genuine connection with. [00:16:54] Mike: [00:16:54] Yeah. Um, how about legally? Any, any impact? [00:17:01] Leandra: [00:17:01] I haven’t run really into anything legally. I am. Legally married in my state to a man. So I haven’t gotten into a deep enough relationship with anybody concerning like finances or children or anything like that yet. So I don’t have much experience with anything like that. So, [00:17:23] Mike: [00:17:23] um, how about medically? [00:17:26] Leandra: [00:17:26] Yeah. Um, I have to go to a doctor a lot, like, um, I’ve had so many surgeries. And it’s interesting, actually, when I was almost 20 years old, I actually went to a doctor and this doctor told me that because of like how my spinal cord or my spinal column, I guess, whatever sits that sex might be painful for me. [00:17:47] And it will probably be painful for the person having sex with me. And at that time I was just like traumatized because I was like, what am I going to do now? Like, like if, if sex is going to hurt, like nobody wants to. Have sex with somebody, if it’s going to hurt, like this is horrible. So I actually, um, was, was really upset by that. [00:18:06] And I was too embarrassed to like, go get a second opinion. And I was used to doctors telling me all the time that your body doesn’t work. So, you know, like that’s just how it is. So I went through a period of about eight months afterwards where I actually identified as a sexual, like I decided I’m not going to have sex. [00:18:23] I have to cut it out of my life. And. That was like horrible. Like I was having out of body experiences. I was really, really upset. Um, so yeah, I definitely think that there are like issues medically, because if people, especially if you have a disability, like a lot of doctors and things like that, like they don’t always know what to tell you. [00:18:46] If they give you advice that might not work, you have to take it like. You have to try things out for yourself to really figure out you have to be like your own advocate for a lot of things medically, and especially in sexuality, because that’s something that’s just not talked about a lot of times, especially with disability. [00:19:03] So yeah, that’s like a whole other thing. [00:19:08] Mike: [00:19:08] Yeah, it seems that doctors sometimes anything sexual that’s outside of just normal heteronormative sex. A lot of times some doctors tend to be uncomfortable with it, and then it becomes uncomfortable to have the conversation. [00:19:22] Leandra: [00:19:22] Well, yeah. And especially, um, like trying to get birth control and things like that, but like, I was trying to get permanent birth control and they were like, well, you’re married. [00:19:31] So why doesn’t he just, you know, have a procedure and be done with it. And I’m like, cause I have sex with other people. Like, um, emphasize it shouldn’t matter. Like what if I’m the one that wants it for my body, you know? But those are things that come up. So, [00:19:46] Mike: [00:19:46] Um, has any of that affected you professionally? [00:19:52] Leandra: [00:19:52] Yeah, I don’t talk about this stuff at work. And, but I also don’t hide it either several of my coworkers do know, um, the topics that I write about, but I don’t think they know that like I’m involved in BDSM and stuff like that, but they do know that I write about sex, um, in my spare time. But I am sort of worried that maybe someday like a boss or. [00:20:20] Somebody will find my videos. It’s not stopping me from doing it, but it definitely makes me worry. And right now I do work professionally with people who have disabilities. So I’m like kind of like the frontline, um, care for people. And I don’t know how people would react to that if they knew. Um, I don’t know. [00:20:41] I can’t say that I’m paranoid and I think that I’ll get fired or anything like that. But I do think about it sometimes. Like, what is. You find out. So, but I did put like a little by the search tool, a flag next to my desk. Like, I don’t think anyone knows what it is. It’s the three colors and I like set it up there and it’s been out there for a few months now. [00:21:01] So no one said anything. [00:21:04] Mike: [00:21:04] That’s great. Um, how about spiritually? [00:21:10] Leandra: [00:21:10] Yeah, when I was, um, in high school, um, Like high school. When I really kind of started having all of these, like really started getting frustrated with my sexuality, I turned to Buddhism and I thought that that was really helpful. So a lot of my coping and just trying to figure out a lot of stuff, I filtered through Buddhism and that really helped kind of calm me down and gives me focus. [00:21:36] So since, um, since then, I’ve, I’ve kept a lot of the. Teachings and things that I’ve learned in Buddhism, but I feel that sexuality is insanely spiritual. It’s, it’s, it’s very spiritual for me. And, um, I don’t know if I necessarily believe in reincarnation, but I definitely believe in the connection of everything. [00:21:58] And. How, every thing you do impacts other things. So looking at like open relationships and BDSM and the relationship with your body really mirrors a lot of the things that I see in Buddhism. So I don’t know, like I’m interested in maybe like pursuing some writing and stuff and like if the Buddha had handcuffs or something, I don’t know. [00:22:21] But yeah. [00:22:25] Yeah, I find that actually it it’s, um, it’s very, it’s very at one with my spirituality. Like I don’t have any clashing. Um, when it comes to like, Oh, I’m doing these bad things. Like to me, my morality is actually in line with all the things that I do and kink and with my open relationship and my sexuality. [00:22:47] Mike: [00:22:47] Okay, very cool. Um, how about in your family and whatever families you have defined? [00:22:57] Leandra: [00:22:57] Well, I have told my parents and they are processing, um, they, um, they’re, they’re very loving and accepting my brother, uh, With my, my mom is trans, so he just came out as trans. So, um, he was looking into going forward with that. [00:23:21] So my family. Is exposed to a lot of that stuff between the two of us. We just make Thanksgiving dinner, so fun. Um, but, um, mostly though, uh, besides my parents who they they’re cool, they can talk to me and stuff like that. I haven’t told most of my family and the ones that do you know, like about my brother and about some of the work that I do, they kind of just don’t talk about it. [00:23:49] They’re like, Oh, are you still writing? Good. I’m glad you write words, words about things like, and that’s the extent of it. So [00:23:59] Mike: [00:23:59] Interesting. Um, any other areas of your life that have been affected or anything else you want to? [00:24:09] Leandra: [00:24:09] I dunno, like sometimes I still feel, cause I live in a very rural, small, traditional place. And I love where I live. I really do. I can’t really imagine living anywhere else other than the Midwest. And the fact that I have found kinky people and queer people. And like my people here at home is pretty cool. [00:24:27] Um, but I still feel like I don’t have, I feel like I’m kind of living on another planet because like I find it perfectly acceptable to talk about. Sex or like, Hey, I got a new, like sex toy. Like, I totally want to show you, but like, that’s inappropriate. Like, wait, wait, is that like, I don’t know, like when something is coming out of my mouth, if it’s like appropriate. [00:24:50] And so like I’ll find myself saying things and then they’ll people look at me and I’m like, Oh, like, whatever. Like, I think I’m like two people that was like two women came into the bar and like, we were all just talking and I’m like, are they together? And like, My friends were like, like, what are you talking about? [00:25:06] No, they’re not together. And I’m like, well, they were, they were together. Like, I that’s normal to me. Like, but to other people it’s, it’s, it’s not. And so, I don’t know, like, I always kind of feel like I have to filter myself, like wherever I go out and like, [00:25:24] Mike: [00:25:24] yeah. Anything else you want to share or talk about or anything before. That’s quite a lot. It is. It’s great. Um, okay, well, thank you. Thank you again, Leandra for doing this. I really appreciate it. It’s been pretty awesome. So thank you again. And, uh, and we’ll be seeing you elsewhere on YouTube, right? [00:25:55] Leandra: [00:25:55] Of course. I’ve got all these books. I have to review all those. Mark Mike: [00:26:16] Well, welcome to our next intersections interview. Uh, I’m here with Mark, uh, say hi Mark. [00:26:22] Mark: [00:26:22] Hi Mark. [00:26:25]Mike: [00:26:25] Mark is a, another guy I met through the, uh, Husbands Out to Wives group, uh, who has kindly offered to share his life and story with us. So, um, Thank you Mark again for, for coming along and doing this for us. [00:26:39] And, uh, I’ll just jump right into the questions if that’s okay. [00:26:42] Mark: [00:26:42] Sure. Absolutely. [00:26:44] Mike: [00:26:44] So you identify as a homosexual, uh what’s that identity mean. [00:26:50] Mark: [00:26:50] Um, so to me, I kind of. Had this long journey that I went through in my life. And the reason why I kind of edit it out homosexual, it was because the overwhelming preferences I have are same-sex preferences. [00:27:09] And, um, if I. Think about where, right. To start a relationship with someone today, would I have any interests in starting a relationship with a woman? And the answer to that is really, no, I wouldn’t seek that out. I want to seek out someone on the same sex. So to me that makes homosexual the most appropriate label beyond bisexual and certainly heterosexual wouldn’t fit. [00:27:36] So to me, to me, it’s more of a, more of a statement of where my mom needs, where my desires and, um, without question, those are overwhelmingly directed towards other men. [00:27:48] Mike: [00:27:48] Right. Okay. And you also identify as male now, what does it mean for you to be male? [00:27:56] Mark: [00:27:56] That one’s a little bit harder for me to describe because I’m not someone where that’s ever really been a question. So I kind of have a hard time saying what it means. I guess it’s a very innate sense of who I am that I have a hard time ascribing meaning to it because it, it just is in a sense, I don’t know if that means, I don’t know what that really means. I don’t know if it answers the question either, right? [00:28:23] Um, I just can’t ascribe meaning to it in a way that you can’t really ascribe meaning to, um, give a drain outside. I mean, it’s raining, it’s raining. It just is, you know, to me, I’m male. It’s just what it is not to say that I don’t understand how other people might question that. It’s just not something that I can understand myself. [00:28:44] Mike: [00:28:44] That makes sense. Um, now you’re currently in an open marriage, but romantically you’re monogamous with your husband. So can you kind of explain that? [00:28:57] Mark: [00:28:57] Sure. So, um, we allow each other, um, the freedom to preserve, to pursue, um, other, um, cycle opportunities. So they arise. And it’s something that we want to do, and it kind of fits within, um, some boundaries that we’ve set for ourselves and for each other, we almost never act on that. [00:29:21] And, um, it’s, it’s more just, I think, recognition of the fact that men are men and, you know, because men are men, they’ve got. Generally speaking, you know, we’ve got some pretty high sex drives and we might want to do something that necessarily doesn’t have anything to do with our feelings for each other. [00:29:43] It just may be an opportunity that we’re curious about, or we might want to just explore it. Um, because I think men have a good. An easier sense of being able to separate sex from love or sexual emotions. Um, and because our communication is very good, we feel okay about each other, that freedom, um, just to be able to, um, I don’t want to say pursue because it’s not going to go looking, but if something arises, there’s something fun. [00:30:16] There’s something, um, that we’ve always wanted her to try. Comes around then, then it’s okay to do that. You know, we’ll talk about it and certainly just talk about how much fun it was and then go on with our day. Um, so the, um, the theme we speak about often in discussing this is, um, what, what did, what was that like for you? [00:30:45] What did you discover? You know, was it fun? Did you learn anything that you’d like for us to do together? And, um, because I think we keep it fun and joyful and, um, maybe more of a reflection of [00:31:07] the spirit of fun and, and, uh, And kind of struggling for the words, I think when I’m trying, because it’s hard to come up with the words, I think I just want to go back to kind of like the guiding principle, which is that, um, you have to be really honest with yourself about what you’re looking for, you know, and if you’re just looking for fun and for, you know, opportunities to explore things that maybe we don’t want to explore together, at least not right away, then, um, you know, that you’re not looking for anything romantic, you know, if you know what you’re looking for, you know what you’re not looking for, you can avoid it and. [00:31:40] You know, we’ve only been married about two years now and, um, I think it, it, we’re still in that honeymoon phase very much so where, um, Our hearts are on fire, where it’s just, you know, sunshine and roses and the other person can do no wrong in the eyes of the person. Right. And so the thought of wanting something romantic with somebody else just doesn’t even make any sense. [00:32:08] But, um, you definitely have to, I think, um, be clear about what it is that you’re looking for. And we’re both very clear on that. [00:32:18] Mike: [00:32:18] Very cool. [00:32:19]Mark: [00:32:19] Did I answer the question? [00:32:20] Mike: [00:32:20] Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Um, and you, you kind of talked about the boundaries and things, but you did talk about in