Podcast image with Bonnie Bakeneko

A conversation with Bonnie Bakeneko

NON-BINARY, TRANS-MASCULINE, GRAYSEXUAL

Recorded on 11 March 2020. Duration 46 mins approx.

Bonnie’s pronouns are he/him or they/them, and he identifies as trans-masculine, non-binary and greysexual (or grey-asexual). Find out what that means to Bonnie in this episode.

We also talk about Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID (previously called Multiple Personality Disorder or MPD), gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia, drag, self-expression, body autonomy, radical tenderness and vulnerability, choosing kindness, being a flawed being rather than good or bad, spoon theory, and how the body could be considered a forest rather than a temple.

CW: Please be aware that throughout this episode, we talk about dental trauma, sexual abuse, exposure therapy, fetish, and extreme body modification including piercing, scarification and nullification. We also mention self-cannibalism, which we talk about in more detail near the end of the episode. I’ll add a note when we get there, so if you find this disturbing, you may choose to skip the last five minutes. If you find any of these subjects disturbing, however, you may wish to skip the entire episode.

“People think trans people, people who are different, want attention… I literally just want a place at the table where I can just be myself.”

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TRANSCRIPT [expand to read]

CW: Please be aware that throughout this episode, we talk about dental trauma, sexual abuse, exposure therapy, fetish, and extreme body modification including piercing, scarification and nullification. We also mention self-cannibalism, which we talk about in more detail near the end of the episode. I’ll add a note when we get there, so if you find this disturbing, you may choose to skip the last five minutes. If you find any of these subjects disturbing, however, you may wish to skip the entire episode.

Esther: Welcome! Hey! What’s your name?

Bonnie: Hey! My name is Bonnie.

Esther: And what are your pronouns and how do you identify?

Bonnie: My pronouns are he/him, they/them, preferably he/him and I identify as trans-non-binary, trans-masculine.

Esther: How long have you sort of known this or have you felt like it?

Bonnie: I don’t know, in childhood if somebody had said to me: you have another option, it wasn’t just like you are female and that’s it, if someone had said you have an option, I probably would have gone with male. I definitely would have felt non-binary. When I hit puberty, I would say I felt, I really did feel female then, when I think back a bit, I enjoyed my femininity and I lived through my femininity and I really felt connected to my femininity. Then growing up, again, I never knew there was another option for years. My partner started to go through thinking that they might be trans, and that’s when I started to learn more about what is non-binary. It took a long time to work out where I fitted in that.

Esther: So do you feel quite comfortable now with your place and gender?

Bonnie: Now I love it, now that I have finally arrived, I love it. It took a long time because I wasn’t really sure if it was because I have dissociative identity disorder.

Esther: What does that mean? And what does it mean to you?

Bonnie: Dissociative identity disorder is what they used to call multi-personality disorder, but that is kind of a bit of an archaic term now. It is when you have more than one personality, although personality, again, is a bit of a misleading term, so an alter may not necessarily be a personality.  For me, I am more poly-fragmented associative identity, so I don’t have set other alters, or personalities, they are more like feelings and zones, like voices, kind of like a vibe and stuff, so in my head there will be several different zones and voices will come from that zone or whatever.

Esther: Okay.

Bonnie: And I don’t think I have actually found anyone in there that identifies as non-binary apart from myself.

Esther: Right.

Bonnie: They seem to all be cisgendered.

Esther: How interesting!

Bonnie: Which has been kind of confusing. I wasn’t sure when I started to think maybe part of me is masculine, I wasn’t sure if that was maybe the parts of me that aren’t me, the other personalities. I did have a very prominent other personality who was a fully-formed personality, they weren’t in the zone and stuff, he is a cisgendered male. And I wasn’t sure if maybe I was feeling their feelings or feeling my own feelings. And so it took a lot of unpacking to come to terms with understanding what was right for me and what was right for them and where I fit in with all of them.

Esther: Oh wow, blimey, that’s really interesting, wow! So how does the whole, your gender identity, how does that relate to, or correspond with, your feeling about your body?

Bonnie: I think a lot of it you have got to unpack, societal expectations with what gender is and I found that incredibly different. Also contending with not knowing if other parts of me were male or female and how they were feeling about things. I think when I started to dismantle that more and more and more I started thinking: maybe I am female but femininity to me is a different kind of femininity to what a normal, if anyone is normal you know, {laughing}.

Esther: “Normal”, whatever that is…

Bonnie: What that even is meant to be. So then I started to work out how I felt about my body and maybe if it was a body dysmorphia instead of a gender dysphoria, there were parts of my body I didn’t like, and I didn’t know whether maybe that was for gendered reasons or if I didn’t like them for body dysmorphic reasons. And yeah, it has been a lot of trying to learn what is at the base of all of it.

