“I think people are all unique and individual entities, and I’ve been really wrestling with trying to have a relatable and understandable message while also trying to be reflective of the way I see the world.”
How has social media allowed you to feel more connected and accessible, but also vulnerable and exposed?
Social media is one of those things where it is given me the opportunity to make a living out of communicating with people, and doing work that a lot of people around the world do every day, thanklessly, which is the work of listening, the work of evolving, the work of existing. I would not have what I have if it wasn’t for every single person who has decided to click the “support” button. I don’t like to say the “follow” button because it makes me feel every person who supports me. People who I will never meet in my life. And so that’s a very overwhelming and humbling and beautiful part of social media is that there are a lot of people who you’ll never meet who are holding you up and saying “let’s share a collective vision and let’s share trust”. Because of that you should never take for granted the trust of the people that are given to you. If people look back at work on social media you’ll notice that I don’t post very often, a few times a month. I am very careful about the content that I do put online. Everything is very curated, and I feel very much responsible to every person whose given me the responsibility to have the path that I have now. I think things really changed when I started dating somebody (Rose McGowan) who was a “celebrity celebrity”, and once tabloids got involved in things, things really changed.
People became a lot more aggressive, they want perfection, they want a martyr, they want somebody with a perfect set of morals and there’s no room or margin for error. My whole platform is about making mistakes, and making choices that in the moment you may have felt right about, and in reality, you are wrong. We can’t say everything in our lives is a mistake, we often make poor choices that don’t pan out well, and upon hindsight, we realize it wasn’t the right choice to make even if we didn’t realize that in the moment.
So, social media has been a really vulnerable thing because every time that number rises of “support” I feel even more responsible about the work I put out. I get hundreds of messages a day and I try to answer as many people as possible and I try to be there for the people who are there for me. When I have these conversations with people, and then I post the conversations out, those conversations... I have a role, I try to answer all of the messages I get in chronological order and I do it for two hours a day, so even if it’s a good message, a bad message or a boring message, I respond to every single one in order. With the ones that are not so great, I like to share them because I relate to them in the sense that I wouldn’t be doing the work that I am now if it wasn’t for people who have given me second chances, who have taken time to explain things or see things that I couldn’t see at the time, and the people who have been consistent and persistent in my life, who at the time I thought were self-righteous fuckers, but in reality, those were the people who were my lifelines. They were the people who believed I could be better, and so, I share a lot of the conversations I have with people because I want people to know that humans are complex and we are not perfect in the sense of morality and we are constantly making bad decisions and mistakes. I then made a video about radical honesty which I purged 30 years of things I had been dishonest about and in all realness I had a journalist approach me before I put out that video and they were friends with someone who I had outed for sexual assault a while ago and they were doing a takedown piece as a freelancer and I knew it was going to be ugly, and I was okay with it though and I wrote to NBC and said I understand this article is coming out and I’m okay with that and put out some of my concerns, but people needed to know. I realized after he hit me up, and I had that choking feeling of fear, shame, and regret, I realized that every time something goes viral this is what happens. I found myself in this pattern where it’s like, it’s almost like when I had to come out about being queer, you don’t just come out once, you have to come out again. And again. And again. And again.
I felt like that with honesty, things I had made poor choices on, whenever anything went viral I had people from my past come out and say “I know this is something you have been honest about”. While I had been honest about these things for a while, I realized I needed to create a one-stop-shop solution that was a central hub cap for people to know exactly who I’ve been and where I’ve been so they know exactly why I am who I am today. I made that video and it was a vulnerable thing, I got a lot of shit for it, and I also experienced a lot of fear and then I also afterward experienced this freedom in which no one can hold anything over your head anymore, you’re bulletproof. I earned the right to demand radical honesty from other people which is something I need in order to get other people to be honest with themselves and change and shift or consider going in another direction. It was one of the most painful things I have had to do.
But it was a trust will into society, and that’s what social media is, a trust will into society. You are giving back to people something for them giving you their attention, and I wanted to give people an example of honesty which we don’t have right now, and I’m not heroic for it, it should be happening all over the world and we’re seeing things all around the world with Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, people are just not being honest. There’s no reward for it, it’s not easy, to be honest, today.
You can’t go back on it, in the video, I cried a lot, I didn’t realize how painful it was going to be. It’s 30 years of stuff, and life, and choices, and mistakes. I’ve learned a really beautiful part of the process. If you asked me Rain, “what’s with the text messages with Asia Arengto, did you sell them?” I would say yes, and I can explain instead of being like “yes, but hear me out, you know..” Letting go of the ego of having to explain, justify, and quantity instead of owning the action and allowing people to determine what process of where you got to, and if they don’t want to then they don’t really want to understand you. That’s okay, it tells you very clearly the type of people you want in your space. You want people to understand you, to understand how you got to where you were, so they can help you get to where you need to be. We need people to just own things without excuses, it’s hard to do that but it’s something we are learning, we are losing the ability to do as our egos are a big part of our ethos these days.
