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Let’s talk about ... sex?
Has anyone asked you today how you brush your teeth? How you scratch your back? What you put in front of your mouth as you sneeze, if it isn't your hand? It is as normal as it is certain that people who look at me will ask one or two questions. That I am asked often is also guaranteed. On the other hand, the boundaries are uncertain. Let's talk about intimate moments!
The elephant right in the middle of the room
Long before my professional – and thus public – path was determined, I had the following experience: During an event for young people that I once attended, there was a workshop about transsexuality. That interested me! Especially because I didn't know much about it and immediately had a hundred questions racing in my head. Until then I had never (consciously) met a transsexual person. And even if I did, I don't know if I would have had the courage to ask certain questions. How great it was that someone would present themselves openly at this workshop, and that the curious question marks in my head would give way to personal answers. The other workshop participants seemed to be similar. At the same time, there remained that shyness in addressing some things, even though they stood like elephants in the room.
Asked. Frustrated. Lost.
"How does sex actually work?" I felt relief when someone else asked the question. She was so close and yet so far away, for understandable reasons. But where, if not here, could we have asked this question? My eyes widened with expectation when the workshop leader began to speak. But instead of the much sought-after insight, we received a reprimand. Disgruntled, she retorted that one should not ask such an intimate question. Every letter dripped with incomprehension and blame. Although I had not asked, I felt ashamed. And disappointed. Something suddenly felt completely wrong.
Is openness intimacy?
This incident did not lie in the distant past when I gradually made my first steps as a speaker. Of course, I was aware that there would be steps into a more public way of life. I had busied myself before with the consequences; with the question, among other things, about how open I myself can – and want – to be. The workshop experience had remained very tangible to me. How do I expect to show people my – yes, my – subject if I don't open up myself? How do I encounter natural and all too human curiosity when it concerns those more personal areas? Can I really talk about anything? Do I want that? Do I even have to? How much does openness actually have to do with intimacy? What does close mean, and what is too close?
Let's talk about… everything!
Yes, there are limits. Although, do they really exist? And who is stuck with them? Even then, one side of me could understand the workshop leader very well. There are things I don't want to talk about. And especially today, many years and hundreds of personal questions later, I still understand her refusing a glimpse into that insight very well. At the same time, I myself am a questioner of so many subjects and people. A curious person, hungry for knowledge. I don't want to violate anyone's personal boundaries because of that. I would like to understand. Just as I wish that people would have curiosity and a hunger for knowledge when it comes to motivation, mindset and mental strength. Perhaps I would have liked an answer like: "You are welcome to ask me that, and I am welcome to leave it unanswered". That would have shown me that it is not the questions themselves that are sacrilegious. At most, it lies in the expectation of learning the most intimate of secrets. Questions live in curiosity. The questions live in people. And, so, my decision was clear from the beginning.
Open for every question? Open for every answer.
So what is it, personal insight? Me revealing everything and answering every question down to the last detail? Or does providing a glimpse also mean not opening a door, or only opening a small gap? Me revealing where my limits are? Do I allow access to the garden or just a view over the fence? I am open. Open to any question. And open to any answer. That means that it will always depend, to a certain extent, on the circumstances, the person, the type of day or, for example, the intentionbehind the question, how the answer turns out. Sometimes I am asked provocative questions. People want to "test" me. Which is totally okay. I am open to that. At the same time, my answer may be a little different than if the question is based exclusively on interest and pure curiosity. Here I feel how, from my basic openness, a personal one will open me.
Let's … dance?
We can only confront each other when we deal with each other. Effect depends on encounter. Viewed this way, I see a gift in every question, because it reveals interest. Questions and answers; sometimes I experience them as a dance that can be started or conducted gently, or turbulently. The intertwined or loosely-connected dance leads across the parquet floor. It is movement and touchand lives from the courage of all dancers to face the encounter. Let's dance!
Photos: Katy Otto