Esther: Okay. So when we met that was at a human library event… which we love!

Bonnie: Yes {laughing}

Esther: Yeah and you spoke about also body modification and piercing, specifically, I believe. How does that, let me see if I can ask a proper question here… because when we think piercing, when most people think of piercing, we think of…

Bonnie: Permanent piercing.

Esther: Yeah like a nipple or a belly button or that kind of thing, having your ears pierced, like the usual stuff, but for you it goes a bit further?

Bonnie: I have got my ears pierced now and that is it, I did go through having everything pierced but my body rejects it.

Esther: Oh right.

Bonnie: They just don’t stay; the skin doesn’t allow it to happen. With the piercing for me it felt very grounding, it helped me with the body dysphoria because even if I felt like, I don’t know if I was looking in the mirror and I would be morphing and mutating all over the place, the piercing would stay there and stay in one place, that could morph and change. That got me even more into tattoos because the tattoo is like an atlas of self, they are all my reality checkpoints, so I kind of.

Esther: That’s an interesting way of looking at it, yeah.

Bonnie: So even if I am looking in the mirror and I can’t work out what I am, because sometimes I can’t even see a human shape, it is just a blob of flesh, then I am like: there at least are my legs, because there are my leg tattoos; there are my hands, my hand tattoos; the more I started doing it the more I started to see myself in the mirror rather than seeing this kind of alien-fleshed thing.

Esther: Wow, that is interesting, I find everything interesting, as you can tell, because it is! {Both: laughing} Yeah, so you have some facial tattoos as well, can you tell us about those?

Bonnie: I have one on my forehead, it is just a smudged dot. I got this one, I used to be a very, I wasn’t a horrible person, but I definitely wasn’t a nice person. I had been through a lot and I had been through a very shit time and it just made me feel shit, I just wanted to kind of be a shit person, I didn’t feel very empathetic to society or anyone really. I went through a big kind of revelation where I became vegan, because I felt that the whole of the world was like this savage garden, everything is being mean to each other. I was watching this documentary with killer whales, killing a seal, and they were really torturing it before they killed it and I was like: yeah this is horrible, or  I could not be that thing. Instead of being like: everything is shit, I am going to be shit, I could be like: everything is shit, I am going to be kind, instead. And that really felt like, once I had seen the other side of it, I couldn’t go back from it. So for me, that one kind of represents, I don’t want to say a third eye, that is a bit cliché, but it is more like an awakening.

Esther: Okay, yeah, yeah.

Bonnie: I don’t usually tell anyone what that one means; I usually just tell people it is aesthetic.

Esther: Ah ok, that’s interesting, well I am honoured that you shared that. It is interesting what you said about the documentary and the killer whales because obviously cats, you like cats don’t you?

Bonnie: Oh I love cats.

Esther: You are a cat person and I am a cat person. So cats are known to play with their food as well, so how do you feel about that?

Bonnie: I feel like, I think I have come to the point where I am with most things in the planet, chaotic neutral, things are never going to be in this perfect balance of goodness, everything is going to have some badness in it. I don’t think of myself… I think I have stopped trying to think of myself as a “good” person now, more of a flawed being and that is okay. So with cats and the things they do are just awful, the things they do… I mean I have got eight cats and the things they do to other animals and bring them in in all different states and stuff. I have huge compassion for my cats and then huge compassion for all the other animals and then trying to get over the fact that my cat is doing these awful things. Even stuff like with my dog, we have chickens and a turkey, and my dog has attacked, has killed a couple of my turkeys before and my chicken and when one of your pets kills one of your other pets you don’t know what to do, I couldn’t be angry at him because he is a dog.

Esther: That’s heartbreaking!

Bonnie: It was really heartbreaking. It felt almost like I was being unfaithful to the turkey and the chickens by then still being friends with the dog is you see what I mean.

Esther: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Bonnie: Life is like that, you can’t really, I don’t think you can ever look at everything as black or white, absolutes in good and evil, there is a bit of both in all. Also what makes it so important to then have kindness is the fact there is so much unkindness, so just have that little bit of kindness in amongst all this uncaringness, it makes the kindness all the more important, rather than it banishes out the kindness, or blocks it out, it is the opposite.

Esther: It is a choice really, isn’t it? You can choose kindness or not.

Bonnie: Yes, you can not. I think the universe is indifferent, it is not like I am paving my way to heaven or anything like that, I have just decided that I want to be kind.

Esther: I like that, I think that is all you can do really, isn’t it?