You have to let go of being responsible for other people's emotional journeys which is hard because we want to make other people happy. Most of the poor decisions I have made in my life have been because I’d rather make someone happy at the moment, it’s about pleasing people. I think people experience that a lot on Instagram. There’s this whole group of people who believe in ‘fake it till you make it’. When it comes to social media it’s such a false part of our existence, it’s very rare that people are their authentic selves on social media - unfiltered. I think people for clicks, views, and comments. People feel obligated to be a moderately dishonest version of themselves and I wish we could encourage people not to have to worry about getting that external validation of people-pleasing, and not to have to go through a formulaic way of existing.
Working as both a menswear and womenswear model, how do you feel about being fluid - looking past the gender and the body?
I have a very different way of looking at humanity and gender in general. I do not think that clothing is specific to gender or sex unless you really want it to be. Its rules and regulations are what you make it to be. For me, I just see tools to access the world around me. Clothing is an architectural tool, it’s a cultural tool, it’s a tool that tells people around you what you are prepared for and what you want. When I open my dresser drawer I’m looking at a toolbox every time, I’m looking at the things that I have and assessing the world I am going into, the meetings I am going to have and I think about what I want to access in the world for today. And then I usually dress myself to access that.
I’ve been in a space for now where I’ve been really conflicted. I love doing a lot of side-by-side stuff, I do a lot of studies on gender capitalism. The idea of what do women access and what do men access, and when I say men and women I put that in heavy quotes, I mean by society’s standards men and women. By my standards, I don’t believe people are men and women unless people tell me this is how I identify. Of course, I’ll always respect that. I think people are all unique and individual entities, and I’ve been really wrestling with trying to have a relatable and understandable message while also trying to be reflective of the way I see the world. I just did this commercial and they asked for the male version of me, and the female version of me. They were so wonderful. The society masc version, and the society fem version, to show the breadth of how one human can really express themselves. I just feel that it doesn’t have to be so cut and dry, and I also feel that it is not, I don’t believe that femininity exists unless you think that it does, I don’t think that masculinity exists unless you think that it does, I don’t think there is anything thing as binary unless you think that it does exist. I think we’ve been duped, that we live in a matrix mindset which we’ve been brainwashed into thinking in order to keep the world a more organized and reliable place because we are born into this chaotic space and we don’t know why the fuck we are here, we don’t know where the fuck we are going, and it’s terrifying. We like things, especially as humans, to be as understandable as possible because it’s terrifying when things don’t sense. We try to make sense of things that we don’t necessarily have to be made sense of and we try to limit things, and gender is one of those. The idea of what you can wear based on what's on your birth certificate is one of those things, and it’s unnecessary. The shape of fabric should not shape your future, I think it is absolute bullshit (laughs). The whole thing. But in order to deconstruct something, I have to reconstruct images of things people know and understand because people can understand they are living in a farce.
A good ending note on that and that commentary, we say in the queer community all about Pride, that we are all about Pride and being proud. The Pride flag, the Pride movement, the Pride movement, Pride, Pride, Pride. We shouldn’t conflate that with pride. We should have pride in who we are, but we shouldn’t make Pride what we are. I think it’s pride that is getting in our way to be allied with our allies, to be allied with each other. It’s pride that is disabling us from asking for help, being able to say ‘how can I be in service’, and not just ‘how can you be in service to me’. I think the Pride movement, everyone should be proud of who they are but we shouldn’t let that pride of who we are, affect and impact how we are with others.
I understand, the trucks, the flags, the commercialization of it all...
And the me, and the me, and the me, and the look at ME. That pride can come and bite our community in the ass. We need to be less ME and become more WE. It is we who changed things, we trans people, we drag queens, we gays, we lesbians, people who didn’t have a language at the time but they knew that they didn’t have a label for what they are. But it is we who changed things for us. For everyone. And now we’ve been so impacted by capitalistic policies in the driving, especially a lot of non-profits a little bit of something to do with this as we do have a lot of non-profit organizations that act as businesses and although beautiful we have non-profits to defend our rights, some of them are more advertising and operating like advertising machines trying to make a lot of money. And they cannot make money unless they have a problem. I think sometimes we get divided by some of the propaganda by some of these nonprofits and organizations. ‘This is why I’ve been impacted by this community: donate now, donate now’. I think we should be aware of intersectionalities and hierarchical politics, we should definitely be helping people who need the help the most - first. I also think we have to be aware of divisional ideologies that say “I am more important than you”. You cannot conflate conflict with a conscience.
So in terms of context, Sand is a platform about wellbeing, wellness and self-care, and slow living. I am wondering with yourself, how do you slow down, now you are in London you just returned from Australia, between traveling and working. How do you find time to be with yourself to chill and recuperate and take some space for you?
I think that a lot of people feel like you need to have, it comes from the indoctrination of weekends, you know. We have this idea that we need to take off entire days. We feel like we cannot find time for ourselves as it’s this overly involved process in which we need to take a full day or week. So we don’t find time for ourselves because we think there’s no time. I have learned about micro-meditation and micro-moments, and being able to find moments where I can find stillness.
