Fresh-Baked Idea: Stop Caring About What Others* Think. Seriously.
As a Black, sex-positive, non-binary person, there’s a lot to dislike about me by global standards. I’ve got medium-brown skin, nappy Technicolor hair, a Negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils, a curvy body whose ability to illicit sexual desire I yield freely, and a loud anti-racist mouth that’s constantly questioning the cis heteropatriarchy, colonialism, and the prison-industrial complex. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I wasn’t always this way. And to many people’s unending surprise, I’m not always this way.
I’ve been ruminating on respectability politics, which by definition, is “a set of beliefs holding that conformity to prescribed mainstream standards of appearance and behavior will protect a person who is part of a marginalized group, especially a Black person, from prejudices and systemic injustices.” Once a month, I’ll get a respectability politics-induced pang of anxiety as I go to make a post on social media, primarily Instagram.
My finger flirts with the grenade pin and I’ll overthink how much skin I’m showing. My gleeful middle finger to literal fascism. The use of “n*ggas” in a caption. The possibility of my followers knowing I enjoy sex. Kinky sex. Nasty sex. Out of reflex, I second guess myself. Against my will, my brain says, “Make your gender palatable!” “Make your Blackness non-threatening!” “Make your sexuality and sexual expression digestible — even charming!”
Don’t get it twisted: I don’t blame marginalized folks for code-switching, for airbrushing out their sociocultural pimples. I understand how making your gender palatable, your Blackness non-threatening, your sexuality digestible helps you gains access to privilege. Helps you survive. I know this all too well. But I also know that erasing my uncomfortable identities — that is to say, playing into respectability politics — isn’t worth it.
In the end, I’ll still be disrespected. I’ll still be shaded, and thrown under the bus, and let go, and even killed. So why not hit publish on Flo Milli and Cardi B lyrics, on pro-democracy posts? On lewds, nudes, and hard-on-inducing teases? On Stories where I call myself your homeboy or your Daddy? Especially as a Black, non-binary person, life is too damn short (literally, statistically) for me to make myself small just to make a straight person, a cis person, a white person comfortable. I have every reason to keep being myself — and unapologetically at that.
Read Of The Month: Harry Styles For Vogue, Dec. 2020
It’s Harry being the 10th man to be on Vogue’s cover, but the first one to fly solo (and in a Gucci gown) for me. It’s the visual of Harry at a bathing pond for me. It’s Harry reading up on critical race theory for me. It’s Harry shooting the cultural reset that was “Watermelon Sugar” for me, rolling around London in a vintage Jaguar for me, or flaunting his sculpted, tatted, plant-based body for queer Black photography legend Tyler Mitchell for me.
The Medicine Cabinet: Sagely Naturals
Each month, I review a product (or two, or five) for your medicine cabinet consideration: cosmetics, skincare, hair care, vitamins, fragrance, bath goodies, and the like.
There’s something about cannabis that just terrifies most Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. And you know what? Their disdain for weed almost never concerns mass arrests of Black people on marijuana charges, or the way tough-on-crime policies disproportionately affect Black and Latinx folks caught possessing weed. No. As far as our parents and grandparents are concerned, the problem is that joints and edibles will rot your brain, you’ll lose all motivation to be a productive member of society, and you’ll die an untimely death.
With this context, the increasing social acceptance of cannabidiol (CBD) feels surprising. A quick explainer: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the cannabis compound that produces the intoxicating euphoria your parents warned you about. People use THC to treat pain, low appetite, nausea and anxiety, glaucoma, insomnia, and muscle tightness. CBD is the relaxing, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant new girl in town — although, she was first isolated in the 1930s. Lately, she’s been popping up in everything from daily supplements and tonics, to beauty products like “kush mascara.”
She’s also an active ingredient in Sagely Naturals’ products, which piqued my curiosity when the company reached out to me. I’ve really been digging the Drift & Dream Body Oil ($30) [gifted], which contains 100 mg of CBD per bottle. I’ve used this to ground myself as well as moisturize after showers. Especially since Drift & Dream contains lavender, geranium, and clary sage oils, I’ve met the challenge of quieting my mind and soothing my skin easily.
