Ladyboy Gigi Raven Wilbur was born in 1955 in Houston, Texas. At birth, Gigi’s genitalia did not fit the standard definitions for male or female bodies (a condition known as being intersex or a hermaphrodite). Within days, Gigi’s anatomy was “normalized” via surgery, and Gigi was defined as male. Today, Gigi identifies as intersex, and uses the title Ladyboy to offset the lack of pronouns for hermaphrodites. At Gigi’s suggestion, we’ve used both male and female pronouns in this brief bio to tell the story of Gigi’s extraordinary life.

Growing up, Gigi struggled with the strict gender roles forced upon her by family, coaches, and classmates. She also suffered from severe learning disabilities. Told she would never go to college, Gigi worked stringing barbed wire on ranches in north and east Texas, until a fellow ranch hand convinced Gigi to give college a shot. Despite being forced to take a foreign language, something experts said would be impossible for Gigi, she graduated with a BA in Philosophy, and later earned a master’s degree in social work.

During college, Gigi finally understood that she was intersex. Armed with this new knowledge, Gigi decided it was time to come out, all the way, as dyslexic, ADHD, intersex, and bisexual. Since then, Ladyboy Gigi has been an outspoken activist for the bisexual and intersex communities. After co-producing AfterHours, a radio program about human sexuality, Ladyboy Gigi created an iTunes podcast called Adult Bedtime Stories to help create a more sex-positive world through adult sexual education and BDSM performance art. Gigi has also served on BiNet USA’s board of directors, and helped established Celebrate Bisexuality Day in 1999. That year, Ladyboy Gigi was awarded the AIB Globe Award for outstanding service to the bisexual community worldwide.

Gigi is also deeply involved with the BDSM world. Today, she advocates for the healing, cathartic, and spiritual power of BDSM as founder and Sacred Harlot of Aphrodite’s Temple, a modern-day sex temple which provides sex-positive education and a sex-positive sacred play space for adults. Gigi’s book is called The Dominant’s Handbook: an Intimate Guide to BDSM Play. Gigi also wrote the essay Walking in Shadows: Third Gender and Spirituality, about her intersex identity.

In June 2017, the OUTWORDS interview team drove down a quiet lane with no sidewalks in semi-rural northwest Houston, arriving at the house Gigi shares with his partner J. After scouting the home for a suitable interview spot, Gigi suggested we shoot in her sex temple, a standalone, soundproof structure out back. It was the right choice – because while Gigi’s temple, and Gigi’s life as a whole, are unfamiliar terrain for most of the LGBTQ community, they deserve to be witnessed, understood, appreciated and shared.

Gigi Raven Wilbur: I get the ultra thin ones because if I get regular lenses they're so heavy and thick.
Mason Funk: Are they the graduated type where you can read and then see far?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Yeah, that's what these are as well.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Yeah. I have real bad astigmatism, so.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Can you just kind of point towards me a tiny bit just so I can see?
Amy Bench: [00:00:30] Yeah-yeah.
Mason Funk: And you'll just be talking to me right here. Are you looking?
Mason Funk: Just move your head as if you're just talking to me so I can kind of see your eyeline.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Oh, okay.
Amy Bench: Can you scoot in closer?
Mason Funk: I can scooch in a little closer. That's about as close as I can get.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: We can move everything back a little and then you could get in.
Mason Funk: We see everything.
Mason Funk: We see everything from the cage to the red of the cross.
Mason Funk: I forget what it's called, but we see that. We see those three pieces really nicely.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Oh, good.
Mason Funk: We also see the noose. I don't know if that's very authentic or not.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: I can tie you an authentic noose.
Mason Funk: It looks like a prop. I feel like we should drop that a tiny bit more.
Amy Bench: Okay.
Mason Funk: Or just get rid of it, what do you think?
Amy Bench: I like it in there.
Mason Funk: Yeah, okay.
Amy Bench: Do you want to have Gigi tie it?
Mason Funk: Do you want to tie it like in a proper noose?
Amy Bench: I'll show you how much of it you see so you know it's not a lot.
Mason Funk: [00:01:30] Watch your head here.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Yeah. Woops, catching on, it caught on the chair.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: I'll put it on in a minute.
Amy Bench: So it's just the lower like six inches that we see.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: I was a sailor so I learned all kinds of knots.
Mason Funk: Uh-huh.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:02:00] From Bowline to you name it.
Mason Funk: [00:02:30] We were finished and no sooner had we put the camera away and she was like, "I forgot to talk about X, Y, and Z." It happened all the other times as well and I just realized, okay, I need a little bit more of a system this year so I started doing this little questionnaire.
Mason Funk: Just to try to make sure that both the interview subject and myself kind of had a few key points ahead of time, but today we'll like I say we'll just kind of wing it.
Mason Funk: Yeah, sound good?
Amy Bench: Mm-hmm.
Mason Funk: Great, so to start off just tell me your first and last names and spell them out for me.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:03:00] It's Gigi Raven Wilbur, and it's two G's, and then, although, usually, because the judge was a little conservative that's why we went with two G's instead of G-I-G-I when I had my name changed, and then Raven, R-A-V-E-N that's my Indian birth sign, and then Wilbur, W-I-L-B-U-R that's my wife's last name.
Mason Funk: So when you say GG, it's literally two?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Two G's.
Mason Funk: Two capital G's?
Mason Funk: Okay. That's your official name or?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Yeah, that's what's on my driver's license.
Mason Funk: That's how you want to be identified capital G, capital G.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Well, usually, like I say, I usually go by G-I-G-I.
Mason Funk: Okay, all right, and I noticed, sometimes, you write it capital G, small i, capital G, small i.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Yeah, well, actually, it's two small g's, but my handwriting is horrible.
Mason Funk: [00:04:00] Okay. All right. Tell me what your birthdate is and where you were born?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: I was born here in Houston, and I was born on September 23rd, 1955.
Mason Funk: Okey-dokey.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: It was a very weird time growing up.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Do you want to tell me about that?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:04:30] Yeah. I didn't learn about being intersex until much later in life until I was 23, but I remember growing up and everyone from my father on down to school officials kept trying to make me be more masculine, and coaches tried to make me throw like a boy, although, it always hurt my shoulder to do that. I even asked my friend once I said, "Doesn't it hurt your shoulder to throw overhand?" He goes, "Oh, no, it's no problem." I realized later, especially, since I reached puberty very late I was almost 17 when I would reach puberty. Then I had ADHD and a whole series of different learning disabilities. One of the rare ones I have is what's called auditory decoding problems.
The sense of hearing is the one sense that it goes to the brain and there's a center in the brain that interprets, is this sound or is this words? If it's sounds it goes to the music center of the brain. If it's words it goes to the language center. Well, I have a weird disability. If I don't see people talking all I hear is music I don't hear the words or, sometimes, I'll hear words in music that aren't there because it goes to the wrong center of the brain so for a while they thought I was deaf. Then they gave me a hearing test and found out my hearing is actually beyond the normal range of humans on both the high and low end. I could always hear dog whistles and things like that.
It was kind of rough growing up because I had very few friends. Almost nobody wanted anything to do with me. I was kind of the weird kid that couldn't even spell cat in second grade just because I was so severely dyslexic. They finally had to pull me out of the school system and put me into a special school where they started teaching me multi-sensory techniques, multi-sensory learning which was way ahead of the time. I mean, back then I was one of the early ones to be diagnosed, but it was because it was so bad in my situation. All through school they said, "You'll never make it in college. Don't even think about college." I had psychologists tell me that. I had vocational guidance counselors tell me that. Everyone told me, "Don't even think about college."
So I got out of high school and went to a trade school learned offset printing. This was at a time when the economy hit an all-time low and by the time I finished the trade school I couldn't find a job anywhere. Then I finally got a job working on ranches in North and West Texas stringing barbed wire. I did that for a couple of years and then I had this other ranch hand that said, "Hey, I want to go to college. I want you to go with me." I said, "Oh, it's a big mistake. You just don't know," because I didn't tell anybody I was dyslexic. I said, "I think it's not good for me to go to college." He kept after me for about six months and I finally said, "Okay, I'll show you how bad an idea this is," and we went to college.
