Adiós! Gillian Hyde’s Last BME Article: Your Questions Answered [Guest Column – Stepping Back]

“I took the road less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.

—Robert Frost

Before working for BME I couldn’t bear to look at knee suspension pictures. Two weeks after working for BME, I was announcing to the world that I had bitten off my boyfriend’s ring finger at the same time he had bit off mine as an act of love. To say that my life has changed would be an understatement.

Sometime in November of 2004, BME advertised that they were going to be hiring their first official employee— a journalist who would be in charge of writing articles for BME/News and I immediately sent in my application. In early December Shannon sent me, along with seven other applicants, a message saying we’d made it to the second round. I was ecstatic.

The next step of the process was to write an article to prove that we could handle the responsibilities the job would entail. To be completely honest, I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never written an article before, never conducted an interview— I felt completely out of my element, but after a bit of encouragement and patience from Shannon and Rachel, my first article was published. Mothers with Mods, my interview with IAM:Orinda, and I got very good reviews in the comment forum accompanying the article, and on the poll on the main BME site asking the question, “Which of the writers do you think could do a good job as BME staffers?” I was winning with forty-six percent of the 2000 votes— twenty percent higher than the closest person behind me.

And then there were three. Jordan (IAM:snackninja) and Matt (IAM:volatile) were the other finalists, and up until that point, our identities were anonymous. It was nice to be exposed and take credit for our work. A few days later it was announced that Jordan (author of the Keith Alexander article) and I were both chosen to become interns.

In early March I sold my Vespa moped, broke my lease, left my boyfriend, friends and small mountain town in British Columbia and moved to Mexico.

It would turn out to be one of the most life-altering things I’ve ever done.

I’ve been lucky to talk to hundreds of new people because of my internship with BME and I decided that for my final article I’d let them ask me anything they want to know. I’ve been asking questions for six months, I think it’s time that I answered some.

Gillian Hyde

DREAM WEAVER Do you feel you were the best candidate for this internship given the other talented applicants and do you feel you’ve grown as a writer/journalist during this internship?
GILLIAN:  I think most of the candidates were talented and they could have done just a good of job as I, if not better, but yes, I believe I was one of the two best candidates. I felt a woman’s voice was lacking on BME, and I think I was able to fix that, if even for a little while. While Shannon enjoys exploring and exposing the really interesting “freaky” stuff, I think I contrasted that a little— I gave an educated “outsiders view” while still being involved in the industry and community.
SAVAGERABBIT Do you feel you gave the internship all you could? What would you have done differently?
GILLIAN:  If I could have done things differently, I would have changed my path about seven years ago when I graduated high school. A degree in English or Journalism probably would have helped me succeed at this job. I’m sure that attending some BME events or gotten more modifications, witnessed a suspension, seen a split tongue in person (none of which I’d done previous to getting the job) — generally gotten more involved with the community as a whole would have helped. I came into this position with my eyes wide open, but in some ways I felt more out of touch with the body modification scene than ever. I’d never heard of some of the most popular IAM members, I didn’t know what events were coming up and any BMEfest or Bar-B-Q stories were totally lost on me. I probably had Shannon and Rachel worried that they’d hired the wrong person when they noticed that I wasn’t following the conversation when it came to BME and IAM gossip or news. At the same time, I came into this position unbiased towards people and eager to learn without having preconceived notions about anything or anyone.
GOAT What did you not enjoy about working for BME?
GILLIAN:  The pressure was the hardest thing to deal with. I work with some very talented writers, and I came into this job never having interviewed someone before and never writing more than essays in university six years previous. gets millions and millions of hits a day, so there was always a lot of internal pressure to write about interesting things in an interesting way. I wanted to impress people and for the first couple of months I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, which was extremely frustrating. Now that my internship is over, I feel like I could easily continue— I’m pretty comfortable writing now, and for that reason, it’s a little sad that it’s coming to an end.
IMMORTAL BELOVED How did you choose the topics for your articles?
GILLIAN:  At the beginning of our internship, Shannon gave Jordan and I a list of about a hundred people that he was interested in featuring in an article. We scavenged that list and checked off the people that we wanted to do interviews with. If I found someone or something myself that I thought was article-worthy (the Taking it to the Next Level, Marked For Life: Tattoos Behind Bars, Quilt of Life, No Boys Allowed — Introducing the All Grrls Suscon and the All Grrls Suscon 2005 Video Report articles were my ideas), I would approach Shannon with the idea and he’d either approve or deny it.
ATHENA How did you go about research, building, editing and reworking a piece?
GILLIAN:  I was always working on at least three articles at a time. I loved researching. I’d usually start by talking to Shannon about the person or idea, and he’d suggest different things to ask and tell me a brief background of the person or topic. Once I had a bit of direction, I’d read as much as I could about it; if they had an IAM page, I’d read every diary entry and create questions around the information Shannon had given me and what they’ve told the online public. With the exception of Quilt of Life and Kivaka: Bedside Manner Like a Nun, as they were both phone interviews, I’d email an initial set of questions to get a feel for what direction the article would go in. I’d usually have an idea about how the article was going to go before writing the first set of questions, but generally I’d wait until I got back their answers to focus on one area. The email interview process would normally be composed of three different sets of questions and answers and depending on people’s schedules, they’d often take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to get back to me. Once all of the answers were in, I’d read everything over several times, write an intro and format the Q&A section so that it looked like we were having a conversation, which was very important because it added fluidity to the article. It involved rearranging, cutting up or combining answers and rephrasing questions or answers. After the article was complete, I’d put it into HTML and edit the photos and insert them into relevant parts of the final draft. Each article took anywhere from twenty hours and up, the most time consuming part (outside of waiting for answers) was proofreading and editing.
GLIDER What skills do you feel that you developed while writing/interviewing, and what skills do you feel didn’t develop as much as you’d have liked?
GILLIAN:  My ability to go into depth in my articles has improved. I had a hard time asking tough questions, or trying to push people out of their comfort level in order to get the whole story. It’s very difficult for me to pry, especially over email. I didn’t want to piss people off, so I ended up asking a lot of safe questions— which didn’t always work when people want to read about controversial topics. I think that my style of writing and chosen topics appealed to a certain demographic. Jordan, you (Shannon) and I all have very different techniques of writing, and we’re all interested in writing about different things. I think that a few of the people that I interviewed wouldn’t have been as comfortable talking to men about some of the topics as they were with me (Quilt of Life and No Boys Allowed — Introducing the All Grrls Suscon and the All Grrls Suscon 2005 Video Report would have been impossible, for example). I would have loved to be more of a versatile writer, but I am happy with who I spoke with and what I wrote.
GLIDER If BME runs another ‘Intern Search’ what advice would you have to people applying?
GILLIAN:  Stand out. Let Shannon and Rachel know how you’d like to see BME improve, and convince them that you’re the best person for that job.