your questionnaire that at one point you had developed feelings for a friend with benefits you had, and because of that, you’d set some different boundaries for yourself. [00:32:37] So can you kind of talk a little bit more about how those boundaries are set and how they work for you? [00:32:42] Mark: [00:32:42] So, one of, one of the reasons why, um, we opened up in the first place is that my partner is a top and he’s only a top, and I’m more versatile. So, um, if I’m going to have the opportunity to be a top myself, every once in a while, then it means incorporating, you know, a third party or other partners into the mix on occasion. [00:33:03] And there was one individual who was, um, a bottom partner of my, and we kind of fell into a good group together. And, um, maybe because we had, um, multiple encounters, um, I think that kind of got the, the hormones going and, and, you know, some of the biological ways that we’re programmed upon with people that, you know, We have sex with over and over, I think kicked in. [00:33:36] Um, so it wasn’t really that I was looking for anything to happen, but I was really surprised at how it happened, you know, almost without thinking. And so I had to recognize for myself that I might not be looking for something. I may not be potentially seeking something now, but the dangerous that it can happen. [00:33:51] I think it’s just the nature of the beast when you, when you are sleeping with somebody else repeatedly. So I had to kind of look at that and say, okay, a boundary I need to have for myself as no more than. You know, once or twice with somebody, um, just to curb off the potential of any feelings developing, because you know that spirit of all three, it’s unfair to all three people and it’s unfair to my husband. [00:34:15] It’s unfair to myself and it’s unfair to the third partner. Um, when things get kind of taken beyond the, the boundaries, they were agreed upon upfront. Um, so that, that’s kinda how that happened and kind of how I, I had to adjust my approach to our relationship. [00:34:35] Mike: [00:34:35] Yeah. That makes sense. Okay. Now, obviously you didn’t arrive. [00:34:39] You, you kind of even hinted at it that you didn’t arrive at this, you know, your, your identity and who you are and how you manage your relationships. You didn’t hit that when you hit puberty. So, um, Just telling me about the journey that you, that you took to get to the identities you have and the way your relationships are. [00:35:00] Mark: [00:35:00] Yeah. Um, so I grew up, um, in, in Michigan in a very, very small town, there were less than a thousand people who live in the town. There was no stoplight. Um, my high school graduating class was 26 people. Um, it was small, right? And it was rural Michigan. It was very conservative. And, um, this was in the mid eighties, mid to late eighties when the AIDS crisis was, um, kind of coming into full effect. [00:35:31] And so, um, there was a lot of fear. There was a lot of hate. There was a lot of, um, mistaken beliefs. There was a lot of, um, flat out anger, um, directed towards gay men. And, um, I think it’s, I think it’s hard for, for young gay men to really understand what it was like in LA in the mid, late eighties. And, you know, maybe even the start of the nineties. [00:35:59] Just how re reviled and demonized gay men were, but that was the climate that I was, you know, kind of starting to come to terms with things that, you know, it was all that hatred and fear, and my parents were no exception to that. I mean, my father was an auto worker. And, um, my mom was a stay at home mother and I mean, they were making, you know, anti-gay comments, jokes all day, along with everybody else. [00:36:28] And, um, my classmates figured it out before I did. Of course. I mean, other people were not so good at keeping our secrets. I don’t think any of us are as good as keeping our secrets as we think. And I was no exception to that and my classmates figured it out and I was the target of a lot of bullying. And so I kind of hoped and prayed for any way. [00:36:47] They wouldn’t have be true. You know, when I was a teenager, I. You know, look at other guys or fantasies about other guys, or, you know, find nude pictures or other men wherever I could, and, you know, just become heavily aroused and maybe it has to be to it or whatever, and then bargain with God afterwards. [00:37:10] Oh my God. I’ll never do it again. Just please don’t let me be gay. And eventually there’s just no money. Right. I just knew it. And so I, um, did it probably the worst way possible, um, which was telling my parents that, you know, I was really sad and hurt and I’m scared. And I thought I was probably gay. And I was thinking about killing myself. [00:37:38] What do I do? I don’t even know what to do. Right. And you know, they. Heard that message. And their first reaction was to kick me out of the house. And then the second reaction was, well, the problem isn’t that Mark’s depressed about being gay. The problem is the gayness we to get rid of it somehow. And so they didn’t send me to like, uh, pre the gateway camp or to him like that. [00:38:01] But it was more like, no, we’re pretty sure you’re not gay. You know, you’re not you’re, this is just a phase you’re going to pass through it kind of thing. And so, you know, me being a lonely kid in rural Michigan, it’s like, well, you know, hopefully, maybe that’s the case. And then I kind of sort of develop some feelings for one of the girls at school. [00:38:26] And that got really confusing for me. Um, because I was heavily aroused by men, but in rural Michigan, I never really had the opportunity to explore that in any way, but I was able to explore, you know, whatever feelings I had for some of the girls are now. Um, that was socially sanctioned of course, heavily encouraged by my family. [00:38:49] So that that’s kind of like, so I had a, like a heavy seed of doubt planted inside, you know, both by my own family and by the feelings I started to have. And then I went to college and in college they were guys that I was with and there were other girls and I kind of said, okay, well, you know, I’m, I’m bisexual. [00:39:06] I’m probably leaning a little bit more towards the heterosexual side because. I don’t really, really explored my romantic feelings with other women. I never really gave myself the freedom to explore romantic feelings from other guy. So it was all very physical and transactional in nature. Um, plus I did develop a group of gay friends and I just didn’t really fit in there. [00:39:30] Um, there may be a little bit more, um, flamboyant and loud, and I was very reserved country kid. And I was like, well, if that’s like a culture, it’s like, that’s not me. I’ll get there. So I kind of focused on my feelings, the rare times that I could feel feelings for women. And it was pretty rare, um, and just said, okay, well, that’s. [00:39:55] Maybe that fits, maybe that’s where I’m at and I’m graduated from college. And again, there were maybe a couple of guys who I was with a couple of women, and then I met a woman who would later become my wife and, um, we had such a connection and it was a very powerful connection. Both emotionally and sexually that I was like, well, I mean, there’s no way I could be a gay man. [00:40:19] If I’m feeling like this, it just couldn’t be possible. Right. Um, so after dating for a couple of years, I married her and, um, [00:40:35] it started out great. And then some problems crept in and then the problems kind of worsened over time. And. In any relationship? It takes two, right? I mean, I was a part of it. She was a part of it, but, um, when it became kind of obvious to me that there was no way it was going to work, um, after maybe about a decade of being together. [00:40:58] I started to plan. I started to think about, well, what’s next. And when I thought about what was next, women were nowhere in the picture for me, the only thing in my mind that I could conceive the next was that I wanted to be with a man. And that’s when I realized, okay, well I have to tell her, there’s no way I can not tell her this. [00:41:19] If nothing else, she deserves the truth. Right. So, um, That was the time I came out the second time and it was horribly painful thing between my wife and I, but my family I think, was really relieved in some weird way. Maybe they felt bad about what happened when I was younger, but, um, [00:41:49] But the marriage didn’t last after I came out. And I understand that. I mean, I get it as much as I, sometimes I wonder if we could have worked something out, we could have stayed together, but, um, [00:42:08] there were so many other issues there that I have a hard time saying that even if we overcame. The differences in sex realities. I don’t think we would’ve lasted through the rest. Um, but it all worked out for the best anyway, because when we did eventually separate, I know that, um, she’s much happier now. [00:42:30] And, and in all honesty, and I don’t mean this as a slamming against my ex wife, because she’s a wonderful person. Um, and I’ll honesty. I’m much happier now, too. Um, so I, I think if both partners end up happier afterwards, that’s probably the right type. Yeah. [00:42:49] Mike: [00:42:49] It’s quite a journey, [00:42:50]Mark: [00:42:50] But not an uncommon one, which is amazing. You know, when you think about it, it was so intense in my life, in my own life and my own life experience, but it’s so common for people to go on these journeys that. The silence around it, or the lack of support around it is almost criminal. [00:43:13] Mike: [00:43:13] That’s true. Yeah, because there’s a lot of people that are in that think that it’s, they’re so unique and it’s no one else’s like is going through that. [00:43:22] And a lot of people that are, [00:43:24] That they’ve done [00:43:25] Mark: [00:43:25] the worst thing ever when really they’ve done something, that’s actually very common and then everyone hopefully can get through. [00:43:35] Mike: [00:43:35] It’s true. Um, well, it’s kind of one, uh, to the end of this, talk about how. How your sexuality, your gender, your relationship orientation, the way you have your relationship set up and your sexuality, how they affect you in different areas of your lives of your life. [00:43:55] Um, so I’ll just kinda touch on each of the areas and you can kind of, or if it doesn’t, then that’s fine too. Um, first of all, how have they affected you socially? Um, [00:44:09] Mark: [00:44:09] I had a much, much more active social life since I came out, um, something about probably a stripping away. Those last layers of maybe denial has allowed me to be much more genuine and open to other people. And, um, [00:44:31] I’m just happier, so much happier too. I think people responding to that. So in my mind, it’s given me a much better, um, more active social life than, than what I would be experiencing otherwise, because I think it goes back to what I said earlier, where people, other people kind of figure it out. Right. [00:44:51] We don’t keep our secrets very well. And I think, um, Even if people weren’t looking at me back when I was maybe kind of, sort of in the closet and thinking, Oh, well he’s a closet gay guy. I think that they were able to send some of the turmoil that was going on inside me. And I, you know, similarly I think now they’re able to sense that that turmoil isn’t there anymore and responding to that. [00:45:19] Mike: [00:45:19] That’s true. Um, how about legally? [00:45:23]Mark: [00:45:23] I can’t really think of any legal impacts. Um, I don’t really see an impact there. I think, fortunately, because this is all happening for me right around the time that, um, Nope. Say I live in Florida in St. Petersburg, and that’s a very progressive city. Um, and, um, gay marriage being legal. [00:45:50] Um, I am fortunate to be at a time in history when the legal impacts aren’t that great. [00:46:02] Mike: [00:46:02] Uh, how about medically? Um, [00:46:12] Mark: [00:46:12] I don’t don’t think that there’s have been any great impacts to me, aside from some of the increased costs associated with, um, some of the testing that I do. Um, so I mean, I. As a gay man, the doctors want to run more tests on you during your physical. And, um, it’s a good idea of course, to be tested for STDs. [00:46:36] Um, and then I have a prescription for PREP and, you know, there’s testing for that every three months. And so maybe the only medical impacts I’ve had to face have been, you know, financial just for all the testing associated with, you know, monitoring your own health as it came in. But I haven’t. I haven’t really faced any kind of discrimination from doctors. [00:47:00] And I think that’s a function of, you know, St. Petersburg being a very progressive, gay, friendly city. Right. That’s good. Uh, professionally, any impact? Well, um, sort of, I think, um, I. I work in the insurance industry and, um, or most of my time in the industry when I was climbing through the ranks, that was when I was married to my wife. [00:47:30] And I think that passing as straight. Helped me in a large way, move up the ranks. I think that if I was out as a gay man, I probably would not have. And, um, I think that’s something that’s company by company. So insurance companies are much more conservative than others. They have a more conservative social culture. [00:47:50] Um, I started working in Michigan and Grand Rapids, which is a very, very conservative part of the country. And, um, had I been out when I was working. For the company in Grand Rapids, I probably would not have gotten the promotions and the opportunities that I did. Um, since I’ve come out, I’ve been very, um, outspoken about not wanting to go to a company that’s not LGBT friendly. [00:48:23] I’ve um, had. Um, recruiters, friends, colleagues who understand that and support it. And I’ve had good opportunities come my way because of it. But I’ve also had to turn down some good opportunities because there are parts of the country where I’m just not interested