exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Shore Grae


Name: Shore Grae

Age: 25

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

How often do you bathe or shower?

Probably too much [laughter]. Like, I really like to shower and that whole process of getting clean. I know realistically you only have to do it a few times a week or so, but if I could do it every day I would. Not wash my hair, but wash my body. Get wet. Yeah.

If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?

Mmmmm. I used to think I was a seahorse. I used to be really mellow, chill and just go with the flow. But, now I feel like I would be something bigger and bolder. A narwhal or a whale. Still majestically floating around but with presence. Like, “I’m here. Look at me”.

What are you passionate about?

At this point in time, I’m really passionate about trying to live my life positively and authentically. I want to get to a place where I can be who I want and do what I want. Right now, I’m doing that through writing poetry. I love doing it and I don’t get enough time for it but writing is one of my biggest passions. I really enjoy displaying my views as the queer trans person I am through poetry.  I really enjoyed writing in middle school and high school but I don’t think I had the proper ways to express myself because at that time there was a part of me that I wasn’t letting out completely. I’m realizing more and more, that I wasn’t really myself during that time. It’s been an ongoing process of learning who I am as I grow and change more and more each day. That’s what makes me passionate about creating. I want to use writing to share my journey with the world. So, through the help of some English teachers and a college professor in poetry, they were really supportive and helped me realize that I had a voice. Like, everyone has their own voice, but that professor noticed I was figuring out my voice and he was really supportive and pushing me towards using it. It helped me find my passion and… through finding my voice in poetry, I was able to figure out that I had a whole other person inside me. So, as I’m learning about myself as a person, I’ve been able to grow that passion. It’s still growing. [Laughter].

What is something that you struggle with?

It’s been a struggle to allow myself to be who I am. I’ve struggled a lot with my gender identity in the past couple of years. Finding out who I really am and allowing myself the chance to play with it. I’ve grown and changed so much in the past couple of years. It was a struggle to realize that I wasn’t happy with my identity, and me not being happy in who I was, was affecting everything in my life. I was making bad life decisions because I wasn’t allowing myself to live freely. I was very unhappy. But I’ve been trying to flip that into a positive feeling. Today I… my relationship with gender is good. It’s generally very positive. I’ve realized that I am slowly transitioning into a female, a trans-woman. My transition has gone really well so far. I’m learning to be more open about it. As a person, I’ve been closed off from everything. Like, with my sexuality and gender. In general, I don’t share a lot with people on a day to day basis. I’m very open and I love talking to people, but I don’t share a lot of what’s happening inside. With my gender identity, I’m learning to be more open. I’m learning how to tell people my pronouns instead of letting them guess based on how I’m dressed. It’s a good relationship and will continue to grow. I still stumble with it, but it’s on the right track.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, familial and otherwise.

My relationships are very important to me, which I feel is a very normal thing. My platonic relationships have gone through a complete flip. The people I hang around have completely changed in the past couple of years. The people I am surrounding myself platonically with now have been very supportive of me. They’ve never questioned my changes or been negative. Even the first day I showed up randomly at my local bar in a dress, no makeup, awkward hair, they were totally for it. Wanting me to just, be me. It’s been really nice from a friendship side, to have complete 100% support.  When they give me feedback it’s supportive. Like, say a dress doesn’t look right or giving me makeup tips. It’s coming from a place of love and acceptance and wanting to be there with me on this journey. My sexual relationships have been weird. Figuring out how to present myself has made dating pretty awkward, and there was a long time where I wasn’t experiencing anything positive in my love life. But now as a fully-fledged trans-femme person, more people are interested in me and it’s been fun. More people want to take me on dates! Treat me like a real woman [laughter]. Umm, yeah it’s been good. I’m devoting my romantic energy right now towards more positive relationships. For my family, they have been pretty supportive as well. My siblings and parents have just gone with it, they know I’m being me. There has been some concern with my gender and safety due to being targeted while living my life as an out trans person. So there’s been a bit of hardship dealing with that, but I know it’s coming from a place of love and concern. I’ve gotten a lot closer with my family in the last year since I started transitioning. I hope once I fully come out to them as a transwoman, it will still be positive. Yeah.


Nancy Paraskevopoulos


Name: Nancy Paraskevopoulos

Age: 32

Pronouns: She/Her

How often do you bathe or shower?

Ummm, I shower when needed or beyond that, once a week if I haven’t worked out super hard.

If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?

