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I never considered myself to be a sexual person. In fact, I’ve claimed that sexuality is not a part of who I am. That wasn’t really the truth. In hindsight, I’ve just had a lot of complicated feelings around sexuality and my body. Shame, guilt, neglect, confusion, frustration, anger, mistrust. So, I buried that part of me. I left it unexamined. I covered it with alcohol. I felt disconnected. Sexuality was performative. Cerebral. Then I took the alcohol away.

Removing this veneer for two years revealed things I had ignored for decades. Things like my internalized shame around sex. The negative impact of religion on my views of sexuality. The lack of physical intimacy in my marriage. The disappointment I had in my own body when physical conditions prevented me from having sex. Curiosities about my sexual orientation.

Even though I rejected the idea of being a sexual person, I naively assumed that physical intimacy would fall into place someday. That everything would work itself out and eventually make sense. It didn’t. I called my body inconvenient. I felt like a broken promise to my husband. Why was sexuality such a difficult thing for me? Why had I undervalued and neglected this part of myself for so long?

I decided to start over. I began asking myself basic questions I should have asked when I was 16, or 18, or 25. What does sexuality mean to me? Who am I attracted to? How do I feel in my body? What do I like? What do I want? What don’t I like? What don’t I want? Who am I doing all of this for?

During those two years, I went on a deeply personal journey. I asked questions that terrified me and followed the truth. The truth led me to many places. An affirming queer Christian conference, physical therapy, individual counseling, marital counseling, Reddit groups, tattoo shops. It was scary yet necessary. Exciting and devastating. But I knew I needed to take the time to meet this part of myself. I relentlessly pursued integration. My mantra, and first tattoo, was Holiness is wholeness.*

On the other side of this journey, I found myself in a pandemic, newly divorced, entering my 30s, and frankly a little raw and disoriented. My life as I knew it had toppled and it felt like I was being held together by therapists, Prozac, and some shi**y scotch tape. But I had done a lot of work and made it to the other side. As I entered a new year with modest hope for relief from all of this pain, I decided to continue being intentional in my quest for wholeness. I signed up for a photo shoot with Three Boudoir.

The boudoir experience was the final piece. I had no plan for the photos. No partner to share them with. But that’s not why I did it. That part didn’t matter. The experience itself was going to be a milestone. It was an important marker in time. A time when I said, I’m not ignoring this part of me anymore. I am going to give my body, my sexuality and my sensuality the honor and celebration it deserves. That acceptance and respect I gave so freely to others? I also owed that to myself.

The Three Boudoir team created the perfect environment for this experience. I received encouraging emails leading up to the shoot, professional direction and enthusiastic support during, and exceptional photos afterward. My favorite part of the experience was seeing the full gallery of photos for a second time later that night. You don’t really get to process the experience and what you’re seeing right after the shoot. But with time and space away from it, you can really appreciate and absorb the awesome and empowering thing you did.

What made the biggest impression on me is the memory of this moment in time. How present I felt during the shoot. When I look at the photos, it looks like me. For once, my sexuality wasn’t performative. It wasn’t the villain. It was authentic. It was just another part of who I am. I welcomed it home for the first time.

There are so many reasons people come to boudoir and they’re all valid. I hope you consider going for it. You deserve to be centered and cared for and hyped-up. You deserve seeing your whole self, and all of its beauty, reflected back to you. Not only has it been well-worth the time and money, but it has also revealed another part of me that I am finally starting to embrace. A part that is complicated. A part that is vulnerable. A part that is queer. A part that is worthy. A part of the whole.

*This phrase is an adapted quote from Carmarion D. Anderson, HRC Alabama State Director. She is the first transgender woman of color to hold such a leadership position and was featured in the PBS documentary, Prideland, where this quote appeared.

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