This work that I do, so much of it happens behind the scenes because it needs to happen behind the scenes because we are dealing with very vulnerable individuals, people who are vulnerable and hurting. I don’t like sharing some of this stuff because it is very vulnerable. But, it’s a part of my life that I love, I love it. It’s a beautiful place part of my life but it is emotionally laborious. What I try to do every morning before I get out of bed is having this little moment of meditation and I set my intention and I am grateful for the fact that I went to bed. People who say that they don’t trust the word I always tell them “then, why do you sleep” because sleeping is a way of trusting that while we are in a mobilized state then nothing is going to happen to us.
I do a lot of writing, I am very good now at setting my boundaries and saying “hey, I’ve hit my threshold” and I’m going at saying “I need a moment”. I take frequent walks throughout the day and at times at which depression strikes, as most humans we go through waves of feeling great about our rise and prospects and then waves of “having I peaked? Is this it? I feel like shit”. When I’m in my shit-space I can give myself permission to feel like shit. I am privileged in the sense that I don’t operate off a 9-5 schedule. I do whatever I feel like doing as long as it’s in my capacity and that freedom allows me to process the world and access freedom and find freedom. This conversation is chosen, I don’t have to have this conversation and if I want to step out of this conversation, I will. Having that permission to be able to be free, it’s my version of skincare. It is freedom.
I choose to exist right now, I choose this conversation, and the act of choice is really what downtime is. Being able to do something you choose to do, and for me to be able to relax, I need to know that I am free in whatever I am doing. I also forgive myself for some of the paths that freedom has taken me down (laughs). One week I might drink, and drinking may be a part of my life and I keep myself aware of what I am consuming. I let myself consume alcohol, consume junk food and I am free about it. It frees me from depression. There are times when I feel like I drank too much, or drinking was part of my life, or you feel guilty about drinking. This idea that it’s OK that I am drinking, it’s OK that I am whiskey, I know when whiskey is not good for my existence. I am present with my choice when you choose the drink rather than the drink choosing you. I am able to have this freedom to forgive. When you have a week of depression and you do not want to leave the house, and even the idea of having to buy groceries is exhausting. But if you give yourself permission to feel this way, and if you say ‘today I am in sweatpants, today I am going to watch cat videos on YouTube’. Freedom is my downtime, the permission that we give to ourselves to be exactly how we are in the moment without any restriction other than the one you know. That self-honesty. I am brutally honest with myself. That’s a hard one but being brutally honest with oneself is a way to enforce downtime and freedom.
You have to be honest with yourself, there is nowhere to hide. I choose to drink this, I choose to put this in my body. I am not ashamed of that. If I am ashamed I need not to do it. If we take the time to meditate every morning, I don’t necessarily mean this grand Buddhist act or something you see in a yoga class. Taking a time, a moment with yourself and really taking a moment to hone in with yourself, being honest, being really fucking honest with you. True, truly honest, not the little things in our head, I am talking about the honesty that we exist at all. Is fucking amazing. Are we really, truly content with our existence? If not, then how can we find a way to chip away at the why. If we have that conversation with yourself every morning for 10 minutes I think it would vastly improve peoples’ lives.
Sometimes we live other people's lives because that is the life we are told to live. We are addicted to other people's thoughts. None of us have been here before, likely, that chaos is a terrifying thing. We want to know what we are doing is RIGHT, in the moment. So we factor in other people's thoughts, so we play this gambling game of probability. So we try to reduce the probability, every purchase, every action, every word we say, everything we say. We just want to be guaranteed safety and love, and that it is going to be alright. We’re coming to a really interesting time period, a lot of people are realizing that they can still acquire a sense of safety if they are honest with themselves about who they are and what they want. That’s not everywhere in the world there are places in the world with incredible oppression. But, even internally. If you can’t be honest with other people because it’s illegal to be who you are. I think even internally a lot of people are realizing it’s okay to be who you are.
I got an email from someone reaching out to me from Bangladesh, they live in a place where they can be murdered for being who they are. But they just know who they are, and even if they cannot be that thing outwardly, by being honest with themselves has helped propel them through every day. I think that kind of honesty, that collective honesty which people are starting to have with themselves as we are connected with each other around the world is going to lead us to a future where we are going to be safer than we’ve ever been. We are going to trust each other more than ever.
We are in a chaotic time now because we’ve never crossed so many boundaries before, that’s what we have with social media, we have never had to share so many cultures in, we have never lived in our brains so much. We used to have to show up with our bodies, and now we are showing up with our brains and our hearts. Social media - although it’s a terrifying thing - it allows people to just be the purest essence of themselves which is their thoughts and the executions of those thoughts.
I think we’re in a really cerebral space. I know the world won’t be as it is today, in twenty years from now it’s going to be either incredible or it is going to be awful and there’s not much in between.