Queer Creative Of The Month: Lindsay Wynn from Oshihana
This may be the first Cherry newsletter featuring Lindsay Wynn, but she’s actually a Cherry OG. I interviewed this queer wellness icon way back in August 2019, in Cherry’s first iteration as a weekly digital magazine. We talked about Momotaro Apotheca, her vaginal wellness company. I came for the brand’s gender-inclusive approach to vagina/vulva health. I stayed for the scrumptious blends of tea tree oil, sweet orange, and cedarwood, of echinacea, coconut oil, and beeswax that became body care staples for me. When I last spoke to Lindsay, her cannabis and sexual wellness company, Oshihana, was in its early stages. Now, in November 2020, Oshihana has a bomb website, good vibes, and stellar CBD- and CBG-infused goods. Here’s my conversation with Lindsay about health challenges for AFAB folks, and our perspectives on sex education and pleasure as informed by queerness.
The following Q&A has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Caroline Colvin: For those who don’t know what Oshihana is about, how would you describe the company?
Lindsay Wynn: Oshihana is a topicals company for pre-, during, and post-sexual care. We’re really focused on everything from the ritual and the way we talk about sex, to what we can do to have better sex with ourselves and our partners — to always enhance the conversations, education, and transparency around sex and cannabis.
CC: I think that’s really important. Because sometimes, our challenges when it comes to having sex aren’t necessarily physiological, but they often are psychological, mental, emotional.
LW: One hundred percent. They’re so inherently connected from stigma, to mental health for people with vulvas, to, potentially, their cycle that’s attached to a lot of different hormonal shifts and emotions. It’s really important to pay mind to the differences, and how far that pendulum can swing.
And that’s all OK. You don’t have to arrive like, ‘I’m OK to do this one day and not the other day.’ Or, ‘I feel good one day and not the next.’ It’s about seeing that, and meeting yourself and your partners where they are. Which was totally a challenge for me. I just felt like I had to ‘fix myself.’ I thought my goal was to wake up, feel better, and all of a sudden, I’d be ‘fixed.’ But that’s not a thing, you know?”
CC: Mmhm. For myself during quarantine, I had a lot of “quarantine horniness” in the beginning. It’s like, ‘We’re in the house! What else are we going to do?’ Right? But the longer this went on, my depression really ramped up and I found it hard to think about sex in my own life context [especially as a sex and dating writer]. I think sometimes you can be hard on yourself — especially if you’re working in a sex and dating space — about not having sex all the time or making it a priority.
LW: Totally. That’s a conversation that I feel like people who work within this space don’t talk about a lot. You’re constantly absorbing sexual conversations you’re having with other people with regard to their mental health, or general social and political issues. You’re absorbing all that stress and you forget to pay mind to your own personal experiences.
My father actually died at the beginning of this year, too, so I’ve been going through grief through COVID-19. Laying in bed and being able to masturbate, or self-pleasure in some way? It was such a struggle for me. Finally, a couple of months ago, I was like, ‘You know what? Let’s just start with a nice walk, with the music you like, and finding other ways to find pleasure to eventually get there. You’re not broken, your desire will again ebb and flow, and that’s totally OK.’
That’s very much a part of what Oshihana does. I feel like a lot of other cannabis companies that work within our space talk about cannabis and the plant’s properties creating these explosive orgasms! You’re going to squirt for the first time! And while that all might be more available due to THC being a vasodilatorand providing a more relaxed mind-state, sure, there are so many different properties and rituals that seem more important for us. That has to do with creating better systems and speaking more transparently. That can hopefully get us to that [ideal, ultra pleasurable] place, but in a more sustainable way.
CC: Speaking of systems, how do the bath soak and sex oil play into that?
