Crystine

“What you want is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Name?

Crystine.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the small town of Palo Alto in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before that, I was born in the Philippines and lived in Korea and China until I was 4.

Were you brought up religiously/secularly/other?

I grew up attending a Baptist church because my mother would take me, but I never believed in God and, at age 15, I came out as an Atheist.

Was there turbulence throughout your childhood/adolescence?

This part is difficult for me because I definitely had a lot of turbulence throughout my childhood. I was born with severe-to-profound deafness and learned to speak at the age of 5 through an oral deaf program at an elementary school, because I was being raised by blind parents. My parents had an abusive marriage, and divorced when I was 8. Then, when I was 15, my father left the picture entirely. I grew up with a very abusive family, and this had a huge impact on my life.

I also had an unhealthy relationship with my mother because of her mental issues. My mother was very dependent and emotionally unstable, with inappropriate and intense anger, extreme short-term moodiness, irritability, and anxiety. She was constantly putting me down, but if I tried to leave she would act loving again and tell me she was sorry – or alternatively she’d threaten to make my life a living hell. The relationship was an emotional rollercoaster because I’d frequently be wondering ‘Will I be greeted at the door by the caring person who gave birth to me or will it be the raging tyrant who’s got to have her way, no matter what?’ I’ve also battled depression, PTSD, and issues of never feeling loved; during my childhood and adolescence I was hopeless and desperate. Despite all this turbulence, I stand strong today and I declare myself a survivor.

Were you ever embarrassed about your development/puberty? If so, why?

I had mixed feelings about puberty. When I was 13, I had my first menstrual period and didn’t really enjoy it because it was a lot of work. When it first happened, I was too embarrassed to tell my mother because our relationship wasn’t very intimate – we didn’t share many details about ourselves. So I sought advice and comfort from other women in my life, such as teachers, friends of my mother, and some school counselors, because it was easier to share with them without feeling ashamed of myself or being scolded at.

But at the same time, I was excited about the changes in my body because I’ve always been fascinated by breasts. I think breasts are a beautiful thing. I was really psyched to grow my breasts and so happy when I could start wearing bras. Nowadays I love my breasts even more because I don’t know if I’ll have them my entire life. Many women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and this makes me appreciate my breasts so much – and enjoy them. I am going to make sure I have fun with my breasts.

CRYSTINE_3433

“I don’t allow my disabilities to make me any less of a person.” – Crystine
Photo by Leslie Alejandro

Can you remember any key moments in your formative years that shaped you? 

I was born deaf and I worked hard, training myself, to be involved in the hearing world that other people take for granted. At 19 and 20, I received cochlear implants to restore my hearing and this enriched my life so much. My father left the picture when I was 15, and I broke free from the toxic relationship with my mother when I was 19. I have no regrets because my well-being is very important to me. I felt so free afterwards, because I’d missed out on opportunities to grow in my 19 years of childhood. Ever since, I’ve had the chance to create the life I want to have. But then I got into an abusive and controlling relationship with an ex-boyfriend who later raped me.

That shaped your sexuality?

I strongly believe that my chaotic childhood affected on my sexuality. I remember that when I was a little girl, around age 5 or 6, I wanted to be loved by people and I fantasized about men hugging, stroking and holding me, because I didn’t get much affection from my family – they were cold and bitter. I rarely pushed people away because I wanted love and attention so badly.

When did you become aware of your gender?

I am sure I’ve always been aware of my gender because I was always drawn to girly-girl things like Barbie dolls, make-up, and revealing clothes (like what pop stars wear). I grew up being exposed to sexually explicit films and magazines so I saw women with breasts, wide hips, and long hair; I knew those physical changes would happen to me when I got older.

When did you become aware of your own sexuality; were there any key moments?

I remember being attracted to both men and women but I don’t remember when it all started. In middle school and high school I always liked boys, but then I developed a huge crush on a girl in my art class in high school. I got excited when girls touched and hugged me but I was really good at hiding my true feelings. I was teased for it sometimes even though I never told anyone who I liked, but I didn’t care because I knew it was natural for everyone to be attracted to anyone.

