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What's Inside

For the Dragon Beside Me Challenge

By kpPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
What's Inside
Photo by Gary Meulemans on Unsplash

There are many kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling.

The first sentence of Audre Lorde’s divine essay, “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” was the immediate point of departure for another member of my college book club and me. My trans-masculine self and she, trans-feminine, felt differently about whom Lorde granted access to this power. I read “a resource within each of us” as everyone. She read “that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane” as cis-women. I can’t argue with her reading, although it isn’t the most generous interpretation of a powerful Black voice in feminism, literature, and poetry. My decision to read all of Audre Lorde’s work as liberatory for transgender people stems from her writings on the racist patriarchy as a whole, her firm roots in intersectionality, and her lived experience with queerness that informed her words and values until her death. I would articulate my thoughts to my peer simply as believing Audre Lorde only intended to say that women who are socially conditioned as such have been disempowered in this specific way, the stripping of their erotic power. I didn’t (and don’t) feel Lorde was saying trans-women aren’t women because they haven’t been disempowered in this way. To this day, I’m not even sure she was saying trans-women aren’t somehow similarly or equally disempowered and stripped of erotic power. As I said earlier, I believe she did her work in the spirit of liberation for all.

The very word erotic comes from the Greek word ‘eros,’ the personification of love in all its aspects—born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony.

She understood the erotic as more than a tool of sex.

The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have often turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with its opposite, the pornographic.

This is the essence of what we understand as the feminine. The creative well of energy, love, work, and knowledge that Audre Lorde writes about. That which is inherently part of all of us but suppressed in those conditioned as women and repressed by those conditioned as men. The strength this knowledge supplies me with to access this part of my Self is visible in my commitment to softness. I soften my mind and actions as the world sharpens its callous edges.

Practicing softness with myself and others has welcomed joy into my life. Lorde knew this to be true.

Another important way in which the erotic connection functions is the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy.

Knowing myself deeply, in ways I didn’t allow myself access to before, has opened my heart to love, community, and joy. Gender joy. Romantic joy. Familial joy. Professional joy.

It wasn’t an easy task. Eight hundred words aren’t much room to express how much work it was to unlearn the education I received as a perceived woman and the education I chose as a confused child who believed in the gender binary. I was expected to stay in my place and perform my role as a woman, but I deeply identified with the expectations and typical roles of men. I often took my frustration with this discrepancy out on those closest to me.

Lorde writes about the psychic milking of those conditioned as women. I know this role, and when given the chance, I used partners to extract emotional labor without reciprocating. I understand now that the vulnerability I offer is tantamount to my strength. It is a value I carry that I wish more people conditioned as men would take the time and emotional energy to access and value, too.

I digress.

The erotic is this vulnerability, this access to our inner worlds and truer selves. I suppose this International Women’s Day, I’ll be reflecting on this and how the infinite well of the erotic within all of us forever empowers me and anyone who chooses to access it.

Recognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world, rather than merely settling for a shift of characters in the same weary drama.


About the Creator


I am a non-binary, trans-masc writer. I work to dismantle internalized structures of oppression, such as the gender binary, class, and race. My writing is personal but anecdotally points to a larger political picture of systemic injustice.

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  • Oneg In The Arctic2 months ago

    A very insightful critical reflection on Lorde’s work and on the erotic. This brought me back to my days in uni doing my education in sexuality studies.

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