Bonnie: I believe a lot in radical tenderness as well.

Esther: Oh I like that, what does that mean?

Bonnie: Being radically tender is being radically open to things and in the face of a harsh and brutal planet instead of facing that with harshness to face it with tenderness instead. For me, for a long time, it was incredibly painful, now I feel like there were things that I was doing before that hurt me so much more than the pain that I get from being open. Also, there is radical vulnerability as well: to be open and be your true, intrinsic, self, which is also incredibly hard because that gets met with a lot of opposition and people don’t like it. And if you are radically vulnerable you are open to being hurt but also if you are radically vulnerable you are not putting up those walls, which I think fundamentally, most people want to be free, that’s ultimately what they are striving for and that is what you can do with radical vulnerability that you couldn’t do if you were pretending that you were okay all the time, or that you weren’t bothered by something, or that something [had] hurt you.

Esther: Yeah, yeah, true. Interesting. I am currently reading a Brené Brown book, I don’t know if you are familiar with her material about vulnerability?

Bonnie: I haven’t been able to read physical copies of books for quite a long time. {laughing} I am a bit out of…

Esther: Where did you come across the terms then? Where do you find out about all that?

Bonnie: From the internet, I guess, there was a new wave of people… the planet is quite, with things like global warming and with everything that is going on in different countries and stuff, with the rise of right wing politics, it is hard to get your head around the whole thing and feel, I don’t know, safe, and okay, and knowing there is so much pain going on. So I think this is kind of a response to it, as opposed to being overcome with the pain from it or fighting up against it with resistance to try and challenge it in the same kind of way. I think this is a way to, although I think this is definitely like a new thing, because I first learned about radical tenderness and then, through that, thought: what would be the counterpart of radical vulnerability? You need both, you need the tenderness to reach out to people and the vulnerability to accept it. I never thought of myself as a tender person at all but then when I started to think about how I interact with the planet, as oppose to how I interact with other people, it is very, very, different. I have never been a horrible person to the planet which is so much more of what is going on that just the human race.

Esther: Yeah.

Bonnie: Although I am so much nicer to the human race than I used to be as well. When you start being nicer to other people you get it back as well, people do reciprocate it.

Esther: Oh yeah totally, it is a mirror, isn’t it. So that is interesting that brings me back to a question of self-expression, so you are an artist, so tell us a little bit about your art.

Bonnie: My artwork mainly deals with trauma processing, so, what I like to do is to take whatever it is that scares me, and then try, in a transformative way, to spin that so that thing that was hurting me and that was against me, I can then use for myself. So it becomes your own weapon that you can wield as oppose to a thing that hurts you. A lot of it is to do with exposure-therapy so I expose myself to things that really, truly, terrify me and then once you are exposed to them and you have gone through them, you kind of own it, they can’t scare you anymore.

Esther: Yeah, yeah.

Bonnie: For a lot of the things I do I think I am most well known for using dental equipment with a mouth spreader, a cheek spreader, which lets you see all the teeth. It is used in teeth whitening and different things to do with dental stuff.

Esther: As I was saying to you earlier, it reminds me of the film Hellraiser, right?

Bonnie: Yes it is like Chatterer [character in Hellraiser]. When I was young I had enamel hypoplasia which is a deficiency in the enamel, and I didn’t produce any enamel in my first set of teeth. So I was in and out of hospital a lot with it and in and out of dentists a lot with it. I remember trying to eat sweets once and my teeth literally fizzed and dissolved in my mouth.

Esther: Yikes!

Bonnie: When I was a kid I had some removed and I had gas instead of an injection and I tried to fight against the gas, it was really a traumatic experience because my dad had to hold me down to try and anathematise me while I tried fighting against it. It was just this feeling of, I don’t know, run away from a void or something and it was really traumatic and terrifying as a kid. So it was all this experience with teeth and stuff, then I had a lot of braces and stuff and some of my teeth are fake. So for years I didn’t smile or anything, I would cover my mouth when I smiled, I had rotten front tooth, my front tooth was rotten. So with the cheek spreader, because it reveals all your teeth, you are completely exposed, there is nothing for me to hide behind. And I was like: well if I take that and I guild it and I can decorate it, then it becomes mine and I can keep it and it is not something that then can be used against me anymore. I did that with lots of different things, with gynaecological instruments as well.

Esther: Okay.

Bonnie: I am trying to do that with other people who have had bad gynaecological experiences, so take the instrument and then… it almost feels like magic, transforming it then into something else, which is another reason why I am interested a lot in fetish, with the idea of an inanimate object having this power that you put into it and you then use that power against yourself or use it for yourself.

