exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Tag: Gender

Robyn B.


Date of Interview: 9/1/2017

Name: Robyn B.

Age: 33

Pronouns: She/Hers

Location: Chicago, IL


How often do you bathe or shower?

Twice a day, typically; I’m very very clean. I shower. Baths are more of a special occasion type thing for me.

If you’re an underwater creature, which one would you be?

A dolphin for sure. Dolphins are playful and they’re happy; also, they’re not afraid to fuck up a shark when the time requires it. And I don’t know, they seem like very genuine creatures to me; I try to live my life with kindness, respect, and a little bit of playfulness and that just seems very dolphin-like to me.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about learning first and foremost. I love learning new things. I love having new experiences because I feel like that’s ultimately the point of life- to learn as much as you can and experience as much of the World as you can before it’s time to go. So, that’s one thing I’m passionate about. Do you want a list? [laughter] Because there’s lots of other things. Well, weed is pretty cool!! [laughter] Chemistry is also awesome-  I think the whole of existence is essentially a continuous chemical reaction that is constantly producing new products and that is pretty cool. What’s the most recent thing you’ve learned or experienced that has had weight to it? That people can be different than the way they present themselves. Even if it’s been somebody you’ve known a month or ten years of your life some people can really really surprise you. And it sucks when that happens but it’s a learning experience, and learning is the point of life.

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

I think they can be a great thing. I think they can also be a very dangerous thing. Relationships are great in the sense that they can make us feel great and they can make us feel wanted, happy, and they can make us feel whole. One thing that makes them dangerous however is that they can make us feel too secure; relationships can hurt us in ways that we weren’t anticipating and yeah, you’re also very very vulnerable in a relationship and that vulnerability can lead to some pretty extreme cases of pain. Familial relationships are kind of a challenge because my family has never been the stereotypical connected family; we experienced a series of deaths and other tragedies in our immediate family unit when I was little and it just kind of broke things. I believe in the concept of blood family, I do, but I think ultimately family is more of like something you create for yourself than something you’re born into. Platonic relationships- we need them!!! [laughter] Just… We need them. They’re the spice of life. They’re also totally essential in terms of navigating the human experience; we all get by with a little help from our friends! Now, as far as sexual relationships are concerned, of course, those are important too. I would say just almost as important as the platonic relationships because sexuality is one of the purest forms of self-expression; during sex, you’re giving yourself fully to another person and it is a demonstration of your kindness, generosity, and it also demonstrates a little bit of strength because there’s strength in being able to make yourself so vulnerable to someone.  But again, if you wind up in that position with the wrong person, it can also be detrimental. It can lead down the road of pain and suffering if you’re not careful, which is what I recently went through.  I was married and had been with my partner for about 10 years. We have a child together. So, three and a half(ish) years prior to today I came out to [redacted] as trans and started the process of transition and initially, she was extremely supportive of me. Over the course of time, the changes started to become a lot more visible and that was when we started to have some problems as a couple; truthfully, the problems were always there but my gender transition forced us to face some tough realities that neither of us were expecting.  

When [redacted] and I first started dating, I was quite a bit heavier and that was one of the thing that she found really attractive; [redacted] likes large, hairy men and that was definitely me for a long time!  My gender transition started with a massive weight loss; I’m not where I want to be yet in terms of like overall body composition but I feel like I’m so much closer than I’d ever lost before because I lost like a very significant amount of weight. And with that kind of weight loss comes– you can’t lose that amount of weight and not experience some sort of psychological shift in the way you view the relationship you have with food, fitness, and your body.  You just can’t. It was essentially like I lost an entire severely depressed person that was living inside me and all this deeply repressed negative energy kind of started to work itself to the surface. While I was discovering what kind of person I was and finding out all these awesome new things about myself, [redacted] was mostly just hanging out on the sidelines watching; she had a hard time seeing me grow from being this surly overweight dude who smoked pot and played video games all day and didn’t really care about anything (almost to the point of nihilism) to this budding young woman who cared about things. Like how people were treating one another. Like how queer people were being treated in our community. I don’t know, I started caring about things and that became like a problem– I don’t know. It’s apparently cool to not care [laughter]. It’s cool to just be like– like a stereotypical Brando-esque greaser with the devil-may-care “I can do whatever I want to” attitude.  

