I've been back in NYC for a week. Yesterday I sat behind my desk at Musical Theatre Factory for the first time since September 4th. Walking down 40th st I just kept repeating in my mind "I'm not ready for this, I'm not ready for this, I'm not ready for this." But honesty, it wasn't so bad. I only stayed for a couple hours, and after cleaning up my workspace and getting settled on my designer Thai butt pillow, I fell back into the flow of writing Artistic Director emails rather quickly.
One thing I'm definitely not ready for though is standing on the subway. The few times I've taken the train since being home I was fortunate enough to get a seat, whip out that designer Thai donut, and ride in moderate dis/comfort. Yesterday however, I found myself standing in a crowded, delayed, slow moving subway car, only from 96th to 145th street, and I felt like I was going to pass out. The pain was indescribable. I know, because I spent the whole time trying to describe it.
In Buddhist meditation, it's often taught that you can remove your identification with physical discomfort by asking yourself, "What is the shape of the pain? What are its borders? What it its Color, Temperature, and Texture?"
This what I got: It was hot, definitely hot. The far borders were down between my front hip creases and my sits bones, basically my front pelvic girdle (obviously). It was more clearly located in what I know to be my vulva, but beyond that I wasn't really able to pinpoint a specific location because it seemed to be in motion. The shape itself was constantly changing, like a multi sided three dimensional figure, a 5-12-16-32-96 pointed star exploding and collapsing in upon itself repeatedly, like that old-school screen saver that was nothing more than trippy line designs. And the colors were the same. It was this red-green-orange-purple-yellow-blue laser beam trying to find its way out from within my labia, but constantly bouncing back and forth between points of reflection, as if I were wearing a thong made of shattered mirror ball.
I spent the longest 7 subway stops of my life trying not to collapse on this somewhat attractive Dominican guy sleeping with his mouth open. And every time people shoved past me to get on or off the train I would roll my eyes back in my head and take the deepest breath I could muster, through pursed lips, like blowing out a candle in reverse, taking this long sip of subway air while shapes and colors changed between my thighs incessantly. All in all it was maybe 15 minutes, but by the time I got off the train I was sweating and shaking and gripping my butt-pillow bag so tightly that shreds of burlap were splintering off the handle. So yeah, looks like I'll be droppin the big bucks on borough cabs for a while.
Ok. So let's talk about this wig for a second. You all know I've been proudly bald for nearly half my life. Not only is it a slick punk rock look, but it represents a connection to my Butoh training and the lineage and philosophy that comes with it. In Butoh we learn to embrace the ephemeral nature of physical form, which is in itself fleeting and illusory. However, my gender transition has been a giant investment in physical form and has given the material world a kind of primacy in my day to day life. Basically, I've depended on my body and its fashion to articulate the reality of my soul and spirit, which are in fact far greater and farther enduring.
So going through this whole transition (so far) with a shaved head has kind of kept me grounded in the greater truths, that spirit is more expansive than body, that external transformation is only as meaningful as the internal evolution that comes with it. But coming home from Thailand, I sort of wanted proof to demonstrate that something happened, evidence that I got to the next level of the video game or whatever. I can't go around showing everyone my yoni (though I've kinda been doing that anyway), so wigging out seemed to be a way to communicate that indeed things have changed. Are changing.
The truth is that I'm still waiting to see how all of this integrates with the rest of my body, and outward from there, how it transforms my being in the world. This flower blossoming between my legs needs time to unfurl throughout my whole sense of self, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
When you give yourself up to be transformed it's a compete surrender, a total offering, you don't get to choose what changes and what stays the same. Maybe the surgery focused on one physical area, but the metamorphosis continues on from there, and it's both internal and outward. I've given myself permission to be completely revised by this, knowing full well that it will take time to discover the furthest reaches of my transformation.
For the time being, it's a cheap $20 wig I found in a beauty supply shop two blocks away from the Suporn Clinic in Chonburi, Thailand, but things I'm also evaluating are the pitch of my speaking voice, my posture, the way I treat other people and allow them to treat me, my concept of giving and receiving, and what it means to go from having penetrative equipment in my pleasure zone to opening a receptive vessel and praying that it brings me (and others) as much joy as possible.
There is an interesting new frame to add to the whole experience. The same week I launched KickStartHer last November I happened to be out in the California desert filming an avant garde Butoh infused gay porn called DEATH DRIVE, basically a sex, drug, and dance filled meditation on the gay male impulse to self-destruct.
I danced naked in rope bondage, choreographed a Butoh gang bang, went skinny dipping with porn stars (which is a tricky thing, to hang out naked with a bunch of gorgeous men and ask to be seen as a woman while your dick is just sort of there in plain sight). In the desert I danced, as I always do, in all my rage and pain and love and longing. I gave it up to the sky and the sand, and to these men for whom violent sexuality is a pastime and profession. It was wonderful, and full of meaning and resolution for me.
Then, coming home this week after the most brutal, mysterious, terrifying, lonely, transformative, and miraculous experience of self reinvention, hardly able to use my body at all, we learned that DEATH DRIVE won Best Feature Film at its world premiere in PornFilmFestival Berlin! It was a kind of confirmation, that whatever it is I'm trying to say with everything I'm doing through my body is somehow being understood, acknowledged, and appreciated.
Coming back to New York has been confusing. I wasn't gone for a long time, but I was gone for a deep time, and re-entry from any sort of pilgrimage always necessitates a reevaluation of the way you were living your life prior to the departure. And I found myself asking all these typical artist questions: Why does any of this matter? Why should I care about theatre? What good are musicals bringing to the world amidst all this pain and violence and exploitation of people and the planet? Maybe I should just go back to the elephants and live an anonymous life of servitude to less fortunate beings, all Franciscano and what not...
But thankfully, in my first week back, well before I was ready, I forced myself to go out and see some things. Joe Iconis' BLOODSONG OF LOVE in concert at 54 Below, Anna Jacobs' and Michael Living Jackson's TEETH in a first-draft reading at Ars Nova, the Queens of Ru Paul's Drag Race in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DRAG at the Liberty Theater, and my bestie Rebecca Naomi Jones in FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE down at the Public. I also spent the whole week of dynamic dilation sessions watching the full season of MY SO CALLED LIFE, a now 20-year-old TV classic that changed/saved/defined my teenage life. Taken together, these shows affirmed a few basic things for me:
ONE: Sex and Love can be scary and painful, but when they work, they're worth it
TWO: People have a need to come together, often in the dark, to laugh, cry, and heal.
THREE: Good music makes both of these things easier to deal with
FOUR: Any story in which these things are accomplished is a story worth telling, because in the telling of that story, it's entirely possible--in fact likely--that those things (good love, good sex, good laughter, good cries, good healing, good music) will be brought to life in the lives of those receiving it.
I guess that's just what I believe. I guess that's why I insist on telling mine.