Esther: So do you actually work with people on sort of healing trauma?

Bonnie: I have worked with some people. It has been remotely because I have been hiding myself away in the countryside for quite some time, kind of like getting over some things and healing and stuff although I am now trying to come back out into society. So people that have had medical traumas. I find a lot, if you look into the psychology of fetish or find that most fetishes do arise from some kind of trauma that has happened in the past. The way the brain then tries to help you accept the trauma, it fetishes it. Although you would think that for me the worst thing would be for me to be around dental objects and stuff, but it is not, I get a really powerful feeling and it does lead onto a sexual feeling as well, but it is not inherently…fetish is never inherently sexual.

Esther: Okay, yeah. So about sexuality, you mentioned that you are asexual, and you mentioned the sorts of feelings of sexuality just now as well, so how does that all fit together for you?

Bonnie: I would cast myself as grey asexual and I think that for anyone who is a grey asexual it is very different per person. For me, I do feel like I am a very sexual person, but I don’t feel like I have this need for partnered sex, I don’t need to have someone else doing these things with me, I can do them all on my own. So, with all the fetish and stuff and I think coming from a place of extreme trauma, for me, it is best that I am the person that is facilitating the fetish as opposed to it being with someone else because no one is going to know me and my limits better than how I am going to know my limits.

Esther: That makes a lot of sense.

Bonnie: So I can be my own dom and my own sub, and I can fulfil me my needs, psychological and sexual, without having to get anyone else involved.

Esther: Yeah, wow. I was just thinking about the video you did recently that I watched. So you use, I don’t know, does it have anything to do with cosplay or is that totally different? What is that called?

Bonnie: Drag.

Esther: You call it drag.

Bonnie: For me it is drag, but for others, maybe they would say cosplay or something like that, I think drag not being the old kind of ideas of drag, drag now is more like a visual expression. Especially dealing with gender primarily I think with drag, but it can be dealing with whole lots of different things. So for me it can be dealing with gender, body dysmorphia, body horror, the past traumas, trauma generally is the thing that inspires me the most, it is more like wanting to get over traumas and stuff. And also, forever will be my inspiration, is nature.

Esther: Yeah so I was just thinking about the sort of look that you built for this video and it was incredible, I found it incredible, the whole sort of combination of that and what you were doing and the music and everything like that; it made it really eerie and beautiful and disturbing and everything at the same time and I was mesmerised by it and I have watched it several times and I probably will watch it again. So the sort of makeup you use, you use the mouthpiece as well, the mouth spreader do you call it?

Bonnie: Cheek spreader.

Esther: So how did you build that up and what elements did you use?

Bonnie: On the side of it, I had quartz crystal and then I had branches growing out with flowers.

Esther: So you make all the things yourself?

Bonnie: Oh yeah, all the stuff is made from scratch. A lot of trial and error for a long time because there is nothing like.

Esther: You are not going to to find a tutorial for that on YouTube I guess, no. {laughing}

Bonnie: {laughing} And then with the cheek spear, I made a cheek spear, which then had branches as well, with flowers and things. I wanted to wear a cheek spear since I was a kid, I remember the Debbie Harry Giger album cover, she has got pins in her face and I just thought it was so beautiful and I always wanted to wear a cheek spear but I could never find anyone who could make a cheek spear, because it is not something people make. So when I was getting my scarification done the guy who did it said that the best way would be to get a piece of steel, like a steel rod, and then sharpen it myself. Which is what I did, and so I make my own cheek spears now and I make them for other people as well.

Esther: Wow!

Bonnie: I made the cheek spear and then the makeup involved. I am working a lot of copper leaf at the moment and real butterfly wings. I wanted it to be a replication of scientific pantheism, well, naturalistic pantheism. Pantheism from a Christian point of view is that God is the universe and the planet but with naturalistic it is that you take away God basically, so that the planet and the universe is divine, and everything is connected, and everything is one. So for me with the bleeding in it was an expression of being organic and mortal, and part of the world, the universe.

Esther: Wow, it was just incredible, nothing I have every seen done before.

Bonnie: Thank you.

Esther: Yes, so with the piercing, it is a rather extreme form of it I suppose? So what does that do for you, do you want to talk a bit more about that?

Bonnie: For me body autonomy is incredibly important. I think being socialised as a female; you don’t have as much autonomy over your body as if you were brought up as male. I think gender-wise, I really resented the unsolicited viewing of my body in ways I didn’t consent to. I know that from past abuse as well, from sexual abuse as well, and feeling like I have had my body taken away from me, having body autonomy is now incredibly important. So, for me, that is an expression of body autonomy. It also helps me with the sensations and especially with the blood to feel more grounded within my own body, because I have a lot of associative problems, it helps me associate again, it is like a grounding thing. It is almost like a meditative thing and it feels ritualistic when I am doing it.

