I am just back from the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. The last time I was there was about 13 years ago and it is still the same cute little town erected in the woods by a committed community, where a fierce line-up of musicians, performers, spoken word artists, filmmakers and teachers show us their stuff and inspire all week long. I could write for days about that, but that’s not what I want to talk to you about.

I remember being in my mid 20s and selling stickers and tee-shirts at NYC Pride to fund my first trip to MichFest with my then girlfriend and another friend. When I arrived on “the land”, the thing that evoked such a strong response in me in being there was not at all what I thought it would be (the aforementioned): it was the variety of women’s bodies and breasts–all colors, shapes, sizes–and the freedom in sexual expression that etched an imprint in my mind that I would not forget. Women roam MichFest in every stage of undress because it’s a relatively safe place to do that, little cocoon of woods it is. I marveled at the diversity because we NEVER see that in the straight world. How healing this would be for women to experience, even just once in their lives, I thought. Lives would be changed–and have been. Bodies would be loved more authentically. Expression would be freed. In short, the world would be a different place.

I had an amazing session with a client this morning. She wanted to talk about how she dresses and expresses her sexuality because she is having difficulties with her partner when she chooses short shorts or “sexy” clothing. Her partner’s fears revolve around how men respond to women who are dressed in a perceived “sexual” way. I can only imagine how men talk about women and that he has good reason to feel trepidation.

She mentioned another friend who doesn’t know who she is as a sexual person and really doesn’t understand what she wants sexually. Her way of expressing herself is to wear what she thinks she SHOULD, what the culture deems sexy, as a way of expressing her sexuality. Herein lies an important distinction.

I taught my “Embodied Sexuality” workshop at MichFest and this, I believe, is where the difference lies. When a person is really IN their body, IN their desire, allowing it to come from the inside out–embodied–and their evocative dress is a means of expressing the sexiness they feel inside, that is so powerful. That’s ideal. They don’t give a crap what others think. It’s for THEM. It helps them turn their sexy on and let it flow because it feels good to them. Clothes are an amazing tool for that.

When a person is not embodied, or IN their body, does not know what they want, is over-determined by outside forces, and allows the culture to dictate for them how to express themselves, that is such a different place. Yet, as my client said, for the untrained eye, “It looks the same.”

I am grateful for the queer and women’s spaces in my life where I get to experience a very different lens from which to express myself and experience others in their glory. Many people will never experience an alternative to the mainstream culture that prescribes a narrow and judgmental model of sexual expression that goes far beyond just what people wear, but creeps into the bedroom, into the way people allow their desire to come forth and their relationships to be designed.

I am a lucky girl. The straight world has much to learn from the queer spaces that challenge these ideas, where people are forced to consider gender, gender roles and cultural norms in a very different way, an unprivileged way, where nothing is taken for granted.