exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Tag: Social Justice

Andrew and Liz

Andrew and Liz


Date of Interview: November 11, 2016

Names: Andrew and Liz

Ages: 29 and 31

Pronouns: He/Him and She/Her

Location: Washington, DC


How often do you bathe or shower?

Liz: Every day.
Andrew: Whenever necessary. As infrequently as possible.
L: Sometimes I have to ask you to do it.
A: It never occurs to me. To shower. So I usually have to be told. So I’m not thrown out by society ::laughs::.

How does it feel to be in a bath?

Andrew: This is nice.

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

Andrew: Crab. Because I’m crabby.
Liz: You are very crabby. I think I would be a sand dollar. They used to be all over the place where I grew up in Maine and now they’re being pushed out by climate change. You never see them. Now, when I see them it’s this treat.
A: When people see you it’s a treat, because you’re rare? Is that the idea?
L: Sure, that’s right.

What are you passionate about?

Andrew: I’m passionate about music, about art and politics. I am passionate about playing music, writing music, performing music, listening to music. I’m passionate about other people’s art, art that is interesting, art that speaks to truth. Art that revels to me a truth that I had previously not known.
Liz: Being a part of a community that is improving the world. And I do that in a few different ways. I feel very passionate about the DC arts community. I also care immensely about social justice issues. We have so many opportunities to improve other people’s lives. I see it as my obligation to open people’s eyes however I can, through writing and photo and video, by putting stories out into the world to help people understand how simple it is to help other people.

What are you afraid of for the world?

Andrew: Letting fear dictate policy. Letting ignorance dictate policy. Lack of empathy.
Liz: Yeah, lack of empathy is a big one. There’s so many people who lack empathy and we’re so fundamentally disconnected right now. I’m really scared of how I feel disconnected from this huge portion of my country. With the work that I do I meet people who are really struggling. I’m terrified about that lack of empathy continuing to grow and grow and grow.

Do you feel, as creative types, that the two of you have created a world that you can thrive in?

Liz: Absolutely.
Andrew: That’s the goal at least. And it’s good. About 90% of the time.
L: I think that’s one of the reasons why we found each other and connected as a couple. We both have a world view where we want to contribute…
A: …in a positive way.

What do you think of relationships? Platonic, sexual and otherwise.

Andrew: They’re necessary. They’re absurd. They’re messy. They’re chaotic but they’re 100% necessary. We need each other.
Liz: They make you grow. They bring you joy. They bring you sadness and sometimes that’s a good thing. They push you in directions you don’t expect. You wind up in new places. I’m about to go on a ten-day trek through the wilderness literally at the end of the Earth, and it’s because of my relationship with a lady friend. She was like “hey you want to go do this” and I told her that I’ve never even considered that, so, okay, let’s do it.
A: I think one of the reasons I love music is because it allows you to form relationships with people that would be extremely difficult otherwise. You can connect with people who you’ve never met before. As a performer, connecting with an audience. As an audience member with another audience member sharing a passion over an artist. Or an audience member connecting with a performer. One of the great things about it is you can connect with people across social boundaries. Across race or across gender or whatever, that’s one of the things that excites me so much about it. Is the ability to connect other people and form relationships.

What is something that you struggle with?

Andrew: Excessive self-analysis ::laughs::. That’s something I struggle a lot with.
Liz: Being comfortable with the unknown. I’ve had a lot of movement in my life. I moved every year or two until I was in high school. As an adult I’ve continued that lifestyle. I think sometimes I get a little freaked out when I don’t have a plan. Or my plans get changed.

What is something that brought you joy today?

Andrew: Going to an art museum and seeing art that was interesting and from a perspective that I don’t often see. That brought me joy.
Liz: We were on our way to the art museum… just flying down the street on our bicycles and the wind was in my hair … it just felt so good. We were on our way to do something we love. And in that moment, I felt really happy.