and, and what the social climate is there. [00:48:44] Um, particularly as it pertains to gay men. Um, so I mean maybe in some ways it’s curtailed my opportunities, but I think maybe in more ways it’s helped me to find the better ones. But definitely I couldn’t have gotten to the point where I’m at, if I was out at the start of my career. So I have very mixed feelings about that. [00:49:09] Yeah. But now you have where you can afford to be a little more choosy and, and pick what’s going to be better for you. Yeah. Not just financially, but mental health wise. Right, right, right. Um, spiritually, I’ve never really been a particularly spiritual person. So I can’t say as much impact there. [00:49:34] Mike: [00:49:34] Okay. Um, any other areas that have been affected that we didn’t touch on or anything else you want to share? [00:49:44] Mark: [00:49:44] What’s that? [00:49:45] Mike: [00:49:45] All right. Or anything else in general that you want to. [00:49:47] Mark: [00:49:47] Well, it’s, it’s made my travel life more exciting. I mean, one of the things that my husband and I like to do is we love to travel, right. And a lot of the great places to go. A lot of the fun places to go are places that are very gay, friendly, and, um, we’ve kind of gone out of our way to travel some places because there’s, you know, a very active, gay nightlife or destinations. [00:50:08] And so that’s been a lot of fun. I mean, the vacations have been a lot more fun. We’ve been jamming a lot more. Um, And I might not, I might not have, you know, if, if I was in the closet or a straight male, I mean, I understand some of them do them. That’s a horrible thing. I understand some straight men do. Um, and their families travel quite a bit and to allow really excited locations, but I probably wouldn’t feel that same impetus to is. [00:50:37] If I wasn’t out, that makes any sense. It does. [00:50:43] Mike: [00:50:43] It makes a lot of sense. Cause you can go be yourself as opposed to going and trying to do it with someone else. [00:50:49] Mark: [00:50:49] Right, right. Yeah. [00:50:51] Mike: [00:50:51] Definitely [00:50:52] Mark: [00:50:52] What’s the point on going to Traverse City, Michigan, if I’m going to get weird looks holding my husband’s hand walking down the street. [00:50:59] Yeah. You know, or I could go to Key West. [00:51:05] Mike: [00:51:05] That makes sense. [00:51:06]Mark: [00:51:06] Yeah. Maybe that’s a little bit more fun in the winter, right? [00:51:09]Mike: [00:51:09] Oh, definitely. Definitely a lot more pleasant weather-wise right, right. Yeah. Okay. Very cool. Um, anything else at all you want to, um, [00:51:29] Mark: [00:51:29] Boy, let me, can I think about that for a second? [00:51:31] Mike: [00:51:31] Sure, sure. [00:51:32] Mark: [00:51:32] Um, just that I’m surprised every day, I’m surprised every day by people, um, who I. You learned everything about of person, right? By how they’re able to treat you if they able to overcome their prejudices, their fears or misconceptions. A lot of straight men kind of have this icky eww factor thinking about gay men. [00:52:02] And I’m always surprised by who can overcome their discomfort. And who can not, I’m surprised every day, I’m surprised every day by, um, the opportunities that different locations have, um, to meet other men, um, and hang out laughs and talk. I’m. Amazed by how friendly people are. Yeah. I’m amazed by who turns out not to be friendly. [00:52:34] You know, it’s not, it’s not only, um, Gay men who wear masks and suddenly gained my new high things at times because they need to pass or fit in. Um, [00:52:53] one of the ways that being gay has affected me is I get another window into the world and I’m surprised everyday by what I see to that window. Who turns out to be the way they present themselves and who presents themselves falsely. And you can see that because you can’t hide it when, um, you have to come face to face with, with someone who is outside their norm. Um, I don’t know if that’s giving ourselves too much credit to say that gay men challenge, you know, people’s notions or their preconceived ideas of existence or whatever, but I think there’s something there. I think we do in a sense to a degree. It surprises me all the time. What I learned. [00:53:51] Mike: [00:53:51] Yeah, it’s true. Anybody that’s outside of that, what’s quote unquote normal. Within someone’s perception of what’s normal is going to make you uncomfortable. And then when we challenge it, then people they’ll either grow or they’ll go hide. [00:54:08] Mark: [00:54:08] Yeah. Yeah. [00:54:10] Mike: [00:54:10] That’s true. Very cool. Awesome. Well, thank you very much for sharing with us and, uh, [00:54:18] Mark: [00:54:18] Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share. [00:54:20] Mike: [00:54:20] It’s definitely. I have I’ve enjoyed it. Um, so yeah, we will see you online. Music by John_Sib from Pixabay
63 minutes | 24 days ago
If you’ve listened to this podcast for a little while, it may end up looking and sounding a little different, because I’m trying a new editing platform that allows for something I’ve wanted to set up for a while: transcripts! The edits may be a little off as I adapt, but if this works out, it may be good in the long run. Of course, because this is a real, human conversation, and real humans don’t always have conversations in structured, proper syntax, the transcript reads a little off at times. I thought it was important to capture the real conversation, though, for people who work with transcripts to have their best podcasting experience. Of course, I’m evolving as a podcaster just as I’m evolving as a human, so if anyone who relies on these has any feedback, please let me know! This week, I’m talking with Max, a friend who currently identifies as a transgender expansive, genderfluid, asexual, aromantic, mad poly queer, demisexual gender traveler who enjoys rope play, daddy boy play, impact play, edging, and other play of various kinds. We had a great conversation talking about their constantly evolving identity, how important their life as a young girl is to their identity, working in the mental health industry, navigating therapy, the “time travel mechanism” of ADHD, how language affects us, and so much more. Enjoy the conversation! Episode Transcript [00:00:00] [00:00:15]Mike: If you’ve listened to this podcast for a little while. It may end up looking and sounding a little different because I’m trying a new editing platform that allows for something I wanted to set up for a while: transcripts! The edits may be a little off as I adapt, but if this works out, it may be good in the long run. And of course, because this is a real human conversation, and real humans don’t always have conversations in structured, proper syntax transcript reads a little off at times. [00:00:42] I thought it was important, though, to capture the real conversation for people who work with transcripts to have their best podcasting experience. Now, of course I’m evolving as a podcast or just as I’m evolving as a human, so if anyone who relies on these as any feedback, please let me know. Now, this week, I’m talking with Max, [00:01:00] a friend who currently identifies as a transgender expansive, gender fluid, [00:01:04] asexual, aromantic, mad poly queer, demisexual gender traveler who enjoys rope play, daddy boy play, impact play, edging and other play of various kinds. We had a great conversation talking about their constantly evolving identity, how important their life as a young girl is to their identity. Working in the mental health industry, navigating therapy, [00:01:28] the time travel mechanism of ADHD, how language affects us and so much more. So let’s get to the conversation. [00:01:36] [00:01:36]Max, Max, you and I go back a ways actually to, [00:01:52] I don’t know, it’s been a few years. We first met in your skate shop in Columbus, so, [00:02:00] [00:02:00] Max: and then that’s like five it’s like what? Five years? Probably. [00:02:05] Mike: At least five or six back. Yeah. So it’s been a little bit and, and it’s been really neat because I’ve gotten to watch you change and evolve into yourself since I’ve gotten to know you. [00:02:19] Um, and I know like you still filled out my little form and you’ve got on your identities. Let me go through them. This list here, transgender expansive, asexual, aromantic. Uh, enjoy rope play daddy boy play as a bottom or a sub, impact play, edging, long, drawn out sexy sensory play of various kinds, mad poly queer, demisexual, gender traveler, trans person with interests in rope play, impact play, and age play. [00:02:58] Max: Yeah, actually I think I filled that out [00:03:00] twice, so yeah, [00:03:01] Mike: there’s a little overlap, but [00:03:02] Max: then also, I don’t know. My identity is changed every day, kind of, not always, but I feel like at different times in different days I feel that’s the whole sort of gender travel thing for me is like, I feel like a lot of people use like gender fluid to describe that. [00:03:20] But for me, I’m like, it feels more like a journey than anything. It feels like a journey from day to day than anything. I mean, fluidity is one thing, but for me, it, it still feels like I’m sort of on this. Yeah, journey to sort of exploring all of the different facets of like my own gender. And it also does change day to day and sodas, like the things I’m interested in, um, you know, sexually and otherwise. [00:03:49] Yeah, yeah. [00:03:53] Mike: Hmm. No, I was going to ask you about the gender traveler. I like that. So, [00:03:59] Max: yeah, I mean, and [00:04:00] I think, you know, in terms of like the trans identity, it’s interesting because now it is, there seems to be a distinction between like trans and non-binary, um, like a lot of times people will say trans and non-binary people trying to sort of include the two. [00:04:17] Whereas for me, I’ve always seen my non binary identity as a transgender identity. If that makes sense. Um, but I’m, I’m noticing and seeing that as language evolves and as the communities evolve, those things are not always the same, um, or not always described as the same, but for me, they very much are. [00:04:37] And I think a lot of times, like, especially in the last like two years, and especially in New York city, I’ve noticed that like, when I say like, Oh, I’m non-binary or when I say I use, they, them pronouns people will mis-gender me as he/ him, which makes sense. That’s how I appear. I think in many ways, like I can pass quote unquote [00:05:00] pass. [00:05:00] Right. Um, but I had an interesting conversation with a trans woman at work, um, when I was interning and as a mental health counselor, and she was like, I think we were talking about like, like bottom surgery or something. And she was like, she was like, Oh, and she’s like, Oh, I like fully thought that you were like assigned male at birth and just like use they them pronouns. [00:05:25] And so, and I realized actually how much that bothered me, um, and how much my like, assigned like my history of like being assigned female at birth. And my history actually of like growing up as a young girl, like matters to me and how like, you know, my, my trans identity is not limited to, like, I’ve always been trans, I’ve always been non binary. [00:05:52] I’ve always been a trans man. You know, like I think some people sort of retroactively applied the identity to [00:06:00] themselves and they’re like, well, really I was like a young trans person and like, I was a young trans person, but I was also for all intents and purposes, like the young girl. And even though, as I grew, it didn’t fit. [00:06:11] There was a time in my life when it didn’t matter as much, you know, but then like puberty happened and then it did start to matter to me. And I think like, it’s not that I haven’t always been a trans person, but it’s just that I didn’t, it’s just that my, yeah, my experience as like a young girl matters a lot to me. [00:06:28] And so I have been trying to find ways to use and find a language to be able to like, explain that to people. When I explain my identity, instead of just saying like I’m non binary and I use like, they them pronouns or like I’m gender fluid and I use they them pronouns. Um, cause I want to be able to say like, I’m a fab transgender and I’m binary and I use they them pronouns. [00:06:51] But you know, when you’re new to doing like a quick intro, it can be difficult. And then also at that can, I don’t know, you know, it’s kind of hyper-specific, [00:07:00] but those, all of those things make me who I am and inform my experiences with like how I see the world. And I think, yeah, I think it can be like easy. [00:07:11] I think there are. And like when, and I think, and I know that even in the trans community, this is something that is highly contested at different times, but like, I do think there are differences between people who are socialized as young women and people who are socialized as young men, even if you’re, even if both of those people are trans as children, you know, like I know that like there are differences in how you’re socialized and, and, and I know that that is something, and I’m happy to talk to people more about that. [00:07:38] Cause I know that different people have different ideas about what it means to be like socialized quote unquote, you know, and, and not everyone agrees with what I’m saying right now in the trans community. But I do feel like there are differences, you know, and like the way that I was treated as like a young girl growing up would have been different than like how I was treated. [00:07:55] Like if I was a young boy growing up. By like my peers, you know, [00:08:00] by the people who bullied me by my brother, by my family, like all of those things would’ve been different. And they, those things did make me who I was, especially when it comes to some of my like complex trauma experiences, you know? So it’s, yeah. [00:08:15] That’s the long answer of my like gender idea. Oh [00:08:18] Mike: no, that’s