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I am a queer, non-binary Latinx. I’m also a holistic trauma-informed sex and pleasure educator, activist, dancer, and sensual embodiment facilitator.

Through my offerings, I aim to bridge the gaps in the continuum of pleasure, accessibility, and sexual care so that under represented and marginalized beings can rebuild consensual and affirming relationships with themselves and with others. I mostly work with queer, gender non-conforming people of color. I am currently living on the unceded lands of the Cowlitz and Clackamas people that’s colonially acknowledged as Portland, Oregon.

I aim to bridge the gaps in the continuum of pleasure, accessibility, and sexual care.

I grew up in Santa Barbara. My dad’s side of the family is Catholic and Mexican. My mom’s side is European. My dad has 11 siblings—a huge, huge family. So when I think about the family I was immersed in, it was really his side. My dad came from parents who were immigrants and a household that was very westernized and diluted as far as culture goes. When they moved to America, it was “We speak English now, we’re not going to speak Spanish in the house.”

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It was really interesting to grow up with this disconnected experience of my Mexican culture. I could feel it, but it wasn’t at the forefront. It wasn’t being acknowledged and it wasn’t something that my family was proud of. Also with that side of my family being Catholic, it was scary to know that I was queer really young. I felt like I had to try to wish and pray that part of myself away. I was afraid of being abandoned and isolated from my family if they found out, so I spent a lot of time very much trying to uncouple from that part of me. This rippled into feeling disconnected from a lot of myself and my expression.

I also grew up as a gymnast. I can look back and see the ways that taught me about the power of somatic intelligence and how to express myself through my body. I was probably releasing so much stress and trauma through flipping around. The embodiment, the performance, the integration, the play, and the experiential learning that came from that sport was really important for me, and honestly saved my life.

I was able to see other queer people and have them as mirrors.

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Leaving home to go to college at UC Santa Cruz was a pivotal moment for me. I started to ask, who am I out of this home? Who am I separate from my family? I was raised with a lot of addiction in my family, as well as sexual trauma and toxic patterns that were being perpetuated. So, when I left that space, I felt like I was a blank canvas. I was able to see other queer people and have them as mirrors. I started to concentrate more on my training within dance. There was just so much learning in that period of my life. Lots of, Oh, I am a sexual being and, Oh, I am queer and, Wow, I really locked this up inside of me somewhere to never look at it again. What I began to unearth was really powerful.

It was a time when I was beginning to reflect on the amount of sexual trauma, repression, and lack of pleasure that I had experienced. I started tasting it, being like, wow, I am so hungry for this. I am thirsty. I want to learn. I want to be a student. I want to know my body. I want to understand these parts of myself. That was the catalyst for me to move toward the work that I’m doing now around pleasure and sex education, and also weaving in the ways that movement can help us tap into those parts of ourselves.

I am really grateful for my college experience and that I was able to explore and experiment with so many different substances, including cannabis. I can really see the way that cannabis was integral for me in that time in opening my mind and body to new possibilities. It was a helpful portal for me, especially since I had spent so much of my life up to that point disassociated and feeling withdrawn or shut down. It brought color to my life; it opened me. It showed me that there’s so much more possible in the way that I live, the way that I inhabit my body, and the way that I use my mind. New synapses were formed. The joy and the laughter and the pleasure that came from being able to access buoyancy and levity was really important, too.

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I smoked a lot from 18 to 25 or so. Cannabis was my substance of choice. Then I started therapy work where I dove deep into childhood wounds and family of origin stuff and navigating my PTSD. I noticed that cannabis started to exacerbate my trauma responses and anxiety. There was definitely grief in that—to have something that was such a resource for me change how it interacted with my body. Also, being raised within the depths of addiction, I could feel the parts of myself that had a tendency to overuse substances and that I had a really hard time having a healthy relationship with them.

I want to give a disclaimer that I don’t believe that a sober lifestyle is the best choice for everyone. I’m a full supporter of the medicinal power of substances, including cannabis, and the ways that it can bring life changing healing. I am a huge supporter of harm reduction. It’s been a really interesting and nuanced journey for me. Ultimately, I’m five years sober. I can stand here really feeling the ways that sobriety has helped me create a life that I don’t want to run away from and how it’s opened me up to the freedom of having choice and having a consensual relationship with my body and mind.

I realized that engaging with my pleasure is activism.

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Growing up as someone who was queer, who didn’t fit into the gender binary, who didn’t fit into the relationship orientation of monogamy, who didn’t fit into white supremacist culture as a mixed person of color, I became very good at rebelling, and at challenging and questioning what is considered normative. That defiance became a default for me: How can I push boundaries? How can I shatter the limits that I’ve been taught because I already know that I don’t fit into them? That’s been a huge ally in my journey to reclaim pleasure, because I can separate and observe the ways in which capitalism and colonialism—so many -isms—have us unconsciously trapped in these patterns of struggle.

I realized that engaging with my pleasure is activism. It’s a way for me to consciously do the opposite of what the patriarchy would want me to do. There are definitely downsides to that default, and I’ve been examining those tendencies in myself because they can also box me in. So I’m trying to find more fluidity rather than rigidness in my approach.