Cullan Bonilla

Cullen Bonilla


Date of Interview: November 8, 2016

Name: Cullan Bonilla

Age: 21

Pronouns: She/Her

Location: West Chester, PA


How often do you bathe or shower?

I would say I shower once a day and I would also say I take a bath once a day ::laughs::. I hate that I use so much water but it’s the only thing that really helps with chronic joint and nerve pain. I think my life would be better if I was surrounded by hot water all the time.

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

I think I would be a manatee. I think I identify with them because they’re gentle and they move really slowly and they spend most of their time eating or resting… So, I’m going to go with manatee.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about a lot of things. I’m really interested in cooking and food and the cultural aspects of it. I’m very interested in social justice issues because I have a lot of intersecting identities and they impact the way I relate to the world around me. I’m very passionate about being a mom to everyone around me, basically, making sure that all of my friends are taking care of themselves and everyone is happy and healthy. I’m also passionate about animals, I really love animals.

What do you mean by “intersecting identity?”

Because there’s not just one kind of oppressed identity, you know, things can intersect on different levels. Different manifestations of oppression, in race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc., they can happen simultaneously and reinforce one another. So for example, for me, I’m a non-binary, queer, disabled/chronically ill Afroborinqueñx, and my experience is different from that of a non-binary white person or an able-bodied person of color. I am half white but I’m also half Afroborinqueñx, which is a big… Big issue for me that I’m focusing a lot on right now. But that’s what I mean, there are varying levels of oppression depending on your various identities and how they intersect with or reinforce each other.

How are you focusing on your heritage?

Well, with this election, it’s been almost a source of stress for me. Even the Afroborinqueñx side of my family, my father and his father, are voting for Donald Trump. They live in a pretty racist part of Maryland and that’s unfortunately, understandably shaped a lot of their feelings on their own identity. Neither of them will acknowledge or affirm that they are Afroborinqueñx and my dad isn’t really proud of being Puerto Rican, he subscribes pretty heavily to respectability politics. When I was 18 I took a month off from high school and lived in Puerto Rico with my family there, because I basically was told my whole life that my white half is the desirable half and that I should always act whiter and neglect the other side of my identity. No matter how hard I tried, I never was treated like the white people around me so once I started to smarten up about it, I decided that my Puerto Rican identity was something I really wanted to look into and connect with. I felt like I hadn’t had a chance to do that in my life before cuz no one in my family has taught me to do that or to be proud of who I am. My interest in cooking is a part of that, too, for sure. My abuela, my Puerto Rican mom-mom, she was an incredible cook. She actually died about… A year and a half ago at this point, but she took her cooking secrets to the grave. We all wanted her recipes and she purposely left out ingredients from her recipes so that she could go to the grave being the best cook in our family. So ::laughs:: I started learning about cooking after she died, that was another way for me to connect with her and with my identity.

What is something you still struggle with?

Ooooooh… I still struggle with being a mentally ill person and being a chronically ill person and trying to re-enter the work place now after two years of not having a full time job while in treatment for my illness and trying to deal with normal stuff that able-bodied people deal with on a daily basis when I never really know how I’m going to feel on any given day. I still struggle with dealing with that racism especially within my family, especially during this election, I’ve had to unfriend my whole white family on Facebook. I still struggle with feeling “less than” my white peers or my able-bodied peers. I still struggle with self-worth and self-love. I still struggle with existing in the world knowing that my abusers also exist in the world. So I feel like… I guess it could be narrowed down to me struggling with learning how to navigate the world again while taking care of myself and keeping myself vulnerable and soft and positive in spite of everything.

What is something beautiful that you saw today?

Something beautiful that I saw today… I saw a lady at the grocery store who looked exactly like Taraji P. Henson. She was drop-dead beautiful.

Arin Jayes

Arin Jayes


Date of Interview: June 16, 2016

Name: Arin Jayes

Age: 25

Pronouns: They/Them and He/Him

Location: Washington, DC


Is there any part of your body that you feel is missing?