cool. Cause I’ve, I’ve seen that too. And like, I remember the first time someone said something like, well non-binary is not trans. And I was like, what? Because yeah. And it’s just, I guess it’s an evolving description, but, you know yeah. And I mean, yeah, we’re all socialized into, unless you happen to live in a society that has some kind of perfect, figured out, [00:08:48] gender identity. We’ve all been socialized, not only in the in our own assigned sex, but in what the other genders [00:09:00] are like, you, you know, I grew up with a man, is this, a woman is this, a trans person is this, you know? And, uh, okay. It’s cool though. I mean, I thought your description was pretty, pretty good of who you are, but, uh, I guess it takes a minute to, to get through that. [00:09:21]Yeah, I think it’s really cool that you’re able to kind of, not necessarily like, cause I, I know like some of your story from growing up and stuff from some of the trauma you had and some of the difficulties you had before, you really understood your identity, but yeah. [00:09:38] Sounds like you’re still holding onto some of those things that are like, they’re, they’re part of who you are. You can still, you can still be that person who was a girl and, and that’s okay, because that’s who you were and who you, you know, that was your identity at the time. And that was a valuable part of your, your [00:10:00] experience. [00:10:02] Max: Yeah, definitely. You know, and I think, especially when we’re talking like complex trauma or more specifically like developmental trauma, right? Like the ways that developmental trauma actually does impact and affect the brain and the way that the brain develops, you know, it’s like some of these things were happening when my brain was still developing. [00:10:19] And when I was, again, for all intents and purposes, like very much seen as like a young girl, um, in the world. And just what you’re saying it is, it’s like, I think some of those things happened to me. Some of the things were done. To me, or I was treated a specific way because I was that thing, like, for instance, like when I developed anorexia, when I was 13 and it was pretty life-threatening, you know, um, that was something that, because I was like a young girl to everyone around me. [00:10:54] Right. Um, I was, that was treated at a very specific [00:11:00] way. And [00:11:07] I could have, we Brently or maybe would have been diagnosed differently if I was not as like a young girl. [00:11:16] Mike: Hmm. [00:11:22] Because they just tend to, well, I know, like they talk about mental health a lot of times in sex. Like you’re like girls have ADHD differently than boys have ADHD, those kinds of things. Right. [00:11:52] Max: wasn’t until I was an adult that I got like a more comprehensive, like ADHD [00:12:00] diagnosis. Um, and we started talking about, and considering like, could I be on the spectrum? You know? And that was something that just was really completely overlooked when I was younger. And there’s always, especially with anorexia, there’s kind of this specific profile that people that when I say, I guess not people, but like mental health clinicians, think of when they think young girl with anorexia, right. [00:12:22] They’re like perfectionism anxiety, most, most, you know, like there’s specific things that they’re sort of looking for that. Automatically sort of sets you up to be in this position to be diagnosed in a specific way, especially if you present in with any of those symptoms right there. They’re sort of like, like, I think a lot of times, at least what I’ve experienced in the mental health field, both as a consumer and as a clinician now is like a lot it’s, it’s just so muddy. [00:12:54] Like the, as we were sort of saying earlier, before we started recording, like there’s so much overlap between symptoms and what [00:13:00] happens is a lot of, first of all, a lot of times when you’re seen and that you have to get a diagnosis right away so that insurance can be billed. So they take whatever symptoms they’re seeing. [00:13:13] And diagnose based on that without getting a full, complete picture of what’s actually going on. And if it’s someone who’s always diagnosing the same three things, because they work at an eating disorder center or something, right. They’re going to look for those symptoms of that, those three things. And that’s probably the diagnosis that you’re going to get, even if it’s more complicated than that, even if some of those symptoms. [00:13:34] These are coming from something else. Right. Right. And what we found over time is like my, a lot of my anxiety symptoms and even my eating disorder stuff was really stemming from like the discomfort that I felt socially. Um, the struggles that I had to like connect to the kids around me, um, how uncomfortable I felt in my own skin. [00:13:54] Right. Like really, like, it was like puberty hit. And I was like, Oh my God, I’m not turning into my brother. [00:14:00] I’m turning into something else. You know, like this is a weird, um, you know, I’m feeling really uncomfortable with that. And part of like the trauma that I was experiencing of just like living in a household that wasn’t taking into account, like. [00:14:14] My sensitivity, my sensory needs the different things that I, that I needed, you know, uh, emotionally. Um, and so definitely there was a certain element of like, this is a way that I can have something that’s all mine. This is a control thing, right. This is a perfectionism thing, but there was more to it than that, but that was never explored because I, that was not the typical profile of the people who were be true, who were being treated at that, that specific center. [00:14:38] Right. So that’s the thing that gets so tricky about mental health care in the first place is that there’s like this. I can’t think of the word for it. I know there’s a word for it, but it’s like, it’s like kind of like confirmation bias, right? Like it’s like, Oh, I would expect this person to present with these things when, if it’s this specific thing. [00:14:58] Right. And then that person presents with [00:15:00] some of those things. And so the clinician is just like, Oh, this is definitely what they have. But then what happens is you stop asking questions about other areas. And that’s a big thing that I see a lot of clinicians doing is they’re not exp. And if you’re not asking your clients. [00:15:14] Questions specific to certain things. They might not ever bring it up on their own. You know? So like for instance, trauma, like trauma stuff, like PTSD is overlooked a lot in treatment because first of all, it’s dif difficult to build rapport with clients, especially if you’re in a community setting where there’s high turnover of clinicians or clients, aren’t seeing people for a long time are not coming consistently. [00:15:37] So it’s hard to build a good relationship. So you can’t really ask about that stuff because you don’t have a strong relationship and to ask about it when you don’t have a strong relationship could actually hurt the relationship. And then the client might not come or they might not feel comfortable. [00:15:49] But then at the same time, it’s like, if you’re not asking about it, you might not ever know, you know, on some level or if you don’t know how to ask the right questions. So that’s, that’s, that’s the [00:16:00] long answer, I guess, in some ways for me, right. Is it’s like, it’s just really complicated and it’s more complicated than I think our mental health system wants to believe that it is, and more complicated than most clinicians believe that it can be . [00:16:15] Mike: Yeah. You know, it’s funny, a lot of things in life in general, I’ve over the last several years, I’ve started just saying it’s more complicated than that. And. Like it’s, it’s so many things that we just try to put it in a light like that. Let’s, let’s put our mental health diagnosis into this neat little box. [00:16:34] Let’s put her gender into this neat little box. Let’s put our, you know, whatever it is. Let’s put our politics into this neat little box. It’s like, it’s not, it’s just, we’re not there. That’s simple. And you would think in a field where they study the human brain, which is one of the most complex things on earth. [00:16:57] Um, [00:17:00] I mean, it’s, it’s odd to me that, that a field that’s that involved in that would be that. I mean, I get it. I guess you get into everyone gets into, you know, we, we like to put things into boxes to be able to process information, but yeah. Um, it’s interesting to me. , [00:17:18] Max: I mean it is, you know, it is super complicated. And I think like, especially back in the time when I was initially hospitalized, you know, that was like early two thousands. And even though. It’s funny, right. Again, it is more complicated because like we are, I think advancing. [00:17:35] Yeah. Especially right now, the field of mental health care at a really quick pace. Um, but it’s just, you know, it’s that doesn’t negate all of the history of damage that has been done within the mental health care field. And I think that a lot of people don’t want to look the other way. You know, even when I was in classes for training, [00:18:00] for being a mental health clinician, there’s just no context. [00:18:03] There’s no groundwork laid there’s no. So I’ve, I’ve done training for both mental health counseling and peer support. For instance, in one of the first classes you can do for your peer support training, at least in New York state talks about literally that history of peer support and the history of psychiatry and psychology. [00:18:23] And what they talk about is like, here are all of the ways that like a lot of the stuff is tied to eugenics. Here are the ways that like, people were really poorly treated in like mental health asylums, quote, unquote, you know, like, like asylums that people have, like that were basically just like, it was just like another carceral system, you know, for mentally ill people. [00:18:45] And not even sometimes like there, there are these two specific stuff I know of, of women who just like wanted to divorce their husbands and their husbands were like, no, you’re insane. And I’m going to like take you to this asylum. And then those women lived out like the rest of their lives. And those asylums, even though [00:19:00] there was like, Essentially nothing going on for them other than like, they just didn’t want to be with her husband, you know, but it was like, they were a woman until like the husband had ultimate say and could be like, this is what happens. [00:19:11] Right. And like queer people that were put there because, you know, and then like essentially forcibly sterilized, because like, They weren’t allowed to reproduce or people. The big thing is like, quote unquote. Feeblemindedness right. So there was a whole time when it was like, Oh, people, people who are feeble-minded get put in here and then like, we don’t want you to reproduce because we don’t want you to like, create more people like you, that we’re going to have to then put into this system again. [00:19:33] Right. So like that’s taught in peer support, but in the mental health counseling field, they’re like, Freud was like, great. And like, here’s all these other clinicians that are like, great. And like here’s all these ways that we think about and conceptualize, like diagnosing people without giving you like, and like, some of that is true, right? [00:19:49] Like there are many people that over time have informed the way that we understand mental health. And that’s like really great, but there’s no context for like, where did this all come from? And how is it all still perpetuated today? And the [00:20:00] systems that we actually work in with our clients, you know, and like even the fact that most clinicians use the word patient, but like, we are not doctors. [00:20:08] We are not doctors. We do not have patients. We have clients who have agency. Who come to see us who like we need to be collaborating with, but I think it’s really easy for people to be like, well, you can, you can diagnose something from the DSM. So this is your patient. And you’re going to like, quote unquote, cure them. [00:20:26] But that’s just not how mental health works. Like I’ve I hate the word patient. I will never call. First of all, I don’t want to be called a patient by my mental health clinician. And second of all, I’m never going to call anyone that I work with my patient because I’m not a doctor and mental health extends beyond biological circumstances. [00:20:42] Like mental health is impacted by so many things. And it isn’t just, I think it’s, I think like, There is this like bio psychological model that we can lean on around this idea of like, you know, what I was taught growing up is like, it’s just a chemical imbalance in your brain and that’s why you’re depressed. [00:20:56] And I’m like, no, I’m depressed because this world is a terrible place [00:21:00] and it’s not built for me. And the people around me don’t understand me and I don’t understand myself. And so I don’t have a good sense of self. And so, yeah, I’m depressed, but like, and maybe that over time has created a chemical imbalance in my brain, but there are so many other things that also impact me that caused me to feel this way in the world. [00:21:18] And if we just say it’s a chemical imbalance in my brain where essentially stripping me of all of my agency and personhood to decide what’s best for me, because that’s essentially saying I don’t have control over my own biology. And therefore I don’t have control over my own emotions and feelings, right. [00:21:34] Or this idea then that I can be cured. But the truth is that like, I’ve been going to therapy since I was 13 and I’ve never once been cured. [00:21:41] Mike: Yeah, no, you know, I think it’s so funny. Cause it’s like, If cause if you start saying I’m going to cure whatever is in the quote, chemical imbalance in your brain, what are you curing? Because