When I was a girl I was fascinated by vaginas because they’re like our own flowers. The shapes and colors are unique for each person and this is something we must embrace. I remember the first time I used a mirror to explore my own vagina – I was really happy about it because it’s part of me. In my late teens I lost my virginity to a guy, and that was the most valuable moment of my becoming aware of myself as a sexual being.

What, if any, are the obstacles you’ve overcome on your path to womanhood?

There are countless obstacles I’ve overcome, like depression, which affects my feelings and how I perceive myself as a woman. For a long time I felt worthless, because I always thought I didn’t deserve to exist. My deafness was part of this – I never felt confident because I couldn’t hear until I got my cochlear implants.

Have you ever been embarrassed, burdened or ashamed of your sexuality? If so, why?

I remember discovering masturbation when I was young; I would do it every night because I loved the feeling of a thunderous orgasm in my vagina. But then my mother caught me one evening when she came into my room to hug me goodnight; she pushed me away, walked out, and never said a word. I also recall being taught by my mother that sex before marriage was a sin and that rape is always a woman’s fault because of what she wears and how she behaves around men. Because of this I felt guilty, trapped, and restricted in how I should or could express my sexuality. No children should ever experience that.

I often have people try to make me feel ashamed of myself because I’m a sexually open-minded person and enjoy kissing both men and women, some forms of BDSM such as domination/submission, role-playing and more, and because I think porn is sometimes a positive thing. I believe everyone has their own form of sexuality and this creates who you are as a unique person.

CRYSTINE_3604

“When I was a girl I was fascinated by vaginas because they’re like our own flowers.” – Crystine
Photo by Leslie Alejandro

What is the image you think you project every day?

A strong, attractive, confident, and stubborn woman who has been through a lot of shit in life but who walks on the Earth with her chin up, and is also very loving and caring.

What is the image you would like to project?

I am the 8th Wonder of the World so come see me instead of the Taj Mahal because I am a very spectacular person who walks the Earth and I want to be remembered as that.

What do you think the image other people perceive is?

I always come across as a sweet, naïve and innocent woman because I look younger than my age, and I’m very tall for a Filipina/Korean woman (I stand at 5’7″).

How would you describe your personal experience, existing in the way you do, each day?

Since I’m hyperactive, my everyday life is very fast-paced and always full of surprises as I fight and struggle through to the end of the day. But I love it because it keeps me productive and interested.

I am going to make sure I have fun with my breasts.

What is your political stance on women’s reproductive rights? 

Women should have the right to access birth control and abortion. I also believe that it’s not politicians’ right to intrude on women’s personal lives, because women don’t belong to them. Don’t tell women what to do with their lives.

Are you pro-life or pro-choice? 

Pro-choice because every woman has every single right to do what she wants with her body.

What are your feelings about contraceptives? Their availability, cost, stigma, usage?

Birth control contraceptives should be made available to everyone and their use should be strongly encouraged, but in the United States access is limited because they’re expensive and not always covered by insurance. This failure to provide coverage is absolutely sex discrimination, because these contraceptives are used exclusively by women and so it singles women out. The insurance systems also treats medication for pregnancy-related conditions less favorably. Birth control contraceptives should be made affordable and available to all women. I have been using an IUD for two years and I’m very fortunate because a clinic provided me with it along with insurance coverage but, right now, the coverage has ended. I’ll have to worry about it again once the IUD expires.

What are your feelings about casual sex?

It’s amazing and healthy because it’s the way to get in touch with your sexuality and find out what you want from your potential partner. It’s also everyone’s individual choice; if you want to have sex… go for it but, most importantly, consent and safety are the top priorities for the best sex life.

Are you in a relationship(s)?

Not currently.

What are your feelings about marriage?

It sounds exciting, but it’s something to consider seriously as marriage is not for everyone. I’m sure it’s a beautiful thing when you find a person who will stick by you, no matter what happens.

What are your most positive relationships with other women?

My relationships with women vary depending on their openness, honesty, and support of one another. I have a great village of powerful women to connect to and learn from – but I also have intense relationships as well.

And your negative?

My relationship with my mother was the most traumatic one. No matter if it’s your biological family or not, you can always choose the people who’ll stay in your life. Not everyone has a family to go to.

What does the word ‘woman’ mean to you?

A woman is a warrior who stands tall, strong, fierce and loving, and dares to be independent and beautiful.