Is there any part of my body that I miss… It’s weird, I kind of miss my period in a weird way. I don’t know, I think that there was this sense of release that I got from my period that I’ve lost since being on T. And… I don’t know, I’m not necessarily thinking about being on T for forever. So that might be something that I might want to have again. Not really sure.

What are your thoughts on how gender is perceived?

Umm, I think that gender is a performance. And gender can be very creative. And fun to play with. But it can also be extremely constricting and suffocating for a lot of people. But I think as I’ve become more masculine, I’ve been able to kind of bring out the more feminine parts of myself, and embrace the queen that I am. Because I felt like, when I was perceived as a woman, that people would see me… I would walk down the street and people would see my, and like… they would think that “oh, this is a cis woman” and I was thinking to myself, “No, this is like a flamboyant gay man, who likes to wear blouses and glittery things in heels” But that isn’t what people see. But now that I’ve been able to pass more I’ve been more comfortable exploring those sides more, which is cool.

What are you passionate about?

I’m really passionate about art. I really like making embroidery and textile art. And I’m really passionate about gardening. I’m really passionate about social justice issues and helping people that are experiencing poverty. I’m passionate about my friendship and relationships.

Do you think the way you were raised impacts what you are passionate about, and how you live your life artistically and as an activist?

Yeah! Well, definitely artistically. My mom is a landscape painter, and I was always raised to appreciate the importance of art. And when I was little, there were always crayons and stuff, and art supplies for me to practice with, so definitely in that way. In terms of social justice, I kind of had to go out on my own. A lot of my beliefs are a lot more radical than people in my family, which is something we’re growing in, and being able to understand each other. But I kind of had to do that on my own.

What are you most afraid of for yourself?

Well like, in the immediate future, I am getting top surgery tomorrow. So you know, I am afraid of discomfort and pain and all that. But part of it is trying not to cling to pleasure and feeling good, and to recognize that you aren’t always going to feel good. And that’s okay. And experiencing a little bit of pain is totally worth it to have an awesome chest. So I’m a little bit afraid of that. And in the wake of Orlando last week, I’m definitely feeling more scared in public. And feeling like having a gay club targeted is a punch in the gut to the queer community because, you know, it is a place where people can explore their vulnerability in a space where you are surrounded by queer people. And everyone is having fun and embracing who they are, and that’s a really important space for a lot of people. And so I think the fact that THAT was targeted as a space for queer people on a night with queer people of color was a huge blow to our community. That really scares me.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I don’t know. I’m kind of young, so I don’t think I’m that far yet in my life, with a lot of things, like a career and stuff. But you know, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot with figuring out who I am, and I feel like I’ve really gone out on my own, and grown up a lot. And I feel like I’m kind of living my truth right now. Which feels like a huge accomplishment.

What do you think of relationships? Platonic, romantic, sexual, and otherwise?

Well, I’m polyamorous and so I think that’s it’s possible to love more than one person. And having multiple relationships exposes you to the beautiful diversity of people being able to be all your various selves around all these various people. And that’s really important to me. And recently, I’ve been trying to explore prioritizing my friendships and other sorts of platonic relationships as much as I prioritize my partnerships. Especially when you’re poly and have a lot of partners, you tend to give a lot of time to your partners because that’s really fun, but… you need to make time to make sure you can see your friends. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time with my friends, and making sure that a lot of people are on board with taking care of me during top surgery. You know, that kind of stuff.

What are some things that you are hopeful for before you turn 40?

Hmmm… Trying to think of the most important thing, but I feel like that’s a lot. I think by then I would like to feel like I’ve started a family… But not necessarily the way one normally thinks of starting a family. I may live in a family with multiple couples in it, or may share the raising of a child with someone, or something. I don’t know what that’s going to look like. That family might include one person or two people or three. I don’t know, but at that point, I want to feel like I have a family.

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