a lot of times it’s just a diversity. [00:21:58] It’s a neurodivergent [00:22:00] thing. It’s, I’m like I’ve got dia-, I’m diagnosed with ADHD and it’s not, I actually hate the second D of that because to me, actually, both of these, cause it’s not necessarily a deficit or a disorder, it’s a, just a different way. My brain processes information and the same thing. Yes, my psychiatrist, I’m his patient. [00:22:23] He’s the one that prescribes my medication to help with some of the chemical processes that are out of balance brain. But the day I got the diagnosis, the, the, the woman who diagnosed me, the first thing she said to me after was, okay, you have this, you now have the medication to help your brain function. [00:22:42] In a more positive way now you have to change the way you operate and the habits that you’ve developed over 40, some odd years of living with it and compensating that now you need to also make those changes. And that’s not something you can get in a pill or, or a [00:23:00] cure or even, and there’s some aspects of it that I don’t want to change or lose. [00:23:04] So [00:23:06] Max: yeah, exactly. You know, and that’s the same thing, like over in the UK now they started saying autism spectrum condition. Because again, it’s like, are we really going to call autism like a disorder or are we going to just, you know, are we gonna encompass it in all that we know human diversity to be, which is incredibly broad ranges of difference. [00:23:24] Right. And so I think similarly, I would like to see that change when it comes to like this ADHD idea. And for me, like, I like to use the word time traveler instead of. ADHD. Oh, I love it. Cause I’m like, cause I’m just like, I don’t know. I don’t perceive time in any normative way at all whatsoever. You’re going to ask me how long it’s going to take me to do you do something and I’m going to tell you, and it’s going to be completely wrong because I just have no idea how time works. [00:23:54] And also like maybe I saw you six months ago, but to me it feels like I saw you a week ago. And so it’s not a big deal that we didn’t see each other [00:24:00] for six months. But if you’re someone who works on a more normative timeline, it might feel like a long time for you and you might actually feel upset with me, but I didn’t reach out to you sooner. [00:24:08] But to me, I can’t tell the difference, like literally at all. So like my best friendships are the ones where people just like, don’t get upset with me that like, I don’t talk. I’m not going to text someone every day. Like it’s just overwhelming phones have like, no for me, no real sense of, and computers either have like no real sense of organization that like works for me. [00:24:29] So I get incredibly overwhelmed on technology. Or you have to pay for like getting applications or things you can use that help you organize. And like, I don’t have money. So like, I just, I like this idea of time travel because I’m just like, I don’t experience time in any really like, linear sense that seems to match up with like most of the people around me. [00:24:49] But a lot of other people I know with ADHD, we just like all get it sorta like I do like, Oh yeah, I know time is not, first of all, not real. And second of all, like does not actually exist in a [00:25:00] linear way, but I feel it, like, I feel it in my body. Um, it’s not just a concept in my mind that I can sort of understand and think about it’s something that like I know inside of my body, like in a very embodied way. [00:25:10] And I think that also extends to like my trauma, right. And like, part of that overlap for me is like the depersonalization derealization stuff that I experienced. And some of the like dissociation that I experienced that also causes time to feel just different, you know, but time traveler to me is like a much more fun way of explaining it and makes me feel more like. [00:25:30] Empowered and like more like, you know, I don’t know, like, I don’t know, just less, like it’s a deficit less, like it’s something that is a disorder or something that like people are going to be poking and prodding at me about, you know, and being like, what’s wrong with you? You know, it’s like, no, I’m, I’m actually an advanced, uh, [00:25:47]like sometimes my time travel mechanism breaks and then I, and then I like can’t finish things on time or like, or I just like, forget, like sometimes I’m just like, Oh, no, sorry. Like my, I just, I couldn’t get back at my, I [00:26:00] couldn’t get back in time to like, have this project done for you. Give me like another week. [00:26:03] Sorry. [00:26:06] Mike: Oh my God. That’s amazing. I love it. Oh, that fits. [00:26:12] Max: Yeah. I’m really very interested in like, how do we reframe these things? You know? And if, if it’s in ways that are just like a little more fun, like whatever. Yeah. [00:26:21] Mike: That’s why I do like the, the neuro divergent. Term that’s being used now, because that, that kind of says, you know, okay, you’ve got neuro-typical, which is just what the majority of people operate under. [00:26:36] And there’s those of us that our brains are just a little bit different and that’s diversion, but not D uh, uh, disability. It’s still a little bit off. Cause I don’t know if typical versus diversion is a great way of putting it, but it’s still better than just saying you have some kind of disorder. [00:27:00] [00:27:00] Max: Right. [00:27:01] And some people use the terminology neuro emergent now as well. Right? Like there are different ways to that people are trying to reframe even that, that concept because it does, it creates this dichotomy right. Of like us versus them. Right. And it also this dichotomy that still can be very much seen as like. [00:27:16] Different and normal. Right. And that’s, that’s always the problem, I think, in, in most situations where you are like, yeah, I mean, I don’t operate like the norm, you know? Um, but again, that has roots to in, in psychology, right? Like again, even like queer people and like some of the diagnoses that were put on queer people over time, the diagnoses that were put on people who are trans, right. [00:27:38] Like quote unquote transvestic fetishism, right. Was like one of the DSM diagnoses for trans people. But really all it was doing is it was like relegating trans women to like this like sexual fetish rather than like self-knowing women that they are, you know, like it’s such a problem, but it’s just a way for people to be like, well, you’re different and you don’t operate like the rest of us. [00:28:00] [00:27:59] And so here’s this way that we’re going to like categorize that. But it is, it’s very, it turns people into a monolith. And I think like, that’s just not how much like this conversation has gone. It’s just not how the world works. It’s like much more complicated than that. Um, And it’s like, okay, I don’t know, pathologize, like the normative, like neuro-typical people that just like, can’t seem to stop hoarding money, like percent. [00:28:24] I’m like, what’s wrong with you that you can’t seem to stop like hoarding, like incredible amounts of wealth that like, who, how, how, how, like what, how, what, like, yeah. Like what is it about you that causes you to like, have to like, you know, and not to say that some of those people maybe don’t have certain mental illnesses or whatever, like maybe I’m also in this way treating them as a monolith too, but it’s just like, I think like a lot of the people that we see as like more normative or that operate in more normative ways, like they also have like their shit too is really all, but I’m saying, you know, and like, why isn’t that pathologize? [00:28:57] Well, it’s not pathologize because they’ve been in positions of power over [00:29:00] time. They have been the ones that are the doctors who get to decide what are the diagnoses essentially. Um, yeah, so it’s, you know, it’s tricky. And I think that’s part of why I went into the mental health field to be like, you know, I’m. [00:29:14] In some ways, how can I get into a position where I’m able to start having these conversations and making these changes more in favor of people who over time have been sort of stripped of their agency and their ability to identify without being pathologized? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think that’s where, you know, Oh, sorry, go ahead. [00:29:34] No, go, go, go please. Uh, I was just going to say, I think that’s where, you know, like for me, like I definitely identify as mad, right? Like as like, like I’m, I’m a big proponent of like the X patient mood and the mad, mad pride movement. And that for me has been really empowering. And that that’s, that was one of the identities that I have listed that you had mentioned earlier. [00:29:54] Right? It’s what does it mean to just be mad in the world? [00:29:58] Mike: Say more about it? I [00:30:00] hadn’t heard of that as a thing. Like, I mean, I know what mad means. I know what pride means, but like as a movement, like. Yeah. [00:30:09] Max: Um, yeah, definitely. So it’s, I think it looks so interesting. And similarly to like some of the disability justice movements, it’s one of the ones that people are less familiar with. [00:30:18] Right. Limit. Like even within BLM stuff that’s going on. It’s something that like a lot of people in some of my circles are like, yes, yes, yes. BLM great. Like, yes, yes, absolutely. And like, what are we doing to say like all black lives matter, meaning like disabled, black lives matter and like mentally ill black lives matter. [00:30:37] Right. And like that conversation is a conversation that like white people can not, [00:30:52] it is a conversation worth having. And so when we talk about the mad movement, when we talk about the X patient. [00:31:00] And survivor movement. Um, that started in like the seventies basically. And it was a time of folks who had been institutionalized to have been hospitalized, who had lived in asylums or, or, um, sort of the different types of hospitals that came afterwards and particularly queer white people where some of the people who were, who were sort of leading some of these movements and women, um, these were, this was a movement to say like, look like we need reform in the mental health world because what’s happening is people are not being treated well. [00:31:35] People are being treated poorly. People are being institutionalized for long periods of time and their rights are being stripped away from them. People are being forcibly hospitalized, and then they’re not allowed to leave when they are hospitalized. They’re not allowed to access their community. [00:31:50] They’re not allowed to access, um, the parts of their identity that would make them. Um, help essentially help them heal. Right. That would be, that would make them [00:32:00] feel more connected to themselves. Right. And what, what was being found and what is still the case, which was very much the case for me when I was 13, 14 was that these institutions are actually further traumatizing people. [00:32:12] So you’re having people who are, who are traumatized by the world in various way. Um, or maybe who never had been traumatized before, but who are living in marginalized positions who then are institutionalized, but then are harmed by the quote unquote helpers. Right. And so what they were finding is like, you know what, like this actually isn’t helping at all. [00:32:30] It’s making things worse that I’m being like forcibly put into the hospital. I’m being forcibly put on medication, which was the other really big piece. Like a lot of medication had been weaponized against people to make them compliant. So there’s a whole nother piece of like, are you a compliant patient or are you. [00:32:46] A non-compliant patient. And if you’re a non-compliant patient that might get you a whole nother set of diagnoses, such as like oppositional defiant disorder or BPD, right? Like BPD is a big one that a lot of clinicians love to be like, well, that person’s difficult. They must [00:33:00] have BPD. And it’s like, no, that’s not how it works. [00:33:02] You know? But again, it’s like, unless you’ve experienced some of these things, I think it’s just so hard to know and conceptualize. So the X patient survivor move, Penn survivor movement really came out of some, some reform stuff in the seventies and then onward. But all of this stuff had been happening all through the 17, 18 and early 19 hundreds, you know, over time. [00:33:23] And there have been peer quote, unquote, peer support people and like ex patients mobilizing around a lot of these issues since the 18 hundreds there was, there was, um, yeah, there was like this whole like, like, like independent publication. And I forget I’m not going to remembering details, but I forget exactly where it came up, but it was just all like. [00:33:46] Like Drake institution and they just made this public aid together and it lasted, I think for like 10 years and they just self published it. And it was just like about some of the stuff they experienced there. It was about their experiences as like mentally ill people. Um, I think one of the [00:34:00] people that led the paper was like schizophrenia, sick. [00:34:02] Um, yeah, so this, I mean, it’s, it’s like a whole sort of thing, but I just don’t think that like people in dominant culture know much about it or hear much about it. Um, but now it’s sort of evolved and sort of merged with the disability justice movement and the transformative justice movement. Um, because more people are seeing psychiatric institutionalization as, as a carceral system, which oftentimes is and can be, um, or can lead to, um, imprisonment. [00:34:28] And, and in fact, right, like I think many people have learned during this time that many, many people who have been shot and killed by police or just killed by police, um, Are actually also disabled, um, or have some sort of psychiatric disability going on. Right. And so these connections are starting to be made now, especially