Love the industry. Know as much as you can about the people, events and practices— anything that has to do with body modification.

Have an open mind at all times. Don’t be judgmental about anything body modification related. You don’t have to participate in it yourself, but you have to accept that other people may do it and it’s probably important to them.

Ask interesting questions. Don’t be afraid to push people’s limits.

Work independently and work hard. Shannon and Rachel work very hard on their responsibilities within BME, the last thing they want to do is to have to worry about whether or not their employees are doing their job. BME should be your life, just like it is theirs. Shannon and Rachel’s lives revolve around BME and have for over ten years, so they want people who will work just as hard as they do.

MONICA What is the “behind-the-scenes” at BME like?
GILLIAN:  Surprisingly normal and often boring! Most of the time that I lived in Mexico I spent ignoring Mexico and lived in my computer instead. Clive once said, “Working in Mexico is a lot different than vacationing in Mexico.” Working for BME required us to be online for the majority of the day. If any of us needed to talk, we’d be more likely to IM each other rather than call or visit the person. The entire BME family (Shannon, Rachel, Nefarious, Jon, Jordan, Clive, and I) would meet for dinner every night. We ate a lot of tacos. Occasionally we’d have chili, but ninety-nine percent of the time we’d eat tacos. You can tell there’s a good cook in the house when you can eat tacos every night and not get tired of them. Over dinner we’d gossip about IAM members or work on our ideas for articles, talk about current events or past experiences. Sometimes we’d drink and talk for hours.
PERK900 The All Girls Suscon article that you wrote seemed to be a heavily debated topic, both online and off. Did the fact that it would be a “controversial” topic make it more appealing to write? Did you find it difficult to “step back” writing this one specifically?
GILLIAN:  Both of the All-Grrl Suscon pieces were my favorite ones to do. I knew that they’d be controversial and it definitely made it more appealing to work on. I was able to “step back” while writing the first article because at the time I’d never seen a suspension before and I didn’t attend last year’s event. The fact that I am a woman could only take me so far in defending the event because I didn’t personally know how women were treated in the suspension community, but I really enjoyed being able to voice the opinion of some women who felt that they were being oppressed. I hope that the articles can bring a positive change to the community and allow men see that women don’t always feel like they’re treated like equals.

