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#michaelswalk week six: you know you know when you’re wrong, right?

The only way is up, baby! Just don’t underestimate what it requires to rise from the ashes, claw your way out of grave, haul yourself back up the well.

In St Louis there’s a place called City Museum, which is an interactive art gallery constructed like an adult-sized playground. It was seriously some Willy Wonka kinda shit, with makeshift 10-story slides, crawl-crystal-caves, pinball machines and indoor skate ramps. While Michael and I explored, we came across a maze that you went through in total darkness – as you progressed, the paths became smaller and smaller to get through, but I was determined to make it through to the point where I was humbled to dragging myself flat on my stomach through these black tunnels. It was so ridiculous, that at one point we just broke into hysterical laughter. Children are rocketing around me, a six-foot-three trans woman in her thirties with no upper body strength trying to maneuver herself. I laughed so hard I thought I might descend into desperate sobs.

Humility has been this week’s message, along with the reminder that the only way to move forward through shame is to have as much fun as you can, don’t take yourself so seriously and atone with your actions going forward.

After the healing of Woodstock NY, our journey has been action-packed. Here’s a few highlights:

  • Visited one of my favourite ears with feet Ryan in Columbus who showed us a labyrinth bookstore and incredible generosity of gifting
  • Was awed by the Garfield Conservatory, the Cloud Gate sculpture, and the Women’s & Children’s Bookstore in Chicago
  • Rode to the top of the Arch in St Louis
  • Befriended two awesome queer femmes who showed us around The Grove Gaybourhood
  • Watched a cattle drive in Forth Worth Texas
  • Explored glorious and powerful Choctaw, Muskogee and Cherokee reservation territories
  • Went to my first Hamburger Mary’s for Drag Brunch in Denver
  • Soaked our feet in freezing Twin Lakes creek, swam in Harvey Gap and spotted wild horses in Colorado

Safe to say it has been magic, and given time and joy and memories, I found the space and patience to face the bad choices I had made, the wilful blindness I’d exhibited, and the changes to my behaviour I needed to make going forward.

Your “gut” is an incredible thing, that we all too often ignore for the sake of comfort, pride, habit or self-deprecation. This past week I’m still coming to terms with knowing how often I have acted in direct opposition to my usual critical thinking and yearning to be present. This week Michael and I had to face the harm we’d caused by being glued to our phones messaging home, checking socials, updating friends on movement, and yes attempting to coordinate hookups. What was strangest was that we both knew we were bring rude, we both knew we were missing out on an incredible experience literally served on a platter in front of us. And yet…

If you’ve known me a while you’ll know I identify as a survivor of sexual violence. The circumstance that first violated my boundaries involved me knowing what fate I was tempting, having a clear voice in my head telling me I was going too far and that I needed to remove myself from the scenario. In the years that followed, the hardest journey wasn’t dealing with my abuser’s actions, it was forgiving myself for betraying that inner voice.

Love really can be a scam. All it takes is one measure of conviction that you’ve made the right choice, picked the right person. That belief in yourself bypasses the first red flags, easy. You don’t question things you ordinarily would, because you have pride and faith in your selection. As you continue to pour money and energy into the relationship, you find yourself needing to keep committing, even though you know something is wrong, because by then, any other action forces you to concede that you were wrong from the beginning, and how then can you trust your most basic judgements? Of character? Of boundaries? And then suddenly, that person disappears, taking everything you put on the table, and delivering on not a single promise you paid through the spirit for, and you forfeit every bet you made, the shirt off your back and the heart on your sleeve.

Jewel sang “we claim innocence and not to understand, but do we?” and this message extends out from matters of the heart. This is the world we live in, where we see what is going wrong and we see what we’re doing wrong but we are unwilling to acknowledge it because it would cut to the core of our self esteem and our trust in our leaders, or communities, our families.

I’ve also been thinking a lot this week, on top of my slacktivism and my virtue signaling, about my martyrdoms as I manage the change from being a queer man to a queer woman. It’s harder than you might think, and this week I’ve become aware of how I walk the line in a way that ultimately hurts me, where I manipulate flirtations and fabricate needs that people may have of me, even if I don’t have any indication of desire. It’s a complex and difficult thing for a consent educator to admit to – but I don’t educate because I’m perfect, I educate because I’m able to demonstrate that learning journey for those I teach.

My nomadic lifestyle, and the tendency for life to develop to take me to new places, people, occupations, opportunities has several times seen me reputed as a Mary Poppins type figure, which I’ve taken pride in identifying with. But the price of loneliness, instability, and always sacrificing the connections and journeys you helped to build, really fucking hurts. It’s become a core part of my interactions with my crushes where I sort of humiliate myself, prostrate myself for their pleasure, knowing they won’t return any affection, so I create more usefulness, more value for them, investing with my compliments, my energy, even my money, in order to fabricate a flirtatious friendship that ultimately remains surface-level. Safer that way. Easier to open my umbrella and fly away from when life calls me elsewhere.

Safe to say as commence the home stretch of Michael’s Walk, the real shit is starting to be unearthed.

Kansas City presented an opportunity to see a friend I first worked with a decade ago. In retrospect, I have always felt very seen by him, though our connection has been complicated by some of the above factors. His generosity, to help us with accommodation, a fantastic deep chat about life in KC and the arts scene, as well as a delicious barbecue dinner was only topped by the mega surprise of another friend from the UK being in town. I have so many reminders available to me that my life has been a marvellous adventure, that people think of me fondly, and that there is still magic to come.

We are on the segment of Michael’s Walk that we dreamed of, beautiful journeys through nature. This week will be far quieter, more intimate and awe-inspiring, connecting as deep as we can to American country before we reach Seattle and live out our last week in the loving arms of friends. Can’t wait to tell you all about it.

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