Well, it turns out I just took off in college. My first semester I had a 3.65 grade point average. I went to a college in Dallas. It was an experimental college called Richland. Their whole program was on teaching under a different system instead of doing the lecture, students take note type teaching they did more interactive teaching and being ADHD it was hard for me to sit in a chair for very long. I was always moving and, "Oh, bird." So I just excelled in that environment and then I transferred to U of H. It took me a long time because there were some requirements that even though I petitioned and tried to get accommodations they required me to take a foreign language and they wouldn't substitute sign language.
I mean, I had the experts who had done all my testing, neuropsychological tell them that foreign language is next to impossible for him. He has this auditory decoding problem and he will not hear the words all he'll hear is sounds. Back then they taught foreign language on a sound based system. You had to listen to it. I listened until I turned blue in the face and couldn't get a single word out of it. So I finally made it all visual and I took off everything. I hung charts from the ceiling with French and studied. I took nothing else. I didn't work, all I did was take French for four semesters and made my way through it. Then I finally graduated and then got a master's degree.
Mason Funk: I'm getting over a cold.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Oh, it's okay.
Mason Funk: Okay, I'm good. I just had to kind of hold that until a good little pausing second, okay, but let me break in and-
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Well, I wanted to-
Mason Funk: Carry on, okay.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Say one other thing.
Mason Funk: Sure.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:11:00] Is through this time period that I took a sex ed class and I discovered that I was a hermaphrodite. I mean, they call it intersex, but I like the term hermaphrodite. We have a heritage from ancient civilizations where the hermaphrodites were the shamans and the spiritual leaders they had a function and place. It was in that one course that I really started discovering, okay, this is why I have certain scarring that nobody explained to me and why they put me on certain medications that I didn't like to take and just kind of put a whole bunch of things together and figured out, okay, I'm a late bloomer. I've always been effeminate for a male. In fact, by the time I was 23 I still hadn't broken 95 pounds.
I was a very petite boy, so it was kind of a crazy time period, but also when I was working on ranches I think other people kind of suspected I was bisexual because on Saturday night they'd all go out drinking. Well, I wasn't big on the cowboy bars so I'd just kind of hang around and crash out when I got tired. Well, guys would come back to the bunk early and climb in bed with me and then they'd say nothing about it the next day it was like it never happened. That was kind of my early part of my life and I was very closeted about being bisexual. My father was a minister. Also, out of all my brothers and sisters I was the only one with ADHD and dyslexia so I was kind of stigmatized in the family.
My mother even kind of looked at me as somehow broken, so it was kind of a rough childhood growing up. I knew being bi and open about it would get me in a lot of trouble, but I think it was that early college that kind of turned my life around. All of a sudden I said, "Okay, I'm going to be out." I had to come out as being dyslexic in college and ADHD and I said, "I'm going to come out all the way." So I came out as bisexual and as intersex. I just realized how lonely it got being in the closet. It was like all of a sudden, I came out and it was a difference between night and day. I think that's one of the things that inspired me early on and later when I got connected with BiNet USA and got on the board I thought, "We need a day for bisexuals just one day where we can all celebrate." That was the birth of Celebrate Bisexuality Day.
Three of us worked on it, Michael Page, Wendy Curry and myself. We started promoting it. We got in touch with media and we had some discussions on what day should it be on. We finally decided, okay, it coincides that it is on my birthday, but it also coincides that September 23rd is on that year was fall equinox. I'm very Pagan and in Pagan traditions or at least some Pagan traditions the fall equinox is the day of calling. I thought, "What a perfect day. A day to call out bisexuals." The reason it's called the day of calling is that you have your first harvest and then you have the second harvest and at the second harvest it's like, okay, we're calling to you. You got to get in gear. Winter is coming, we got to get all the crops in. So it was the day of calling.
Then the third harvest we all know is what's now called Halloween. Back then it was called Samhain and that was when the final everything was pulled in from the fields and big celebrations would occur. It was also the Day of the Dead so I thought, "Well, I think the day of calling is good because it's a time to reflect. It's a time to really look at what is it we need to do and question." So that's where the discussion went and then other people came up with some other ideas on why that would be a good day so we brought it about and launched it. The first year, they were having a bisexual conference in South Africa, and it just took off there and all over the world. I mean, somehow people just caught on the concept and they had parties in England, France, Germany, Australia, all over the world. It was more of a success than I even thought it would be so it's just amazing.
Mason Funk: That's great.
Amy Bench: I can hear the chair a little bit.
Mason Funk: Yeah, I'm noticing it, too.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: What's that?
Mason Funk: The chair it's just a little squeaky.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Oh, yeah.
Mason Funk: But it's not I don't know we could try stopping with your chair.
Amy Bench: GG's just moving.
Mason Funk: Well, let's just-
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Oh, I tend to move a lot.
Amy Bench: Just try this chair and see if it's-
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Yeah, we could try that.
Mason Funk: Now careful. You got it?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:17:00] Yeah, I got it.
Mason Funk: You just hold onto it.
Mason Funk: One or the other?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Nah, and I frequently use both in my own writing.
Mason Funk: Okay, all right because that way we'll stop worrying about if we use the quote, unquote "wrong" pronoun. Okay, that looks great. So I wanted to just go back and cover a couple of like pick up a couple stories for what you just told me.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:17:30] Oh, sure.
Mason Funk: [00:18:00] One was I don't know how much detail you want to go into, but I want to make sure that our viewers have as much information as you're comfortable sharing about what it meant that you were hermaphrodite or that you were quote, unquote "intersex" for people that just don't know what that means, so could you explain that to us to the extent that you're comfortable.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:18:30] Yeah, basically, I'm partly male, partly female, and then doctors did surgeries to make me look more male and they put me on hormones to make me more masculine. Basically, I have a penis and testicles, but also I have scarring where they said what was my pussy, or at least as far as I can gather. I never had an accident down there, yet I have very faint scarring.
Mason Funk: So they made the doctors just tell us the doctors kind of made a medical decision or a decision to kind of like what do we do? We have to kind of make this person one thing or the other is that how it works?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:19:00] Yeah, you have to be a male or a female. We live in a binary sex world. There's nothing in between. There's some new case laws coming out. A woman in, I forget if it's Washington or California, just recently got intersex put on her driver's license so her sex is intersex, not male or female. But that's the exception and she had to fight in the legal system to attain that.
Mason Funk: [00:19:30] Right. You say you found out about that this was your true nature when you were like 23.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Well, I knew it growing up, I mean.
Mason Funk: Was it ever talked about?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:20:00] Well, nobody, I don't even know if my parents knew. Back in the '50s when I was born often they just took the baby to another room, did surgeries, and then brought it back and said, "Oh, you're the proud parents of a whopping boy." Back then, in the '50s, a mother didn't go in and have the baby and then leave. She was in the hospital for a good week. Basically, they did the surgeries, but they never talked about it. My father was a minister and both my parents were very Christian and they didn't talk about those kind of things, so who knows.
Mason Funk: [00:20:30] Right.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: I know when I came out as bisexual to my family they all pretty much disowned me and it got kind of nasty.
Mason Funk: So your family growing up perceived you as male and tried to make you more a male.
Mason Funk: More male in your presentation and your behavior after is that right?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:21:00] Not only the family, but coaches bullied me to be more sports oriented. Part of having one of my learning disabilities is I have no eye-hand coordination so I throw like a girl, basically. The one time I ever managed to hit a ball with that wooden stick I got up on base and I thought, "Okay, I'm bad at this." I closed my eyes and I just listened and I heard the ball coming and that was the one time I was able to hit it and it went shooting way out there. Then because I'm so dyslexic I went to third base first and everybody started cracking up laughing so sports was a nightmare for me. I quickly learned that if I picked the biggest guy and went up to him and said, "Okay, I tell you what, you walk me home after school and protect me and I'm be on the other team." So I was able to kind of make my way to keep myself safe, but that's what it took.
Mason Funk: You mentioned your family your father was a minister. Your family was very conservative Christian oriented, but you also mentioned that you suffered physical abuse as a child.
Mason Funk: [00:22:30] Is that commonplace in your family or where you singled out?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:23:00] No, I think part of it was that a minister has to stuff all the negative feelings away and put on this happy face, holy face, or whatever. Here I am, this--ADHD I'm not as hyper as I was when a kid, but being hyperactive and him coming home from work and all of a sudden here I am all over the place. It was like lighting the fuse, and he'd just take it out on me, all the frustrations and anger and whatever he'd been stuffing all day and it’d just pop out at me, but also I think I was kind of scapegoated and looked at as the black sheep from early, early on. My mother, like I said, she pretty much thought I was defective because when they identified me and held me back a year because I was just having so much trouble with academic functioning so I think that part of it was also not being masculine enough. My father tried to teach me sports and I remember one day he looked at me in frustration and he sat down on the curb and he just shook his head and knew, okay, it's hopeless.
