Mass hysteria I’ve been whining about for a couple years now, explained much more concisely and eloquently than I could have!

The Honest Courtesan

There are no good numbers on where the problem exists in the first place.  –  Emily Deruy

Cyrano going to the MoonThe most fascinating and infuriating thing about belief is its ability to sustain itself by feeding on nothing other than pure faith.  No matter how little evidence there is for the existence of the cherished notion; no matter how egregiously it violates all the laws of nature, human behavior and math; no matter how ludicrous the very premise is; and no matter how many of its supporting tenets are debunked, the belief just keeps on going, held aloft by nothing other than the feelings it engenders in its adherents.  The “sex trafficking” cult is certainly no exception; its adherents gather together on lawns and highway ramps, engage in their sacred rituals like getting dressed and making paper airplanes, and mumble their profession of faith over and over again.  Cult leaders invent new…

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What’s wrong with this picture?

Wow, my story was from a totally different angle… but sounds really familiar, all the same! Thanks for writing it so explicitly and honestly, it made me feel less alone in my emotional wound-licking (lol half-hearted silly self-pity party). Would be interested to hear what you think of the SMART Recovery activities online (I’ve found it more helpful than most approaches) and how “gung-ho” you are for the 12 steps as the “one and only true way” or whether you’re a DIY mindful-reflection-and-rethinking-based holistic recovery geek like myself. ;->
Tho we should definitely not meet in person when either of us is struggling in recovery (or doing “fantastically well” for that matter either).

Okay, enough sleep-dep babbling. TX!


Here I am. Yep, that’s me in all my glory.

What a fine specimen!!!

As you can see I wasn’t having such a good day back then. This was me in 2008, while I was a guest of the Sheriff’s Bed & Breakfast. What a great place to detox, and it was the best in jailhouse cuisine and accommodations that crime can buy these days. What you cannot see is my broken hand from the night festivities of which I was kindly shackled from and given a three day, two nights, all inclusive vacation. I would like to take this opportunity tothank the kind citizens of Texas for their great hospitality and understanding with my insanity of the moment.

I did not always look, like this, angry, frustrated, very grumpy, and extremely resentful. The days that had led up this moment started many months before. Let me take you back to…

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A Writer’s Greatest Fear

This cuts straight to the heart of my Vocation-Existential “crisis” of the last couple of years, and Christa Wojo expresses it very eloquently! Hers is a blog I will definitely follow with interest in the months to come!

My Sweet Delirium

A Writer's Greatest Fear

I’m still studying Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham. As I said in my first article about the book, great writers are those who write stories that are relevant throughout time. They expose universal truths that apply to our lives no matter what century we live in. Of Human Bondage is full of such enduring revelations.

In the first part of the book, we witness the main character, Phillip, and his crisis of faith in God. At the next crossroad in the story, we see Phillip battling self-doubt.

After being fed up with a dreary accounting job, Phillip goes to Paris to become a painter. He does well, but never creates anything extraordinary. After the suicide of a classmate, who for all her passion for art was a lousy painter, Phillip reevaluates his reasons for becoming an artist. He wonders what his future will look like if he continues…

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The dead fighters of Ewell's Corp, Spotsylvania, May 1864.

Protected: Pablo Neruda – And How Long?

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‘Listen to survivors’ and the fetishisation of experience

I am a “survivor” who had traumatic experiences during my time as a survival sex worker who was also trafficked on more than one occasion by multiple pimps (aka “pimples”). Even so, it is crystal clear that the “Nordic Model” increase of criminalization (and the corresponding unwillingness to allow for the possibility that there might be a proportion of sex workers who are NOT trafficked, along with shutting out THEIR voices in legislation over their bodies and human rights from the debates on this topic) – well I can just walk a few blocks to my old track, talk to any of the women who ARE trafficked, and I can give you MANY clear examples of how the “End Demand” legislation has made their lives A LOT worse, a lot more DANGEROUS, a lot more HARMFUL to what little wellbeing they have left. Trafficking is a form of domestic violence, as trafficking is carried out among the adult women I have seen, which is the majority of sex work that takes place where it is visible. FORCING domestic violence victims to get “help” (as the diversion programs for prostitutes in my state is called) has NEVER helped any domestic violence victim! If legislators REALLY want to help adult trafficking victims and, at the same time, not INCREASE victimization and decimate the basic human rights of non-trafficked CONSENSUAL sex workers, they have to INCLUDE voices of ALL SEX WORKERS, not just cherry-picked survivor stories, but also survivor stories like mine (yes I was a sex trafficking victim, but I still support decriminalization and legalization of consensual sex work), and the stories of the larger percentage of sex workers, who are NOT TRAFFICKED.