in light of some of the uprising stuff, the BLM movement, the more that people are going there. [00:34:49] I think the more that people are starting to be like, yes, yes. Okay. Like we need to make these connections. We need to make them faster and we need to be mobilizing around it, um, in a more interdisciplinary way. Right? [00:35:00] [00:35:00] Mike: Yeah. Cause I mean, I heard someone say recently on a webinar, I was in that like, and you know, obviously right now racism is, is in the forefront of everyone’s mind because of what’s going on. [00:35:16] And it’s very, you know, it’s, it’s a very racist thing, but they’re like, basically if you’re, when you’re addressing racism, if you’re not addressing LGBTQ issues, if you’re not addressing mental health issues, if you’re not, uh, Uh, addressing gender discrimination. You’re not going to deal with racism effectively because it’s all intersectional. [00:35:37] And I don’t know what you just told me though. It feels like, um, a comparison to the first time I learned about Tulsa. Um, because what do you mean? This is part of our history that I just never knew about, you know, like, and it’s the same. I didn’t know that there was this much. I [00:36:00] knew that the mental health, I mean, I live in the town where one of the major mental health institutions was, um, you know, the, um, the ridges and I’ve been up to the graveyard up there and Sohn the unmarked graves. [00:36:16] And eventually they put number, you know, they started with numbers and then eventually they put names and then put, you know, as, as healthcare, as mental health care evolved into. You know, something where they were put away versus they were treated like people, but I didn’t know that this went that far back. [00:36:31] That is amazing. And like the intersection, like, you know, the, the intersections between mental health and you know, how people of color are, um, more or are worse in those institutions and probably sent to them more for not good reasons. And also the intersection with gender, like, um, I think I even sent you the text when I found out after, uh, uh, another interview. [00:36:58] I did that, um, [00:37:00] people that identify, you know, people with trans identities are, I believe six times more likely to be diagnosed on the autism spectrum and the intersectionality of that, which almost kind of makes sense to me because you have a way of thinking differently about yourself in the world that you can actually recognize. [00:37:24] The non-binary nature of sex and gender easier then. Yeah. You know, I mean, [00:37:31] Max: it’s, it’s like the fluid nature of existence and also, yeah. I mean, there’s so much to it, you know, and, and just to touch back to you on your point, like, you know, one big piece of this is that there were segregated wards and segregated buildings too, even within this complex. [00:37:45] So there was a thing where yes, many black people were institutionalized and actually stayed separately than the white people in the institution and were treated poorly. Right. Just as poorly as if not worse. And of course, like fucking asshole, like [00:38:00] Cartwright, Samuel, a Cartwright or whatever. Not even probably worth mentioning his name, but he came up with like drape it to mania. [00:38:06] And um, this other word that I can never actually say, but it’s like a dysesthesia, which is basically like, he was like, Oh, like enslaved people that are trying to run away. I’m going to diagnose them with drapetomania, which is like this desire to like, get away from like having to work or whatever, you know, and really it’s like, now these people are just trying to get away from these like horrid, horrid, horrid conditions that they’re being subjected to, like, which any probably like nor quote unquote normal person would want to do, you know? [00:38:33] But it was something that was pathologized, you know? And then of course like, um, schizophrenia. Oh, there’s also like a whole there’s um, there’s a paper called, um, I think like how schizophrenia became. A black disease. I think that’s what it’s called. I can try to get it for you. It’s either a paper or a book or a paper that turned into a book, but it’s also about like how schizophrenia has been like weaponized against like black folks and other folks with color as well. [00:38:57] Um, and that’s, you know, that’s, [00:39:00] that’s, that’s also a big part. Yeah. And the history, um, is the pathologizing of, of blackness as well as identity, certainly. Um, um, but yeah, to touch on your other point, honestly, like I think autistic people are like the smartest people on the planet. And, uh, I also think that, you know, when you sent me that text, I was like, yeah, actually, like, what I’ve heard is just that there are like that autistic people are more likely to identify as trans or non-binary. [00:39:30] And that has certainly been my experience and yeah. A couple of years ago when I started thinking about it more and learning about it more, I was like, Oh, that’s what I want my dissertation to be on. If I ever go get a PhD, like I want to do a bunch of qualitative interviews or try to figure out a way to do multiple types of interviews. [00:39:46] But I love qualitative research, um, to talk with people about how they experience gender or as, uh, um, someone on the spectrum of essentially. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those people have to [00:40:00] identify as transgender that I interview. But I’m just curious, how do other autistic people experience gender? [00:40:08] Because I have a strong feeling that my experience of my gender is very colored by my positionality on different. Aspects of the spectrum, if you will, if that’s what we’re going to keep calling it, the other piece is like common language, right? Like I just think like a lot of people, the way that I understand certain terminology is not the same way that a lot of other people in the world understand certain terminology. [00:40:31] And so I think there needs to be a way for people to get more on the same page about like what these things mean. Um, and that’s also just a theme that I see in my life all the time with many things. Right. But especially [00:40:48] no how as decarceration abolition, um, there’s a lot of language that I think is easy for people to think it means one thing, but really it means something else because of its historical [00:41:00] context. [00:41:00] Mike: Right? Yeah. Cause I mean, The evolution of little, like we said, the words, you know, trans and non-binary have changed in the last few years, the words like words, evil language evolves. [00:41:15] Um, and I’m saying this is a reformed member of the grammar police. Um, you know, like, like I read a thing about in someone, it was a, it was someone who was a dictionary editor, like, you know, their job lexicographer. I believe that’s the way you say that their job was their, their, their career and life and expertise was words and what they mean and writing dictionary in the dictionary. [00:41:44] And they were like, I like the invention of the dictionary changed the way language worked because the dictionary was supposed to be is, is, and it’s edited still as a descriptive. You know, [00:42:00] it’s, this is how the word is being used, but people have started now it’s shifted to now it’s being prescriptive. [00:42:07] Like this is how you’re supposed to say it. Um, and it’s interesting, you know, our language has changed. The words that we use today are, you know, are nothing like the words we use a hundred years ago, you know, you know, so, or nowadays five years ago. But, um, yeah, it’s, it’s really interesting the way we, I, it goes back to, we just try to keep everything in. [00:42:35] Nice, neat boxes, I guess, but yeah. No. [00:42:40] Max: Oh God. Yeah. I still struggle with the grammar policing only because, uh, an aspect of my personality is that I prefer hyper specificity when it comes to like, uh, certain things, you know? So when I’m like, and it’s not that I’m like, you’re using that word wrong. It’s that? [00:42:56] I’m like, okay. But do you understand all of the context of that word? Let me, let [00:43:00] me fill you in on the context of that word. I’m like what you’re actually saying and why it’s loaded and like why it actually means like way more than what you think it means. And then people are like, max, please, please, please stop. [00:43:09] Please stop, please. What’s true. But actually here, here’s all historical context. Let me tell you, let me tell you, [00:43:15] Mike: Oh man, I’ve had to deal with that in my own. Like in my job doing computer stuff, like the fact that this year. Is the first time I learned what the word grandfather clause meant. Oh man, I got to get rid of that out of my language. [00:43:30] And in programming we use, um, you know, in version control, you always have the, the master branch and slave branches. And we’re like, yeah. And we’re actually like, there’s a move in, in, uh, to all credit to the, the website, get hub. They have made that change and they’re actually transitioning to use Maine instead of master. [00:43:53] And it’s just one of those things that’s like, it’s so ingrained in your [00:44:00] language that until someone even pointed it out, it didn’t even Dawn on me. That that was a problematic. And obviously, you know, I’m not, I, I have an understanding of, of how problematic that term is, but it just was never connected. [00:44:15] Max: So we got to get plugged that into. Yeah. And you know, and we can plug that into BDSM too, because there is like master. And save play, you know, and I think a lot about like, where did that come from? And like, why, and like, why this, why to people like that, that, and I’m not wanting to kink shame, you know? [00:44:32] But like, let’s just think about it, you know? Like let’s just think about it a little bit. Let’s think about like, what was this handed down from, you know, and what are the historical context of this? And then, you know, certainly people can go look it up, but like, that was real, like forcing enslaved people to like reproduce, um, having people who did own enslaved people, you know, sexually assaulting them, raping them, um, to have them reproduce like, or [00:45:00] not just for pleasure, just because they liked inflicting pain. [00:45:02] Right. Like for all of these different reasons. And then it’s like, like, yeah, like, well, what does it say that now there’s like these like white people that are like, I love like master and like slave play. And it’s like, that’s disgusting, honestly. But like also, like I get it like, okay, it’s one thing to be like, I like Dom sub play. [00:45:16] Okay. But like, what’s the language that we’re using. I’m like, why do you know what I mean? Yeah. [00:45:22] Mike: For, um, power exchange now being used a lot. Right. Which I think is, is, um, it, from the people I’ve talked to in power exchange relationships, it feels very much the same dynamic without the problematic language of yeah. [00:45:40] Yeah. Because yeah, that, I mean kinks or kinks, I think there’s nothing as long as what you’re doing doesn’t cause nonconsensual harm. Um, I’m not really right, but I [00:46:00] have to say yeah, because I’ve had to [00:46:04] harm might be okay. But if, if that’s what you’re looking for, but. [00:46:10] Max: Definitely. Yeah. You know, and again, it’s, I really don’t, it’s, I’m not interested in kink shaming, but I am interested in thinking about how are we describing it. Right. And how is what’s the language we’re using and who gets to use that language and who feels comfortable with that language and why? [00:46:22] Um, I think that’s a meaningful conversation, but certainly yeah, whatever, like high closed doors, if you’re both into it, or if not just both, if all of you are into it, whoever you may be, uh, you know, go for it. But [00:46:35] Mike: yeah, it’s true. They kink itself in the things you’re doing. It’s just the descriptive, like almost like, like our language is evolving or people are complex or things that I’ve heard somewhere. [00:46:46] I don’t know. Certainly. So cool. Well, you know, it’s so funny because, um, yeah, we, we, we tried this a few years ago and my complete lack [00:47:00] of knowing how to work our recording, we didn’t actually get to do it, but it’s fun because. I remember the conversation we had and the, just the difference ways you’re describing yourself today, versus the way you’re describing yourself back then. [00:47:18] And I remember during that time, I was like, wow, this person really understands themselves and has really evolved and grown and knows a lot. And [00:47:30] like, you know, even more about yourself in your life, just the ability to, to grow and develop and learn about yourself and be able to be like, that’s okay. That’s who I was then. And this is who I am now is, is really, really pretty amazing. Like, [00:47:56] I’m sure you said something really awesome. Right? Just now. [00:48:02] [00:48:00] Max: Uh, yeah, it’s been a process and a process. It’s the process? It is, um, I feel like one of my, one of my like kinks, if you will, is like a never-ending quest for knowledge. Like, I just feel like, I don’t know if it’s like a neurodivergent thing or if it’s just like a lifelong learner thing. [00:48:21] I think it’s a little bit of both because I get on these like tears where I just like will spend hours on the computer reading articles about like a super specific thing. Um, I have to say having access to an academic, uh, like database for articles and stuff is like one of my life’s greatest pleasures. [00:48:40] Um, I really enjoy it. And that’s like, just what I like to do. Like I was telling my therapist the other day, like he was, we were trying to, I was trying to explain to him why, like, relationships can feel hard for me sometimes. And I was explaining that like, I feel more connected to knowledge and information a lot of the times than I do too [00:49:00] people. [00:49:01] And I