Raechl

“Let's start with a fresh perspective.”

Where did you grow up?

Holland, Mi. The Bible-beltline of the state.

Were you brought up religiously/secularly/other?

As much as our peers seemed to demand it, my mother was vigilant in keeping my childhood relatively open when it came to the possibilities of religious belief. While we went to church, we only attended until I was old enough to decide I didn’t want to – and she provided me with plenty of options to read, study and explore where my beliefs would take me. She was the greatest source of knowledge and support I’ve had.

Was there turbulence throughout your childhood/adolescence?

Growing up in a Southwest Michigan town with a lesbian mother and a childish, mostly-absent father will cause some turbulence, definitely.

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

With a mother as supportive as mine, I tended to dabble in gender-fluidity and sexuality but never felt any embarrassment over it, as I had been raised with the ideal that exploring aspects of ourselves is the greatest adventure we’re able to embark upon. Discovering new fields of consciousness we weren’t previously aware of, almost as beautiful and rewarding as finding untouched parts of nature. I went through patches of uncertainty, but I was anemic as an adolescent not due to peer pressure for my appearance as much as a great disinterest in eating that stemmed from depression. I’d say the only physical embarrassment I ever received as a child was that I didn’t like to shower every day – I had very long hair (which I loved) and a penchant for being stubborn about sleeping in late. I always had a weird relationship with the amount of water I used when I did shower (on some level) and ended up taking very short ones whenever I did. A lot of kids gave me trouble for not being consistent in practicing the ritualistic waste of having daily showers, something I’m prepared to admit I admire my younger self for being so aware of, even if I didn’t know why.

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

Yes. Always the same one. Like a chapter in a book within my head, it even has a silly little title: “The Birds, The Bees and the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name”.

Any that shaped your perspective of women? Of sexuality?

When I was seven, I had a run-in with some overly-zealous religious neighbors’ children who told me my mother was going to Hell for being gay. Suffice to say this was the first time I’d heard anything to the effect, and my mother spent the better half of her summer day trying to quell my worries over losing her. As I grew older, I think my skin grew thicker, because those kinds of comments never really stopped – but I stopped listening to them. I didn’t experience any resentment or detachment from my mother over her sexuality, as I saw a lot of kids in my circumstance go through; I believe this was attributed to the fact that I trusted her more than anything, and knew as a person she was only being true to herself. It was here, in my adolescence, that she gave me the strength of my gender and sexuality without apology.

When did you become aware of your gender? Of your own sexuality, were there any key moments?

I went through a portion of my adolescence where I was very gender-fluid – I wore baggier clothes, tended to bind my chest – as I attempted to seek out where I fit on the spectrum of societal-imposed “gender”. In Paris, when I was fourteen, I was complimented and flirted with by a girl in a railway station, and that was one of the first moments I realized I was comfortable being a girl, but also was sexually interested in them. Boys have never truly been cast out of my sexuality, though. I feel myself tip further on the Kinsey Scale as the years go by.

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

Plenty of mistakes, hiccups of judgment and self-perception, and the disloyalty and violence of past relationships.

Have you ever struggled with your sexuality?

Only with myself. And never for great stretches of time. Mostly at the late stages of being a teenager, when I believed there might be simplicity in simply dating/having sex with men. I’m proud to say I’m no longer denying myself attraction when I experience it, no matter who it’s with.

"I’m proud to say I’m no longer denying myself attraction when I experience it, no matter who it’s with." -Raechl Photo by Jennifer Toole

“I’m proud to say I’m no longer denying myself attraction when I experience it, no matter who it’s with.” -Raechl
Photo by Jennifer Toole

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

Only when I allowed former partners to tell me who I was and who I should be.

What is the image you think you project every day?

I’d like to think it’s a childish sort of optimism. I believe everything will be okay, so long as you believe it can and will be when all is said and done. My mother used to say that to me, and now I find myself saying it to her in times of great worry; call it a daily utilization of the Fifth Freedom.