It was a lot harder to “step back” from my video-article because I specifically wrote it from my point of view as a first-time-Suscon-attendee. I went to the event hoping to capture the emotion and vulnerability that goes hand-in-hand with suspensions, and I think I accomplished that. I wanted to do a video of the day’s events so the people who felt excluded (men, specifically) would feel better about the event and so they could get a feel for the atmosphere when it’s just women involved.

HOLYJESUSBONER Did you ever (somehow) walk in on Shannon and Rachel naked? Did you try?
GILLIAN:  I’m happy to say that I’ve never seen Shannon or Rachel naked, but I didn’t live with them so it was fairly easy to avoid. I did live with Jordan however, but all of my plans to see him naked were foiled by my other roommate, Clive.
HOLYJESUSBONER Were you friends with Shannon or Rachel before the internship?
GILLIAN:  I’d never spoke to either of them on the phone, let alone met them previous to flying down to Mexico. I don’t think I ever spoke to Rachel online before the application process, and had only ever private messaged with Shannon a few times.
PERK900 What was the most rewarding experience of your time spent as a BME intern?
GILLIAN:  BMEfest. I loved meeting everyone who came to Mexico. I hadn’t met many IAMers before, and at the end of June I was overwhelmed with new faces. The entire day of BMEfest was special— from swimming with the sea lions, to visiting the deserted beach, to the after-party. I met wonderful people and had really interesting conversations and drank too much and had a lot of fun.

I also loved seeing the feedback in the forums after each article was published. The act of having my work published felt like an accomplishment alone, but to have people say such positive things about my work (on BME and on other sites) was really wonderful, in a completly narcissistic way. Any criticism I received allowed me to fix the things that needed it and made me work harder.

ERICA Why are you leaving BME?
GILLIAN:  My internship position was only ever planned to last six months, which is now complete. I’ve moved to the British Virgin Islands and don’t really have the time necessary to write full articles consistantly. You haven’t gotten rid of me yet though! I plan on writing the occasional piece work for BME, but I will be taking a break for a while.
BMEfest, one of the best days of my entire internship.

PERK900 Not to sound derogatory, but one would say you’re “lightly modified.” Did you find this debilitating as you were now a voice of the “modified” community?
GILLIAN:  I figured someone was going to bring this up. To be honest, I was concerned about my “under-modification” hindering my ability to get this job, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I represent a large part of this community. Not everyone on IAM is heavily modified— there are a lot of people who look like me and it doesn’t make me less a part of the community. I am knowledgeable about body modification and most importantly, I am open-minded about it. I don’t find my lack of modifications “debilitating” at all.

The reasons why I’m not more heavily modified are because I have a hard time committing to things, I’m a minimalist and I travel too much. I haven’t lived somewhere for longer than eight months since I was sixteen. I have never owned a cell phone or a car. I’ve broken every lease I’ve ever signed. I don’t currently own a plant, a table, a television or any of the other things that most people own, and I love it. If I can’t even commit to those things, I certainly cannot commit to a tattoo or other major work.

Because I don’t spend a lot of time in one place makes it hard to find professionals that I can trust. I don’t want to be tattooed by a stranger and it’s hard for me to find symbols to put on my body that represent things in my life because I’m constantly changing.

My lifestyle requires a lot of money, so when I have it I’m more likely to spend it on plane tickets or other travelling expenses. The things I’m most proud of having in this world are my ticket stubs, my journals and my photographs.

PERK900 Did this illicit any kind of adverse reaction from interview subjects or “heavily modified” individuals whom you came in contact with during your internship?
GILLIAN:  None at all actually, and it surprised me. Until you asked me this question, no one had said anything about me being only “slightly” modified. I think people realized that BME had hired a writer, not someone who looked modified. I’ve been a member of this community for longer than a lot of people who are more modified than I, and I feel comfortable where I am modification-wise. Which brings me to this question…
Some of my “minimal” modifications.

CERE Who had the first tongue split you ever saw?
GILLIAN:  Yours, baby! You’ve never let me forget it and you felt it necessary to tell everyone about it during BMEfest, which was slightly embarrassing! I can still hear your voice yelling, “You work for BME and you’ve never seen a split tongue? You live next door to Shannon, who has one, and you’ve never seen one? How in the HELL did you get your job?”

Cere was the first and only person to react to my lack of experience and mods (at least to my face), but I expected it from him— and I was honestly glad that someone finally brought it up, because I knew he wasn’t the first person to think it. It was nice to have it out in the open.

