Me, too.

This has been sitting in my drafts for nearly a year. The current investigation of Brett Kavanaugh and subsequent public berating and belittling of his victim, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, has pushed me to finally finish writing it and hit “publish.” I hope this opens some people’s minds, I hope survivors of sexual violence find some solace in my words, and I need to get this off my chest because I know I’m not the only one feeling this way.

The following includes detailed accounts of my own abuse, rape, and assault that others may find triggering. Consider yourself warned.

I was four years old, wearing a t-shirt that was too big for me. The sleeve of one side slipped down and my bare shoulder was exposed through the neck hole of the shirt. An adult male family member called me “sexy.”

I was fifteen years old, walking home from the bus stop after school, when a man on a bicycle pulled up next to me and exposed his flaccid penis to me before laughing and riding away. When I told my mom, she called the police. When I told my brother, he laughed and said something about it being just a guy thing.

I was eighteen years old, hanging out in the dorms at college when I lost consciousness in a friend’s room due to a then-undiagnosed heart condition. When I woke up, I was lying down on a bed with the penis of said “friend” jammed into my mouth. The incident was not reported to campus authorities. The first person to whom I tried to disclose my story accused me of “asking for it,” crying victim, and trying to get attention. For two years, anytime I passed my abuser on campus he would place his hands around his throat and mock me.

I was nineteen years old, working and living as an RA in the same dorms where I had first been sexually assaulted, when a male resident from down the hall knocked on my door after midnight. Upon answering the door, I was pushed backwards into my dorm room and the resident repeatedly tried to kiss me. When I put my hand out to push his face away, he bit my hand. I filed a report with my boss (part of the campus security team) in the morning, but nothing ever came of it and no punishment was delivered.

I was twenty years old, dating a man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. If he had had it his way, maybe my life would have ended early and that dream/nightmare would have come true. It started with berating my outfit choices and escalated to black eyes, then devolved into him periodically jolting me awake in the middle of the night by raping me. I finally called things quits when I found out he was cheating, but I still sought closure and agreed to meet up for drinks to talk things over on my last night of college. Afterwards we ended up going home together for what I thought would be consensual goodbye sex. Even then I knew it was a bad idea, but years of gaslighting had given me a case of Stockholm Syndrome and I was still not in a good place mentally. That “consensual” sex turned into rape when he turned me around, held me with my face down into a pillow, and raped me anally while he told me that if I complained or if anything “gross” got on his penis while he was raping me, he would kill me. When I stopped struggling and let my body go limp so that things would be over faster, he told me I was a good girl. I cried the entire time.

I was twenty-four years old, on vacation in Los Angeles. I stayed with a friend of a friend and her roommates, and we went out for a night of shopping and cocktails. One of the male roommates drove me home, and when we got back to the house it was empty. We started watching funny YouTube clips on my laptop in the living room and then he tried to kiss me. I leaned away, he kept leaning in, I said no, and before I knew it he had grabbed my arms and pinned me to the couch. I kept saying “no.” I smushed my face between the cushion and the back of the couch so he couldn’t reach my face to kiss me. Once he realized he wasn’t getting any action, he called me a bitch as he let go of me and walked away. My wrist was bruised and I slept with a knife under my pillow just in case. The next morning, I packed my things and left before dawn. The girl I was staying with asked me not to say anything or file any reports because she didn’t want her reputation ruined for living with a predator. They’re still friends to this day.

I was twenty-five years old, dating someone that was friends with dozens of my friends and acquaintances. We had been seeing each other for about a week when he pulled down my shirt and exposed my breasts to passersby while standing on a sidewalk next to a busy four-lane street. Several days later, he punched me while we were having sex and left me alone in the bathroom to cry. After that weekend I completely cut off ties and asked him not to contact me. After the second or third random text trying to get my attention, I sent one back. I listed all of the incidents that had happened (including ones not outlined here) and told him I never wanted to hear from him again for all of those reasons. The only response I got was “I’m sorry you’re not turned on by the same things as me.” I sure as hell don’t count that as a real apology. I still keep the chat log stored on my computer to remind myself that I’m not crazy.

Maybe now some of you will better understand why I have panic attacks or cry in public for seemingly no reason.

Maybe now some of you will better understand what women mean when they say that men act entitled to our bodies.

Maybe now some of you will better understand why rape and sexual assault survivors don’t go to the police. We don’t always disclose our stories, and when we do, sometimes it’s decades later because more often than not, we aren’t taken seriously. When it comes down to brass tacks, we don’t want to end up sitting in front of a panel full of crotchety old white men who are more concerned about the careers of rapists than they are about the mental health of the people whose lives were ruined in the wake of those rapists’ actions. We don’t want to become the punchlines for politicians’ heinous jokes on Twitter.

The things I have endured are different from (but so similar to) many of the stories I have heard from other women I know and millions more that I don’t. Many women have been through more, and many have been through less. The lucky ones never have and never will endure any sexual abuse, assault, or rape.

