My Journey to Embrace “He/They” as My Pronouns!

Thanks for reading this blog posted on National Coming Out Day, Oct 11th. For some time, I’ve thought it would be a good idea to “come out” and celebrate that I’ve considered myself “about 25% girl” for quite a while. I was in a fair amount of denial about this until a dramatic LSD and MDMA mediated initiation into spirit world in Amsterdam in a gay trance club called Mazzo, in the winter of ‘95, that was also the  main underground spot.

In that experience, I realized that I wasn’t “straight,” “gay,” or “man” or “woman”—but incarnate soul here to serve and get down, and that my toxic insecure aggressive masculinity was doing violence to my own feminine nature and soul, as well as my partner at the time. I unpacked this on some level for a while that in our deepest essence this is true for all of us, but also gradually embraced that I am, as we all are to an extent, on a spectrum of gender and orientation, and while I identify as “relatively straight /masculine” I also feel “relatively queer and feminine.” In medicine space and at Burning Man, I celebrate this dimension of myself, cross-dressing my costume and appearance, expressing my androgynous nature and inner woman. Like RuPaul says, we’re born naked and all the rest is drag… and unfortunately a lot of us are born with a patriarchal straitjacket costume that does so much damage to those of us who aren’t in the gender hetero-normative binary, and we’re shamed and socialized early by peers and parents to not be “gay or girlie,” or to dress and express as such. Dress and costume allow us to embody and express aspects of our personality that otherwise might be under expressed and repressed. This is my experience.

Genderqueer and “they” pronouns weren’t as common or popularized back then and I flirted with thinking of myself as bi, but wasn’t that attracted to male-identified folks. I explored this queer / androgynous side of myself through hanging out and dancing in gay bars and raves with friends; at Pride parades where we rock it hard in our sexy plexi foam trailer; as well as at Burning Man, in particular our 2017 camp Transfoamation; but also through books and online, and I really loved the 1991 anthology Leatherfolk edited by Mark Thompson. Compiled during the height of the homophobic panic reaction to AIDS, where the leather community was the

David at Burning Man with Rick Doblin and Matt Atwood

pariah of the pariah, it was such an affirmation and celebration in the face of so much stigma and hate. I was impressed in particular by the first person essay “A View from a Sling” by Geoffrey Mains, and then the interview with the legendary Fakir Musafara, who wasn’t himself gay or leather-identified, but charged altered states / spiritual modes of consciousness through incredible piercing rituals, indigenous and otherwise, and felt the gay leather subculture most understood what he was going for. I’ve charged these states myself through psychedelic medicines, and similarly have a lot of admiration for the Leather S&M community as relayed in these essays: the deep surrender into the mysterious beyond, accessed by harnessing the power of intense hardcore erotic play like Tantric masters. S&M or piercing rituals aren’t my thing but I have huge admiration for those who charge this path with integrity and passion.

David and Ariel Vegosen blending genders, photo by Vito De Stefano, 2017

My incredible non-binary, kink-positive, and sexual-in-all-directions poly friend Ariel Vegosen has been a huge teacher for me on my path of exploration, and Dr. Bronner’s has supported their genderqueer / trans camp Gender Blender at Burning Man, as well as Queerdome there and their nonprofit Gender Illumination for many years. My amazing non-binary 25-year-old kid Maya has shown me so much in rocking their truth and path in life.

And my glorious genderfluid bi wife Mia continues to inspire me every day. Synchronistically in this past year, through the AWE psychedelic training program that Ariel and Mia are also in, I got to meet and deeply bond with Justin Natoli, a queer psychedelic therapist and theorist, who was Mr. Leather LA in 2018. I just got the chance to download and listen to his latest podcast with Derek Scott on Chacruna, called “Internal Family Systems, Psychedelics, and Queer Liberation.”

Mia Bronner at a Pride Parade

I really appreciate his insight that we all have elements of the Divine Queer archetype, regardless of gender and orientation, just as we all have elements of the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine. It’s important to add that my experience is mine—and not to conflate gay, or women, with feminine. Many gay men and straight women rock a stronger masculine energy than I do. Justin associates the Divine Queer archetype also with the Trickster archetype which disrupts our socially constructed realities and ego identities, which is definitely a powerful part of my inner soulscape, and showed up in a mega way in my Amsterdam spirit world initiation. In some sense our soul is mercurial and queer, manifesting in so many different ways and modes in and to us. And in this regard, I recently gave a commencement speech to the graduating class of Goddard, where I share a lot of my powerful psychedelic experiences and soul / spirit world encounters.

I want to dedicate my “coming out” to Kaleb Vaughn, a trans Black soul brother I knew for a moment, who blazed into our lives like a shooting star, and then took his life due to the demons our vicious world unleashed on him. May our world soon recognize and celebrate the incredible beauty of all like him! By sharing my journey here and embracing “he/they” pronouns, I hope to contribute in a tiny way to helping bring about that more accepting and loving reality.

Kaleb Vaughn, may his memory be a blessing
Author Profile

David Bronner

David Bronner is Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s, the grandson of company founder, Emanuel Bronner, and a fifth-generation soap maker. He is a dedicated vegan and enjoys surfing and dancing late into the night.

See all stories by David Bronner