Esther: Wow. So bringing that back to gender, and sort of well body mortification, that is what I was thinking of. So besides the tattoos, and the piercing, so currently I am facing you so you have got big I don’t know what they are called.

Bonnie: Just stretched ears I think.

Esther: So you have got your stretched ears and stuff, are there any other alterations you have made to your body?

Bonnie: Yes, I have done scarification which is when your body is cut, and the scar then makes a pattern. I also have had my nipples surgically removed.

Esther: Right okay, what made you do that?

Bonnie: I never liked nipples, I just always hated them and thought they were really gross, I just don’t see the point of them. I think I find humans quite an ugly species anyway. And the nipples especially I always kind of find them gross. I don’t really look at other people’s and think: that is disgusting, but on me I was like: I don’t know what the point of these things are and all these things do is get me, not in trouble, but other people sexualise them and you cannot be naked in public because of them and you cannot do this, that and the other on social media because of them. And I didn’t like them, I didn’t see the point of them, and I don’t ever want to be a mother, so for me it was just aesthetically to get them out of the way for personal comfort with wearing clothing and to not have to worry about them being seen and things. I wanted to take away their sexualisation. I wanted it to be a kind of like, fuck you to the whole societal expectations of women to have children, children to me is like intense body horror, the idea of having a baby really freaks me out. I wanted it to be quite a strong rejection of that idea of femininity and of a female role.

Esther: So it is multi-layered by the sound of it, various motivations.

Bonnie:  There were a lot of different reasons, yeah, yeah.

Esther: Do you think you will have other modifications done?

Bonnie: Oh yes I am already trying to fund to have top surgery, once I took the nipples off I was like: I would like to have the whole thing off, but at the time, budget-wise, I could only afford to remove the nipples. I also kind of, I guess you have a lot of people telling you you might regret it and stuff and I guess I wasn’t 100% sure if it is was right for me and then after going through that one first step I now absolutely know for sure that I want them removed.

Esther: And you have not regretted it?

Bonnie: Oh my god I love the nipple-less life, I really do.

Esther: That is something you don’t hear every day: I love the nipple-less life! {laughing}

Bonnie: It is so much better; I don’t regret it at all. It is funny because I wanted to keep some pictures of how many nipples looked when I hated them the most and how my nipples looked when I thought they looked okay, so I had some nice pictures of them to remind myself of them. Sometimes you look back on things and they were better than they were, so I was like: maybe my nipples were ok? Then I looked at them and thought: I am glad those things are off my body; I am so glad they are gone. And then there are things I would like to get my tongue split, I would like to get more scarification, always more tattoos. I had, maybe not anything as extreme as cosmetic surgery, but I feel like cosmetic surgery, because I have had cosmetic surgery as well in the past, is for me a form of body mortification. I had a labiaplasty done in the past and if I hadn’t had it done in the past I definitely would be thinking of doing it now.

Esther: Okay, to what purpose if you don’t mind my asking?

Bonnie: I think it just made me feel too female, I just wanted to. I think I am quite nullo, with nullification, people who are nullo, you will have people who will have their penis removed and stuff, so they just have nothing there at all, it is just kind of like a smooth area. In those particular areas of my body I don’t feel, for me, my own sexual energy, and I don’t like that they then have sexual energy for other people, like: that doesn’t belong to you, I am going to take that back. I just want to look better aesthetically although I don’t want to seem like I think that is the aesthetic ideal it was just for me it made me feel more comfortable and it was more physically comfortable as well.

Esther: Ok cool. What else to talk about? What were we just saying… yeah social media, we talked about social media for a bit didn’t we? Because I know you have got, I found you on Facebook but since then you have had a different profile because you got banned or something, didn’t you?

Bonnie: That is my third now.

Esther: The thing is if you want to express yourself in that way, obviously it is hard.

Bonnie: Well I understand when you are using someone else’s platform they are going to have rules, but the rules don’t make sense and then the rules are hypocritical as well. So with the whole idea that you cannot show female nipples or female-identifying nipples, ok fine, I don’t have any nipples now, if I post a topless photo surely that it will be fine.

Esther: But it is not.

Bonnie: Yes it is removed and you are only allowed to have them up if they put a censorship bar on what isn’t there.

Esther: On your non-existing nipples?

Bonnie: {laughing} Yeah! On what isn’t even there.

Esther: It is crazy isn’t it.