Mason Funk: Were there any people in your life be they like extended family members or friends?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Yeah, my grandmothers.
Mason Funk: Tell me about them.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: They were both very supportive of me.
Mason Funk: Start by saying my grandmothers.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: My grandmothers.
Mason Funk: Then just go from there my grandmothers were.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:24:30] Both my grandmothers were very supportive of me. My grandmother on my mother's side, she was the one liberal in the family. Super liberal. She went to college in the '20s and had all the flappers dresses and she had this huge trunk. I loved all the dresses and outfits she had. She took me under her wing, and from an early age she would read King Babar stories to me when my parents were in earshot and then she'd put the book away and tell me about her escapades in Europe back in the '20s and how she got to go riding on a man's motorcycle in the side car. She was just a very amazing woman, I mean, she traveled over Europe as a graduation present, and I can just imagine in the '20s in Europe things were party time. I suspect, although, she never said it, I think she may have been bisexual.
Later on there was times when I'd have parties and I'd have gays, lesbians and bi's present and she just fit right in with everybody. She just loved the whole GLBT environment. She even told me when I was about 16, 17 she came up to me one day and she said, "I don't care who you want to bring over, my porch swing is always open to you for courtship." She knew I liked boys and girls. In fact, I had boyfriends and girlfriends throughout that whole time period and she was very supportive of that.
Mason Funk: [00:26:30] Then how about your father's mother?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:27:00] My father's mother was more... she was on the wealthy side of the family. And she was the one that really kind of stepped in and said, "Okay, he's not making it. He needs to be put in a special school. We need to get him some help." She knew how depressed I was. I went through this major depression. I had no friends, I was flunking out. I flunked out of fifth grade. I was socially isolated. I had become suicidal even though nobody in the family knew that, but everything felt hopeless. It was she that stepped in and said, "Okay, we need to get him some help. This can't keep going on." So she had me come and live with her in Houston because the family was living in Silsbee, Texas. We had moved there from California we'd lived in Berkeley and then moved to Silsbee, Texas. It was like culture shock for me, I mean, I loved Berkeley and Silsbee was so backwoods and just a horrible town.
Mason Funk: It's interesting one of your grandmothers kind of embodied the kind of like the party, the inclusive, the free spirit.
Mason Funk: The other one sounds like she just simply saw you and was willing to say, this isn't working. Uou can't just treat him like a quote, unquote, "average" kid. You can't just keep one size does not fit all.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:28:30] Right. I was close to both my grandmothers, but in different ways. I mean, I never would have told my father's mother that, “oh, I've got a boyfriend I want to bring home.” That just wouldn't have worked, but with my other grandmother she was real cool with all that.
Mason Funk: [00:29:00] To this day or by the time I don't know if your parents are still alive, but was there ever any kind of movement or forward motion with regard to kind of having real relationships with your parents and your siblings?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:29:30] I've got one sister that kind of wants to have a relationship with me, but I don't trust her very far. She kind of stabbed me in the back. It got pretty messy about 25, 30 years ago. The family got together. They took my grandmother to California, against her will really. She said she didn't want to go, she told me that, and I was living with her at the time. They took her to California and kept her there for about eight months until she changed her will and took me out of it completely. She was planning to leave me her house in Montrose, which I loved living there. The way she put it she said, "I want the house to stay in the family. If they get it they'll sell it." Sure enough, once they got it they sold it. That was one of the big disappointments. My sister that now kind of wants to make amends, she was the main instigator in having all that done. I said, "I'll be your friend from a distance, but I'm not allowing you in that close again." That's more to protect myself.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:31:00] I don't want to be in the firing line again. I know how the family is. I've seen it over and over again they want me to be the scapegoat as long as I can be the whipping boy and it's part of the family dynamics. I remember hearing from friends that still had contact with my family that once I got out of the picture the whole family configuration went nuts trying to find someone to replace my role, because I was out of it, out of the picture. But I was getting threatening phone calls they were saying they were going to have these ... Well, one of my sisters she said, "I've got some ex-cop friends that can pay you a visit and teach you a lesson." I said, "It's okay, I moved."
Mason Funk: [00:31:30] Why was she taking that stance with you what were you doing that would make her want to send her ex-cop friends to visit you?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:32:00] I'm not really sure what all was going on. I was married before I was with Jay and my ex-wife once came across her diary and that particular sister just has a deep hatred of me. She read in the diary that she had written, "I want to take GG and crash his head into the concrete 'til he's bleeding." I mean, she just had this hatred of me. I think part of it was because of the family dynamic my grandmother stepped in and allowed me to move out away from the family and get the help I needed. I think somehow she felt that ... She was one of the identical twins and she liked being in the spotlight all the time and I think that may have played a part. She didn't like me being in the spotlight of any type. I think, also, because I am such an effeminate male that just has always rubbed her the wrong way. I wasn't manly enough.
Mason Funk: I don't know if this is an easy question to answer, but we're here in Texas.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:33:00] Oh, yes.
Mason Funk: Where I think probably almost everybody we're going to interview has been affected one way or another by kind of the conservative church the conservative-
Gigi Raven Wilbur: The Bible belt.
Mason Funk: The Bible belt. You come across it in California for sure it exists there, it exists everywhere, but in Texas it's kind of concentrated.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:33:30] Well, one of the things my parents did: they kept trying to cure me, fix me, and at one point they sent me to church camp, but that was back in the '70s and it turned out to be, well, three girls got pregnant, none by me. It was pretty much a free-for-all. The minister that was supposed to be there came down with the mumps and was too contagious to be around all the kids, so he sent his wife to make an announcement. So it was older teenagers taking care of young teenagers. So, yeah, of course, we had a lot of fun in that camp. Then my parents found out, and they closed the camp down permanently and sold the property. Then my parents decided, well, we really need to fix this child. So they had the bishop come and perform exorcism on me, and after the exorcism I went up to my room and masturbated. I said, " I see the light now, I see the light."
Mason Funk: Who knows, I mean, given your involvement now with the BDSM community who knows if that wasn't a turn on to you the whole exorcism ritual I don't know.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: It wasn't back then, I mean.
Mason Funk: [00:35:00] How did you feel like when going through this exorcism tell me about that in detail.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:35:30] Well, it felt like I was being focused in on. The family was having a lot of dysfunction anyway, and it felt like I was being blamed again for all the problems and that this was going to be the cure. It just felt kind of creepy in a way. I thought, "Why me? I'm not a bad person. I'm not some kind of demon. There's no demons in me." It was just a very difficult experience. They wanted me to be something I could never be. I think the other thing, I had gotten caught playing with boys in the woods. We were playing doctor. As kids we get curious about sex, and they didn't like that. It was just a whole lot of things behind that so somehow I'd become this monstrous thing that needed fixing. I knew I wasn't near as bad as what they were trying to propose.
It kind of felt comic on one side and yet very awkward and weird on the other side. I mean, my mother was really into the speaking in tongues and the whole holy ghost bullshit. She kept trying to get me into that and I said, "No way." I'd go to the stuff she'd send me to and sometimes I'd take a friend. I once took a friend and he said, " Oh, I can do this," and he started faking speaking in tongues and then someone else in the church said, "And the word of God is spoken in tongues by this gentleman is." We were going, "Damn, I can't believe they actually interpreted my fakery." I just knew a lot of it was a sham after that.
Even being a preacher's kid you get to see the other side of the church, what I call the dirty laundry side. You hear people come to the house late at night. I remember my father ministering to an alcoholic one night who was still drunk who came by and needed help.All the dirty laundry comes out in a minister's family. I could see some of the politics and some of the stuff that was going on behind the scenes. That, and my father had a kind of short temper sometimes. He was a big man, I mean, even my brothers were more built like him broad shouldered big guy and I just didn't fit into that family well.
Mason Funk: So one thing you talked about really being depressed, but on the other hand it sounds like you had some sense that you weren't this monster.