genders, bodies, politics

The debate over Amnesty International’s draft policy supporting the decriminalisation of sex work has been heated. Although the organisation developed the policy following extensive research with sex workers and consultation with key stakeholders, it has been accused of wanting to protect the rights of ‘pimps’ and ‘Johns’ to buy or profit from the sale of sex. The position of those supporting Amnesty’s draft policy is clear – the vast majority of sex workers globally oppose criminalisation (including the ‘Nordic Model’ of criminalising clients), because it jeopardises their incomes, creates health vulnerabilities and puts them at risk of violence. As the community most directly affected by sex work law and policy, it is argued, their voices should matter most.

Although this may seem uncontroversial, it has been claimed that this injunction to listen to sex workers is an identity politics which fetishises personal experience and is an insufficient basis on which…

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P.S. – You are Loved!

P.S. You Are Loved Project Tag Cloud in the shape of a heart

P.S. You Are Loved Project Tag Cloud

This took me a few days to write, but it’s finally done.  If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out the P.S. You Are Loved Project on Facebook – (and forward the link to anyone you think might be interested in helping counter messages of hate to trans*folk that are coming out and getting hate mail)?

Dear Friend,

I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for you to receive all those messages of hate, after finally having the courage to reveal yourself as you have known yourself to be for so long.  I doubt I ever will.

I, myself, have struggled since childhood with the knowledge that the sex and gender I was assigned at birth don’t fit with the sense of who I am, internally.  But because neither of the binary options available to me in societal roles of sex and gender fit my own private identity, because even if there were an option that fit me that I could outwardly transition into, I still wouldn’t come even close to fitting anyone else’s idea of a societal norm, I’ve chosen to simply accept the cis-assigned roles allowed me by the normie majority’s sense of acceptable “morality.”  I still don’t “fit in,” but at least this way I don’t stick out *quite* so much.

I’m not telling you all this to try to draw attention to myself – I’m mainly hoping to convey a sense of empathy for the difficulty of your position.  I know a little about feeling like my outside doesn’t match my inside identity.  I know about being a target for hate.  I’ve been beaten up badly more times than I can count, and I’ve lived with daily verbal violence, bullying, and severe public humiliation on a daily basis from my so-called “peers” for years before I managed to escape to the city and the more accepting communities here.  I know, and hopefully you do too, that no matter how “different” we may seem to be to bigoted individuals, there is no excuse for hateful words and actions.  No attribute or aspect of our expressions of identity caused either of us to deserve that kind of treatment.

The thing is, the more that I see hate in the world, towards myself or towards others, the more that I realize that hateful actions say nothing about the target and everything about the hateful person’s fears, insecurities, and guilty anger towards themselves.  It isn’t really *us* that they hate, even though we are the ones they direct it at (because they can’t face who they are and how they feel inside).

So now that I’ve given you a ton of bullshit background explaining why I think I might understand an iota of what you’ve been through with the deluge of recent hate – which, really, I can’t, no more than anyone can be sure they understand anyone else’s experiences but their own – now that I’ve said all that stuff, what is it I’m really trying to communicate?

I guess what I’m trying to say is just my own projections on your situation – not hurtful in intent, but probably almost as misguided.  In the end, the best I can really expect, I imagine, is to learn my own lessons and hope upon hope that this message to myself will have some value to you (or to anyone else besides myself).

The main lesson I’ve learned in life so far (mainly from a serious suicide attempt and from a long bout with severe hard drug addiction in which I wounded everyone who loved me deeply and drove away even my oldest and closest friends, ending up a homeless crack/meth whore for way too long) is this:

I have a responsibility – to myself, to those who love me (past, present, and future), and to all living beings to live life to the fullest – to do my best to change the world and history for the better, to leave a positive legacy, to to be a force for good in every moment that I can.  I have a duty to live.

No matter what I believe about any divine force or a life before or after this one, the only thing I can be sure is that I am alive now.  My only purpose is to live – *truly* live.  I have a mind designed to learn new things constantly, a consciousness to experience and reflect on events, a “heart” – to feel for myself and others, and a conscience (when I don’t try to silence it with denial or addictive behaviors) to help me find my way and live in harmony with the world around me.

