Rory – Vulva Interview

1. How do you feel about identifying as a non-binary person?

Yeah. So, I think for me it was a realization that I guess although I was born with this body, for me, I think realizing that I didn’t always feel like a woman and for me it was also like I think realizing that I think a lot of other people they I guess, and it’s fine, a lot of women they associate their vagina like being part of, or their vulva being part of central to their own gender, and I think for me, I think I met some people and I came across like people who didn’t necessarily connect like their body with being a woman or their body with being a particular gender and I realized, well that realization was quite freeing, quite liberating for me and I think there was a moment when someone asks me do you want to be called like she or they and I think I realized I had the choice to, if I didn’t want to be called she or I didn’t want to be referred to as a woman, I could refuse that in a way.

And so for me it was I think, so in a way yeah, finding my own path and finding my own ways of identifying, it’s still a weird thing for me because I know there are more gender clear or more non-binary people around and I think everyone has their own different journeys, for me, it’s more of a personal thing because I think in Singapore especially because it’s hard for, people still don’t know what it is, people still I don’t, I’m also not comfortable explaining to every single person, so generally if people call me woman generally, I don’t usually correct them.

But if I have the choice and in this case I want to assert my identity and tell them, like tell people since we are talking about sexuality and gender after all, yeah I do, now most days I do feel a bit more like someone who is neither male nor female rather than someone who is like definitely female, but at the same time I can also still identify with women because that’s how people see me and even if I don’t feel it like that that’s how the world will see me and I still feel that you still suffer the same kind, similar kinds of oppression that women suffer and even if I don’t always present as like super feminine or anything, I still will suffer the same, a lot of the same kind of things also because I’m not as physically transition, just transitioning at all.

2. Do you plan to?

No, I don’t know. It’s hard, I don’t know, 20 years, it’s hard to say, but right now no. I don’t plan to take any hormones or anything.

3. Okay. But you’re identified as non-binary this time?

Yeah, yeah. A lot of people they don’t like how you feel.

4. It’s not like you feel like you need to choose either or?

Yeah.

5. You just want to say that you’re not?

Yeah, yeah. And also I guess I’m also quite lucky that I mean like I can still kind of like pass as androgynous, so that my breast are quite small and I know other non-binary will have to like bind their breast or some, they really can’t really stand it, they have to like get a chest surgery. But for me, like I’m actually okay with the size of my breast. I would be happy they didn’t become bigger one day, but for now like I’m actually fine with my body, so.

6. I understand, yeah. How do you feel about your genitals growing up, vulva, vagina growing up?

I think I always thought of it as something that was there and I think I do remember kind of I think, I do remember like me, it wasn’t super strict, it wasn’t super strict, but I think my parent, my mother telling me like I shouldn’t touch down there, like it was bad to touch down there and I remember  like once I would like, as a joke I would put like these plastic fruits in my underwear and pretend like I had that balls or something or penis and my mother would get very angry.

But at the same time also like I think I definitely did masturbate from a young age like I would touch other parts of my body, I’ll touch my stomach for example and I didn’t realize I’m masturbating because it didn’t actually give that much pleasure to me. In a way, it’s just like I felt that I would like touch other parts of my body and then my vagina will get very very painful and I always think that was like a bone stuck inside or something and like a fish ball stuck inside.

And so, but at the same time I would feel kind of a pleasure, but it would be like a lot in my head. So, I didn’t connect that until actually, I read a , it feels like feminist cliché, I read the vagina monologues and so I always read about like an orgasm, all that. So, I never thought, it didn’t seem like a real thing kind of thing, so I didn’t have to try to imagine and then I’ve kind of, things like fit together kind of thing. So then yeah, I manage to like have the first orgasm when I was like 16. So, I managed to like connect all the fantasies I had as a kid with like I guess the pain in between my legs with the idea of like this is what orgasm is kind of thing.

7. When do you read vagina monologues and have that revelation?

I was like 16.

8. Okay. The same year, was it before or after you had your first orgasm?

So, it’s because of the book. There was a chapter about having orgasm and I remember reading it and thinking like maybe I should try this out and I think they have one of the women took a class in like masturbation and so I thought it sounded really cool and really interesting, so I thought I would try that out on my own and yeah, so I tried it, but like obviously following a book didn’t work. So, I thought like I kind of have like a () or something. This thing that I like to do, like touching out the parts of my body when I was young maybe has something to do with it, so I like kind of put two and two together and yeah.

