There is much about femininity that is in the experience of sensuality.
Men have skin, but women have flesh–
flesh that takes and gives light.
— Natalie Barney
Heck, there is much about humanity that is in the experience of sensuality.
I can’t remember the last time someone touched me with any form of sensuality. I haven’t been naked with someone, for example, in well over a decade.
I used to touch the skin of my parents all the time before they died two and a half years ago. I gave my mother her last shower three days before she died. I had to learn to disempact my father’s bowels after he became paraplegic because the hospital missed diagnosing his broken back. His disconnection from his own physical pain was a big part of the problem.
They didn’t touch me, though. Aspergers people aren’t known for being physically engaged with others. My physical experience as a baby, for example, was not warm, sensuous and engaged.
And I haven’t had any lovers for a very, very long time. I know that I my heart won’t be happy with the way potential lovers see me, that anyone who wants my body will not be present for my heart.
Live in this state for long enough and you start living within your skin rather than in it. I am comfortable in my head and heart, but not in comfortable my skin, not connected to that organ which connects so many people to those around them.
Many women delight in cosmetics, creams and lotions designed to keep their skin fresh and vital. I shower about once a week. Many women delight in the texture, the hand and drape of their clothing. I pull on another polo shirt and pants and just leave them on.
My feet are swollen and rigid all the time, and going my doctor — also on the spectrum — is an experience of mental exercise, not of physical engagement. I don’t do bodywork or treatments, don’t know how to inhabit my own skin.
My skin is not an invitation but rather is a barrier between myself and the world.
This vinyl skin of mine keeps me sealed up inside myself, isolated and very alone.
It is very hard to delight in caring for your skin when you understand that no matter what you do the skin that you are in will never, ever, ever represent and reveal who you are inside, never, ever, ever be able to break the lock in you have had since you were a baby.
I once went through a guided meditation where the big surprise finale was opening your eyes to a mirror they held up. When I figured out the gimmick, I refused to open my eyes, explaining that if they were going to tell me what I saw in the mirror was “really me,” I would have to smash the mirror, and that they didn’t want that.
They had already been surprised by the intensity of my emotions during the meditation, but they were even more surprised by how quickly I could snap back to control, how fast I could withdraw from the emotions that passed over my skin and come to mental discipline. My training and experience was beyond their comprehension.
That lack of understanding comes from not comprehending the experience of a big, very smart trans kid with shaman powers who has been raised by two disconnected Aspies. I could never, ever, ever, ever surrender to my own skin. I knew it wasn’t at all safe.
Priestesses of the skin assume that touch overpowers our thought and emotion, pulling us back into a time when we were babies and our skin was the way that we experienced the world. They ask us to become primal, to release and to “just be ourselves.”
My self is not just in my skin. As a transperson, I experienced a disconnection from my own skin, a separation from my own body. I never melted into an elemental melding of mind and body, instead always feeling the sharp blade that separated observer and participant.
The psychic outline of who I am is not contained by my skin. My elemental forces pass inside and outside my body, making curves that exist not in flesh but in energy. For a body centric world, this is impossible to imagine.
Many transpeople do whatever they can to reshape their skin to match the contours of their psychic body, for example, pumping with silicone like Amanda LePore or Nina Arsenault. This was not my path; on my transnatural journey, I did the work inside, avoiding any substances, not working to reconstruct my body.
I learned a lot from my transnatural experience, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else (2007).
From the moment we are born
we are in the process of giving birth
to the stories we will leave behind.
Everyday our flesh dies and our stories grow.
It is the stories we leave with our children that endure.
We become flesh to become memory.
— Callan Williams
I have good reasons for not being embodied, from lack of resources to spiritual discipline. After a lifetime of being disconnected from your skin, there is no easy way to learn to delight in an aging, worn and battered bag of flesh. If you don’t take care of your body, it won’t take care of you.
People most fully inhabit their body as children and as we age, we learn to identify more with an inner knowledge of who they are. There is no easy method to go back and reclaim that vitality, especially when bodyworkers believe that you have to turn off your hard won truth, believing that “you are your body.” I assure you, though, I am not.
Until my dying day, though, I will live inside of my skin. My skin will be between my heart and my experience of the world, for good and for bad.
As long as my skin is vinyl, though, it will be very hard for warmth, nutrients and love to ever pass through it.