I hope it brings someone comfort to know that they are not alone, that there are so many survivors out there and things DO get better. I wish I was the only person in the world who had endured these hardships for the simple fact that I wish nobody else would ever have to live through these things.

I can’t speak for every survivor, but I can speak up for myself and I hope that others follow suit. I’m here to say that it’s okay to feel what you feel, whether it’s really intense or if you’re satisfied that you’ve worked through your trauma. Seek help if you feel that you need help. It’s also okay to cut people off that make you feel unsafe. It feels REALLY GOOD to cut ties with anyone who minimizes your experiences or perpetuates a friendship with someone who abused you despite knowing exactly what happened.

I’ve found that journaling and actually talking about things has helped me immensely. It’s up to you if you want to report things to the authorities — if you think you’re going to be put through more pain than it’s worth, you don’t have to. Just because an assault isn’t reported and documented by the police doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The other best thing I’ve found is surrounding myself with people who love and care about me and who believe me. There’s nothing better than having a network of people that I know are of solid character and can be trusted. Feeling safe is important.

So if you’re one of the many, many abuse or rape survivors in the world, remember —

You are not alone.

You will survive this.

Seeking professional help is NOT a sign of weakness and CAN help.

Take things one day at a time if needed.

Surround yourself with people who celebrate your strengths, not those who prey on your weaknesses.

THIS WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.

I believe you, and I believe in you.

You can seek counseling through many local survivors’ advocacy groups, by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or doing a quick Google search for free or low-cost mental health centers in your area.

You will be okay.

“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.”

— Official Victim’s Statement, Brock Turner Rape Case

Crampus Holiday Market 2018

Crampus Holiday Market is one of my favorite events of the year! Each December (and for Galentine’s Market in February), I hand-pick around two dozen femme, queer, and trans artists to sell their work at a local arcade venue. Instead of charging a table fee, I put the whole thing on for free and vendors pull their weight in promoting the event to as many people as possible. Instead of charging a cover at the door, we ask our attendees to donate pads and tampons to Chicago Period Project! This year’s event is taking place at Emporium Logan Square, located at 2363 N Milwaukee Ave in Chicago, from 6-11 pm on Tuesday, December 18th.

Chicago Period Project, in their own words, empowers homeless and in-need people to experience their periods with dignity. The feminist, grassroots organization distributes pads, tampons, underwear, and other critical menstruation supplies to local shelters, schools, and crisis support networks. All menstruating people should have reliable access to period supplies. The Chicago Period Project’s goal is for the 29 percent of Chicago residents living below the poverty line to have healthy periods, and for us to raise awareness about this issue.

Want to be a vendor at this event? Applications are open until September 30th. The cost is $5 per application, which is used to purchase pads and tampons in bulk that get directly donated to CPP. At the time of this posting (September 20th) we have raised $165 through app fees - enough to buy 2,164 pads and tampons!

Want to RSVP? Check out the Facebook event page!

Want to donate? Chicago Period Project accepts the following items: tampons, menstrual pads, panty liners, wipes, mini hand sanitizers, NEW women’s underwear, water bottles, individual chocolates, and toilet paper. Side note: Please refrain from donating menstrual cups, as many of the individuals who will be receiving your donations lack the ability to properly sterilize their cups which is a health/safety hazard.

If you are attending as a vendor or as a guest and would like to bring a donation, get the most bang for your buck with these listings on Amazon. Each item has the lowest price per unit (per pad or tampon) while still retaining high enough quality to actually be used. For the larger boxes, we suggest getting a group of friends together to split the cost and then attend the event together to make your donation!

Please note that these are Amazon affiliate links, which means I receive a small portion of any purchase you make - don’t worry, this money gets reverted back into donations to CPP. We’ll post a final tally of everything after the event! The 2017 event rendered more than ten thousand individual donations.

See you guys at the event!

MY FAVORITE FILM CAMERA

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON AFFILIATE LINKS, READ HERE.


Since the first time I laid eyes on a Yashica T4, it became my favorite camera. Back in 2010 I was spending a lot of time at house and techno clubs in Detroit, and I was using a Walgreens loyalty point-and-shoot film camera to document everyone busting a move. This is where I get a little long-winded. Deal with it.

The Walgreens camera was great. The camera itself was $20 and came pre-loaded with a roll of basic film. The deal was that you'd shoot your film, bring it back to Walgreens to be developed, and they'd load your camera back up with film - FOR LIFE. This was the era when one-hour photo was a service available at every Walgreens, and if you asked for a CD only with no prints, processing plus scans cost only $5.99.

I quickly developed rapport with the guys who worked the tech counter at my Walgreens and soon discovered that if I asked nicely, they'd just hand me a new roll of film with my camera instead of loading it for me. I'd take the roll home, put it in a different camera, shoot it, and then bring it back with my loyalty camera for processing and a new roll of film. Eventually I bought a second loyalty camera just so I could have a few rolls of free film in rotation. It was AMAZING.