Mason Funk: [00:39:00] I guess I wonder how did you know that you weren't as bad and that this was all as they said you were and that this was scapegoating that this in a way really had nothing to do with you how did you know that?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: I think the first clue was-
Mason Funk: Sorry, just hang on a sec I just want to grab my water and then sorry if you don't mind.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Oh, not at all.
Mason Funk: [00:39:30] Just go ahead like include my question in your answer in terms of like when you were going to say I think my first clue include something like the first clue I had that I wasn't the monster my family made out to be so that I know what you're answering.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:40:00] Oh, okay. The first clue I had that I wasn't a monster that my family thought I was was when I was up doing homework in my bedroom by myself my father came storming in the room, took me downstairs, and spanked me because my sisters had gotten into a fight downstairs, and somehow it was all my fault. I thought, "Okay, if I was a true demon I could have stopped the fight from upstairs magically. I'm not the monster." I know, weird logic, huh? But I just realized that, okay, it's my fault that they were fighting downstairs and I wasn't even present for it. How does that work? That can't be, it doesn't add up, and there's a lot of things over the years that--I was punished for stuff that was not my fault. It wasn't my doing in any shape or form and that's when I realized, there's something else going on here, there's something deeper.
Mason Funk: Then was there also a point when you began to feel a sense of like I guess I would call it almost like a wholeness around your differentness?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:41:00] I think that came later.
Mason Funk: When you say that what are you referring to?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:41:30] Basically, it was one of my early boyfriends and he got me into BDSM and he got me into tantric sex and practicing breathing techniques and meditations and the whole Eastern philosophies, and had me start practicing this. It was through his guidance that I started getting more in touch with the essence of who and what I am. I think the other thing that happened early on was it was after I tried to commit suicide I felt the energies and I can't put it ... It wasn't like some entity came up to me or anything it was just something said something in my head it said, "I know it's bad now, but it will get better just hold out a little longer." It was just that. And it kind of gave me a vision of what I was going to be at some point, that I was going to become more openly bi. I couldn't put it in those words exactly at that moment, but it was just the feeling that things were going to get better and that at some point my true colors were going to shine brightly in the world.
Mason Funk: So tell us about this suicide attempt. How old were you and what made you decide to do that and then tell us a bit more about how you came out of it.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:43:00] Well, I was 15 years old. I’d flunked out of fifth grade. I had zero friends. Nobody would have anything to do with me, and I was still living in Silsbee. I was getting in trouble a lot at home. I was getting in trouble at school. I spent more time in the principal's office than in the classroom. Everybody was telling me what a piece of shit I was and how bad I was, and yet I was trying my best in everything so I decided it wasn't so much I wanted to kill myself, I wanted to end the pain. I had no friends, no one to talk to. My brothers and sisters even were pushing me away. There was nobody I could talk to except for this one friend of mine that was schizophrenic and he said, "Well, why don't you go and talk to a member of the church. They're pretty open-minded, maybe they can intervene." So I went and talked to them and I said, " I'm telling you this in confidence, I hope that's okay." They said, "Oh, sure."
Then they turned around and went and told my parents and I got beaten for it. That was kind of the final straw. I reached out for help and was betrayed. I said, "There's no more. I just can't." So I went to a park that had those concrete picnic tables, and I climbed up in a high tree and jumped and on the way down I got tangled up in grapevines and came about this far from the picnic table. That's when all of a sudden a clarity hit me and it said, "Things are going to get better, just hold out." I'm sorry, telling that story always makes me cry a little bit because it was a hard part in my life, and I think that's partly why I was so adamant about creating a day for us for bisexuals to be who we are and to be celebrated in who we are if nothing else than just for a day.
Mason Funk: [00:45:30] So speaking of that what is BiNet?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: BiNet is a bisexual network. BiNet USA has been politically active since the '80s, I believe, I think it was the early '80s, maybe a little earlier. Yeah, middle to maybe middle '80s, I forget.
Mason Funk: [00:46:00] Start that over and then just kind of don't worry about the part about the dates, but just start off by just saying what is BiNet.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:46:30] BiNet is a bisexual network and basically they do political action. They were very instrumental in a lot of the bi acceptance. One of the hard parts of being in the bisexual community is that I've been kicked out of gay bars, I've been kicked out of straight bars. Both sides don't like bi's. I've had gay friends say, " Oh, just get off the fence. Make up your mind. You know you're gay." I said, "No, I'm bi." I always have liked both. I think part of the bisexual--I know some bisexuals are like 20-80 or 40-60, they're attracted to women part of the time and more so than men or vice versa. I'm one of those that's 50-50. I've always been. I think it's partly because I am 50-50 inside. I'm part male, part female.
Sex and gender is a complex thing. It's not just hormones. It's not just chromosomes. It's not just body parts. It's even on all the neuropsychologicals they ever did on me, every one of them came out saying I was too effeminate as a male in my thinking processes. I remember I used to be more female thinking in the sense of, oh, the rules don't matter, what matters is the relationships I used to get pounded at school for that. Boys are supposed to be logical and follow the rules and rules are more important that's a girly thing to think that way. I was even told that you're not supposed to think that way. I had psychologists tell me that, which I find kind of probably very biphobic or homophobic on their part.
So I just realized that I am a ladyboy. I'm not a male, I'm not a female. I think one of the things that happened a couple of years ago I've been having talks around campfires in the pagan community, at our pagan gatherings, for eons being out as intersex. We run around naked, it's clothing optional, and everybody looks and sees my dick and go, "Oh, GG's a boy." I'll say, "No, that's the illusion the doctors created. There's parts missing, hidden." I said, "I'm part female." For a long time even some of the pagans didn't get it. They said, "But you should just choose one or the other." We're so programmed in our culture that there can only be males or females and if you identify as both, then that doesn't work.
Mason Funk: [00:49:30] Sorry I had to cough and let me shift also. Have you-
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Well, I was going to say one.
Mason Funk: Go ahead.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: So, anyway, a couple of years ago some of the elder women came up to me.
Mason Funk: The other women of?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: The pagan organizations.
Mason Funk: Okay, just say that so start over and say the other women of the pagan.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:50:00] Some of the elder pagan women came up to me one day it was at the end of a festival and they said, "At our next event, we want to honor you and do what's called both a saging and a croning ritual for you. A saging ritual is done for elder men and a croning ritual is done for elder women. It was the first time I'd been honored by an organization as being intersex, and that was a monumental part of my life. I mean, that hit me so deep to be honored as what I am, what I was born to be, not this crappy illusion the doctors created in my body.
Mason Funk: [00:51:00] Do you believe on some level that you were you say you were born to be both genders perhaps or some kind of a mixture of genders or something in between the genders do you believe that that was in some way your fate or your destiny does that come into your head at all?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:51:30] I don't see it as fate or destiny per se. I see it more as, we're born, I mean, would you say as a male it was your fate to be born a male? I mean, it doesn't make sense to me that way. We're all born to be what we are and yet what if a doctor had come along and decided, “oh, we're going to make you something other than male,” and then didn't tell you they lied and they kept it secret. Then you discovered this dirty little secret of the medical community and you realize, okay, that's why I can't quite be like all the other boys. That's why I had such a rough time. Why didn't they tell me? Why did they keep this big dirty secret? Why can't I be what I was born to be? There shouldn't be a choice. It just is nature, natural. I popped out this way, get over it.
Mason Funk: What feelings does that bring up in you when you think of those doctors and what they did what comes up?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:52:30] Well, and on top of that they circumcised me, but at least there I was able to restore my foreskin. It took me a year and a half through stretching slowly. It's non-medical restoration, but in a sense part of it was an invasion of something very private and part of me, my genitals, were changed. To think about all these old men, older men playing around with my genitals and playing God with them, just felt icky and weird and it felt a violation. I still have some anger issues there not near as what I used to have, but worked through a lot of that. I think what's even hardest today is that I still can't go and get surgeries done to be restored to what I was born to be. I can be a male or I can be a female. I can't be what I was born to be, and there's something wrong in that.
I think that's why I still have anger with the medical community. Yeah, I can go and say, "Oh, I feel like I'm a girl, make me a girl." They make me a girl. Yeah, I have to jump through certain hoops to get there and it's expensive, but I can't go to a doctor and say, "Okay, I want to be a hermaphrodite again. Give me my pussy back. I want both." I guess that's where the really hard part is, is that I can't be or I can't obtain access. Tt's blocked. One of my big dreams life vision is to create a sex-positive world that's accepting of all sexes and where there's equality between all sexes. We have so much misogyny and just inequality in life.