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

Living within the moment. I believe, beyond all else, that the universe will take care of me as long as I trust in it to do just that. It’s like a constant trust-fall with life.

What is the image you would like to project?

Strength. The ability and desire to learn more about myself, and the willingness to accept whatever it is I unearth.

What do you think the image other people perceive is?

Fickle, self-centered and stubborn. Which, twisted around is: Adaptive, self-conscious and determined. I’ve learned that most of the insults people decide to throw around are easily turned into things I can appreciate about myself. Compliments and insults are a double-edged sword. Learn which side you prefer to see the world through.

I’ve learned that most of the insults people decide to throw around are easily turned into things I can appreciate about myself. Compliments and insults are a double-edged sword. Learn which side you prefer to see the world through.

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

A woman’s consent trumps all other variables concerning her own body.

Are you pro-life or pro-choice?

Pro-choice.

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

They need to be made available to battle over-population, and covered by our health insurance.

What are your feelings on casual sex?

Be safe, and the world is at your feet. Explore it.

Are you in a relationship(s)?

Not currently.

What are your feelings on marriage?

I’d like the celebration of a wedding – an ode to all we may mean to each other – without the government getting involved on any level. I believe in marriage, so long as it suspends the grasp of politics and societal dictation. That being said, anyone who wants to get married in that manner, should be able to obtain it without intervention or stigma.

"There is a wide spectrum on which we sit, and have chosen to repeat the same storylines to death. Enough is enough. Let’s start with a fresh perspective." -Raechl Photo by Jennifer Toole

“There is a wide spectrum on which we sit, and have chosen to repeat the same storylines to death. Enough is enough. Let’s start with a fresh perspective.” -Raechl
Photo by Jennifer Toole

What are your most positive relationships with other women?

The ones where it is ingrained to support and encourage each other’s growth, as well as the world around us.

What are your negative?

I have tried to expunge the negative from my life, although I suppose the most detrimental relationships are the ones I find myself caught in due to over-familiarity and habit. My past is not a place I like to revisit.

What does the word ‘woman’ mean to you?

Someone who identifies with that gender-identity. Someone who has accepted themselves as such, and wishes other people and society to do the same. It remains unattached to attributes (be they physical or personality).

What are your feelings on monogamy?

It’s a failed system that breeds violence (i.e. ‘crimes of passion’) through jealousy and adheres to the suffocating ideals that it’s the only goal we have in life. Monogamy is the greatest kindling for mistrust, and has never once made me feel good about myself, or who I am.

On polyamory?

It’s the only true way to feel and maintain love in its truest form, and trust as it was meant to exist. Open relationships, open marriages, polyamorous relationships; I wholly support all of these and am polyamorous myself.

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

It is only affected to the extent I allow it to be. Which, at this point in my life, is very little.

How do you feel about products marketed to women?

Just like products marketed to men, they’re cheap ploys for cash and ultimately do nothing but reinforce a harmful narrative of how to identify with your gender.

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

The idea of keeping something an absolute ‘secret’ that everyone happens to know about the female reproductive system seems utterly redundant, and ultimately hurts the cause. Conversation about this fact should be easy and open.

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

I wouldn’t say ‘always’ but I became aware at a young age; my mother supplied plenty of books, and the more I read, the more I requested more to read. That idea exists to this day, although now I’ve delved more into self-awareness of a less mechanical nature. More philosophical.

Do you feel your sexual education was sufficient?

In school? Not even close. By my mother? More than sufficient. Enlightening, even.

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

I was often reprimanded for giving books on the subject to other children in my grade.

Where do you feel unsafe as a woman?

Nearly everywhere. My own apartment included. Recently, I came home to find that someone had been in my apartment while I’d been away taking a friend to the airport. There are only two people who possess keys other than my mother (who was with me) and myself, both of them men: a former roommate and a former boyfriend (whom I was still very close). Regardless of the reason, neither had any right to be in my home. And yet, after calling my mother in an uncomfortable panic, once I found myself regulating my breathing and calming down, I realised that the only thing I felt staring at the wall of my bedroom was: this didn’t feel new. It felt unsurprising. And it felt expected.