I’m currently building something called Sensual Self-Care Academy: 33 Days of Pleasure Practice. It’s a self-guided online course—an invitation to move through a series of experiential prompts. I’m really excited about it. The intention is to be able to cultivate a defined and trusting relationship with pleasure-centered self-care. It looks at the ways that self-care is an ethical issue and how, in a pleasure-oppressed culture, it goes far beyond bubble baths and massages. It’s about developing an integrated understanding of how essential self-preservation is to thriving, and learning how to prioritize care for ourselves. It’s 33 days on purpose, which gives room for new habits to be formed.

Nature is one way that I have been able to feel and connect with my ancestors.

I am also the creator of inpleasure, a virtual pre-recorded dance workshop for deepening self-intimacy and embodiment. It’s been so much fun to release into the world and hear people’s experiences, and to be able to bring other pleasure guides into that space, whether they’re educators, movers, or activists.

I was working one-on-one with people for three years nonstop. I’m excited to get back to it, but it’s also been really important for me to reinvent the ways that I can make pleasure education more accessible to more people.

I have had integral teachers and mentors in my life. Leslie Johnson was the director of Flex, a contemporary dance company in the Bay Area. I was brought into the company not really fully understanding at the time that it was filled with embodied, sexually liberated, queer humans. I remember being like, I feel so safe here. I feel so seen. I want to expand. I want to build intimacy through movement with these people. That was a life changing gift for me. I danced with that group for over five years.

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I’ve done so much learning within the space created by Rosalyn Dischiavo, the founder of ISEE, the Institute for Sexuality and Enlightenment and Education. Ev’Yan Whitney, a sexuality doula, mentored me through a lot of my own sexual trauma healing and was a pivotal supporter when I began my own work as a sex educator. Dr. Bianca Laureano is one of my current supervisors and colleagues who continues to teach me so much about justice, diversity, and inclusion. She is a pioneer and someone I am incredibly blessed to learn from.

I also want to name my partner Frankie Simone, whom I met while dancing with Flex, and who was this light beam of a person who saw me before I saw myself. We’ve been together nine years. Discovering adrienne maree brown and their work, reading Pleasure Activism, reading Emergent Strategy, finding a language for these things that I had been viscerally feeling for so long was massive in my journey. Emily Nagoski and her book Come as You Are has been huge for me. And I have to mention Audre Lorde. Reading The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power and being in tears, like, this is the work my ancestors have been searching for and feeling and seeking. It felt really intimate. I realized that I am an extension of them and I am here to continue the work that they have started.

Nature is one way that I have been able to feel and connect with my ancestors—the queer Mexican ancestors whom I didn’t get to meet in this lifetime or dimension necessarily, but whom I can very much feel guiding me and cheering me on. It’s really special and sacred to know that they’re here with me.

I was at the Northwest Magic Conference in Portland one year—it’s an annual conference that brings together a beautifully diverse group of people who identify in some way as being a bridge between the Earth and other dimensions. I was in a BIPOC meditation with about 50 other people. We were all standing around an altar in the center of the room and the facilitator was guiding us to send our roots down into the deepest layers of the Earth and then extend and reach up into the stars above us. While we were in that experience, the teacher invited us to call forward ancestors who wanted to come in, however they wanted to manifest. I have this vivid memory of being on indigenous land in Sonora, Mexico, where my dad’s lineage is from, and seeing these people who were medicine people, who were queer, and who were inviting me literally into their arms. It was a really profound experience for me to know that there are people within my ancestry who understand me in a way that my family in this lifetime doesn’t.

The ways in which I share myself and my vulnerability publicly is a very political and intentional act.

People say that I have “big Leo energy” that is unabashed and takes up space and loves to be witnessed and celebrated. The ways in which I share myself and my vulnerability publicly is a very political and intentional act. It’s my way of holding up a mirror for people who haven’t gotten that representation, or haven’t been able to see themselves in specific ways. I’m all for the pleasure of being seen and the yumminess of being celebrated to be celebrated. But it’s also very important to who I am that I’m connected with something bigger, and that this is not limited by vanity.

I’m a very sensitive creature. I feel a bit alien in that way where I have to be really careful about what media I’m taking in. I can’t just sit down and watch reality TV. My people aren’t going to be like, “Hey, do you want to binge watch this show or go watch this movie?” It’ll be like,“Let’s have a limpia ceremony and cleanse our bodies and then soak in water and go on a hike.” I’m that friend who is going to be very intentional about how I spend my time and share my space. That’s no shame to any other ways of doing so.

Audre Lorde talks about referencing our “full body yes.” The yes that makes me feel so alive and expansive and turned on. That’s very much been my compass, like,“Where is my yes? Where is my yes? Where is my yes? Where is pleasure, not pressure?”

That practice almost started as more of a performance. Instagram was actually really instrumental. I was creating aesthetically beautiful moments in my day, whether by adorning myself, making a beautiful meal, or incorporating movement into my lunch break. I started to share those moments of performance and eventually my body started to believe them. It became real. It became integrated, embodied. And so it’s really cool to reflect back and realize that I’ve cultivated this practice over time to actually be the way that I am in my day to day. That’s part of what can be really beautiful about performance. Whether we’re teaching our body something or our body is teaching our mind something, new connections can happen.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Che Che Luna photographed by Jules Davies in Portland. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.