It seems this letter may have degenerated into what is beginning to sound like a bunch of self-righteous navel-gazing, but what I really mean is this:

– I don’t know who you are, but I consider you a friend.

– I haven’t met you, but I admire your courage.

– We may never speak, but I urge you: continue being yourself, continue to seek out the fulfillment of your true will in this life, continue pursuing your purpose for existing.

Your sister in spirit,

V.A. Velatura

(P.S. – you are loved!)


Lasting Impressions

When I was fourteen, and just beginning to show the worst symptoms of bipolar depression, I experienced the death of someone close to me for the first time.

I still remember when my mother came into my room to tell me Nana (my mother’s mother) had died, from pneumonia she had contracted because the steroids she needed to be on to keep her autoimmune disorders (including lupus, among other things) in remission, had destroyed her immune system.  It was also the first time I truly understood the meaning of the phrase, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” as ultimately, it was the medications that kept her alive that killed her.

My memory of that event is different than most of the memories before that, in that I remember seeing myself from the door to my room, as my mom came in and told me the news, that Nana had died, and watching myself shrink away from my mother and curl up around the scruffy and worn long-eared rabbit that Nana had given me a decade before then.  It was then I began to understand grief (for someone else, I had dealt with a different kind of grief secretly on an ongoing basis for the last few years at that point following several severe sexual brutalizations), this grief seemed more acute than any feeling I’d ever experienced before.  The grief was so strong, that I feel it now still, in my eyes welling up with tears as I recall, in the feeling like a ball of iron is weighing down my gut, pulling on the bottom of my rib cage…

I started a photography class at a local college a few weeks ago, and instead of checking out a camera from the school a few days at a time, I remembered a recent offer from my mom for her to give me a 35mm camera.  I thought she was referring to the Canon that mom had used in college herself and that, when I was deemed responsible enough with the almost-disposable cheap snapshot camera I’d been given around age 5 when I showed interest in shooting pictures, I was allowed to borrow mom’s hallowed Canon.

The idea excited me.  This whole class excites me, really.  It had been so long since I worked with film, I’d forgotten how thrilling it used to be to me to hoard each exposure for *just* the right moment, because each roll of film and each print had to be begged for following endless hours of chores, and every exposure was priceless.   But I digress.

I was wrong.  I went out to mom’s for dinner after talking to her, she was tickled pink that I came to visit.  As I was getting ready to go, she brought out the camera.  It wasn’t the Canon.

The camera she brought out was a mid-80’s Minolta, a nice 35mm SLR that is IDEAL for the work I’m doing for the next three quarters for the film portions of my photography classes.  As she opened the case to show me, she said the camera had been Nana’s, that Nana bought it right before she started to get really sick, and had used it on her travels to see states she’d not visited before now that she was permanently retired from the hospital where she’d been an RN for close to four decades.  Mom said that it had been sitting in storage since Nana had started getting sick in ’88, that other than two or three times mom and the other kids had taken it out to check on it, it hadn’t been handled, and that it hadn’t been used.

I’ve been using it the last couple weeks.  Ineptly, because it’s been a little over two decades since I last shot film, but I’m anxiously awaiting my shot at checking out a canister and developing this first roll tomorrow.  Digressing again…

Tonight, just a short while ago, I went to clean off the dust that has been on the lens this whole time with a few cotton swabs and some rubbing alcohol, since I’d accidentally touched the surface today and left a fingerprint.  I swabbed the surface gently, switching swabs as soon as they started to leave lint behind.  When it seemed as clean as it would get, and it dried, I held it to the light to check the job I’d done.  Despite my work, a fingerprint still clearly reflected.

What the fuck?! was my first thought – how can that be?  Until I realized, the fingerprint is on the *other side*.  It wasn’t a lens surface I’d cleaned, but only a filter left screwed on the lens to protect it.  I unscrewed the filter to clean it, and then it struck me, hard.

This was the last remaining fingerprint that Nana left behind.

I almost looked for a box to save the filter, but I’m trying to work hard on not hoarding shit anymore (and keeping this would be a step backward on a moderately serious problem I have in that direction).  I would have taken a picture, if I had the right lights necessary to show its reflection on the filter’s glass, but I don’t, and so I didn’t.  And really, it seems to me that the purpose of death for me, as someone left behind, and of grief, is to learn to let go.

And so I let go, and gently swabbed the last traces of my maternal grandmother from the only thing of hers that I still own.  I wonder who will miss me when I go, like I miss Nana now — even though she’s been gone for most of my life.