CRYSTINE_3649

“I am the 8th Wonder of the World so come see me instead of the Taj Mahal.” – Crystine
Photo by Leslie Alejandro

What are your feelings about monogamy?

Mixed feelings because on one hand, I think it’s great, but on the other, it’s boring.

About polyamory?

I’m still forming my opinion about polyamory. I’ve had several partners suggest polyamorous relationships to me, but I hate to share with another person if I have intense attraction for one. But I’m sure it’ll happen when I’m comfortable with it.

Do you feel your choice to participate or not participate in consensual sex is at all affected by societal influence?

No, because it’s within your power to choose to participate or not participate.

How do you feel about products marketed to women?

They are interesting and frustrating because I’ve found women’s products more expensive than men’s, even though both have the same size, materials, etc.  I see it as gender discrimination because men pay less for shaving cream, razors, socks, etc. It’s fucked up to think about how intense – and expensive – it is to be a woman.

How do you feel about feminine hygiene products’ portrayal in the media?

Misleading because it seems most companies know nothing about women and end up giving the completely wrong message. For example, commercials about pads and tampons use blue liquid to depict blood; it’s odd to think of that coming out of your body when it’s not red and natural.

Were you always aware of what your body could do sexually and mechanically?

I’m still learning what my body can do. My body is not perfect because my ears don’t work, my right retina is enucleated because of retinoblastoma, and my cleft palate is closed up so I have to train my body to work mechanically with the help of cochlear implants to hear and a prosthesis eye to feel comfortable on my eyelid. This makes me aware that my body can do so much, and it’s taught me to not take my body for granted. I don’t allow my disabilities to make me any less of a person.

In terms of what my body can do sexually, when I started masturbating at a young age I was so amazed that I could pleasure myself, and I’m grateful that I can orgasm.

Do you feel your sexual education was sufficient?

My high school had a really good sex education program because it was non-judgemental and comprehensive. Unfortunately I didn’t take it to heart because my deafness made it hard for me to keep up with lectures. I used the Internet to compensate and this really helped me find things out. I’ve learned even more through my college’s health center, which has been great because the people there are more open about sexuality with each other.

If not, what would you have done to make it so?

I would like to see a realistic and honest depiction and understanding of how our bodies operate, why using birth control is so important, what’s healthy about masturbation, how to build a healthy and happy relationship, that no is no and yes is yes, that it’s not a person’s fault to be raped, and that being open and unashamed of our sexuality is healthy. Also, that you shouldn’t be obligated to follow a certain religion’s sexual beliefs if you don’t belong to that religion!

Where do you feel unsafe as a woman?

In a quiet neighbourhood at nighttime.

Where is somewhere you can exist without fear?

In any big city and on my college campus.

Do women treat you differently than men?

Sometimes, because it depends on how women perceive me, but then it’s their issue.

Would you consider yourself a feminist?

Damn right, I am a feminist.

CRYSTINE_3675

“Damn right, I am a feminist.” – Crystine
Photo by Leslie Alejandro

How do you define feminism?

The belief and advocacy of women’s political, social, economic, and sexual rights to be as equal as men.

What do you think are positive ways the world views women?

The positives are that women are getting greater recognition for and in leadership, politics, social changes, and raising their feminist voice. That’s great, but this world still has a lot of work to do in order to appreciate women more.

And the negative ways?

I feel the world represents women in the wrong way – as weak, submissive, and demanding. I want to see the world view all people as human.

Do you think the world’s perception of women limits or benefits them?

Both, because the world is imperfect.

What is your relationship to sex?

It’s wonderful and quite a journey.

How do you define sex?

Sex comes in many different forms like vaginal-penile, anal, fingering, hand job, oral, masturbation, etc. It can also be using inanimate objects for pleasure.

What does a sexual relationship mean to you?

A sexual relationship means something that’s fun, consensual, intimate, stress-free, healthy and pleasurable. It’s another way of connecting to another human being.

Do you feel comfortable communicating your sexual needs to a partner?

Yes, because it’s how to best enjoy yourself and your partner. Without communicating with a partner, it wouldn’t be as satisfying. What you want is nothing to be ashamed of. That’s power in that for you and your partner.