Bonnie: I think that is also a social commentary on how it is the whole of the breast that is sexualised as well, so this kind of idea that it is just the nipple, it is the whole thing, which is another reason why I want to have them removed, I want to take away the whole thing. I am pretty sure even then I will encounter issues with being topless, it will still be seen as in some way, I don’t know, I can already pre-empt that that is going to happen. Even with myself I think it would be quite weird about being topless around my family for the first time without any breasts and stuff because it would still feel like, I think that inbuilt feeling of just being topless is scandalous, and illicit, and not allowed, and you need to cover up and blah, blah, blah.

Esther: Yeah that must be hard to get rid of that feeling, even if you have had the surgery I suppose?

Bonnie: If I get changed I still cover my nipples that don’t exist, it is kind of like I also don’t really want to draw attention to people just in my day-to-day life, I don’t want it to be an issue, because I don’t want to have that conversation with people over and over and over again. If I am getting changed in a swimming pool, I did think that it would be more liberating, I would be able to like just bounce around being happily nipple free {laughing} but you then realise that other people will be like: oh, but you don’t have any nipples. Then that is a strange thing, so you know… which leads onto other stuff. I think I am used to be stared out anyway and I don’t enjoy it so, but, the great thing is if I ever go out to where I am in a safe space I do feel comfortable to just be topless, I don’t have that inherent shame feeling anymore.

Esther: Yeah, very environment-dependent.

Bonnie: Oh yeah really. I wouldn’t have felt, even it would have been totally okay in those environments to be topless with nipples, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing it. So, for me, it has in that respect in safe spaces, it has been really liberating to get rid of all those shame feelings and stuff. It would be shame I felt about myself, it wouldn’t be shame about the other people who are around me. But I like it now, and in those environments I like the shock factor, because it is a different kind of shock factor.

Esther: Yeah, yeah. Wow, so do you think it is being around people who are accepting and non-judgemental, I am sure that makes a big difference.

Bonnie: Oh yeah, a huge difference. Then there is also I guess a little part of me that wants to troll the people who are unaccepting to kind of be unapologetically like: the outside of you exists, other people with different bodies. But for me it was a body modification procedure, it was also a gender procedure, so I think the normalisation of gender trans-bodies that do look different is really, really, important. But like you can’t carry that whole thing on your back constantly all the time, you need to have breaks from it and stuff for yourself, where you can just, I don’t know if you are out of spoons or something, and just want to relax.

Esther: Yeah, see I love that expression, being out of spoons, and I use it myself. I am introvert so when it comes to energy and energy to be around people, my friend and I talk about it, I say: I am all out of spoons today, I am peopled-out, in that context I use it, I know people use it in different ways  as well.

Bonnie: I think it is quite good, because I am an intense introvert as well, I didn’t know I was an introvert for ages, I was like: I must be an extrovert!  But I didn’t realise that it was an energy exchange thing and I thought: oh my God, I am such an introvert. I get that especially with introversion just being completely out of spoons. Then I heard another one sometimes you can go for a knife, there is the knife theory as well: if you are out of spoons but you have got to do something and you get hold of a knife then a knife can help you do the thing, but it will hurt you but you then get fallout.

Esther: It is like… is that your energy overdraft, you have to top it up?

Bonnie: Yeah you are pushing yourself.

Esther: Yeah, yeah, totally.

Bonnie: I think even forks came into at one point as well, but I can’t remember {laughing}.

Esther: {laughing} That’s interesting I will have to look into that. So I think we have covered a lot that we wanted to talk about haven’t we, but as for gender do you feel like you are happy with your place in that now, you have found your place in it? Do you feel like it would change further in the future, how you identify and stuff like that?

Bonnie: I think I have got to this really happy place where I feel like, I am definitely fluid with my gender, and with my body as well, body modification, I am trying to never think of it as getting to a destination but I am permanently on the journey.

Esther: Yes it is the journey as well, isn’t it.

Bonnie: So maybe I will stay this way, being trans-masculine non-binary, or maybe I will get to a place where I feel female again, or maybe I will feel completely male or maybe I will just go back and forth. I don’t know and for me it is not like you have to find this one finite thing and then that is your end form.

Esther: Of course. Yeah, yeah.

Bonnie: And that’s the true you. I don’t think there is a true you, you change your experience, as you go through your life.

Esther: Of course.

Bonnie: So at the moment I am really happy with it, I really, really, want the top surgery that would make me feel a lot better, because my main dysphoria is from that. For me my sexual energy in hips and ass and thighs and stuff and that is where I feel it, because I have got big hips and a big ass. If I didn’t I would probably be looking to enhance them or something.

Esther: Right.