I spend a lot of time reflecting on ideas for what legacy I hope to leave behind, especially since I have no children and plan to keep it that way (for many very good reasons – a discussion for later).  What fingerprint will I leave behind for decades after my death?  And who will be there to find it?

2014 in review (site stats)

I’m really enjoying using to host my blog, for many reasons. One new reason is that, apparently, at the end of the year, they send us bloggers here a simple but colorful personalized “End of the Year” letter with information and interesting facts on what happened on my blog during the last year. Probably not too horribly interesting, unless you are considering switching to for its free blog hosting. Posted her for posterity.

Happy New Year, everyone!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Cardboard sign says "Homeless - Disabled - (& Hungrey! [sic]) - Please, Anything Helps!!"

The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strained

Since I stopped using at the beginning of this year for (I hope!) the last time, I also stopped giving any cash to people begging for money.  I mean, I’ll occasionally give (up to) one dollar and some loose change, but nothing more than that.  I know that (in my area, at least) more than 99% of the people I see begging for money are begging for drug money.  If I am no longer buying illegal drugs, to me that means that I no longer buy those drugs for ANYONE, not even indirectly.

I’ll admit that I have no problem buying a cheap beer for someone who is really dopesick or in alcohol withdrawal… I know from repeated observation of “close friends” (regular using buddies and “patna’s” I teamed up with) just how hellish and life-threatening opiate/alcohol withdrawals can be… and alcohol is legal and socially acceptable (at least for those who are “productive members of society”).  I never have a problem (if I have the means) with giving a person in need food, hydrating beverages, blankets, warm clean clothing, hygiene items, bus tickets, dog food, time spent looking up resources for them, etc.

But if I have any resources other than monetary ones, I don’t give street folk money.  If I give out money, I never give more than two dollars.  Period.  I no longer am willing to accumulate more guilt about helping anyone (including myself) destroy themselves (and everyone around them) by committing suicide by the most painful route possible.

Also, I don’t get involved.  I spend as little time as possible near them, because I know all-too-well the risk I take by getting too friendly, too comfortable, around the people with whom I used to beg and live and get high and commit crimes, day in, day out, year after year.

That being said, I made an exception.  I let myself become moderately involved with a man for the better part of an hour tonight.  On the way home from picking up arthritis supplements for my four elderly cats, I stopped at 7-Eleven to get a soft drink.  I had just lit up a cigarette, and didn’t want to put it out in the soggy excuse for an ashtray out front and waste a perfectly good super-snipe that someone not too proud to smoke someone else’s lit cancer stick, especially a near-whole one (and a Camel at that).

There were two guys out front.  The one farther away was clearly “out there” double-fisting Four-Loko’s (the current-day usually-available corner-store equivalent of Mad Dog 20/20 – 12% alcohol) and seemed likely to misunderstand my intent and either manhandle me uninvited, and/or to turn violent unexpectedly (or, rather, fairly predictably).  The closer one was clearly in severe pain – I couldn’t see his face, but even so his fetal posture and shaking-bordering-on-convulsions broadcasted pure suffering.

I thought he was dopesick, so I walked over to where he was crouched on the ground, sitting on some of his gear, hunched over his knees, shaking and quietly keening.  He had a cigarette long-ago burnt down to the butt in one hand, and an unlit rollie (hand-rolled tobacco cigarette) in the other hand.  I tried to get his attention. “Hi… Excuse me? … Sir?…” I finally touched his shoulder just firmly enough that he could feel my touch through the thick, dingy, Carhartt-knockoff he was wearing.  I couldn’t see his face, but I could see dirty blonde and gray long dreadlocks (pretty well cared for ones, now that I recall… the dreads were all the same thickness and tightly locked… that takes a fair bit of effort to maintain, especially on the street) hanging down under an oversized, lightly-stained, yellow-tan “crown” (very large rasta-style beret-like knit hat).  After the second touch, he looked up a bit.  He was gritting his teeth and tear tracks had dried in lines down his cheeks.  He was surprisingly clean-shaven, and not one of the locals I knew… I still know most everyone who lives outdoors in my neighborhood.