9. That’s good. What was your relationship with your vulva, vagina, genitals now?

So, now I feel like I’m okay with them like they’re there. Again, as I said like I’m exploring new ways of thinking about them because for a long I read vagina monologues, I definitely like I think thought like I am a woman, I have a vagina, vagina is like essential to being a woman, but now I’m like exploring other ways of like thinking of them, other ways of experiencing my own body, perceiving my body, but at the same time I guess I do sometimes see it as like in some ways it’s still, yeah so I guess and I think, yeah, it’s still something that connects me to other women, to women in the world that we have vaginas and I guess, but yeah, so I mean I am quite okay with it.

I have taken nudes and send them to people before, like I’m not embarrassed by it necessarily, but I think it’s still, I don’t know, it seems like the vagina, but I think I’m still like not used to seeing them like I have been, like with women I’ve been going down on like women’s vaginas before, I think to me it’s still something that I am like still in a way, I’m not like super familiar with and yeah, I guess.

10. So what role do you feel our vulva, vagina, genitals play in our sexuality, in your sexuality specifically?

I guess for me it’s still like, I think, I guess it’s still like very central. To go into a bit more detail I guess, so I realized I am quite like a kink-based person. So, that’s why when I was a kid like my masturbation didn’t always involve my vagina, but at the same time I think I still need to like touch myself to like achieve orgasm and so it’s and, yeah I guess it’s an interesting thing because it’s like I’m still learning a lot about like different () like, so I’m talking about like masturbating and still I don’t use sex toys.

I’ve never really like been interested in that, so I mean the, so again I feel like there’s still a lot of like exploration of like how to make myself masturbate, how to make myself orgasm and I think it’s still like I guess, yeah, as I said place to explore and I think being with women, I realized that I assumed that most people will like me and like had like clitoral orgasm, but a lot of women I was with actually didn’t. Like I found that, yeah, these people are very, vaginas are very different and everyone has like very very different ways of like having orgasms, so that’s something to learn and I guess when I’m with people it’s also I think when, yeah, I guess I do enjoy oral sex and what not.

But I think I guess where I am now is that I am a lot better at just telling people how to give me pleasure rather than just like yeah, telling them what to do. Occasionally, I think it’s still very hard for me too, it depends on the person I think, it’s so hard for me to like cum when someone else is like touching me. Like oral sex is okay, but yeah, so I think often I guess during sex still sometimes I’m just like, I actually just let me touch myself and you can help me by touching the other parts of my body, but I still feel like yeah, I still know myself better and so it takes an effort for me to like put in the effort to get other to teach other people to like I guess yeah, help me to cum and whatnot, yeah.

11. That’s great. What do you wish you learn about your sexuality growing up?

I think I wish I guess, I do wish that sex education was better in schools because they taught us about I guess, yeah, I guess from a young age and also I guess growing Catholic for a very long time I guess I was very scared of the idea of sex before marriage and so I still thought it was sinful, it was bad and at some point I think I realize like actually, I’m also into women, women can’t get married and they don’t say anything about like sleeping with women.

So, I know how it’s weird, like morality where it was like bad to sleep with men before marriage, but not, but like not bad to sleep with women or something weird like that. But at some point, again it was like both good and bad because it meant like I was a virgin until I was like my mid 20’s which on I think at the time it felt like I was whole as I, I felt like I missed out a lot of stuff, but on the other end I was glad. I’m actually quite glad,  I was like mature enough for that before I decided like okay, I’m not going to get married anytime soon, so I may as well like experience this stuff.

What else do I wish did I learn? I guess I wish I would learn a bit more about like contraception. So, they did teach us what contraception in like science classes, so I did feel like I knew a fair bit, but I think it wasn’t very, it was still wasn’t like super practical and, but I think yeah, actually the thing I wish I think I wish I learn the most were things like consent and like entitlement kind of thing.

Because I think when it came to such even as someone in like mid to late 20’s, it took me a while before I learn that actually, I can like, you can like refuse sex whenever you want and like you can refuse sex without like a condom. So, I think I did feel pretty pressured into a lot of things when I was like first starting out and stuff and like I don’t regret it, but I think I do feel like I should have like I could have asserted myself more and like there are still people I have friends with, I have relationships with, but I think we have, for me it did feel like I knew I should say no or like I knew I could say no, but at the same time like I didn’t feel like I had the power to in those cases.

And I think yeah, and I think for me already like as someone who is like a feminist, someone who was like quite mature, I feel like when you’re relatively mature of someone having sex for the first time at 25, if even I couldn’t feel like I had the reason to say no. Imagine what; imagine what it will be like for like someone younger, someone who is like, someone in like a committed relationship to say no. So, I wish that they would teach, yeah, both boys and girls about consent and I guess and about yeah, the fact that I think right now is a very, we have like two very extremes of like abstinence and like just like this whole like sex positivity.