The one awesome part about this point in time was that after coming out, our sexual relationship became incredibly active. We conceived a child together and all seemed to be going well over the course of the 9 months the baby was growing fingers and toes.  C was born in December and due to the complications during childbirth, C was transferred out to a different hospital; for the first seven days of his life C and [redacted] were in different facilities and for those seven days I really didn’t sleep.  I just drove back and forth between these two hospitals and made sure that my family was okay. Eventually, we were discharged from the hospital and sent home and upon arriving it was like immediately something was different between [redacted] and myself. She did not want to hug or hold hands, was super mean to me, and just generally kind of started treating me as though I was an unwelcome guest in her home. And it was just so bizarre to me because she started off as one of my staunchest supporters. Our relationship began a steady decline and eventually it got to the point where every interaction was a fight. We weren’t interacting kindly with each other anymore, it was just constantly this negative bitter energy; in November of last year the need for me to transition became overwhelming and I began to express a firm desire to begin hormone therapy. And so she sat me down– actually, it wasn’t even a sit-down kind of thing because the conversation happened while we were arguing!! So mid argument she was like, “If you do hormones. That’s it. That’s it.”  It felt very surreal; I made the difficult choice to move forward with my transition and then in January that was when it was just—done. She was like, “I’m not divorcing you because I’m very loyal.” And I was like, ” All right well what kind of a marriage do you want to exist or do you want to have?” And she was like, “None of that stuff is important to me.” None of the bonding emotionally or the experiencing life together mattered at all to her; we had nearly ten years of shared experiences and she told me that none of it mattered at all to her and she thought that we were best off as friends and nothing more.

After that, we continued living together and were trying to do the cohabitation thing for the sake of C, which really didn’t work for us. I moved into the spare bedroom and for a minute it got better, but then it was just like the arguments more-or-less took a turn for the worse. Especially once I started expressing a little bit of independence; it got to be June and it was during Pridefest that I had the epiphany that this situation needs to come to an end. Chicago just has this magic about it; being down here for the whole weekend I was like, “This is the place I need to be right now. This is like really where I need to be.” Because I was at the point where I just didn’t ever want to return to [redacted]. I was just so unhappy. I just felt unwelcome and I was tired of feeling that way.  I started saving up a little bit of money and I started my search for roommates and places and moved to the city at the end of July.

What does home mean to you?

Home means security. It means safety. It means a place to rest and really let your guard down. A place to be yourself with no shame and no pretense. Just 100% you working it, all-natural. And I think that’s what home should mean to everybody because what could home mean otherwise? I mean because I’ve experienced various forms of “home.” I have the abusive home growing up as a child. I don’t even know– the negative home that’d I just come out of. And now it’s like this place is– I finally feel okay. I feel like I can be myself, whatever that may mean. I can be Robyn and not have to offer a disclaimer or apology or anything, so I guess home to me would be a place where you can just be you in your most raw form.  

Kalani Naihe

Kalani Naihe


Date of Interview: October 3, 2016

Name: Kalani Naihe

Age: 23

Pronouns: She/Her/They/Them

Location: Philadelphia, PA


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

Ohhhhh good question. I would probably be an orca. I really like whales, I think they’re really cool and interesting creatures and like, they just swim around and shit, it’s pretty cool.

What are you passionate about?

Very passionate about the DIY music scene, booking shows, being vegan and embracing my queerness. That’s something that is very new and very fun to become more passionate about. I never… I mean, it’s strange to me to talk about because I’m really new to this whole embracing my queerness thing. I’ve always been like, I’m definitely pansexual and I’ve always thought that my whole life. I’ve been very into loving people for who they are but recently come out to those that are close to me as non-binary when it comes to my gender so I started using they/them pronouns and I think that just making sure that my queerness doesn’t doesn’t get lost in relationships with those who are not. And I think that’s very important. In the past I’ve let people over step boundaries with that for me, like they kind of dictate my level of queerness especially if I’m dating a cis, straight male. So I’ve recently became very passionate about learning and accepting who I am instead of just letting someone else, just because they’re around a lot, dictate that I am this person that I know I am.

Do you feel like you have to carve out spaces that you exist in?

Always. Absolutely, especially because I book shows and being a queer promoter and trying so hard to be inclusive of everybody. It’s like having a third job a lot of the time. A lot of the time I feel overwhelmed by trying to make sure that my space in which I’m occupying is safe for those around me and for those who are also attending. It’s everything from entering into my home, to going to a show, it’s so important to be aware of. Lately I’ve been going through a lot, I moved back into this house after a year after some bad things happened and everyone just took me back in, but I feel better being around other people who are queer. They just sort of encompass my life. Having my friends, even having people in my life who aren’t queer, just making sure those people in my life are also accepting of who I am… All of my friends are and I feel so good and confident about it. But it’s important for me to dictate what is safe for me and those around me. Cuz people do look up to me when it comes to all of that stuff because of how loud I am and how I’m in charge of the spaces that people are in, especially for shows and stuff.

What do you think of relationships? Platonic, sexual or otherwise?

My platonic relationships are soooooooo important to me. I love all of my friends with my whole heart, and I always have, that’s just the way I’ve been my whole life. My platonic relationships, because they’ve always gone better than my romantic ones, have always meant more to me. That’s definitely one of the reasons why my romantic relationships have failed, because I have tried so hard to make sure that if I’m in a romantic relationship, my platonic ones will not be overlooked at all. They’re so important. I don’t know where I would be today if I hadn’t met my best friend five years ago. And if I have ever treated them terribly or completely disappeared on them or whatever because of getting into a relationship they wouldn’t be here today. So it’s definitely paid off, caring so much about platonic relationships. The people I surround myself with are like family to me because my family is over 500 miles away. I think it’s important for everyone to think of their friends like that. You get to choose them so you should put as much effort into them as anything else, they’re important.