don’t know, I don’t know where that comes from necessarily. I’m still learning about it and trying to figure it out a little bit and also just like accepting it for what it is, but I just really love to learn. And of course, like, I love to learn about the things that are impactful in my own life, but that certainly that extends to me understanding just the communities that I live in or that I’m a part of, whether it’s the queer community, the trans community, um, the autistic community. [00:49:28] Um, and then certainly by extension, like the world around me rash. Um, but I just see it from these sort of intersectional places. And I think I do attribute like that certainly to sort of the ways that I progressed throughout the world is because I’m just always like seeking information. Like I love information. [00:49:48] I really love information. Um, And I love being able to make my own decision about information. So I do oftentimes also look up articles that are maybe like against the thing that I’m interested in, or that are like, [00:50:00] here’s why diagnosing people with this thing is like the greatest thing ever. And here’s why this like, terrible evidence-based treatment is like the greatest thing ever. [00:50:06] And then I read it and I’m usually like, no, I disagree, but I can understand why they feel this way, but here. But like, you know, I don’t necessarily, but I, I do find it meaningful to get information from lots of different sources. And I, I do enjoy doing that to a certain extent. Um, so I don’t know for what it’s worth, that’s how I like to move through the world. [00:50:28] Maybe I should add something about information to my list of identities. [00:50:35] Mike: You mean just the kink is collecting information, not necessarily [00:50:40] Max: a data seeker. [00:50:42] Mike: I love it because I was wondering, cause I actually interviewed a kink collector once and. She was kind of like that, but specifically for kinks. [00:50:54] Max: What does that mean? Like they just like, try it out. [00:50:57] Mike: I mean, her identity was, uh, having her a [00:51:00] lot of hers was around. Um, if it brings you pleasure I’m I, it brings me pleasure and, but she was like, yeah, I’ve tried this, I tried this, I tried this didn’t like this didn’t like that love that, you know, and just like all the things. [00:51:15] And it was like, A seeker of information. Like, I mean, it was literally like, like you just described, but specifically about kinks, like I just want to learn what it is by trying it out and, [00:51:25] Max: and also trying versus intellectualizing because I hate trying new things. Can I, I hate, I hate change. I hate, uh, transitioning to different spaces. [00:51:36] I hate transitioning to different activities. Um, but I like learning different things all the time, but I don’t like doing different things all the time. [00:51:45] Mike: Just soaking up all the information and learning basically sense. Yeah. That makes sense. Wow. That’s the one, that’s the one. So this conversation went in no [00:52:00] way, like I thought it was going to, and it was amazing. [00:52:04] It is amazing. So thank you very much. This is really cool. Um, we’ve hit a lot. Uh, was there anything else I know, like. You’re kind of in a, in a space of working to build your own, um, career and obviously still evolving and stuff. Was there anything in there that we didn’t talk about that you want to talk about? [00:52:31] Or, [00:52:33] Max: um, I mean, I guess just for like listeners’ sake, like I didn’t, I’ve never really talked about like what I do, quote unquote, um, which is many, many things. And, um, I. You know, right now I work at a skate shop, um, which like, I love to build rollerskates and that’s, I’m like kind of the main skate tech there at five stride here in Brooklyn. [00:52:56] And that’s like been really fun and I owned a skate shop before, but I hate retail and [00:53:00] I hate capitalism. So it’s a little complicated, it’s a complicated relationship. Um, but I also do, as I do consulting work, um, and I do like workshops and educational work, and then I’m trying to build a career. I don’t even know what a career is, so I’m not going to use that word. [00:53:17] I’m trying to find some work and do some things for like some longterm type of market work, um, as a therapist. So, um, right now, like I’m in the process of a contract with like a school district here in New York, under a program at NYU called the nest program. And it’s like an inclusive education program. [00:53:36] It’s a neuro-diversity education. Program, essentially where each school has, like, um, what are they called? They’re called like a master of inclusive education or whatever. Um, I think that’s what they’re called. Um, and they consult with like the teachers at the school and they work like one-on-one with students who are on the spectrum to like help basically ensure like success with [00:54:00] our education, but also to sort of incorporate like their special interests and their strengths and their skills. [00:54:05] And what I am doing is once a month, I meet with all of those master. Um, and like educate like inclusive education specialists, um, through the nest program. And so I’m sort of consulting with all of them. Um, I’m this is the first time I’ve really done it. I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to evolve, but I imagine it’ll, it will also mean that I’m meeting one-on-one with some of them over time to support them as needed. [00:54:29] Um, and I do some like research stuff, which is on hold right now because COVID has been kind of weird, but I, I do like research around autism and right now we’re finishing up a paper on like special interests in the classroom. So like, how do teachers utilize autistic special interest in the classroom, if at all? [00:54:47] And how do they view them? Like, what are their attitudes towards them essentially? You know? And of course we’re finding that most teachers attitudes are that they’re like problematic. Like, like for instance, for me, like mental health is certainly one of my special interests. I think about it all the time. [00:55:00] [00:54:59] I talk about it all the time. I read about it all the time. Um, so I went to a program about it, but if I were in another program, I would want to work it into a lot of stuff. But a lot of teachers, especially in elementary school, find that to be very distracting, very difficult, very, um, problematic. And so we’re basically making a case that like, it’s actually not, and it could create, create career opportunities for these students further down the line. [00:55:23] Um, so some research stuff, qualitative, we have mostly, and then, um, like independent workshops and stuff. So I just get hired [00:55:36] or groups of people who want me to come speak about stuff that we spoke about today. So, um, the history of psychiatry, psychiatry, and psychology, um, the history of, of sort of disabilities. So sort of from like the rights model to the social model, to the disability justice model, breaking, talking about some of that talking about also like I just did a really cool workshop about disability and able [00:56:00] as in sports. [00:56:01] Um, so working with sports organizations to be more inclusive, especially of people with different learning styles, um, different styles of interacting with people. Um, and then, yeah, I’m looking for work right now, basically with my limited permit as like a mental health counselor, um, particularly areas of like sexuality and gender and disability. [00:56:23] Um, so it’s a lot I like to do. I’d like to do many, I like to have sort of many pots on the stove that are all related to my various sort of specific interests as much as I can. But, um, yeah. So, and I just, I don’t like to always be like doing like the same task every single day, but I like to keep it within my wheelhouse, if that makes sense. [00:56:44] So this idea that like, I don’t like to do different stuff necessarily, but I like the opportunity to like, you know, Do all of the things that I like to do over time as I can. [00:56:55] Mike: I like that. That’s amazing. [00:57:00] [00:56:59] Max: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t even really know. I don’t know what a career is because I feel like I just work jobs all the time, you know, I just like, um, yeah. [00:57:08] Market work. I don’t know. It’s weird. [00:57:11] Mike: Yeah. Yeah. You gotta right now to survive. Cause that’s the way we’re set up. But I mean, it’s cool that you’re getting to do things. You’re getting to do some things that are like, they’re interesting to you and you’re making a difference in the world with them. So whether you’re doing it, [00:57:32] Max: I mean they’re all really needed. [00:57:34] Yeah. [00:57:36] Mike: That’s cool. That is very cool. [00:57:39] Max: Yeah. I hope to eventually be able to put out some more independent research. There’s definitely a hole, but I have like a whole list of research projects I’m interested in. I just got to. The whole planning, the whole ADHD and like planning thing. Like, I’m just like, I don’t know where to start. [00:57:52] I don’t know what to do. I am not even sure I’d be able to finish it, but I have ideas I am. And I’m an idea person, you know, I have lots of [00:58:00] ideas for qualitative stuff. I’d love to do. I just got to figure out like, do I want to do it through a PhD program? Do I need to just get plugged in with someone who works somewhere and they want to have me work under them and they’ll bring me on as like an assistant, you know, Sure pie or something like that. [00:58:16] I don’t know. We’ll see. Yeah. We’ll see where life takes me, I guess. [00:58:20] Mike: Well, if someone wants to do that, it’s just going to get ahold of you or how can I [00:58:25] Max: get up? Yeah. Ah, yeah. I mean, sure. Yeah. Bring me on, I’ll do research for you. I don’t care. I just, I just want a place to do it. I don’t even care how much you pay me really. [00:58:32] I mean, money does that needs the other big thing. I’m like time and money don’t make sense to me, but fine. Um, also I am bad at retail and owning a business, which is why I don’t know the skate shop anymore because I just was getting literally everyone discounts all the time. It didn’t work out, but, um, but y
92 minutes | a month ago
Clive and Julianna
It’s been a while! Running a podcast in your spare time can be a challenge sometimes, and work and life commitments got in the way for a bit, but the guests I interviewed still deserve to be heard! A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Clive and Julianna, who wanted to have me as a guest on their podcast: Re-sex, where they discuss sexual experiences and kinks that they have changed their approach to. Of course, I said yes, and we had a great conversation. This is the discussion we had, which you can also hear on their podcast, along with other great interviews they’ve had. We talk about podcasting, life in and after the pandemic, and how we all have learned and evolved into the people we are today. That conversation with Clive and Julianna inspired me to get back on track, and over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting catching up and posting interviews of the great people I talked to. I sincerely apologize to my guests who I interviewed last year. The lateness of these posts is a reflection on my own time management and definitely not an indication of the value of your amazing conversations! I hope everyone gets as much as I have out of these illuminating discussions. Show Notes Check out Clive and Julianna and all the things they’re doing on Instagram, their Portfolio site, or — if you’re into it — their FetLife and OnlyFans pages. Listen to Re-sex: re-thinking our sexuality in modern times on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
67 minutes | 7 months ago
In this episode, I’m catching up with Michael, who I talked to during my Intersections project. If you haven’t heard it yet, you can listen to that conversation in the From the Vault episode that was posted a couple weeks ago. Michael is a gay man who was married to a straight woman. They’re no longer married but still have a great family relationship. We had a great conversation about his journey of discovery as a gay man, gay culture versus being gay, the fascinating LGBTQ cultural history of Oklahoma City, and more. This is the dissertation on Oklahoma City we talked about: Emergence and Evolution of the Gay and Bisexual Male Subculture in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1889–2005 I also wanted to share what Michael shared with me in a follow-up email: I attached the dissertation that started my interest in local gay history. I suspect that young historians in other small cities have dome similar but it is not like there is a good resource collecting all of them. And if there isn’t maybe it is a jumping-off point for one of your listeners to dig for histories in their own city. One thing I didn’t mention was that with this dissertation i worked up a tour of OKC and have taken a few friends on a good two-mile walk around downtown looking at where places used to be, and telling stories, some of which I admit to embellishing. I think we all spend our lives thinking we are so unique, then we get older and realize that over the last ten or so thousand years that there have been others just like us but with vastly different societal pressures. When I read the stories in that paper, or in some of the other resources I have collected, I can picture some dude trying to navigate his feelings, his wants, his desires, and thinking he was some kind of weirdo. For me it is a great feeling to know that there are other weirdos out there, during all times, just stumbling around and doing their best. In the end, we are crazy naked monkeys who have the fortune (or misfortune) to be self-aware. Just crazy naked self-aware monkeys on a chaotic rock hurtling through space trying to make sense of the nonsensical.