There’s nothing wrong with being proud to be openly sexual.

Have you found a balance of fulfilment with your partners?

I don’t have to find a balance of fulfilment with partners because it’s not perfect every time. Some of them are meant to happen, and others are not meant to be. Things happen for a reason, because a partner could be good for you outside of bed.

Are you fearful of being openly sexual for fear of judgement?

I used to be, but I learned not to let people’s opinions bring me down. There’s nothing wrong with being proud to be openly sexual.

Have you ever been in a position where your sexuality was used against you?

Yes, because I’ve often been accused of misleading guys by being kind and flirtatious, and have been told to change my behavior around them. There are times when guys expect me to sleep with them because I’m very open about my sexuality, and so they think that I ‘owe’ them. People have also told me it’s very bad to have too many sexual partners ‘because it changes how people see you as a person’. If I could go back to those times, I would flip them the bird and tell them to fuck off.

Have you ever been physically or verbally threatened because of your appearance?

By an ex-boyfriend who threatened to post naked photos of me and the reasons why we broke up, using my full name, because I shaved my head a few years ago.

When you imagine sex, what is the visual/feeling you associate with it?

Naked people touch each other sexually and they moan and smile to each other. The feelings would be soft skin masked with sweat, saliva, and fluids touching each other.

Is sex empowering for you?

Yes it is, because it strengthens my sexuality and it creates who I am as a woman because as women we can achieve orgasm with ourselves and other people.

Is sex embarrassing for you to discuss?

Nope.

Is there anyone in your world you undermine your principles for?

I’m used to that because we are in a world where people don’t always agree with each other, but we are still be able to work together.

In which situations do you feel safe to speak your mind/stand up for yourself?

At most times when it’s necessary.

CRYSTINE_3717

“Don’t tell women what to do with their lives.” – Crystine
Photo by Leslie Alejandro

What do you seek through sex?

Fun, thrill, trust, connection, sweat and some pain.

How do you feel about the media’s portrayal of women?

Negative, and it has a long way to go to improve.

Are you satisfied with the women you see depicted in film, television & advertising?

No.

How do you maintain a sense of self?

Leaving and cutting ties with my mother helped me maintain a sense of self, because I spent my first 19 years being sheltered from society, trapped in a dysfunctional home, and not allowed to blossom into my own person. It was hard because I wasn’t allowed to form my own opinions. Everything was focused on my mother and I realized I was a parentified child because, due to her blindness, I had to help her with crossing the street from the time I was five, I had to read her mail, shop with her to describe clothing’s colors and designs, and so on. She became needy as I got older and I had little time for myself. I was always put down for any mistake and there was never an expression of gratitude from her. One day, I had enough and refused to be a victim of hers anymore. I bolted out the door and rode seven hours to Los Angeles to start my new life and develop my sense of self. That is a day I will never forget because it was the day I finally became a free woman and learned to love myself.

What is something you deeply love about yourself?

That I am 22 and have accomplished much in my life. I am very brave to have pulled through tough situations and I am very unique.

Who are/what are your biggest motivators?

People who love, care and rally for me. Thanks to every one of them.

Do you have people you look up to?

My grandfather because he is the only person in my blood family who treats me with kindness, understanding, patience, love and gratitude. I miss him very dearly because he is many miles away from me.

What are your feelings on motherhood?

That it’s scary and exciting but I’m nervous because I worry about turning out like my mother – I need to work on myself first. I am determined to be a better mother when I have my first child.

What are your biggest fears?

Losing someone, because I’ve faced so many losses from unhealthy relationships, suicides and drugs in a very short period of time.

Your biggest regrets?

Not having a chance to say goodbye to all the people I’ve lost.

“I stand strong today and I declare myself a survivor.” – Crystine
Photo by Leslie Alejandro

Your greatest accomplishments? 

Surviving life, travelling solo to several places, pushing myself through college to graduate with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Religious Studies, and being open about myself. I am a survivor.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

I believe that endurance comes from our struggles in life, because life is never easy and there will always be chances to fall but you also need to get up again. We need to be assertive and not allow hardships to bring us down, but instead let them shape who we can become. Strength, Resiliency and Hope are powerful words to hang onto. Always remember that you are one of the most amazing people to have ever walked the Earth.