Bonnie: That was also kind of when I was saying about having the labiaplasty and having the top surgery, I don’t feel like that would de-sexualise me, because for me my sexuality, or how I feel my sexuality, is in different parts of my body, it is just not there.

Esther: See that is quite interesting, do you feel like it is almost like, not that I know much about it, but I was suddenly thinking about the Kundalini do you know what I mean? I think it is about, like I said I am a bit clueless about it all, so I might get this wrong, but it is about this energy that comes from the base of the spine and sort of moves up the spine, I think it is visualised as a snake or something – I should probably look into it before I talk about it, but to me that just means an energy that it is an energy that moves around the body, it is not just sexual energy, it is not just the erogenous zones, it is more than that.

Bonnie: Yeah, yeah! The erogenous zone thing that is it, because my nipples never had any positive sexual sensation at all.

Esther: Ok.

Bonnie: I didn’t get that, I didn’t know what that was, I never experienced it, but when I had them cut off where the scar was healing that was an erogenous zone, which was really weird.

Esther: That’s fascinating.

Bonnie: It was, it was really strange, and I was kind of upset when they fully healed because it kind of went away after that. I felt like I was feeling through them not what I should have been feeling but what other people feel through having a nipple.

Esther: Yeah, yeah.

Bonnie: I loved the sensation of them at the time through the healing process but now they are completely healed now. I might get it back if I get top surgery for a bit with the scars there or something.

Esther: It will be interesting to find out, right?

Bonnie: Yes, but then weird things as well, the first time that I was really cold and I would normally have had a nipple erection and they didn’t do anything and I was like: something should be happening now, what is it, what is it? Oh yeah they have gone now that is not going to happen any more. {laughing}

Esther: I wonder do you get the ghost nipple erection. You hear that from amputees don’t you that they still feel the sensation of the body part that is not there anymore.

Bonnie: When I was doing the mental process of the cannibalisation, thinking about that hurt and I didn’t know why it hurt because they weren’t there anymore, but that was quite an interesting, weird, phantom limb thing. But I don’t think many people get their limbs after they have been removed so…

Esther: No not many really…

Bonnie: {laughing}

Esther: That’s interesting. It reminded me of a documentary I saw years ago I think it was in Australia and the aborigines, where they went into a sort of trance and then did all sorts of things to their bodies but then they didn’t feel the pain or something. That was interesting.

Bonnie: That’s in a lot of different cultures. I am trying to remember what the festival is in India where they wear huge, they cover the whole body in spikes and things and hang piercings and things like htat.

Esther: Yeah it was quite extreme I remember that from that documentary.

Bonnie: With native Americans with suspension.

Esther: It is an old practice isn’t it, I believe.

Bonnie: Yes, I think it is getting into a different level.

Esther: Of consciousness.

Bonnie: Yeah, yeah.

Esther: Wow fascinating, I will have to look into that a bit more, then I will know what I am talking about! Is there anything else you would like to add? Is there anything else you would like to hear that you often hear people make assumptions about or they get wrong or that they don’t understand?

Bonnie: I think most people think, I get this impression from a lot of people that they think transpeople want attention, they are trying to attention seek with it. Whereas with me I literally just want a place at the table where I can just be myself and that’s it. I am not doing any of this to get attention for it, I cannot help deviate from the norm because I am not the norm, everything else isn’t normal to me and if I was to not do that then I would have to not be true to myself. So I think basically, I think acceptance is also understanding that these people just want to live quietly {laughing} and have as normal a life as everybody else kind of thing. Maybe the reason that they are so shouty and angry about it is because they have got live in a world where everything goes against their existence. So I guess I would like people to have more patience and empathy towards what they don’t understand, and I will try to have more patience and empathy towards what I don’t understand. {laughing}

Esther: That’s fair enough, totally. I think it makes total sense. If we are triggered by something, it is a reflection of something, it pushes a certain button and it means stuff that you can either choose to react to or take time to learn to respond to differently I suppose.

Bonnie: I know that things in the past, I used to be really misogynistic in the past and I know that is because of my relationship with my mother that I was like that. So now I kind of, when I see other people do it, I know that they are coming from a place of pain, it is not coming from a place of truth. I was anti-vegan and I did not understand non-binary for a while, and I think that was a reflection of my own inner struggle that I was fighting against it and stuff. Although not everyone has patience to do it but to try and have time to explain to people, even when the people are being really rude, to try and not be instantly on guard and aggressive about it, even if they make you feel that way, to try and patiently explain things to people. If they understood more and we are all part of this societal pressure and everyone had a lot invested in this lie and they don’t like to be told that it is not true, they have their whole lives invested in this thing and you come along and are like: no I don’t want any of it and that pisses them off.