Oh my God, probably a narwhal. I actually have a narwhal tattoo on my finger. I worked with Green Peace for a year, raising money and read a lot about whales in my free time. There’s a great book called “The Whale” by Phillip Hoare, H-O-A-R-E. In it he talks about narwhals: their horns are actually teeth! It’s a tooth that pierces through its upper lip and when one narwhal has it’s tooth-horn get cut off by poachers, other narwhals will swim up and stick their tooth-horn in the gaping wound. So, I always think of them as highly empathetic, misunderstood creatures.

What are you passionate about?

I’m very passionate about climate change. I’m also passionate about playing music and safety in intimate partner relationships. My passion for climate change predominately manifests in anxiety these days, but also [laughter], I donate to Environment Ohio. Because they know what they’re doing… And, I try to be aware about my single use items and where my food comes from, things like that. Because, actually, the number one contributor to carbon emissions comes from the agricultural industry.

I play music every day. I’m in three bands, one is called Blossom Hall, that’s my passion project with my friend Phil Cotter. He and I have been working on different projects for about five years now. Our debut album Pyre, is almost out! I also sing in a classic jazz trio, we’re called the Nancy P Trio [laughter]. Lastly, I sing in a funk band called Fresh Funk.

Then, intimate partner violence: I work for a couple of different organizations that specialize in working with people who have gone through intimate partner violence. I work as a crisis intervention person and I am also an advocate at a domestic violence shelter.

How does balance play a part within these different roles?

Well, music is something that I’ve done forever and also, being of service is something I’ve always done. When I was younger, I really thought I had to choose between the two. I think that kept me stifled from doing either. Now, as an adult I feel like I can’t do one without the other. If I’m just playing music, then I feel like I’m wasting my life. But if I’m doing only crisis work, then I get overwhelmed and feel terrible. You experience a lot of vicarious trauma doing it. So, both are necessary.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

The only way I’m able to do either of those things is by being a very careful listener. I have to listen carefully to my clients in order to make sure that I’m serving them, rather than doing what I think is best for them. People are experts in their own lives. And, if I have a client who feels like they need to be in contact with their abuser, then they should be allowed to do that. Even if I think it’s not a good idea. Sometimes I have clients who do that, to negotiate child care or property, or things like that. Or even keep themselves safe.

Then, with music, you can’t play with someone if you’re playing or singing over them. So listening is a skill that I’ve developed. But, you know, it could always be better.

What is something you still struggle with?

I struggle with anxiety, and being in the present moment. Just because, I do have so much going on and I am experiencing so much vicarious trauma and I know so much about climate change… It’s a struggle to do what I recommend all my clients to do. Which is to be present in the moment with where they are.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, familial and otherwise.

I think that all relationships require good boundaries and enthusiastic consent. I think that it’s impossible to change other people. I think that love is an action word and not just a feeling. And that’s all that I have.

What is your love language?

My biggest love language is probably words of affirmation. But also, quality time. I love receiving acts of service. I probably love giving acts of service to, I probably love all of them. I don’t mind getting gifts [laughter]. Physical touch is great. Yeah, I’m a lover [laughter].


Marjorie Lee


Name: Marjorie Lee

Age: 37

Pronouns: They/Them

If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?

Ooooo! Okay, so I either be a reef fish, I’m obsessed with Blue Planet, I cannot stop watching that show. So I would either be one of those really brightly colored fishes on the reef that live in community… basically. They warn each other about predators and that kind of shit. Or I would be one of those light up glow-y fish that lives in the deep, deep, deep ocean. I think that ideas of adaptability are really interesting. Especially, as far as the way that we live and what are norms are and what we get used to and what we can adapt to and all of that kind of stuff. So, thinking about living at the bottom of the ocean is terrifying, it’s like another planet… But, you’d probably get used to it, right? [laughter]

How has adaptability presented itself in your life recently?

In the past 5 years my life has changed very drastically. In good ways. I have lived most of my life as a very, very poor person. Of course, I had other kinds of privileges, family and that kind of thing. But was very cash poor, check to check, survival mode all of the time. In the past five years that has completely flipped. And I see myself back there soon [laughter] but, yeah, things have radically changed in that area of my life as far as my class privilege is concerned. You would think when you come into a lot of money, or you earn a lot of money, that you’d be happy and good. And that it’s amazing right? But it caused a spell of depression for me. That I’m just now, years into, starting to come out of. Severe agoraphobia. Just, severe depression. I can’t explain it, I don’t know why, when good things happen to me, I react like that. But I do. It’s been interesting, learning that part of myself. In this situation.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about art, creativity, music, expression and community and people. Justice, social justice is a big deal for me, like fairness. People having a chance to thrive. Those are things that I’m passionate about.