What is something you’re afraid of for yourself?

The future. It’s very scary and uncertain. I think about it all the time and it terrifies me. I’m soooooo scared of it because every aspect of it is scary. Things that are going on politically are scary, it’s sooooo fucking terrifying and then jsut my everyday life, like what am I going to do in two years!? What am I gonna do in two months? Because everything has been so uncertain for me lately and I’ve been kind of just going with the flow, doing whatever. I don’t know. The future. The future is very scary and I’m terrified of it.

What do you wish you had known when you were 15?

I wish 15 year old me, I’m going to go into this crazy vegan thing because that’s who I am, I wish 15 year old vegetarian me, fence walking peanut butter eating piece of shit who REALLY didn’t do ANYTHING, it’s cool, like I was vegetarian so young and it took me so long to vegan. I wish someone would have told me “there’s something called vegan-ism, this is what you want to do” because my mindset was “I want to help animals BUT I’m still gonna eat dairy” ::laughs::. So I wish 15 year old me would have known what being vegan meant.


Marisa Allison

Marisa Allison


Date of Interview: August 24, 2016

Name: Marisa Allison

Age: 23

Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs

Location: Chicago, IL

How often do you bathe or shower?

That’s changed a lot recently actually, I used to be an every day bather but lately it’s like, every three days. I can take care of business ::laughs::.

If you were an underwater creature what would you be?

One of those little, little minnows. That like, swim in swarms around your ankles at the beach. I like how fast and slippery and shiny they are. I also like how large their packs are, they have lots of friends.

What are you passionate about?

Passionate about a lot of things, I’m passionate about holding people to their humanity, I’m passionate about social justice, racial justice. Food justice and GNC clothing, gender non-conforming clothing. Like, I’m sure I’m passionate about lots of other things, like I’m passionate about Frank Ocean right now and like, Alexander McQueen’s legacy and lots of things ::laughs::

Do you feel like gender is performative for you?

This definitely affects me in an all the time basis. And something that someone said to me once, a partner that I really love, “I love being with you because you view gender purely as performance and that makes me feel very free in my gender.” So I oscillate between a lot of different genders. And they all kind of come from a place of costuming myself and just trying to feel out how I’m feeling every day when I wake up, so it’s kind of a performance all the time ::laughs::. I’m super performative about it. I’m a costume designer, well was, I’m sort of leaving the theater right now. I haven’t done a show in a long time, I’ve recently been doing costume projects for artists right now. And I’m about to totally leave art making for a moment and go to grad school for social work. It’s been like, a real moment of departure. Not bathing very much, not sewing very much ::laughs::.

What are you afraid of for the world?

I’m afraid that the world will really start dying before we like, know it. And say goodbye to it and honor it. I’m afraid of Donald Trump being president. There’s a lot of stuff that’s really scary right now. I’m afraid of everyone thinking that the pope is liberal because that’s nonsense. Like, everything sucks ::laughs::.

What are you most afraid of for yourself?

I’m afraid that I’m about to move into this vocation of taking care of others doing social work and become completely destroyed by it and become disillusioned, like, forget that I’m in it for people. It’s so people intensive that I’m worried I’ll stop caring about the people and get caught up in all the bureaucratic nonsense.

What does self care look like for you?

For me, self care means making time with the people that I want to with and really checking in about what that time should look like with them and be really intentional. And not fall into complacency and apathy. So I’ve recently cut out people that weren’t working for me. Um, a lot of people love alone time and I just DON’T. So being around people is really important to me. Like, planning I’m going to spend this time with these people in these ways and these other people in other ways. Making that time, making it special.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Romantic, platonic or otherwise.

I like them. Sometimes those lines are super blurry for me. So I’m poly, polyamorous. So lines can be really hard and boundaries have to be constantly established. Sometimes it feels like setting boundaries aren’t super important but then it can mess up the potential in something, like the communication has to happen in that moment, you know? It’s like everyone is BAE and so it doesn’t even mean anything ::laughs:: like “WE GOT TO TALK ABOUT IT.” So like, it’s like “you’re my wife, you’re my babe” but we really have to talk about this, otherwise it doesn’t mean anything and I think you want to make out with me but I can’t tell. So, I’m trying to do a lot more of that, a lot more communication.

What do you wish you knew when you were 15?

I wish I knew that gender is over. I wish I would have known that like, a man won’t save you. ‘Cause that was such a big part of my life as a late teen, I was with someone who literally dragged me out of a crappy post industrial small town, I wouldn’t be in Chicago without him but like… I was following him. He’s great, he’s great but knowing that would have been nice. What else… OHHH That beauty isn’t pain! I’m still working through that shit. Of like, beauty and looking good, that shit is painful, I hate that shit. Damn. I’m sure there is a lot more, but this last one is important. Fuck the police isn’t something that people just say, it’s a real thing. I used to roll my eyes when my brothers would say it but like, the police are actually horrible and now I know that you NEVER call the police and I wish I would have known that as a 15 year old. Don’t trust the police.

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