He didn’t make eye contact directly.  I offered him a cigarette, then noticed he wasn’t smoking the ones he had.  I asked him if he was dopesick, would he like a beer?  He shifted, hunching back over a bit, and said no, he had been passing kidney stones for he-didn’t-know-how-long, and the hospital (which is about 5 blocks away) had kicked him out, saying they couldn’t help him.  I asked him what I could get him.  It was very difficult for him to talk, he mumbled close to a whisper, his line of thought frequently derailing as his words trailed off.  After a bit I was able to hear what he was asking for – cranberry juice.  I went inside, quickly poured a Slurpee for myself (I am fairly expert, after working 7-Eleven graveyards for more than a year in my late teens), grabbed a few pocket packs of ibuprofen, a few to-go servings of honey-roasted peanuts, a 2-pack of pocket Slim-Jim’s with cheese sticks, a roll of Tums… and a double-serving bottle of Ocean Spray.

(Note: when buying food for the homeless, I buy things that are self-contained in pocket-sized single servings and/or resealable, high in protein and fat, relatively low in salt and preservatives when possible, and unlikely to be crushed when heavy things are packed in tightly and/or on top of them.  Generally, tastes among people living on the street trend toward sweet and meaty things, and things that can be chewed easily with missing and broken teeth, or with no teeth at all.  Usually that precludes crispy granola bars with and any hard or unshelled nuts that can’t be swallowed whole.  If buying anything that upsets the stomach, like aspirin, advil, or aleve, I make sure to include either food or a roll of antacids to keep their stomachs from exploding in pain, since their stomach linings are very likely to already be inflamed.)

I brought him the cranberry juice, and gave him the advil.  I suggested that he make sure he eat whenever he took the advil to help with the pain and inflammation… he started crying when he replied he didn’t have any food.  I handed over the honey peanuts, meat sticks, and Tums.  He wasn’t able to acknowledge the resources, or even to stash them so his hands weren’t full, but that wasn’t the purpose.  I just hoped he would be able to pull it together enough to help him reduce the pain a little… I tried asking him if he would let me help him stash some of it in a pocket or a bag for later, but he wasn’t able to answer, or even understand what I was asking, I think.

I wished I could have helped more, but I knew hubby was worrying about me at home, I knew he wasn’t able to accept or use any other help from me, and I knew I had pushed help on him as far as was prudent at that point.  I’m praying for a swift end to the pain, though, and that what little I was able to make available to him doesn’t end up getting stolen or lost while he’s tortured by those horrible crystallized calcium caltrops passing through his ureters.

While I don’t advocate giving street folk money, I do exhort you to pay attention to each individual you meet.  Whether it’s a simple human meeting-of-the-eyes and acknowledgement of a person’s presence in your sphere of influence, a regretful shrug followed with “good luck!” in response to a request for monetary assistance, or whether you are willing to go farther and give a person food or whatever non-tender supplies you can spare, please consider helping another person out regularly in the future.  Being human to someone, even someone heavily addicted to alcohol or hard drugs, helps them feel like life is still worth living, offers a sliver of hope to many, and (for me) reminded me that I was still human, and that I could act like one again eventually… which, hopefully, I do a better job of manifesting both outward and inward toward others and toward myself.

Thank you for reading.  Sorry I spent so much time navel-gazing instead of writing, or this post would have been much shorter.  I’ll try not to wait so long in between posts.  :)


Featured Photo: An edited picture of the sign I used the last time I went out to “fly a sign” (beg for money standing/sitting in one place holding a sign).  It now resides as part of a large piece of art-in-progress titled, “And No One’s Getting PHAT ‘Cept Mama Cass”.  Image (c) 2014, Venushakti Autumn Velatura. All Rights Reserved.

Whore Goddesses

Concise, but well-researched commentary on the hierodule function of the fertile crescent’s sex goddesses!

The Honest Courtesan

The scientific mind is atrophied, and suffers under inherited cerebral weakness, when it comes in contact with the eternal woman—Astarte, Isis, Demeter, Aphrodite, and the last and greatest deity of all, the Virgin. –  Henry Adams

In ancient Rome today was Larentalia, the festival of an apotheosized courtesan named Acca Larentia; she was referred to as the “most noble whore” and was sometimes associated with Lupa, the she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus.  As I discussed in my column of November 3rd there were a number of Roman goddesses who were associated with prostitution; Bona Dea’s rituals included what we would now call “two-girl shows”, Flora’s involved public orgies, Fortuna Virilis was worshipped by dedicated acts of low-class prostitution in public baths, and Ceres and Isis allowed streetwalkers to entertain their clients in the temples.  But the most important Roman whore-goddess was of course Venus, goddess of love and…

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