Teresa

“I project respect.”

Name?

Teresa.

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in the Bay Area. Vallejo California to be specific.

Were you brought up religiously/secularly/other?

My family identified as being ‘Christian’, but we never really attended church unless we were visiting family in Central California.

Was there turbulence throughout your childhood/adolescence?

My mother was 16 when she had me, and thanks to my maternal grandfather I had a pretty normal first seven years. My mother developed schizophrenia when she was 23, though, and everything changed. After that, I became her caretaker.

The years between age 7 and 14 were pretty chaotic, and at 14 I finally left home with a man nine years my senior. He was the first great love of my life and the father of my two girls.

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

Never. I’ve always been pretty comfortable in my skin.

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

Every single moment in that time shaped me into who I am now.

That shaped your sexuality?

Being part of the performing cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in my hometown made me realize that I was attracted to all bodies – all genders and the forms they can manifest in. I knew early on I was attracted to both sexes, but that particular experience opened my eyes to the beauty of all humans.

When did you become aware of your gender?

I have always identified as female. I can’t think of a time where I felt otherwise.

"I've always been pretty comfortable in my skin." - Teresa   Photo by RachelRenee

“I’ve always been pretty comfortable in my skin.” – Teresa
Photo by RachelRenee

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

I had my first orgasm at age eight when I saw a topless woman on the drive-in screen adjacent to the screen we were watching. I had no idea what happened or why it happened and it scared the shit out of me! That moment stirred my attraction for women and for discovering my body.

Another moment that really stands out for me was when I was 11. I developed very early and, at that age, already looked like I was 18. I was downtown with my friends and we were all wearing typical attire for that age (jean-shorts and t-shirts), but the men we passed paid attention to me and not my friends, who looked like typical 11-year-olds. The feeling of their eyes on me, and their reactions to me, made me very aware of my sexuality and how powerful it could be.

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

I could write a book, haha! I like to look at them as opportunities for growth instead of obstacles. I was a mother of two before I was 16. I am a sexual abuse survivor. I am an addict in recovery (26 years). The biggest growth opportunity came when I was diagnosed with uterine cancer at 19. So much of my identity as a woman had to do with being able to have children until that point. After my uterus was removed, I felt lost and ashamed. And then when my husband left me because I couldn’t give him children, I felt pretty worthless as a woman. It took me years to recover from that feeling.

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

In spite of my childhood, I have never been ashamed of who I am as a sexual being.

What is the image you think you project every day?

A kind, considerate person who has the best of intentions.

What is the image you would like to project?

A person who loves without boundaries.

What do you think the image other people perceive is?

A slightly crazy, fun woman with a big heart.

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

My life is very full and wonderful! I have a job that allows me to work at home, I am a Fully Professed Member of the Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and I have full-time care of my 11-year-old grandson. I can honestly say that I feel like all of the facets of my life are full of beauty and wonder.

"I can honestly say that I feel like all the facets of my life are full of beauty and wonder." - Teresa   Photo by RachelRenee

“I can honestly say that I feel like all the facets of my life are full of beauty and wonder.” – Teresa
Photo by RachelRenee

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

YOUR body, YOUR choice. Next question…

Are you pro-life or pro-choice?

I am very pro-choice.

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

I think you can lead a horse to water, but can’t make them drink.

If someone makes you feel bad because you are being responsible in attempting to not bring an unwanted child into this world, they are idiots.

What are your feelings about casual sex?

If you would have asked me that question 25 years ago, my answer would have been very different. I was a pansexual child of the 80s; the world was my candy store then. Now that I am older, my ideas of pleasure and happiness have changed. I think that if it makes you happy and you are being responsible, then go for it! It’s just not my thing anymore.

Are you in a relationship(s)?

What a good question, haha! I am currently in love with two people.

What are your feelings about marriage?

I have been married three times; the last lasting 17 years. After the end of that relationship, I never thought I would want to marry again. I don’t think you need a piece of paper to confirm a loving, committed relationship. I love the idea of marriage, not the legal aspects of it.

What are your most positive relationships with other women?

I have so many wonderful, loving relationships with women! They all come from different walks of life, yet we all share so much. We learn so much from one another – if we allow ourselves the opportunity. The relationships that I hold most dearly are the ones that have this quality.

And your negative?