At the time, Detroit also had a movie industry tax incentive, and at one of the rooftop parties I attended I met a Hostel 3 (lol @ the fact that someone made a third Hostel movie) crew member named Justin who took interest in my camera. He pulled a Yashica T4 out of his pocket and then used his phone to show me some photos of nude women that he had taken with that camera. It sounds like the weirdest and most unwanted interaction to have at a party but I LOVED the quality of his art and started looking for a T4 of my own on eBay. Luckily for me, Justin had multiple T4 cameras and very graciously gifted me one. I'm eternally grateful!

 Yashica T4 on  Amazon

Yashica T4 on Amazon

Discontinued in 2002, the Yashica T4 is a cult classic, predominantly due to its use by famed photographer Terry Richardson. This point-and-shoot is well-built, a little heavy, but it has a stellar 35mm f/3.5 Zeiss T* four-element Tessar lens and it's weatherproof (not waterproof though!). Richardson shoots with two at a time to allow the film in one camera to advance while he shoots a frame with the second camera and then switches back, but most hobbyists don't need (and probably can't afford) two.

Mine is the T4 Super which means it has a Super scope which works kind of like a periscope and allows you to shoot from the hip while looking down into the camera. I bought Jason a regular T4 without Super scope as a gift because I found it for only $2! He loves it and when the opportunity presented itself at an estate sale, he bought himself a T4 Super (with the scope), so now we have three total. Since the T4 was discontinued and is well sought-after, these cameras usually come with a hefty price tag but I can assure you, it's an investment you will love forever and if you find one for less than $300 you should snatch it up immediately. If it's less than $100 don't worry if it's broken either, because they have insane resale value.

The T4 is marketed as Yashica and as Kyocera so it may have either or both logos on the front, and comes in a regular and Super version. These cameras may also be light grey or black so don't let that throw you for a loop - just look for T4 on the front. The T3 and T5 are also comparable if you ever come across them at a thrift store or at a good price online but they're much more rare to find.

After Walgreens stopped processing film in-store, I switched to using Kodak Portra 160 at Justin's recommendation. It's a little pricier than the standard Kodak Gold film available in drug stores, but I promise it's worth it. Portra film has excellent tonality, especially on skin, which makes it perfect for portraits. I prefer the 160 speed to the 400 but both are great and what you purchase really depends on where you plan on shooting. Since I mostly shoot in daylight I can use slower film.

I occasionally use expired film from an estate sale in my T4 as well, so the rest of this blog post is a mix of different types of film. Technically I could still use my loyalty camera to get free film from Walgreens since it has a lifetime guarantee, but I don't trust the lab they outsource to and have switched to The Darkroom instead.

 Lake Michigan shot on  Portra 160  with  Yashica T4

Lake Michigan shot on Portra 160 with Yashica T4

 Jason shot on  Portra 160  with  Yashica T4

Jason shot on Portra 160 with Yashica T4

 Jason shot on  Portra 160  with  Yashica T4

Jason shot on Portra 160 with Yashica T4

 Garfield Park Conservatory shot on  Portra 160  with  Yashica T4

Garfield Park Conservatory shot on Portra 160 with Yashica T4

 Plants shot on  Portra 160  with  Yashica T4

Plants shot on Portra 160 with Yashica T4

 606 Dog Park shot on  Portra 160  with  Yashica T4

606 Dog Park shot on Portra 160 with Yashica T4

 One oldie but goodie of me (with no tattoos to boot!) in the Detroit River shot on  Portra 160  with my  Yashica T4  by my friend  Jarod Lew

One oldie but goodie of me (with no tattoos to boot!) in the Detroit River shot on Portra 160 with my Yashica T4 by my friend Jarod Lew

My Yashica is trusty enough that I use it for all of my test rolls. If I get a big batch of film from an estate sale or thrift store, I shoot one roll from each type to make sure the rest of the batch is worthwhile. I typically go to the Garfield Park Conservatory because the lighting is consistent and the subject matter is always beautiful.

 Expired color slide film shot with  Yashica T4

Expired color slide film shot with Yashica T4

 Expired b&w film shot with  Yashica T4

Expired b&w film shot with Yashica T4

 Expired color slide film shot with  Yashica T4

Expired color slide film shot with Yashica T4

 Expired b&w film shot with  Yashica T4

Expired b&w film shot with Yashica T4

 Expired color slide film shot with  Yashica T4

Expired color slide film shot with Yashica T4

 Expired b&w film shot with  Yashica T4

Expired b&w film shot with Yashica T4

 Expired color slide film shot with  Yashica T4

Expired color slide film shot with Yashica T4

These are just a few of my favorites from my last six test rolls. For more, check out my Instagram page. I share a mix of my film photos and digital photos of my taxidermy and jewelry work there too.

My most important piece of advice when it comes to dabbling in film photography for the first time is just to have fun with it!

It's a lot better than letting little things stress you out. And while I love my Yashica T4, at any given time my favorite camera is always the one I happen to have with me... so if you can't afford a T4, fret not - you can still create amazing art with as little as a disposable camera. It's just a matter of perspective.


LOOKING FOR A SPECIFIC BLOG POST? CHECK OUT MY ARCHIVES HERE.