I also see sex as a sacred thing, that it's not sin. For, I guess, being a minister's son sex equals sin. Fortunately, before I'd learned those lessons I'd already played with myself and played doctor with friends and go, "Oh, that tingly sensation, that can't be bad. It feels too good to be bad. It's amazing." I think that's one of the things I love about Paganism is that Paganism looks at sexuality as our genitals are a gift from the goddess, and all acts of love and pleasure are her acts. there's a sense of the sacredness to sexuality. I'd rather look at sex as a sacred thing than as this evil vilified thing. I've already been evil and vilified, so why don't I step out of it and bring sex with me and make a world that's ... That's what I want to do is through education and through performance art. I'm a sculptor. I do all kinds of artwork. Create a world that brings the sacredness back to sexuality.
Mason Funk: That's great. Let's take a little pause.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:56:30] Yeah, sure.
Mason Funk: [00:57:00] Because I want to swap out this media card. We're going to do something called room tone before we break which is just 30 seconds of us just sitting here quietly recording the room, basically.
Amy Bench: [00:57:30] Okay, room tone.
Mason Funk: When did you first start to learn about and get into BDSM as a form of healing?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: It was one of my early boyfriends that got me into it.
Mason Funk: Into what?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Into BDSM and the spiritual side of BDSM.
Mason Funk: [00:58:00] Yeah, so start over and just say it was one of my first boyfriends who got me into BDSM.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [00:58:30] It was one of my first boyfriends that got me into BDSM, especially the healing and spiritual side of BDSM. He was into tantric sex as well as the BDSM part. Basically, we started role-playing. I was pretty messed up at that point emotionally. I felt pretty worthless. My self-esteem was next to nothing, and he took me under his wing so to speak and we started doing some role-play. Through the role-play I went kind of on a journey into the darkness, the dark side so to speak. It was through that process that, well, for the first time in my life I had safe words and I could say, okay, yellow or red, and things would stop. I think that alone was so empowering to that inner scared child inside that was still so messed up, and by empowering that inner child all of a sudden a doorway to healing occurred. All of a sudden I started realizing at a deeper level, not just my adult level, but the inner child level, that the inner child is powerful now and the inner child never has to experience what I experienced growing up.
Mason Funk: Is it primarily about the inner child being able to say no, or is it about more than that?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:00:00] It's more than that. I think part of it, too, is that I discovered the other side of BDSM and that is the transformation that occurs when you start warming somebody up. In BDSM we don't just start hard and heavy, we do a proper warmup, and what that does is it starts endorphins. If you take your hand--see the color--and you just slap it like this a few times, and all of a sudden you'll notice it's red. That's endorphins being released. What happens is, if you get enough of those endorphins going, all of a sudden the pain transforms into ecstasy and you start flying. It's kind of a shamanistic journey almost, into subspace. I think that's where the real healing occurred. All of a sudden I was outside of my body, but inside it at the same time. It's hard to put into words.
Mason Funk: Now for the people out there who don't know there is definitely some including possibly those of us that are in this room what is BDSM? What does it actually stand for and what does it signify?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:01:30] BDSM is bondage and discipline, sadomasochism is what it stands for. Basically, it's all about power exchange. It's one person giving up power to another and letting them take total control of the scene. You negotiate everything ahead of time, you don't just go blind. You say, "Okay, here's my boundaries, here's what I'm into, here's what's off limits," and they take you on this journey. The ultimate goal for me was reaching subspace. It's kind of a trance like state where all of a sudden you're in a whole different mindset. All religions have a subset.
Every religion known to man has a subset that practices some form of BDSM, even though they don't call it that. Whether it's sleep deprivation, self-flagellation, or fasting, or doing all these things to reach a higher state of consciousness, the more spiritual connection with the deity of that particular religion. You can see it in every religion, every practice, there's always some smaller group that practices some form of BDSM to reach spiritual enlightenment. I think it's partly because when you get those endorphins going, all of a sudden it changes your whole brain chemistry and it opens up a whole ‘nother part of ourselves and we can fly and experience at a whole ... It's hard to put in words exactly, but I know I've been during scenes above my body while in my body and I can see myself from up above.
Mason Funk: Wow.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:03:30] I've had experiences where even orgasms change. From word go, I've been able to have both male and female orgasms, but it's only in BDSM scenes where somehow a wire gets crossed and I had a five minute ejaculation. It wasn't straight through the whole five minutes, but it came and it was like a multiple ejaculatory orgasm and I never experience that outside of BDSM. It was so incredible, I mean, it was one of those orgasms where you go, "Aah." Afterwards you just collapse, but it was so amazing it's like my whole body went into orgasm. It wasn't just my dick, it was every fiber of my being was like happy now, I'm singing.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: It's a full body multiple orgasm.
Mason Funk: Why do you think speaking for myself, for example, it seems foreign to me you might even say I'm scared of this and I think I'm probably the only one.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:04:30] Oh, no.
Mason Funk: So why do you think that your average Joe or Joanne feels a sense of like cringing, not everyone, but some might feel a sense of cringing at the term BDSM at the idea of sadomasochism no matter how many times you say it's practiced in a safe, supportive environment they're still going to be like that's not me why is that?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:05:00] I think a lot of people don't quite see the whole story. They see what happens in a scene, but they don't see what's happening inside the players. The dom gets to ride subspace. I look at a dominant as being a type of shaman. It's the tether that takes the person flying and then reels them back in when the time comes. Not all people that practice BDSM get into the subspace and flying like this or as deep as I've gone, but a lot do, and a lot get into some form of subspace where they can just be freed up. It's a kind of freeing experience.
Runners experience something similar when they get runner's high. They've worked up all of these endorphins and they say, "Yes, it's very euphoric." Well, so is subspace. You get this euphoric feeling that just permeates all through you. For me it was kind of, I think, I don't know if it was because he was using tantra, too, but I got this feeling of connection with everything that all it is. When you get into that headspace it's like all of a sudden you're not a separate entity you're part of everything. It looks like one thing on the surface, but what's happening is something entirely different in each of the players.
Mason Funk: [01:07:00] When you use the word tantric or tantra people will have a general notion they'll think it means like getting very close to orgasm, but not having orgasm for a long period of time, but that's probably not a very sophisticated understanding of tantra.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:07:30] Tantra is more than that. It's forming a genital-heart connection and before I get into tantra with someone we make a deep connection through eye contact and coordinated breathing. When you do coordinating breathing--they've done research on this--it brings a stronger bond between two people. Nobody knows exactly why that occurs, but what we do is what's called the lover's breath. You take a deep breath forcing air in and then open your throat and slowly let out and you do that about 10, 20 times coordinated where you're both breathing in together and exhaling together while looking into each others eyes. I like to put my hand on their heart as they put their hand on my heart and we form this deep bond. In part BDSM is kind of like that, too, except instead of hands we're using floggers and other implements.
One of the things it does is it kind of awakens a whole nother side of ourselves. A lot of people think, "Oh, I must be in a lot of pain when I'm being the submissive." I'm a switch I play both dom and sub, but the pain is only at the very beginning until I'm really warmed up and going, and then all of a sudden it's no longer pain. It's kind of in the background a little bit, but it transforms into a type of ecstasy. It's an ecstasy that's closely akin to orgasm in a way, but it's not really orgasm. It's kind of this euphoria, this feeling high, but a natural high in life and it's this kind of joy you get to at this inner space. It's really more about the internal journey than the external.
Mason Funk: Is it best to appreciate it in the company of one other or more than one other person?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:09:30] I've done everything solo, with one partner, and then I've also run Aphrodite's Temple for a lot of pagan groups. It's a modern-day sex temple and we put on shows. I've done all kinds of BDSM role-play, shows, to just everything. I've done masturbation shows, all kinds of things. Basically, it's bringing the sacredness back to sexuality. When we get involved--it's different when you’VE got a big audience. In some ways and some forms of BDSM an audience can amplify everything. It's kind of like putting a spotlight on everything instead of just doing it to the side. The energy is different because everybody is putting their energy into the scene. They're seeing and being a part of it, so in some ways it's different.