I think sex-positivity is great, but at the same time I think there’s no, in a way there’s like there’s more space in between to be like you don’t, maybe you don’t need sex all the time to like be a fully develop person or like you, yeah, sometimes it’s, yeah, it’s more important to know what you like rather than knowing what other people like that kind of thing, which is something even though I knew what I like and I was very confident in that what I like, it took me a very very long time before I did tell anyone that I like this or that.

And I guess the other thing would be also like I think to learn about obvious bisexuality. That you can have different types of sexuality or like they are all been different types of relationships even because I think generally was still taught that yeah like the ideal is like to be monogamist and just be with one partner your whole life and that’s the best way to stop STD’s, blah, blah and I think it’s not the reality for a lot of people.

So, I think again that sex education is still like very very lacking and at the same time there’s also I think yeah, I guess a lot of like adults themselves are not equip to sort of like communicate with each other let alone with the young people about these ideas. Yeah, that’s it.

12. So I know you talked about what you wish you learn, but if possible can you elaborate a little bit more about the last one, about the lack of talk about () of sexuality and all these things affected you?

Yeah. So for me I think I was in a way, so I guess although it was very very() upon, we all knew this, because I went to a girl school, there was like a very big lesbian culture and it was in way like yeah, normal for like girls to have crushes on other girls even though if they were like supposedly straight and I think I knew from a young age that I like wasn’t necessarily like these like straight girls who had crushes, but my, I think from like I was at the age of 11, 12, I had a crush on a girl and for a while I thought it was her face, but then at some point I think it sort of became part of my identity.

And I think then I realized I started  having crush on boys as well, but I think I knew all the concepts of bisexuality, but again it wasn’t really a thing like first of all lesbians, they didn’t talk to us about what lesbians, they told us it was a bad thing, it distract you from your studies and actually I have discipline teacher who said like hey, if you had a handful and it was bad because it could to like boy/girl relationship is just stupid or like () girls is even stupider

So, I never got what she meant by that. But it was like I still find it quite offensive and so I had lots of crushes on girls and it’s also interesting because like no one really like thought I was a lesbian or no one really believe that I was into girls because I didn’t fit the stereotype of either like super boyish or like super feminine or like that sort of thing.

So, I think for a long time I didn’t feel like I was valid as like clearer person and, so I guess it would have been yeah, nice if like I had, it has some kind of like even just like yeah, talking about these are like yeah, different sexualities and different genders and you can choose and different people have different ways of presenting, expressing themselves and they’re like yeah, it’s not sinful or anything, like it’s not harmful, because I think there were also a lot of like I guess friends that, I guess I never really felt that much guilt over it, I think I maybe I’ve internalized a lot of it because I still feel even now study, I still much more stress that my parents are kind they know that I’m a bisexual, but they don’t really, we don’t really talk about it.

But I do know, I don’t introduce them to my partners usually because they have problems with them. It was like they find fault with them very easily, but I do feel like when I was dating women, I did feel a lot more anxiety about keeping them a secret that when I was dating a man and so I think that has push me to date more men in a way.

So, I guess yeah, I think it would have been nice if there was like clear and friendly sex education, but even that seems like something that I can’t even imagine happening. Like it would be nicer if it could happen and it will be cool like, I’m sure it’s possible, but I know, I think aware have like doing a bit of that and it will be nice if we could have yeah, like organization in Singapore could like put out like clear the sex ed for people.

But I think like now it’s getting better because the kids have access to like the internet, like a tumbler, all those sorts of things and so I think a lot of like young people are learning and to be fair like the first place where I learned,  okay, there was actually internet. When they first had computers in our school which is like 2003 and I can still remember because I was also exposed to, when I was like 13, I was also exposed to lots of homophobic Christian literature at the time, but I still remember in particular this one book by like focus on the family type people where they say a whole memoir about woman who like loses, Christian woman loses it after her son come out as gay and how yeah, it’s all like her sub-story or how she is like scared his son and go to hell, but eventually he agrees to like come back and that’s how she wrote the book, have some miracle and agrees to like get like, go to conversion therapy and what not, like 35 or something.

So, I remember reading that and thinking like oh no, this is really bad. It’s like homosexuality is bad, but then going into the internet and someone had left some like lesbian website up and just seeing that beautiful story about like romance with women and thinking like yeah, how can something so beautiful be so sinful kind of thing and I think, and the other, I mean and then eventually so I properly came out when I was like probably 22.