Where is somewhere you can exist without fear?

I’ve always felt otherworldly and safe in libraries and bookstores. Perhaps the only (man-made) places in the world.

Do women treat you differently than men?

Yes and no. Some treat me as a member of a greater understanding while others view me as competition. I don’t think either is particularly healthy, as much as I care to support women in need. I think we need to stop formulating opinions based solely around someone else’s gender.

In what ways does being a woman make you vulnerable or exposed?

I feel like an object moreso than a person when out in public, and don’t often feel safe anywhere.

Would you consider yourself a feminist?

Yes.

How do you define feminism?

Synonymous with Equalism, but with the intent to focus on the downtrodden party.

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

My mother had a fertility statue when I was a kid that I remember being very taken with. She was full of life and possibility, even as a stone figure. I feel when we are able to appreciate women for the life we are able to give (when we are ready, and choose to give it), that is the best way we can be viewed. Strong, capable, and life-bearing.

What are negative?

I don’t even know where to begin. To say it was hard for me to think of one way the world views us positively should say how many ways I can think of that the world views us negatively.

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

Majorly? They limit those of us who are honest and benefit superficiality and falsehood; the ‘weak and incapable’ perception allows arguments against rape and domestic violence cases involving women as the perpetrators to be dismissed as silly and ridiculous. One of the reasons I grew up loving the song ‘Cell Block Tango’ was the way it showed this coarse double-standard in satire. Sad to think that I’ve encountered a lot of people who don’t understand the message. Hint: it’s not a song for women-empowerment.

What is your relationship to sex?

Healthy, open-minded and active.

How do you define sex?

The idea of what sex is has widened for me since it came to include women. It’s a heated moment of consent that leads to passion and the overall, overwhelming current of euphoria that drags you both underwater. Good sex, anyway. Bad sex isn’t worth mentioning or defining.

What does a sexual relationship mean to you?

The second you have sex, you are in that relationship for the rest of your life. Dormant as you may let it lie after a single use. It demands (at least, to me) nothing, unless those involved feel it ought to encompass something beyond merely what formed it.

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

Yes.

Have you found a balance of fulfillment with your partners?

Are we speaking individually or entirely? Individually, no, though I believe there isn’t a balance to be found in one person, which would be why that is the case. As a group, I feel I am beginning to find it, though I still have a way to go in making up for my blind need to conform.

Do you feel that your desires are marginalized in the bedroom or are less important, if so why do you think that is?

I want to be on an equal playing field – I don’t want my needs suspended above my partner’s own, nor do I want them neglected. The best sex people can have is carefully balanced, I would say like a duet, but that leaves out the times where it involves more than two people. Music, though, I attribute largely to great sex. There are so many facets at work, and they all come together to make the experience incomprehensible.

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

I used to be. Mostly when I tried to adhere to the stipulations of monogamy with former boyfriends or ‘potentials’. The only fear I harbor is being fired over decisions made with my own body. If I were to strip or nude model in my free time, that should not put my (or anyone else’s) livelihood in danger.

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

With bisexuality comes plenty of expectations and imposed opinions about who I am or who I’m attracted to at any given moment. The most obscene and insulting of these is the idea that if I’m with one gender, I cease to be attracted to the other, and therefore lose my ‘bisexuality membership’.

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

Yes. By former boyfriends almost more often than strangers.

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

Rapid water, and the feeling of trailing fingertips.

Is sex empowering for you?

Enjoyable, definitely. Empowering on a certain level, though not all.

Is sex embarrassing for you to discuss?

Not at all. I wish more people would be open to discuss it with less bias.

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

There have been past relationships where I have most certainly done so, at the cost to myself and my health. I’m grateful to be able to say that is no longer the case.

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

Wherever my mother is concerned without hesitation. On my own, I do well, though we all have to grapple with doubt in certain circumstances. I’ve found myself the least willing to speak my mind when in a relationship, with my partner.

What do you seek through sex?