I fly in a different way with a big audience, but partly I think it's because part of mind's on the actor in me. I have to stay in tune with, "Oh, I'm performing now," versus, "Oh, I can just let it all go." Because part of the journey in subspace is being able to turn off the rational side of the brain. Basically, you can do that through many devices, like setting up paradoxes and setting up mindfuck. So you turn off the rational side because all that doesn't compute, and then the intuitive side of the brain kicks in and it does this stuff inside and out. The rational side doesn't understand it at all, but when you get into that intuitive side that's when you're really taking off and things make sense in a non-rational way. Up can be down, in can be out everything gets turned around.
Mason Funk: So what does that mean when you say setting up paradoxes or mindfuck what do those terms mean?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:12:00] Paradox would be something like... I once had a dominant that liked to play a game. He set the rules of the game and the rules of the game basically were you can't win no matter what you do. That sets up a paradox. You still got to try hard, but you can't win no matter what you do. Now the logical part of the brain goes, "Why am I doing this? I can't win." The intuitive side goes, "Oh, I know I can't win, but isn't that delicious," and it's amazing.
Mason Funk: [01:12:30] Is that the same as kind of mindfuck?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Mindfuck is a little different. It's kind of like a fake out. With mindfuck you can have someone bound to the cross and bring up a belt and slap it super, super hard, but not hit the body just the cross, but the sub doesn't know that he's not about to be struck so it's kind of this mindfuck.
Mason Funk: I'm sorry.
Mason Funk: [01:13:00] It just crept up. Would you start over with mindfuck just as you did.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:13:30] Mindfuck is where you can take someone strap them to the cross and you look like you're about to wale the holy crap out of them, but you hit the cross and not their body. The sound, especially, if you do it near the face and you hit it really hard next to the ear, you can see people literally jump. It gets their attention. I think the other side of BDSM is that monks spend years in meditation trying to clear their mind of all thought and trying to be fully present in the here and now.
I can do that in 10 minutes on the cross. All of a sudden, whether I'm taking a sub on this journey or I'm going on it myself as a sub, when you get into an intense scene, all of a sudden you're fully present. Your mind's not wandering anywhere it's fully here now and present with your dom and the dom is present with the sub and that's something that's very amazing. To be that fully present with someone and hold their attention, that's part of that power exchange where you connect at that deep level. So that's part of the magic of BDSM that you can't really see watching a scene, but it happens.
Mason Funk: That's great it's really fascinating and by far the most the clearest explanation I've ever heard probably because I've never sat and had this conversation before.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Oh, wow. I've got in my book-
Mason Funk: [01:15:00] Just hold one sec. Okay.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:15:30] I wrote a book called "The Dominant's Handbook: An Intimate Guide to BDSM." In the book, I do a whole section on just the spiritual aspects of BDSM. Then I do a whole section on the healing aspects and the healing journey that you can go on. I go step-by-step how to negotiate, how to do an interest inventory, find out where your boundaries are, and create a safe environment for both players. A lot of people don't realize it, but even the dom needs safety because think about it. You're being the big, bad dom, you're letting the monsters come out to play. You're being vicious and sadistic, and that can have an effect on the dom, to let too much out. That can be scary, trying to keep it within the right amount, so even doms sometimes need after care after a scene. So it's not just the submissive safety, but the dominant safety.
Mason Funk: [01:16:30] Wow. There's a guy in LA he actually lives in Palm Springs now whom we interviewed named Doc Duhon, and you would just love him. Unlike you he's like one of these guys who really big, goes to the gym, tattooed all over, long-term HIV survivor and that's his world. When I went to his house in Palm Springs he introduced me to his dom, he had a couple subs, his partner and it was really kind of interesting and I think you guys would have a lot in common probably because you couldn't look more different, but you're also part of this world.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:17:00] Well, even in the BDSM community I was kind of--once again I was hands-off for a long time. Partly because I'm a switch, partly because I like the spiritual side of BDSM. For a long time, spiritual and BDSM were like worlds apart, so just practicing both I had to practice it kind of in the closet, so to speak, in the early years. It's changing now and people are much more open to the concept of the spiritual side and the healing side. Some were adamantly opposed early on.
Mason Funk: Why were some people opposed to introducing the idea of spirituality and healing into the BDSM world?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:18:00] I'm not really sure. I think it was scary partly, and partly it was protocol. I don't know if you know the history of BDSM, but originally in this country it came from bikers who were out of the military and that's where it started back in the '50s and they had all these stringent protocols because back then it was illegal. A lot of what they did was illegal, especially, guys playing with guys. Just that part was illegal, but when you have guys beating on guys that becomes, consensually though it was, that's not recognized by the courts so they considered it very illegal. All this was very underground and they had very stringent protocols. Well, getting military and spiritual together... So that's where BDSM originally came through and a lot of that from the military background passed down through protocol and the protocols of BDSM.
Mason Funk: So how would you say you've experienced you yourself have experienced healing through BDSM and role-play?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: I think a big part of it for me was just this-
Mason Funk: Do me a favor tell me what you're talking about a big part of what?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:19:30] A big part of healing in BDSM for me is being able to fly in subspace, or being able to take someone flying in subspace. It's all about a frame of mind, a headspace. It's all about achieving this kind of area that's hard to put into words. Where the healing takes place for me is it's kind of this sense of freedom, a freedom that we don't get anywhere else, and the sense of euphoria and just ... Once again, we don't have a good vocabulary for this stuff. I know that when I get there, people see it in my face, they see it in my eyes. All of a sudden I'm all lit up and charged. It's amazing where you can go with this stuff.
Mason Funk: I think for most people when they hear the word healing they think of like a broken bone that heals or a terrible traumatic experience that heals they think of it as something that restores a person to like wholeness. Is that what you mean by healing?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: This is more on a psychosexual level.
Mason Funk: [01:21:00] When you say this what do you mean?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:21:30] BDSM healing is more on a psychosexual level. We live in a sex-negative culture. We're told that you can never measure up to Hollywood, and the images we're subjected to, and we're constantly prick-teased by the media. We're told, if you buy this product you'll be sexually fulfilled, but you can't have sex unless you're married and only in the bedroom. So we're enticed sexually constantly and then denied it at the same time. Over time these kind of pressures build up inside so I think part of the healing of BDSM is that it helps us get that release that we were promised, but denied from living in a sex-negative culture.
I think part of it also is: when you're in a BDSM scene you don't care if you're too skinny or too fat. All you're into is the full present moment of the play and what's happening and all of a sudden you're a star just being who and what you are. No makeup, no glamor, just raw primal energy. Being yourself. I think that can be very healing. I know I feel so empowered when I can be the center of my dominant's attention and be that focused on. All of a sudden I know, okay, this person has a deep love and connection with me even though they're waling the crap out of me. That's a very powerful connection and it's something that, having no close family members most of my life--except the few times I'd visit my grandmothers or be with my grandmother--I got very little love and affection at home, and very little anywhere else. Having that much love and that compassion... and another part of the BDSM scene is the after care.
You don't just take someone down and say, "Okay, have a good day." You take them and you hold them, you cuddle them, you provide whatever after care to bring them back down to help them ground because they've been flying in their minds, so you bring them back down through a lot of nurturing and connection and that's where a big part of the power of BDSM really comes in. All of a sudden I'm being held, I'm being snuggled with. It's very cathartic on a nurturing side and all of a sudden I feel this deep connection with this other human being. All of a sudden they're holding me and I can cry, I can release anything and everything and that's part of the power of BDSM.
Mason Funk: [01:25:00] Tell me something so, for example, you have this beautiful red blouse or top on right now, red painted fingernails when you go out into so-called the world leave your home how do you navigate or negotiate that space where needless to say it's not always friendly to people who don't fit certain molds and kind of incorporate the fact that you live in Houston, Texas into this question in this answer.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:25:30] Interestingly enough oftentimes even dressed totally butch, totally male people still go, "Can I help you ma'am?" People read my energy as feminine. I can sometimes have a few days growth on my face and people still look me in the eye and say, "Can I help you ma'am?" I think a lot of people don't even know I'm a guy out there, but when I lived in Montrose I used to like to get dressed up in a nice little skirt and a top, but I wouldn't wear falsies and I wouldn't tuck my dick away, so I had all the wrong pokey-outie parts and Jay, my wife, she used to like to walk about five paces behind me and watch everybody's reaction once they were out of my line of vision. They'd be walking, looking at me, kind of smile on their face. As soon as they're past my line of vision they turn around and "What's that?"