Like in Singapore I have my closest friends knew, but it wasn’t really something I advertise, I was involved on and off in like various like things that’s how I knew about like project X and what not through like organizing and then I think eventually when I moved overseas, so it’s like a big city, I came out to people and even then I think as a bisexual person there wasn’t like a proper space for me. I’ve often felt I had to like pretend to be a lesbian or like lied out to lesbian people to gets dates and what not.

And I think it’s only actually, weirdly it’s only, yeah, in the past two years that I have been like comfortable to tell people that I’m bisexual. I date men sometimes, I’m not afraid of that and even in, I guess even after I came out bisexual I mostly dated men and a lot of people, straight people would be like oh, you’re not really bisexual because you date men and I think for a long time I was embarrassed by it, but I think in recent years I have more like bisexual people online and what not and like found more organizations that I have felt more confident in like, I guess my own identity and it was like and I think I saw a tweet by I think by a bisexual activist who was saying how she had a, I think a therapist who’s just saying conversion therapy is not just like gay to straight.

Like she’s saying as a bisexual, her therapist like tried to get her to be, turned her into a lesbian like a full pledge lesbian and she has said, yeah, that’s like another conversion therapy that you don’t talk about and I thought about it and I thought like wow, the shitty thing about this is that if I had, if I met, like if I was younger maybe and I met a therapist or a counselor who said like I can make you a lesbian, I’ll probably want that because I felt like it would be, yeah, more valid kind of identity. But then now seeing that, seeing that type of thing happens from her experience like I realized it, yeah, no it’s something I can that, I don’t need to be like a lesbian or like try and be a lesbian as much as possible to be valid.

Like I can date whoever and be valid and even so I still have that internal lies like I guess and see like bisexual women who looked very straight and are with, are married to a wit straight man then I still feels on some levels I still feels like they that privilege and we have that privilege and so in a way that’s all selling out almost, when it was really not I think. So, I think it has also definitely impacted a few my own relationships and my own likeability to commit sometimes.

Worrying about what other people will think, worrying that because I do stuff with, because still I guess being LGBT or being bisexual is still part of my identity. So, in a way, I’m scared of losing that part of my identity because of I still, and I still don’t feel like super comfortable in like every heterosexual space and what sorts of thing. I think, yeah I was going to say something else out of this. Oh yeah, I guess the other thing was also I would have like to again one I guess when I was, when I first started dating women, it was a long time I tried to date men and I was very confident like sexually. Men, I did performances about like having sex with men. I was very open with my sexuality, so as a result when I started dating women I was trying to have this like sort of  and like even they all kind of assumed I knew how to have sex with women and I knew how the whole thing works.

But I really had no idea and I think that sort of like, not knowing how to have sex with women sort of like kind of like ended lots of relationships for me with women just because I think that they had the assumption that I was going to know what I was doing, I didn’t, so I’m very disappointed. I assumed like that if one girl was at the top, then she wouldn’t want me to like give pleasure, so I didn’t. But then she saw it as like I didn’t care about her pleasure, so there’s a lot of miscommunication. So, I think I would have, I mean again I could have done my own research, but it would have been good to have like some kind of education on like yeah, what does it mean to like have sex with women, give a woman a pleasure that sort of thing.

Because I think, again I came from it from very very like hetero kind of experiences with men, so I thought it’s going to be a similar thing, but it wasn’t. So yeah, so I think that would have been like also very useful.

12. So what would you like to say to other women or people out there?

I guess for in terms of like this, from this experience.

13. Yeah, relating to the book or the genitals or sexuality or.

I guess one thing I realized while taking photographs was that in a way I am, the confidence I have, it does come from a place of  like huge privilege, because I guess I was very well-read as a child, so I read a lot about like feminism from a young age, before puberty or at puberty and a lot about like body positivity like fat activism as a result that’s got made me kind of like yeah, very confident of myself and like I was not 100% always happy with how I look, but for the most part I am comfortable with like taking off my clothes.

I’ve done like naked runs before like in a naked bike ride before and so I guess, yeah, and so I guess that has in a way made me very comfortable with my body which I realized not the key to most people. I mean it would be nice to ask other people to be more confident, but I think it’s very condescending. But yeah, I don’t know. I think if people can all realize that like a lot of their insecurities are sort of like I don’t know from the fact that knowing that I guess, like our society especially in Singapore and the media and the advertising sort of like want us, it want us to be unhappy with ourselves, it want us to be very ashamed of ourselves in how we look in order to make us easier to control and in order to make us easier, make it easy to sell things to us.

