consensual culture

a community collective and relational healing ecology for trauma resolution and QTBIPOC liberation

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How we heal in relationships

by | Apr 19, 2021

In the following week after we launched the consensual culture fundraiser last Monday, I froze. 

I froze because asking for $25,000 is not just about making sure our team and business are well resourced, nor just about creating scholarships for queer, trans Black, Brown & Indigenous folks. 

It is also me saying, “Hey, I’ve created this incredible community offering for us, do you want to be a part of it? And not only that, do you want to be a part of what I’m offering enough so that you’d share your resources with me?” 

And that, is fundamentally relational.

Making this request known was asking me to grow through another layer of vulnerable neediness and receptivity inside my community and those I relate to through my work.

As someone who has complex developmental trauma, feeling safe inside of my relationships tends to come with much difficulty and resistance.

In fact, for most of my life, I don’t believe I can say I knew what it was like to feel safe with anyone.

Raised in Malaysia, I noticed a pattern of self-isolation anytime I grew closer to a group of friends. I took a sense of pride in being a lone wolf, persistently holding parts of myself back that were too afraid, too vulnerable, too needy, too tender to be shared. 

Whenever intimacy came knocking at the center of any relationship, be it romantic or friendly, I’d shut down and run away. It was easier to be in the pain of not feeling belonging rather than the vulnerability of having it

At some point in my immigrant life in the US, I began to feel an aching for community. I had experienced enough loneliness and isolation that the innate desire within me for connection, to be seen, be heard and related to began to grow louder and louder.

Finding and intentionally building within a spiritual community showed me that it was safe enough to share parts of my story I had kept under lock and key for years. It was incredibly healing to know that while details of our stories often looked different, most of us have experienced something thematically or traumatically similar.

Being both a part of and leading community circles were a salve to the gaping wound of not ever having my relational needs met, but soon enough, I longed for something deeper.

I longed for parts of myself that have been made wrong, exiled and fragmented to not only be integrated into my present way of being, but also to be witnessed with the audacity to be loved. 

These shadow aspects of myself included my queer and non-binary identities; expressions of myself that are still unraveling and emerging. It is one thing to feel relaxed and soft in my own body around it, it’s another to be radiant about it in the presence of someone else. 

My disorganized attachment to safety inside of my relationships became more complex as I began to understand how systems of oppression worked together to uphold itself, and in effect, violently repressing the very parts of myself that carried shame for existing. 

I began to see how colonial values of white supremacy, perfectionism, meritocracy, paternalism, hierarchy and dominance showed up in how I related to my own identities and that of others. 

I noticed how internalized shame around my needs, desires, ideas and body changed how I felt worthy or not in receiving care, acknowledgement and affection as an assigned female at birth person. 

I saw how capitalism ingrained scarcity and urgency in my community and lineage, prioritized numbers over nuance in business, and designed itself so that I would constantly be chasing a never-ending goal attached to my sense of worthiness. 

It also pained me to connect the dots around how our punitive society and the carceral system inflated our negative bias and taught us to shame ourselves and each other for our humanity; a system designed so that only those who benefited from the colonial, capitalist, patriarchal white supremacy would remain privileged, wealthy and powerful. 

No wonder it felt unsafe to exist vulnerably and authentically inside my relationships. 

While these systems are intangible and invisible, I could sense them in my body, my thoughts, my beliefs, my energetic field, and therefore in how I related to others and vice versa. 

The internalized power dynamics, oppressive ideologies and my nervous system wiring towards protection was getting in the way of what I really needed and wanted relationally; to belong

However, I need to first feel safe in order to practice intimacy that would lead to a sense of belonging and connection.

So, what does it take to feel safe in my relationships? 

And, what are the capacities and embodied wisdom that I need in order to create a way of being that helps me relate more truthfully to myself, before sharing them with others and allowing that to heal me, change me? 

This is where consensual culture comes in. 

My practice of the core values of interdependence, inter-sovereignty, integrity, co-creation and compassion offered an embodied framework in how I might be able to sense my truth in a way that cuts through my internalized oppression- though it is often a lot easier said than done. It takes iteration and patience to grow muscles that have atrophied under harmful systems.

It teaches me how to relate to my soma, soul and psyche through the lens of what creates a felt-sensed field of safety in order to really drop in and connect with someone intimately.

It’s supported by trauma resolution pedagogy, somatic and relational skills for my nervous system, and an ecosystem of community care grounded in love and liberation. 

I needed it because it’s painful to look at what I’ve worked so hard to protect from being hurt once more. It’s incredibly disorienting to not know how to be unapologetic about my needs and boundaries. It is violent to feel unsafe to exist. 

consensual culture offers me the capacity to be with that pain, to listen to the inner compass within with conviction, and to move forward shamelessly with integrity- a radical act of re-humanizing. 

The truth is, I don’t know how we are going to defund the police and abolish the carceral system when so much violence is still occurring and without the powers that be showing any desire to transform. 

What I do know is that if I can dismantle how it shows up within my own inner experience and my outer relationships, I’m co-creating a culture that will make us intolerable hosts for these systems to inhabit within. 

And that’s something worth living for. 

And yes, it’s worth being vulnerable enough to be needy for. I’m practicing leaning into the discomfort of both receiving the resources that I need to be the vessel for this body of work, and to receive said resources from my community- those whom I am in continued, conscious relationship to in order to bring consensual culture forward.

Support consensual culture through our fundraiser, and join our introductory workshop on May 1st at noon PST.

resources & offerings

Learn more at our introductory workshop.

Join us on Saturday, May 1st, 2021 at 12pm PST, 3pm EST for an introductory workshop to consensual culture.

This is a free workshop open to all. Register to receive our Zoom link, and a recording will be available for 48 hours.

Heads up, you’ll also be added to our newsletter when you register and you’re welcome to unsubscribe after the event date.

    photo of Denise writing in a journal
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