I went to Florida to a bi conference once, and one night we went out to the trans bars. I was dressed in my usual wrong pokey-outie part outfits and I went up to this beautiful woman and started talking to her and this other trans woman came up to me and she said, "Oh, you can't talk to her." I said, "Why not?" “Well, you don't pass and she does.” I go, "I don't pass for what?" And she said, "Well, you don't pass as a woman." I said, "I'm not a woman, I'm intersex." She says, "That doesn't matter, you still don't pass, you have to leave."
I've been kicked out of gay bars, bi bars, well, not bi bars trans bars, leather bars. I went to leather fantasy night as part of Pride celebration a few years ago and I had a black leather skirt, black leather top. I was riding a Honda 750 motorcycle with my little leather bag, had a leather cap on. They wouldn't let me in because I was too feminine. It's just crazy where we get discrimination sometimes. I've even talked to the manager I said, "Here, this is a Pride function. It says we do not discriminate on sexual blah, blah, blah, blah all the way down." He said, "Doesn't matter, you still can't come in." So we get that kind of prejudice. They want the Beefcake's boy next door look in their leather bar.
Mason Funk: [01:28:30] Does it ever just wear you down that even at this stage of your life that you can still encounter so much just yes-no, yes-no, you can come in, no you can't come in, et cetera?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:29:00] At some levels, but then at other levels I have to tell a story. I was one time at the Westheimer Art Festival on my motorcycle. I don't have the motorcycle anymore, but I had a Honda 750 motorcycle and I was in my skirt and a tank top and had lipstick and fingernails painted and facial hair. I pull up to the intersection at Taft and Westheimer it's a long line when you're driving down Taft because Westheimer is the main street. So I'm sitting at the corner and I noticed this couple over to the side staring at me and all of a sudden the girl goes, "Is that a boy or a girl?" The guy goes, "Neither, that's a dyke on a bike." So every so often I get these little gems.
Mason Funk: Yeah, wow. It's amazing.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:30:00] I think part of it, too, I mean, I've gone through more neuropsychs than you can probably count because of my ADHD and dyslexia and one of the things that does show up--and it's pretty common with people that are severely ADHD and dyslexic--is that we have high resiliency. We bounce back from things much easier than most people. It's something that I don't think I would have made it if I didn't, but it's one of the gifted sides of being ADHD I think, is having this resiliency and the whole world catastrophe can crash down all around me and 10 minutes later, let's go have some fun.
Mason Funk: [01:30:30] Fantastic. Amy, do you have questions?
Amy Bench: Yeah, and you can answer him.
Mason Funk: As if I asked the question.
Amy Bench: Can you just briefly tell us where we're sitting and how this space is important in your life?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Oh, okay, yeah.
Mason Funk: Let me just settle, okay, and again talk to me.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:31:00] This is basically my playroom, and it came about because I teach people how to play the role of a dominant in BDSM scenes. Part of it is also I like to have placings that are more intimate where we can get into the sexuality and the spirituality. At a lot of play parties it isn't allowed really to get that deep into the spiritual side and the sexual side. For me, for a BDSM scene, if I'm going to do one that's really intense it's going to get sexual. I'm going to have some kind of sexual release during it whether I'm the dom or the sub. That doesn't mean I have to fuck somebody, but I am going to have some form of sexual release. So that's partly what motivated me to build this space was so we could have a pretty much soundproof play area where people could explore the deeper, darker side of BDSM. Not just the darker, but also the spiritual side and discover new ways to go in whole new directions with BDSM.
We've done all kinds of different scenes in here. This place has a lot of good energy. People come in here now that are sensitive to energy and they go, "Wow, this place... it's seen some action in here." Partly, I do have a pretty close following of friends and even through my pagan involvement and my BDSM involvement I've collected quite a few people that enjoy exploring some of the parts of BDSM that aren't commonly explored in the mainstream BDSM community, so that's part of what this space is about, and part of it is for training, teaching people. We think of BDSM as something that's pretty simple at the surface. You get a flogger and you go in on somebody, or a belt or whatever you get into your scene. Well, it gets a lot deeper. There's a whole psychological and psychosexual side to BDSM that you can incorporate into scenes as well as that spiritual part, so part of what I like to do is teach people how to do the healing work and how to work with somebody and bring them to this state of catharsis.
Part of where I kind of stumbled upon this principle: in ancient Greece they used to have the theater, and unlike modern theater the audience was anything but passive. During the tragedies they'd get down on the ground, they'd pound their fist on the floor. They'd pull their hair out. They’d slap themselves and wail and get deeply embroiled in this tragedy as it unfolded on stage. It was Greek culture that came up with the word catharsis, and what they realized was that if we just take all our negative emotions and stuff them away like we're taught in our society, oh, you're not supposed to get angry. You're not supposed to feel sad. You're not supposed to feel all these negative emotions. You put on a performance that brings all this out, people reach what's catharsis and they purge all this negative energy they've been storing up and shoving down all this time. I think that's really the root of healing through BDSM, is that we have a place to let those monsters and yucky stuff come up to the surface and we can play it out, let it unfold, and reach this thing we call catharsis. All of a sudden we're not carrying all this negative junk inside ourselves, we're letting it release.
Mason Funk: Amy, another question?
Amy Bench: Yeah, so this space is a source of catharsis for you. Is your radio show, also? Can you talk about how long you've been on the air and what kind of things you talk about or do you play music or is it a combination is that another source of catharsis for you?
Mason Funk: [01:36:00] Start by saying I've had a radio show for 20 years.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:36:30] I've been doing a radio show called After Hours: Queer Radio With Attitude on KPFT 90.5 Houston. I've been doing this show for probably 25 years now, once a month. Basically, I talk everything sexual on this show, everything from bisexuality to how to improve your love relationship, everything on techniques. I even did a Taoist genital massage live on the air, and the radio station banned us for a month and a half. I've gone naked on the air and a sister station dropped us because their ears were burning from my nudity on the air. I teach people how to have anal sex and how to do it in a way that's pleasurable without any pain whatsoever by starting with a good deep massage and tricking the muscles to relax before trying to go inside. A lot of people just, “let's do it, get it in there,” and that's when it can be painful, so I go through a lot of education. I know that we get a lot of younger people listening in sometimes sneaking their little radio to bed with them. With sex education in this country being abstinence only, I go out of my way to educate people on where you stick what and how and how it all works, so I like to provide sexual education. Then I get into the spiritual side of sexuality the sacred sex and talk about how instead of just being two physical bodies ... Excuse me.
Mason Funk: You sound like me.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: How being two physical bodies do you need me to start over?
Mason Funk: Yeah, just go back a couple just back up and say in addition I teach.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:38:30] In addition I teach that we're not just two physical bodies coming together, but we need to form a genital-heart connection again that we've lost that in this culture and that we want to connect with each other at a deeper than just physical level. So I bring in some of the tantric teachings, the breathing techniques, and I've talked about anything and everything sexual on that show. It's mainly to educate people and say, hey, there's a better way. Abstinence doesn't really work for all of us.
Mason Funk: That's amazing. Do you happen to know Tristan Taormino in Los Angeles?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: I've heard the name. I haven't met them.
Mason Funk: She has a radio show I think it's called Sex Out Loud.
Mason Funk: I was actually on her show talking about OUTWORDS a few weeks ago which is very tame. It was not as exciting for her listeners probably as what she normally talks about.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Well, the other thing I've done is I've also-
Mason Funk: Do the same you mean on the radio?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Yeah, on the radio.
Mason Funk: [01:39:30] So say that.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: On the radio I've interviewed people like Carol Queen, Fritz Klein when he was still alive. He's a sex researcher and came up with the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid which is a much better parameter to look at sexual orientation than, what's it called?
Mason Funk: [01:40:00] Kinsey.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:40:30] Kinsey scale, because it measures it on many different more levels socially, mentally, physically. There's attraction at all levels not just, “ooh, that's a hot looking babe over there.” Sometimes we're attracted to someone because it's a mental level. We communicate well, and we kind of vibe on that intellectual level. So there's many forms of attraction. I've done several shows with Fritz Klein in the past and several with Carol Queen and she wrote "Exhibitionism for the Shy," "Real Live Nude Girl," "The Leather Daddy and The Femme," a whole bunch of books so we've done a lot of shows on some of the bisexual authors and people that have published. I've even interviewed Loraine Hutchins. She's a sexologist on After Hours, so I've done a lot of interviews. I do, sometimes, pagan interviews or pagan subjects on the air, so it's been a lot of fun doing the show, and I always am getting in trouble.