48 minutes | 7 months ago
From the Vault: Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espizona
Last week, you heard my conversation with Doctor Robyn. Today, we’re going back in the vault to hear the Intersections interview with them four years ago. It was the second interview I’d ever done, so it was a little rough, but it was a thrill to talk with them and learn so much about gender and sexuality from someone with real professional and personal expertise. Back then, Dr. Robyn was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Ethics at Pacific School of Religion and a published author in the fields of queer studies in religion, ethics, and Latin@ studies. They shared their life and views on gender, sexuality, marriage, and how race can inform sexuality. I was fascinated back then and I hope you will be just as fascinated today.
58 minutes | 7 months ago
I’m still working out some of the hiccups with the podcast posting to the cloud, but I had to make sure to get this episode out today: the day after National Coming Out Day. That’s because I had a chance to catch up again with Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza. We talked four years ago during my Intersections project, which you can catch on the Intersections YouTube channel, or listen to it on this podcast later this week. Doctor Robyn is a nonbinary, Latinx, deep switch, theological activist, and once again we had an amazing conversation. Yesterday, they came out in a new way on their own podcast with Rev Anna Gollady (Gall-a-DAY): the Activist Theology Podcast. If you listen to their podcast, you know about it, but if not, well — it’s pretty exciting. Before that, though, we also talked about getting into their body, radical consent, prescriptive vs descriptive sexuality, the BDSM community, how they have learned more about their own kink identity, the importance of having a relationship with pleasure — whether eating, having sex, or living life, and so much more! I think I’ve got the “kinks” worked out of the podcast, too, so you should see the rest of the season coming to your favorite podcast feed now. If not, please let me know!
49 minutes | 7 months ago
In this episode, I talked with Moniqa, who you heard in the first half of the last From the Vault episode. We had a great conversation this time catching up and talking about her bisexual, demisexual, and poly identity, how poly is a choice for her, her chosen family, how she discovered polyamory through a circus community, and a whole lot of other stuff!
2 minutes | 8 months ago
We’re Back! What’s Next?
You may have noticed that the podcast hasn’t had a new episode in a couple weeks, because I was running into some technical issues with my feeds. Everything should be back up and running now, and hopefully you’ll start seeing new episodes start coming to your favorite podcast place real soon now! I haven’t been idle, though! I’ve got a few new interviews ready to go, starting with Moniqa and Michael, who you heard in the September 11th From the Vault Episode. Eight more episodes in total, with awesome conversation with amazing humans, who you really need to hear from! Since we’ve queued up a little more than I planned, new episodes will be dropping twice a week until we’re caught up. After that, who knows? I really want to hear from you and find out how this podcast is impacting you. I’d love to hear from you! Whether we chat over DM or on the podcast, this thing is all about starting conversations, so please join in! You can reach me here on the website, or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr. I’ve also been learning about a concept called “Learning in Public”. It comes from the programming world, but I think it’s a valuable concept for life in general, and I intend to do more of it in my life. So, you’ll see more posts about what I’m learning through this podcast and from living life in general. They’ll show up here and on my personal blog. A very wise person once told me that writers write, and I learn by writing, so hopefully over the next little while I release my inner writer again! And of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you’re learning, too. Stay tuned tomorrow when I catch up with Moniqa and find out the amazing things she’s been up to! Let’s keep the conversation going!
61 minutes | 8 months ago
From the Vault: Moniqa and Michael
This week we’re going back in time again with two interviews I recorded for the Intersections Project — the predecessor to The Human Tapestry Podcast. Our first from-the-vault Intersections interview was with Moniqa: a bisexual, demisexual and questioning demi/gray-romantic woman. Through our conversation, I learned how important the word “woman” is to her, and what it means to be demisexual. Next is Michael: a gay married man who has remained married but separated. We discussed the effect of his identities on his family and life and some resources that have helped him through.
82 minutes | 8 months ago
Episode 9: Peter
You may have noticed there wasn’t an episode last week. Unfortunately, since this is a labor of love and not income, my day job took precedence and I wasn’t able to get this out until now. The good news, though, is that we have several episodes coming up, with conversations with old friends and new! This week, I’m talking with Peter, who you heard in Episode 7 about 3 weeks ago. We caught up on the last four years and talked more about his journey, as well as balancing relationships in this time of quarantine, different forms of intimacy, his work teaching students how to teach sexuality, intimacy, and relationships, and several other topics. After the recorded interview, Peter and I had a deeper conversation about this podcast, and I realized just how much I’ve learned during the process of putting it together. He challenged me to start writing my thoughts and what I’ve learned from each episode, and I plan to start with this one. So, watch the Human Tapestry feeds for some deep thoughts. Show Notes Husbands Out to Wives GAMMA Alex Iantaffi’s Intimacy Assessment Tool (More about Alex Iantaffi) What is Sex? Podcast Queer Kids Stuff YouTube channel Dan Savage’s Podcast: The Savage Podcast Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Sex Education The Up Series
60 minutes | 9 months ago
Seth: “Put me in a box, but I won’t fit”
This week, I’m talking with Seth, a queer man whose identity is best defined as, “Put me in a box, but I won’t fit.” He also has a graduate-level education in theology and had some great thoughts about spirituality and identity. We had a great conversation talking about spirituality, gods, labels, drag, moving from tolerance to acceptance to celebration, and much more. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
64 minutes | 9 months ago
From the Vault: Intersections interview with Peter
This week we’re going back in time to 2016 and the first interview I recorded for the Intersections Project — the predecessor to The Human Tapestry Podcast. Peter is a gay, demisexual, man in a closed-loop relation with his wife and boyfriend. This being the first time I ever did something like this, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it ended up being a great conversation! We covered things like discovering your own sexuality, how living your true identity can literally save your life, finding support, and a host of other topics. Peter and I met through the group HOW – which stands for Husbands Out to Wives. HOW is an international on-line support group for gay and bisexual men who are married to women and are out to (or working toward coming out to) our wives. Peter and I, along with hundreds of other men, found help and support as we redefined our relationships with our spouses, family members, friends, colleagues, while we learned to understand our own true selves. If you are or know a person who needs this kind of support, you can find out more and join at https://how-support.org. Watch the original interview video: https://youtu.be/_m6diu0KmEQ HOW (Husbands Out to their Wives): https://how-support.org GAMMA: https://www.gammasupport.org// M5: https://www.meetup.com/M5group/ Shy Bi Guys: Link no longer active
69 minutes | 9 months ago
Amy Gahran and the Relationship Escalator
This week, I’m talking with Amy Gahran, a Solo (not single), egalitarian, polyamorous straight woman and author of “Stepping off the Relationship Escalator: Uncommon Love and Life” — a research-based guidebook to intimate relationship diversity. Some of you may know Amy by her pen name that she used to blog under: Aggie Sez. We had a great conversation talking about solo polyamory, the relationship escalator, different kinds of monogamy, egalitarian relationships, and a bunch of other topics. Amy’s website: https://offescalator.com Amy’s book: “Stepping off the Relationship Escalator: Uncommon Love and Life” — a research-based guidebook to intimate relationship diversity. It explores the set of strong social norms that traditionally have defined how intimate relationships “should” work, and shows how people are diverging from each of these norms. Buy a signed copy: https://offescalator.com/books/how-to-buy/ Purchase on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Stepping-Off-Relationship-Escalator-Uncommon/dp/0998647012/ Kindle Edition: https://www.amazon.com/Stepping-Off-Relationship-Escalator-Uncommon-ebook/dp/B01MRDI7JC/ The blog post that started it all: https://solopoly.net/2012/11/29/riding-the-relationship-escalator-or-not/
45 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 5 – Niesha
This week, I’m talking with Niesha, a wonderful cis, bisexual, black woman, who I also happen to work with. We had a great conversation talking about discovering her sexuality, how marrying a woman doesn’t make you a lesbian, having a minority identity at work, changing conversations in the black community, and raising a black girl with two moms. Links: At one point, Niesha mentioned code switching: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code-switchingWorking at Automattic: https://automattic.com/work-with-us/
59 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 4 – Victoria
This week I’m talking with Victoria, a cisgender, pansexual, fetishist kink collector and host of the up and coming Crafting with Strangers podcast. We actually continued our conversation on her podcast, so once it’s released be sure to give a listen there as we get crafty! We talked about labels, collecting kinks, the kink community, Minecraft, and her journey exploring it all! If you’re not used hearing about specific kinky things, this might make you a little uncomfortable, but understanding can reduce discomfort, so get ready to learn new things!
74 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 3 – Katie
This week, I’m talking with Katie, a nonbinary, bisexual, demisexual, poly, kinky human, and a partner of Dan Q who you heard in our first episode. We talked about Katy’s gender and relationships, genderbread persons, growing attractions, labels, roller derby, and autistic humans and cats. More about genderbread persons: https://www.genderbread.org/ We briefly dropped into “roller derby speak”, so a brief translation: WFTDA stands for the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the international governing body for the sport of women’s flat track roller derby: https://wftda.com/NSO stands for non-skating official. There are two sets of officials at roller derby games, skating (referees) and non-skating (NSOs).
80 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 2 – Jim and Donna
This week, I’m talking with Jim and Donna. Jim describes himself as straight, fairly kinky but rusty, and Donna is straight with bi leanings. This was actually the first interview I recorded but it’s in our second episode due to some errors on my side as I get to know how to make this podcast work. You’ll hear some glitches still, but it’s a great, real, honest conversation with a couple wonderful humans. You’ll also hear them call me “Taco”, because we have a connection through the world of roller derby where I’m known as Stray Taco. Join us as we discuss family, growing beyond stereotypes we believed, polyamory lessons learned, roller derby, love, learning, growing, and a whole lot of life.
60 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 1 – Dan Q
For the first episode of the Human Tapestry, I talked to Dan, a bisexual man who lives in Oxford, England, with his partner and her husband in what he describes as a “polyamorous V-shaped thingy”. Listen as we talk about relationships, identities, the “bi-cycle”, and various forms of vegetarianism. You can also learn more about Dan on his blog, Dan Q. I’m thrilled to be able to release this first episode on June 28th. The anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and the 50th anniversary of the first Pride parade is the perfect chance to bring it to life! It’s also coming out in a time of another uprising as the United States is being forced to take an honest look at our dark history of racism and intolerance. I want to continue these conversations around sexual and gender identity, and around racial identity, especially now when the intersections of race and life are being magnified in the streets by so many brave humans.So, I’m looking for humans to be a part of the conversation! While I’m very happy to interview anyone of any sexuality, gender, or lifestyle, if you identify as Black, Indigenous or a person of color, and would be willing to have a conversation around the intersections of your race, identity, and life, please hit me up!
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