I sat at my desk reading over the email.
“Happy Women’s History Month! We would love to interview you about what it means to be a woman in the world of pornography.”
It wasn’t the first time that I had been interviewed about pornography. After nearly 20 years of working in the realm of erotic film, discussing feminism and pornography was something I could do in my sleep.
I’ve spoken at universities, written essays for academic journals on the topic, and written extensively about the political and social significance of documenting our sexual culture in my book “The DIY Porn Handbook:Documenting Our Own Sexual Revolution.”
But I sat there, frozen, staring at my screen.
Women’s history. Women. Woman. Like me. But not.
Words are funny and strange. Some seem to fit so easily and others are tight and scratchy, woolen and agitating to the flesh; uncomfortably cinched in the most unpleasant ways.
There are some words that just don’t fit.
Woman is one of those words for me. “feminist” — yes — that still fits. “Queer” — absolutely. Queerness is spacious and flowy. My body moves easily through the silken iridescent fabric of its single syllable.
“Dyke” was always a studded leather jacket of punk armor that protected my small soft body from harm.“Lesbian” was a thin slippery latex that looked cute, but was like playing dress up. I was sure I’d rip that word in two by accident the second I plunged my fist inside of my girlfriend’s cunt or begged for Daddy’s cock to fuck my ass so hard I’d see stars.
Words like “bitch” and “hoe” caused a rash while “slut”and “cunt” and “whore” were lush and decadent, worn like the Goddexx I knew that I was.
And now here I was staring at the word “woman” and experiencing a bee sting-sized allergic reaction.
It just didn’t fit.
I’m forever the anarchist, taking apart systems that don’t work. And hte societal construct of gender seemed to be strangling me.
The week before, I stared at my Instagram profile for a good 20 minutes before I gathered the courage to add my pronouns — “She/They.” It felt big. I wasn’t sure if anyone would even notice.
So where did I fit into women’s history now? Do I answer the email? Do I correct folx when added to Women in Porn or Women in Film listicles? Is it right for me to come out as having a gender that exists outside of any binary construct when the world perceives me to be cisgender and a woman?
I don’t have all the answers. Or know exactly where I belong. But I do know that I have spent my life standing in my truth even when it wasn’t the easy thing. Reveal All Fear Nothing became my mantra long ago, when I refused to be in a closet to appease other people’s comfort. I’ve found that doing so grants others the permission we sometimes need to see and stand in their own truth as well.
Two months ago I (finally) legally changed my name: Madison Arbor Young-Mogul. A name I had been wearing for 15 years; that I had stepped into. Names and words are important like that. Containers. But perhaps the most important thing about a container is building it, because in doing so it grants agency a sense of autonomy.
When I create the container of my name, my pronouns, my gender, my identity, I am weaving together words in such a way that they custom fit who I am. I am claiming an agency over my body and self when the world around us tries so desperately to rip our autonomy from our being from birth.
So rare is it that space is held for us to unfurl into the person that our soul so deeply desires to be. At 40-years-old, I’m still unfurling and I feel a deep resonate expansion as I realize the soul that resides in this meat suit I walk around in. And it surpasses any definition of gender.
Gender is a curious, amoeba-like entity. My gender, like my sexuality, doesn’t exist on a binary spectrum. My gender has movement and depth and squishes about on multiple planes of existence, not really ever staying in one place. It is messy. It is complicated. It expands and contracts. Certainly it is non-binary and non-linear but, more than that, it is queer.
I stare at the email on my laptop computer. The words become fuzzy and soft, losing meaning, and loosening their grip on me. I gift myself a big exhale and delete the inquiry. Their words don’t fit, and so I won’t bother trying them on.
I slip out of the tie-dyed onesie pajamas, an explosion of colors falls to the ground as I slither into my favorite black jeans and my red Be Kind t-shirt.
I am stepping into kindness, for myself and in knowing that I’m exactly where I am meant to be; that I am surrounded by love, and that the place of belonging that I always ache for is within me. That I am worthy of gifting myself this kindness, simply for being. There is no need to earn it, to work for it, to seek it out.
I open and expand even further into this realization that I’m nuzzling into. This blanket of warmth and light and love that surrounds me in all my forms and expressions of self.
With a trembling hand, I open my wooden jewelry box, a place of treasures that adorn my body and titillate my heart. I pull out my newest purchase: two dangling brass heart earrings engraved with the words “She” on one heart and “They” on the other.
As I slip them on I feel that thing. That thing I feel when something just fits. That thing called belonging when our internal landscape is free to express itself outwardly, held in a place of affirmation.
Yes, that fits.