Mason Funk: [01:41:30] I'm sure you are.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: But I have fun doing it. And, here's the amazing thing, they keep me asking me back for more.
Mason Funk: Is the show available online can people [crosstalk 01:41:37]
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:42:00] Yes. If you go to KPFT.org and go to the archives the show is called After Hours: Queer Radio With Attitude. My segment is on the first Saturday of each month. It's a three hour show I've got the middle hour so you have to listen to the first part of the show, first hour of the show before you get to mine.
Mason Funk: That's amazing, fantastic, can't wait, actually, I'm going to check it out for sure.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: We just did our last show was on intersex and I finally found some other intersex individuals come and do an interview with me.
Mason Funk: That was exactly the question I wanted to ask.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:42:30] That was a very powerful show. I've gone on the air many times and talked about being intersex, but it's been hard to find people that are willing. So many live in shame and doubt and they will not come out of the closet. What the medical community has done to these people is criminal. I mean, they actually strapped them down and opened their legs up and invited whole teams of medical personnel to come in and parade and look at their odd, weird, abnormal genitals and make a big spectacle of them and after that happens it's no wonder they are living in shame and stigmatized and thinking, “oh, my body is not worthy of love, I'm abnormal, I'm weird.”
That's why I'm so out as intersex is that, yeah, I'm weird, I'm different and I'm proud of it, baby, I like who and what I am. I didn't always feel that way. It was a process, but I came to love being who and what I am. I think one of the first magical words I found in childhood. It took me a while, but this word popped out in my mind: androgyny, androgynous. When I saw that I said, "That's what I am." Then I found hermaphrodite, that came later, but just the whole concept of being both, being androgynous, that just resonated deep within me. I didn't know that such a word existed before that. I was so glad to find that word.
Mason Funk: [01:44:30] Yeah, I can only imagine a word that fits you so well, finally.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Yeah. Oh, I embraced it. I must have written it all over my room at the time. I had, “androgynous. I love androgynous. I am androgynous.” It was just such a powerful thing to find that, oh, wow, I didn't know they made words for me.
Mason Funk: [01:45:00] Amy, more, any others?
Amy Bench: No, I'm dried up right now.
Mason Funk: I wanted to ask what is entailed and what is it like teaching people how to be doms?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Basically, I go through a whole process.
Mason Funk: So introduce the topic.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:45:30] When I teach someone how to become a dominant, especially for women, to become women of power, because it's so hard for women to get in touch with their power, it's a long process. It's not just about, “here's a flogger.” Part of the process is going through what I call body image healing and becoming attuned with the power that's within us. Also, healing some of the wounds of living in such a sex-negative culture when it comes to body image. You would not believe how many women have this kind of negative feeling about their own bodies because they've been taught, “you don't measure up, and you're the gatekeeper of sex. You have to be in charge.” Men can sometimes get away with rape in our culture, so all this is out there, and it's damaged them on the psychic level with regard to body image. They think, "Oh, if I'm too sexual, or if I'm too beautiful, then that would give some guy an excuse to rape me." Now that's not consciously there, but it's there. Does that make sense?
I run into that. So first and foremost we've got to break down that bad body image and rebuild a woman of power, or even some men of power. There are men that get damaged. They're supposed to be such and such. So part of it is this healing process. Then I go into some of the psychological and the psychosexual dynamics of a BDSM scene. How do you gain control of a submissive? What are some of the things you can do to take charge of the scene and really become the dominant not just in name, but in action? One of the ways to do that: are you familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs? You take any person's basic needs--the need to go to the bathroom, the need to eat, the need to breathe--and you say, "Okay, I'm controlling those from this point on. You have to ask permission to go to the bathroom. You have to ask me, your dominant, permission before you can eat or drink. Here, have a drink." Give them more drinks, more drinks. "I have to pee, can I go pee?" "No, not yet. Here, have another drink."
All of a sudden you've taken charge of some of their basic functions, and that does something inside our heads, because our basic needs are basic needs. When someone else takes charge of that all of a sudden that's a big power shift, a big power exchange, and they give that to you willingly because you asked for it, but it's still at that operating level all of a sudden in the submissive's mind they go, "Okay, this is my dominant not just in title, but in action."
I think the best way to describe it is: I remember reading about orgasms before I could have one. I loved researching sex from an early age. When they made me read the Bible, I read King of Solomon, all the nasty bits in the Bible and loved every bit of it. I thought I knew everything there was to know about an orgasm, and then I had an orgasm. What a big difference. I mean, it was like, "So that's what an orgasm really is." There's an experiential understanding of things that you can't get through intellectual. We can think we know about it, but until you have an orgasm you don't know what an orgasm is. You might know all the intellectual properties of orgasm…and I think the same operant is going on when you do a BDSM scene. You might know what's going on intellectually, but until you have that power exchange, and you feel it and you experience it, that's when you truly know it. That's when it's like, wow, amazing.
Mason Funk: That's fantastic. I have four standard questions that I finish my interview with, so, Amy, unless you have anymore last questions you want to jump in with I will.
Amy Bench: Yeah, good.
Mason Funk: Okay. You've had so much experience coming out.
Mason Funk: These questions are intended to be like kind of short and concise in just a couple sentences to someone who came to you and said, “I think I'm going to come out.” Whatever that means to this person what would be like the pearl of wisdom you would give them? I noticed that since we brought Amy into the conversation you've been looking a little bit over, actually, but try not to.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Oh, okay, sorry.
Mason Funk: Make her invisible you have permission. So, advice, a pearl of wisdom to someone whose going to come out?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:51:30] If someone were to come to me and say, "I want to come out"--and people have--I say the first thing you need is a support network to fall back on. Don't try it until you have someone you can go to and say, "Oh, I did this and they rejected me, can you help me?" You need that support network first and foremost, because you're going to get some flack when you come out. You're going to hit some resistance. Coming out is a process. When you first come out, you've known this all your life, but this is firsthand information for them. They're going to need time to process it, and it may take a while before they even come around to saying, “okay, it's not so bad, is it.” Having a good support network is all important.
Mason Funk: [01:52:30] Great. What is your hope for the future what do you hope to see in the future, or what do you believe you'll see in the future?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:53:00] My biggest vision is to create a sex-positive world where we can be--in the proper environments--all adult consensual more sexually liberated and free, and be able to be more expressive sexually. I know that in our culture there's the "right" way. Doing Temple has been awesome. People have come up to me because I'll get out there and I'll do all kinds of crazy stuff. I'll masturbate in front of an audience and even go, "Ooh, it's so yummy," and lick my hand. I'll break all the rules, so I want to see a world where we can have total freedom of sexual expression between consenting adults, and have that amazing where it doesn't matter what your sexual orientation is, you're not discriminated, you're not put down. No matter what your sex is, you're not discriminated against you're an equal among peers. That's the world I envision, is a totally sex-positive world.
Mason Funk: Great. Why is it important to you to tell your story?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:54:00] I think because-
Mason Funk: Include my question.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:54:30] It's important for me to tell my story, because I know I went through so much isolation and I thought I was the only one that felt the way I did, and had the body I had. It was through a long process before I even met another hermaphrodite. There's the gay community, the straight community, all these communities, but there's no intersex community except online, and I did finally find that and thank God for the Internet--or the goddess-because that's where I first connected with other people, was online, that were intersex.
Mason Funk: Great, and last but not least what do you see is the importance of a project like OUTWORDS and if you could see OUTWORDS in your answer.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: [01:55:30] I think the project OUTWORDS is important because so many people have died of AIDS before we could get their story. So many people who have made change in the world are lost to us now, and we have no idea what their story was or what they were like. They became ghosts of the past. So I think by doing a documentary where we preserve some of the activists and some of the people that helped shake and change the world we're preserving a part of our history, and a part of who we are.
Mason Funk: [01:56:00] That's great, that's exactly that's what I think, too. That's what I hope we're doing. That's fantastic. What a great interview you've given us.
Gigi Raven Wilbur: Oh, well, thank you.
Mason Funk: We recorded room tone do we need to do it again?
Amy Bench: Yeah, let's do it one more time.
Mason Funk: We're going to do 30 more seconds of room tone and then we'll be done.
Amy Bench: Okay, room tone. Okay.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Amy Bench
Date: June 01, 2017
Location: Home of Gigi Raven Wilbur, Houston, TX