LW: We initially started with THC products, but since COVID-19 hit, the dispensary space was obviously a challenge. We wanted to reach people and with something that wasn’t so heavily regulated, because with THC you can’t cross state lines. The bath soak was always supposed to be really fun. It’s a collaboration with a company calledBioGlitz. They are a sustainable and biodegradable glitter company. So the glitter that’s in the bath soak is made from plant cellulose.
CC: That’s awesome!
LW: So it’s totally body-safe. It won’t clog your drains. It’s not litter… The CBD and CBG help boost dopamine production. Also, a bath. What are we doing in our lives that’s just for ourselves? I find that when I’m doing that, I’m off my phone. I’m sitting with myself. The other ingredients in the bath soak I felt were really good for vulva/sexual health, but our skin in general.
The sex oil, same thing. Because of my vulvodynia and vaginismus, this was actually way more about self-pleasure and getting to the mental health place where I was ready to have sex with another partner. Something I could use that could help with moisture production, that felt good, that I could work into a masturbation routine, that was conditioning and that could help the overall health of my vulva. That’s the birthplace of both of those products. These products were made for self...
CC: I think that really is radical, the more time I spend in the sex and dating space. It’s just really interesting to think about masturbation not being something that you do simply on the side, or something that’s contentious in a monogamous, partnered relationship. But it’s something that should be at the forefront for people.
LW: Totally! And you know what’s funny? People traditionally think of people losing their virginity as a Thing. (We like to talk about it as a sexual debut.) As you’re coming up through puberty and adolescence, you start thinking about sex and dating, and it’s a very linear conversation. There’s one heteronormative idea around partnered sex, and sexual debut, and virginity. That should not be the case.
That’s such an antiquated view of our sexuality and our ability to connect as humans. We should be talking to our youth about self-pleasure, and understanding what sex is and can be — more than just penetration and pro-creation. Understand your body. Sex doesn’t have to be this one thing. What does it feel like? Being able to ask for that, it creates this different cadence where people can ask for consent, boundaries, and desires.
CC: Yes! This is the hill that I will die on, 1000%. Since we are talking unpacking linear understandings of sex, how do you feel like being bisexual affects the way you view sex? Not just as an individual, but as someone who is running Oshihana and making products for people?
LW: To be fully transparent, I have a hard time with ‘bisexual,’ because it still feels very limiting to me. Which I know is the antiquated version of ‘bisexual.’ I date all of the people, no matter how they identify. For me, through years of dating all sorts of people, through figuring out if it was sexual or romantic, coming into a relationship with a woman who identifies as a lesbian for the last two years, I’m having to come to terms with people’s ideas and perceptions around me. And then what I was saying about my company… It’s been a really interesting journey.
I like to think that I’m as open to as much as love, pleasure, and transparency as possible. I’m not limiting myself to one single narrative what love, connections, relationships, and sex ‘should be.’ I’d like that to be open for more people. I’m not, by any means, trying to force everyone to be gay or on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Some people are just heterosexual, and that’s totally fine!
But within my own sexuality and with the company, I just want people to feel open and cared for, and that there are options. Maybe you don’t want to have penetrative sex. Maybe you don’t want to have sex with men, women, people, or whoever. There are always more options, there are always people that are available for conversation. I think that is really powerful in and of itself.
You don’t have to choose. You don’t even have to identify, if you don’t want to. Again, you never fully have to arrive at a conclusion. For some people that’s really powerful, for some, that’s really limiting. Just look inward.
The Final Beat
So, we’ve made it to the end of a Cherry newsletter. How are we feeling? You can let me know via Instagram DMs, or send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. The end-of-year is the perfect time to mull over our identities, dualities, multiplicities together. Speaking of which, the last Cherry newsletter of 2020 will look different from previous installments.
December’s letter will be a round-up of queer-owned businesses you should patronize this holiday season. (So if you’ve got some brands and entrepreneurs you’d like to spotlight, hit Cherry’s line for the gift guide as well).
Lots of soft vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips and cherries,