It breaks my heart when we attack each other for our differences instead of embracing and learning from them. I am a strong advocate for our transgender brothers and sisters. There are several Women’s festivals that do not allow transwomen. When queer women discriminate against transwomen, it absolutely makes my blood boil! We should be uniting in our Sisterhood, not fighting within it.

What does the word ‘woman’ mean to you?

Strong, Confident, Nurturing, Sexual, Loving, Me.

What are your feelings about monogamy?

I have always been monogamous by nature. If you love someone and want to be devoted to them completely, who’s to say that’s a bad thing?

About polyamory?

I have friends who have embraced that lifestyle and for some of them it really works. I think it takes a special kind of love, honesty and mutual respect in order for polyamory to work. I had never considered entering into a polyamorous relationship until I actually fell in love with two people at the same time. I know in my situation it would never work, but the thought did cross my mind.

"YOUR body, YOUR choice." - Stephanie  Photo by RachelRenee

“YOUR body, YOUR choice.” – Teresa
Photo by RachelRenee

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

Not at all. I am my own sexual being; no outside influence will ever change that.

How do you feel about products marketed to women?

If what they tried to sell you was what actually represented us, it would be great! As a fat woman, I hate looking at clothing that is supposed to be made for my body shape on the body of someone who doesn’t look anything like me!

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

Fucking hilarious! Since I haven’t had a uterus in years, I’ve kind of tuned out the commercials that deal with menstruation. However, the feminine deodorant products personally offend me. What is so offensive about the smell of a vagina? If there is an odor, there is usually a medical issue involved. Don’t cover up the smell, find out why there is one! OK, off the soapbox… I think it sends a message to women that the natural smell of their bodies is offensive. I find that very sad.

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

I figured out how to masturbate at about eight years old, but I continue to learn how to use my body sexually every day. Being pansexual has really allowed me to embrace all of my sexuality and how to use my body sexually.

Do you feel your sexual education was sufficient?

I grew up in the 70s, so the answer would be no. Nothing was being taught in school. Within my family, sex was a taboo subject, so there was a big void there. But I was a curious child, so I went looking on my own.

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

As a child, there wasn’t much I feel I could have done. Now I am a strong advocate for sexual education in our schools as well as open and honest communication at home, if at all possible. Most of the portrayals of sex we see in the media aren’t the best role models for our youth. While you shouldn’t shield your child from the world, you have an obligation as a parent to show them healthy, loving relationships to balance it all out. In my opinion, that involves open communication about sex.

Where do you feel unsafe as a woman?

Politically. Too many people have an interest in my body and yet too little interest in my inequality in the job place and my overall happiness.

" [Women] are still seen as property in some cultures... as less than human." - Teresa  Photo by RachelRenee

“[Women] are still seen as property in some cultures… as less than human.” – Teresa
Photo by RachelRenee

Where is somewhere you can exist without fear?

Where I live. I currently reside in West Sonoma County, along the Russian River. This community, in my opinion, could be a model for others. While not perfect, there is so much mutual love here and we are always looking for ways to make it better. This area has a very diverse population and a very strong Queer presence. In all of our differences, we make it work. We truly take care of one another.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence. When I manifest as a Sister, I essentially make myself a target for those who are homophobic. I personally have never felt unsafe in this community as a Sister. I have only felt love and respect.

Do women treat you differently than men?

It depends on how I treat them. I would say as a whole, no.

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

Maybe it’s because I am older and have lived the life I have, but I don’t experience those feelings. Or maybe I should say I have those feelings but I don’t identify them as being because I am woman.

Would you consider yourself a feminist?

I consider myself a humanist.

How do you define feminism?

Feminism is anyone who is Pro-Woman, in whatever form she is.

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

Not in nearly enough ways, I’m afraid. While women are being recognized in the political arena in some countries, in other countries women are still being mutilated and murdered in the name of honor, culture and God. We have a very long way to go.

And the negative ways?

See my answer above. We are still seen as property in some cultures… as less than human.

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

Depends on who in the world you ask.

What is your relationship to sex?

I have a very healthy relationship to sex. I know what pleases me and I know how to please my partner. I have grown into my womanhood and sexuality in my almost 51 years.

How do you define sex?

Something completely different than, but yet a part of, a love relationship.