Esther: In this next part, we talk in more detail about self-cannibalism, so if you find this disturbing, you may choose to stop listening now. 

Bonnie: I am trying to think now. So when I had the nipples removed and I was trying to work out what to do with them, I knew I didn’t want, people were saying, because I do taxonomy as well, I could preserve them, so I could tan them as leather, or I could pickle them in a jar or something and that just was so gross. Also the idea that they would outlive me, and someone might inherit them because they were going to last a lot longer than I was and stuff.

Esther: That is a strange thought, yes.

Bonnie: It was a horrible thought and I didn’t like that at all. Then I think also since having them removed I kind of felt like I forgave them in a way, because it wasn’t their fault, they were just doing their thing, they were trying to do the best for me, so it wasn’t their fault. So I wanted to own them but not in a way that anyone else could have them so that is why I decided to eat them.

Esther: Yeah, yeah. So that refers to a video of yours called, Your Body Is Not A Temple, right? I watched it after watching the piercing video that I saw at the festival. So Your Body Is Not A Temple it is only a short video isn’t it? It is a bit more of a… would you call it a documentary?

Bonnie: It is a short documentary documenting my decision to do it and then me doing it and then how I felt after doing it.

Esther: Yeah, yeah. So would you.. how would you, what are your thoughts in summary about Your Body Is Not a Temple, where does that come from?

Bonnie: That originally comes from a quote by Beau Taplin, basically the idea behind it is that if you say that your body is a temple, your temple can be desecrated, you need to think of yourself as… she says more like a forest, something that can grow back and stuff, if you have it as something too finite and sacred, once it is devastated then it can never come back whereas with a forest it can grow back over and over and over differently, in different ways, no matter what happens to it.

Esther: Fascinating, yes. Cool! Do you want to add anything else about it?

Bonnie: Oh I tasted like steak. {laughing}

Esther: Okay, yeah. It looked chewy.

Bonnie: It was really chewy; it was so chewy. {Esther: laughing} I couldn’t chew it I had to swallow it whole in the end which was quite cool because I hadn’t eaten steak in a long time, being vegan, and I really did enjoy steak so… so yeah, we don’t taste like chicken it is steak.

Esther: Fair enough, yes. How long had you had them for?

Bonnie: A year in the freezer.

Esther: Ah so they had been frozen.

Bonnie: I hadn’t just put them on the side. {laughing}

Esther: I wasn’t sure what you would do… if you are not using the preservation methods as you described how else would you keep them?

Bonnie: They were knocking around in the freezer for a bit and then I was like: I really need to do something with these, they can’t just stay in the freezer forever.

Esther: What gave them the idea of eating them? {laughing}

Bonnie: Because I wanted to keep them, but I didn’t want to keep them as they were, I wanted to transform them, to take them back into my body but not in a way they had to be in that form, so it was like a transformative thing.

Esther: And how did you feel after?

Bonnie: Really, really, pleased with myself {laughing} to be completely honest, really smug.

Esther: Okay, yeah! So what’s the strangest thing you have done today… well, let me tell you, in fact!

Bonnie: I was just like: go me! I was pleased with myself about it. I think because it feels like a million lifetimes ago, when I was younger, I was very, very shy, and I would never do anything, even the idea of getting my tongue pierced would have been terrifying and something I ever thought I was able to do. So I think it is the idea that you are able to do things that you would never dream of doing before and just how much the body does belong to you and you can do what you want with it. I was just really pleased, really pleased about it. {laughing}

Esther: Wow, cool. So you are on Vimeo at the moment, because YouTube was not happy about what you were putting up there.

Bonnie: It was kind of fair enough though {Both: laughing} I have to give it to YouTube; I was surprised they even let me have it for as long as they did. Yeah, currently on Vimeo I don’t know if it will stay there because the internet hates me, but if not I will find a way.

Esther: Yeah, yeah, we’ll find a way. Right brilliant. Well let’s wrap it up there! Thank you.

About Bonnie

Bonnie Bakeneko is a non-binary transmasculine multimedia artist working with themes of gender, body horror, psychosexuality and trauma.

Find Bonnie on his website, bakenekodesigns.com, or on Instagram, @bakeneko_designs

What we discussed

  • Greysexuality or grey asexuality – lgbta wiki or wikipedia
  • The Human Library Organization – challenging stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue
  • The first video we talked about is called Heavenly Surrender – CW: piercing, blood
  • The second video we talked about is called Your Body Is Not A Temple – CW: stapling, self-cannibalism
  • Kundalini
  • Native/ritual piercing and human suspension practices

Wanna hear more?