Again, I know that’s not, I guess that’s one part of it and I understand that lots of people have lots of other issues that stems from lots of other things, they can’t just be put down to advertising that I think, ultimately yeah, I think we are especially if you’re disabled or you have yes, like skin conditions or like hormonal conditions or yeah, your body doesn’t look like in a way like perfect or like a normative so to speak like I said, I don’t know. I think it’s, one thing I guess, one other thing I learned recently is it is okay to not like your body, like you don’t have to beat yourself up over not loving your own body, that you don’t have to love your body, but you also don’t have to hate it either.

Like I think to give, I think you just need like the space to like stop like beating ourselves up and stop like forcing ourselves to, stop obsessing over how we look and I think yeah, and I think especially in Singapore there’s still a lot of shame surrounding like nudities, surrounding even like just like being a woman, just having a vagina, just like wearing skimpy clothes or like any kind of clothes I think especially with the internet now and like it really has come to show that lots of people, lots of women are still being shamed and are still being controlled in many many ways.

So, I think it’s an act of, really an act of rebellion is kind of like yeah, not giving a shit and not really caring and just like having, coming to some of sort of like peace with your body and like not buying into yeah, it’s needing to change it or if you do change it, it all comes from a place of like respect, that kind of thing and like not, () not putting other people down like trying not to making the effort like yeah, not to comment on other people’s bodies and yeah, or even just like something as simple as just, I don’t know, trying to like fight back when someone says oh, you gained weight or you lose weight or whatever, yeah, I think.

Yeah, and stop I guess and in general just like maybe when people talk about like people gaining weight is often a reflection of their own insecurities and their own like obsession with themselves. But yeah, I guess one thing would be nice not to comment on how other people look on whether they gained or lost weight and stuff because I know for me, I had a because I found out recently I have a like a thyroid condition that made me lose a lot of weight in the past like, a lot of weight in the last like a year or so and suddenly I got people saying like oh, I lost weight and.

Even though I knew I did no work to lose it and on all my years and years like reading body positive literature and like activism all that told me that like don’t trust this. I think there was a part of me that did think like oh, like, that was getting a lot like rewards from this. Like the dopamine and all of that and I was thinking yeah, so like I was thinking like these are the same people who are going to comment that you gained weight and so they’re not like you can’t trust them, but at the same time I was like actually I don’t want to gain weight after this.

I want to look like this for a long time and so now that I have found out that like, you know to treat the condition I will gain some weight and so a part of me is still like very much in denial in like what could I do to like not do this? Even though like I know like it doesn’t matter and even though I know like a lot of this thing like is not actually going to make a difference. I’m not going to be like look super different, but I think part of me is still like kind of obsessing over that sort of thing.

So, I think yeah, I don’t know like one thing we could do is like not comment on how people look or like if people do look at certain way just being even like putting yourself out there like as someone who looks a certain way and just like even if it’s totally internal things being like developing a bit more confidence in how you look, yeah. But I think yeah, you can start from like solidarity and even like very very basic thing like not starring at someone if they’re disabled or if they look a bit different or if they wearing or they yeah, like in public that sort of thing. Yeah, I think.

13. Okay, so one more, how was your shoot for you just now?

I think it was a bit, it felt quite surreal at first and it felt being, it did feel like myself into, but then after a while I sort of I relax and like I saw it as like yeah, like another kind of shoot and I think I, in a way because I rationalize it and that I have sent nudes to people on the internet that some of who that I don’t know super well and so like there are, in a way there are already like pictures of me in not wearing clothes out there. Not necessarily public domain, but like someone has it again like obviously not with my face, but so that’s in a way how I rationalize it and I yeah, I mean I did feel in the internet being more relaxing than I thought.

And actually like quite enjoyable because it did feel like I said yeah, I guess I did feel like quite sexy and I quite yeah, quite at peace in a away because I was even though I am used to like performing and what not, it did feel like it was and was and it’s the first time maybe that I had done sort of like near sort of like a glamour kind of thing, glamour kind of shoot that was where in a way maybe yeah, it wasn’t like playing a character, I wasn’t playing a role and that I didn’t have to worry about my face and it was just like in a way yeah, sort of like I guess focusing on my shapes, shapes of my body and stuff.

And again there was no like, I felt that yeah, there was no perfect kind of position or no standard, I had to like be healthy. So, in the end it was like quite fun, quite fun.

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