How do you engage with these passions while living your life simultaneously?

Yeah, it was my life for a long time, social justice, racial justice, specifically, I worked as an educator and I did that for a number of years. Then, when I left UC, I was like, I’m going to go and live in community now and bring all of myself, all of these things I’ve learned into this community space and have that experience. And I did. And now I’m leaving [laughter]. Yeah, I tried to bring those parts into all areas of my work. I am a working artist; I’m a musician and songwriter and it shows up in my music, it shows up in my art. We make face pottery, which is an ancestral thing for me. It’s about my African ancestry. Even within that, just being a person of color, it’s always present in everything that I do. Social justice, racial justice… Yeah.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

I feel accomplished with just… first of all, still being here. Being a survivor, being alive. So, that’s a big accomplishment for me [laughter]. For a long time, mental and emotional health stuff, dealing with suicidal ideation and all kinds of things… I made it! I’m here! So that’s an accomplishment. I also feel accomplished in areas of my expression, my art, my music. We just recently moved and I found this thing that I wrote when I graduated high school, it was with my high school diploma and it was talking about my goals. It was saying like, “I’m not going to go straight to college, I’m going to DJ,” I was a DJ at the time, “I’m going to keep DJing and I’m going to release a couple of albums”. I was reading it and was like, for a moment I was really disappointed in myself. I don’t know why, I think that’s something that we’re programmed to do around goals and aging, especially. Like, I’m sooo old now! Blahhhhh, just, whatever, but… I did! I released two albums, I have a wonderful band, they’re amazing people. They’re all my soul mates, I love them [laughter]. And, I’m making art and actually making a little bit of money and I have the potential to sustain myself and my partner doing that. So, that’s a huge accomplishment for me.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonic, familial, sexual and otherwise?

Relationships are everything. So, I’ve been married twice, Dustin is my second husband. I’ve been married to two cis, white men. So I have some specific thoughts on that… Which, revolve around masculinity and having to train men, literally, to be decent human beings. Which sucks, and is not my purpose in life. But then, so far, you get invested in that. I’m codependent and whatever, I’m working though it, but I defiantly come from a codependent dynamic and that has been my norm. Yeah! So, relationships are everything. Through my romantic relationships, I have definitely grown [laughter] and learned. A lot. But then, friendships are also super important. To me, boundaries are good, but again, these definitions that we have about relationships and even the words are really… colonialist, capitalist, and all of this stuff! So, in my friendships I’ve had a lot of trauma around group dynamics and friendships. I grew up with white people, and there’s a really specific dynamic there that I experience as a queer person of color [laughter]. Yeah! Just, relationships are opportunities to grow and opportunities to learn yourself better. But also, to be able to show up for people in ways that you need? That sounds really weird and selfish, but the relationships I’m building now are much less toxic than the relationships I’ve had in the past. I didn’t know what I needed, I did not have boundaries. Abuse was my norm and so I didn’t know myself, I didn’t know what I needed, I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed. So, that manifested in some really negative experiences with friends. Learning through all of that and getting older. Now, trying to manifest these relationships that are really mutually supportive and trying to get away from that stuff. I’m 37 and Cincinnati is very high school oriented, as far as the dynamics are concerned. There’s weird privileged old money dynamics here. Trying to get away from all of that, like, the alcoholism in the friend groups that I was involved with because again, codependency. And I’m an enabler, I don’t drink but I enable people to do that. So yeah, moving away from all the negative, gossipy toxicity mean girl kind of shit that I was pulled into and involved with in the past. So I’ve been really seeking out friends that are queer, and have things in common with me, so that we have a place to build from. That was so long and ramble-y! [laughter]

How do you support your boundaries?

That is a good question, and I am still figuring that out. Just, having them to begin with. Identifying them, what they are. They usually revolve around my PTSD and my triggers and that’s a really easy thing to set a boundary around, I think. For me, I’m still figuring out the rest of it. Learning my mental health and going from there. Before I didn’t have the privilege or time to think about that, right? I was in survival mode all the time. To be able to define boundaries, to think about what they are, getting in touch with my triggers, my mental health stuff, my emotional health stuff; all of that is a huge privilege and it’s something I’m still figuring out for sure. I think honesty, communication, trust, being able to have people in your life that you trust and can be vulnerable with. Yeah.


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