My name is Shay, but if you know me from the burlesque community, you would call me as Sherman. I am genderfluid, and somewhere in the middle on every gender/sex/personality/relationship style spectrum. I use “they” pronouns when I am performing, because I am so many different people in all of my acts. Plus, I don’t want you to know if the big reveal is going to have boobs, a dick, or both. I toyed with the idea of using “they” pronouns in my daily life, but I feel more comfortable responding to she, they, and he, depending on the event, the conversation, the person. I don’t want to decide on a pronoun, because I want to be playful and flexible with my presentation. This is a subject matter close to my heart, and how people wish to be called is important to me. My lack of deciding on only one way to be or be called is equally important, as it is where I am most comfortable. I want the space to not take my own personal gender seriously. I want to be a drag king, a drag queen, a butch, a femme, a daddy, a slut, and all the things in between. Just please don’t mistake me for a straight woman, I am neither of those things.
I gravitate towards men of all kinds (I’m a sucker for beards), trans people and GNC people for sexual partners. I like the people I spend time with to be very comfortable with themselves, and their gender/sex identity. I don’t care what genitals you were born with, I don’t care what your body type is. As an artist, the thing that turns me on the most in a partner is their creativity. It can be anything: poetry, woodworking, dance, sound editing, knitting, underwater basket weaving - the people that are deserving of my time are the ones that live and breathe art, and have that burning desire to be and create beauty around them. I want to spend the whole day with someone, talking over each other about ideas we have for projects, then helping each other with our projects when it makes sense, working side by side separately when it makes sense, and taking a break every 90 minutes or so for sex, or at least, making out.
I’m poly, and have been before I knew poly was a thing. I have a lot of energy, and a lot of empathy, and for one person to receive all my love and romantic attention would be too much. There are a lot of different kinds of relationships I enjoy: I like having a traditional primary partner; someone to get stoned and cuddle with or without sex (but always with cartoons); someone to make art and have sex with; someone to explore pain limits and bdsm with, with or without sexual play; burlesque partners; tag team partners for wrestling; someone to pop back pimples with. All these friendships require trust, chemistry, and communication. Sex is nice, I’m a very sexual person, but I cannot do without love and I cannot do without art, and look for these things first and foremost when I am relating with people and planning out how to spend my extrovert time.
I also help run a queer pro-wrestling league. We do our wrestling antics at music shows, and as productions on their own. As an abuse survivor, finding a group of femme people and ladies to have predetermined violence with has been excellent exposure therapy. It has made touch okay, it is a way to have platonic touch with my friends. We all trust each other with our lives, and are getting out our aggression in a healthy and fun way. Pro wrestling is one of the only American-made performance art forms, and I hope to create a response to the typically misogynistic, racist, and generally problematic as fuck world of wrestling with my awesome friends, and whoever else wants to join. I’m mentioning this here to let you know there are ways to feel confident and strong with your body, without sexualizing it (sometimes, if you want). Here’s a link of us doing our thing for one of our good friends bands, Palehound: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw3buU7goHo
As a former born again Christian, I spent a lot of time in my early years feeling guilty for wanting to date two people at once, wanting to give blowjobs before I got married, smoking weed, masturbating, liking queer people, being queer myself, thinking my body was beautiful, and wanting to be naked around my friends. The particular suburban brand of Christianity I followed also made me feel uncomfortable being a certain body type, weight, and personality. I tried being a girl like the ones in my school and the ones you saw in the magazines, but never could get it quite right and settled on a more goth/theater kid style in my early years. Now, some days I wear fit and flare dresses, and other days I wear overalls. I am almost done feeling guilty, but still have to actively work on making sure I am being true to myself, and not trying to stuff myself into a box out of habit.
I feel sexiest when I’m pinned down by another person and they are clearly extracting pleasure from my body. I like to be objectified, to have someone take pleasure from being with me, and I like them to pretend they have little regard for my own pleasure (but like actually give me orgasms tho). When someone takes the time to figure out what I like in bed, and then do the things I like without me having to explicitly ask for them every time, is a level of consideration that makes me feel cherished, and sexy. If I’m looking to feel sexy on my own, a nice pair of italian made stockings that require the use of a garter belt is probably my peak sexual experience.
I don’t exactly feel “sexy” when I am performing burlesque, but I do feel confident, which is a good tool for feeling sexy, later. It’s like, fake it till you make it. In wrestling and burlesque, I pretend to be over the top sexy and strong, and the audience’s response pushes me over the threshold, and I actually do wind up feeling those things. Burlesque is more about playing a character perfectly, and showing the audience how much you love your body. The story isn’t always sexual, and my body is beautiful outside of the context of sex and the male gaze. The big difference between classic and neo burlesque, I think, is that classic sexualizes the performer for the sake of the audience member, whereas in neo, the performer is naked for their own joy, and whether or not you are horny from it is irrelevant. I want to be naked and visible, because when I was younger, I didn’t see anyone that looked or acted like me being confident with their body or sexual identity. In these terrible Trump years, the best thing I can do is let people know it is okay love yourself when you are short or fat or queer or single or dating five people or bald or shy or a prude or a virgin. I want other people to see me, I want to be the role model I never had. No matter who you are, if you want to make art in the neo-burlesque scene, you absolutely can. I would have never had the confidence to not wear a bra, shave my head, to be a girl one day and a boy the next, or to explain the complications of my non binary queer self, if I didn’t get to process those things through gender play on a stage.