"I have grown into my womanhood and sexuality in my almost 51 years." - Teresa   Photo by RachelRenee

“I have grown into my womanhood and sexuality in my almost 51 years.” – Teresa
Photo by RachelRenee

What does a sexual relationship mean to you?

Mutual sexual gratification without commitment.

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

Absolutely! How can you expect your lover to please you without communicating your wants and needs sexually?

Have you found a balance of fulfillment with your partners?

I have struggled with this in the past. But the older I have gotten, the less I am willing to settle. Sometimes the decision to end the relationship is heartbreaking… but needed.

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

Not at all. My partner is just as attentive as I am.

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

I have always been open about my sexuality, from about 12 on. Since then I have had partners of all gender variations. I have never been fearful of showing my love in public. I refuse to be afraid because of who I choose to love.

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

No.

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

Yes. As a fat person I have experienced situations like this in the past. I found that when I raised my self-confidence, these situations practically disappeared. I have to say that, energetically, I can be a force to be reckoned with. I project respect when I enter a room. If I don’t feel like I am getting that, you will know it.

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

The feeling of melting into that person, physically and energetically. It can also feel very primal and frenzied, like beasts fucking.

Is sex empowering for you?

Very.

Is sex embarrassing for you to discuss?

I have never been embarrassed to talk about sex… much to the dismay of my family.

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

Not anymore.

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

I think this is where age has helped me. I learned that if I didn’t speak up for myself, no one would. I live by the words, ‘Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes’.

"I refuse to be afraid because of who I choose to love." - Teresa   Photo by RachelRenee

“I refuse to be afraid because of who I choose to love.” – Teresa
Photo by RachelRenee

What do you seek through sex?

Pleasure, connection, intimacy with that person.

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

I think as a whole it sucks.

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

Not at all. I think that for the most part it sets unrealistic expectations for women, making us feel like shit.

How do you think the world at large views women?

Not in a very good way. Less than equal on all counts.

How do you maintain a sense of self?

By being true to who I am, no matter what that is. If I could not be truly me, I would wither and die.

What is something you deeply love about yourself?

That my heart is so open. It can be painful sometimes, but to be able to truly love without boundaries can be beautiful.

Who are/what are your biggest motivators?

My grandson, hands down. He came to live with me full-time four years ago and it’s been one of the greatest experiences of my life. He inspires me to be a better person every day. At this time of life, I never expected to be parenting again. But I have been given this precious gift of being able to show him how to love all people, help those in need and feel a sense of responsibility to the community and world he lives in. I look into his eyes and I see promise and I see love.

Do you have people you look up to?

I didn’t for a long time, but being a part of the Sisters, I have met so many wonderful, inspiring people who have enriched my life.

"I live by the words, 'Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes'." - Teresa  Photo by RachelRenee

“I live by the words, ‘Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes’.” – Teresa
Photo by RachelRenee

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

Nope.

Because of your appearance?

Actually, I felt honored and respected in my former career in massage therapy education. I know I was a role model for many people of size that never thought they could be a massage therapist. I am both honored and humbled by that knowledge.

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

In the line of work I have been in, I have not.

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

I am very fortunate in that I have not had that experience.

How have you dealt with conflict?

Head on. In my younger days, maybe not as gently as I could have. Since then I’ve had plenty of training in conflict resolution and I really try to utilize those tools. If I feel like I can’t, I will take step back until I feel like I can approach the situation with an open mind and even temper.

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

When I was younger, yes. Not any more.

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

I really never talked about it unless they were present when it happened. In those cases, they were enraged and lovingly supportive of me.

"You are worthy of love and of being loved." - Teresa  Photo by RachelRenee

“You are worthy of love and of being loved.” – Teresa
Photo by RachelRenee

What are your feelings on motherhood?

It can be the most wonderful, yet heartbreaking experience in a woman’s life. Watching them grow up and make mistakes that you can’t fix for them is heart wrenching.

What are your biggest fears?

That I won’t make a difference. That I will die alone.

Your biggest regrets?

Not saying I love you enough to people who aren’t here anymore.

Your greatest accomplishments?

That in spite of my life situations I AM STILL HERE! I did not allow my circumstances to warp my heart and, above all, I never gave up.

Anything else you’d like to add?

To anyone who reads this: Do not let anyone take away your ability to love yourself. You are worthy of love and of being loved. You are beautiful. Blessings…