The giving and receiving of pleasure. I used to seek it as a stepping stone to relationships and love, but I appreciate what it is unattached to those things as my view of sex has changed through the years.

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

Frankly, it disturbs and overwhelms me. I love film, I love theatre – I am in love with what the media could be. What I feel it is, in all respects, meant to be.

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

Not at all. There are some great exceptions, but I also maintain having great expectations for the way women (and men) should be depicted more fluidly in all aspects of how we exist – sexuality, gender identity, etc. – and I strive to make that the case whenever I write. There is a wide spectrum on which we sit, and have chosen to repeat the same storylines to death. Enough is enough. Let’s start with a fresh perspective.

“I strive to have nothing I regret, only things I care to improve upon.” -Raechl
Photo by Jennifer Toole

How do you think the world at large views women?

Weak and incapable or vicious and cold-hearted. We only exist in extremes.

How do you maintain a sense of self?

Meditation. Doing things I feel the desire to pursue, without the complication of allowing society to tell me if they’re deemed unacceptable. Constantly pushing myself to grow.

What is something you deeply love about yourself?

The fact that I embrace change, and often even go to great lengths to pursue it.

Who are/what are your biggest motivators?

Self expression, my mother, and the father I chose in a high-school history professor.

Do you have people you look up to?

Those who are self-aware and chase after the biggest dreams they have with passion, and realize that life isn’t bound to change without our drive.

Do you ever feel overlooked in the workplace because of your gender or appearance?

I used to. So thankful to say I don’t anymore. On our yearly evaluation, a coworker and I expressed our mutual concern over the idea that how much make-up we wore day-to-day constituted for grading under ‘hygiene’. Our boss at the time actually told my coworker that some days she came to work ‘barely putting forth any effort’ and others arrived looking like (verbatim, from what she told me) ‘a pretty, pretty princess’. If you don’t see a major flaw and disturbing quality to this, we have an issue. First things first: the latter is not to be taken as ‘a compliment’.

Do you find entering the work-force as a woman has any bearing on how people will treat you?

I feel I must always be aware of my body language and how much of my personal opinions I let slip. I am in fear for my job security and career growth at an array of establishments due to my gender. It’s a difficult feeling to truly put into words and explain, but I fear that most women who are aware of the way the world works can relate.

Have you ever experienced sexism or sexual harassment within a workplace?

Sexism, yes. Sexual harassment, I’ve witnessed more times than I care to admit, but have not personally experienced it.

How have you dealt with conflict?

I’ve had to learn how to pick my battles.

Have you ever been verbally abused or threatened because of your gender?

Verbally, mentally, physically abused – all because of my gender.

If so, how did those in your life respond when you told them about it?

Doubt. I got a lot of overwhelming questions that didn’t have anything to do with what had been done. I was continually asked why it had happened, and what I’d done to provoke it. On every occasion, I had these questions asked at least once – by people of varying levels of authority and trust.

What are your feelings on motherhood?

I have been one, I am one (despite not having any living children to support this) and I will be one. As for how it pertains to other people, I feel everyone contributes to life in their own way, and I am equally as appreciative of those who decide and stick to their decision that having children is not for them.

What are you biggest fears?

Losing myself, in all manners of the concept.

Your biggest regrets?

I strive to have nothing I regret, only things I care to improve upon.

Your greatest accomplishments?

Finally doing something I love, with people I respect to the utmost degree. Learning to network and improve upon these initial ‘contacts’ until they are people I cannot imagine my life without. A willingness to listen and adapt my view of life and understanding of others when reason that is not my own appeals to me. But most of all, the fact that I allow myself a vast expanse of time and sense to grow.

"I allow myself a vast expanse of time and sense to grow." -Raechl Photo by Jennifer Toole

“I allow myself a vast expanse of time and sense to grow.” -Raechl
Photo by Jennifer Toole

Anything else you’d like to add?

Sometimes a single hour of complete human kindness flowing from fifty different people can counteract the terrible week caused by hundreds. Strive to be that light for other people, and be open to those who can and wish to be that light for you. ~