REBEKAH Are you considering more mods? If so or if no, because of anyone you’ve interviewed?
GILLIAN:  I am planning on more modifications, specifically more tattoos. I plan on starting a comma trend on my body. My only tattoo is of a comma, which means “silent pause.” It’s the only symbol I’ve found that truly represents something consistent in my life: the moments where everything changes. It’s the before, comma, after moment. The comma on my lower abdomen represents my first time travelling when I was getting frustrated with the fact that I was just another tourist, looking at all the same monuments that millions of other people had seen before me. It wasn’t until my “comma” moment that I realized that it didn’t matter how many other people had seen the same things that I was seeing— I was the only person in that space and time, and that’s all that mattered. From then on, my entire trip changed, and my addiction to travelling began.

I’d love to get a ribcage piece of a large baobab tree with a comma incorporated to represent the time I spent living and working in West Africa’s The Gambia.

I’ve nearly run out of places to pierce, but I love nape piercings and will probably get it done at some point.

My dream modification is to get my ears pointed, though I’m not sure if I’ll ever go through with it. I love the way it looks and I’ve got small ears and I think it’d suit me.

My only opinion that’s changed is about suspension. Before working for BME, I had no interest in suspension and basically no knowledge about it because of my complete lack of curiosity. After meeting Clive (of the Uvatiarru and one-hook, one-elbow suspension fame), things changed. I became more and more interested in it, and have basically decided that I’m going to do a suicide suspension the first chance I get. After seeing my first suspensions during BMEfest (most memorably the one by IAM:spot and IAM:brion), I was convinced it was something I’d like to do, and this need was increased when I went to this year’s All Grrls Suscon.

DRAGON Is there any mod that makes you squeamish?
GILLIAN:  Having a boyfriend who spent hundreds of hours editing videos for BMEvideo, I’ve seen things that I never thought I’d see in my life. The only thing that I got squeamish about was, surprisingly enough, finger amputation. Everything else— castration, nullification, skin peeling (though I admit, I was a little short of breath when I watched Lukas Zpira’s Like a Butterfly within the first couple of weeks of my internship), vacuum pumping, CBT— all of these things are easy to watch, nightmare-free.
PERK900 Are there parts of BME that you disagree with or consider going too far?
GILLIAN:  The only thing that I don’t agree with is self-cutting as a way for people to deal with problems. It’s a hot topic on BME, but my stance is that it shouldn’t be considered “body modification” unless it’s done primarily as beautifying scarification. I don’t think cuts from anger or frustration or sadness should be encouraged as a positive coping mechanism, mostly because it’s done out of rash feelings that will change over time. Emotional scars are hard enough to deal with, let alone physical scars from those emotions.
THE LIZARDMAN What opinions or ideas you held about BME, modification, modified people, etc (if any) have been changed as a direct result of your internship experience?
GILLIAN:  It’s really hard to remember the way I thought eight months ago because my entire world has been flipped upside-down, but the things I’ve learned are:
If you meet someone who’s green and you’ve never seen them in any other colour, they don’t actually look different than anyone else.
Even misspelled tattoos can have meaning.
People in the body modification community are some of the nicest, open-minded and beautiful people in the world— but I didn’t need the internship to tell me that.

How did moving to and living in La Paz affect your internship experience? Furthermore, was this effect positive or negative?

GILLIAN:  Moving to La Paz was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I drove scooters and a dune buggy, I saw the Pacific for the first time and swam with sea lions, I was near the beach and fields of cacti, I rescued kittens and avoided rain for the entire four months that I lived there, but the best thing to come out of La Paz was finding the love of my life, Clive (IAM:Rookie).
Gillian and Clive

HOLYJESUSBONER Why bother moving to Mexico to work for BME; would you rather have stayed home (could you have stayed home and still have managed to write all the articles you did)?
GILLIAN:  Who in their right mind would pass up an opportunity to live in Mexico for six months? One of the reasons that I’ve travelled so much and have had such an extensive range of experiences is because I never pass up a good opportunity. Sure, I could have stayed in Canada to do the job, but the fact that part of the internship was to move to Mexico was one of the reasons I applied for the position in the first place.
VOLATILE What’s next?

One of the main reasons why Clive and I left Mexico early was because we wanted to move to the British Virgin Islands. Clive was born there and feels a strong connection to the island on which he was born, and I love anywhere that is hot and has the ocean, so it sounded like a good plan. We planned to stay in Canada until November and save some money, but because of some very cheap plane tickets, we flew down on August 30. We camped for a week and we’re currently renting a small apartment on the top of a mountain. We’d love to have visitors, so contact us if you’re up for a trip!

Clive will be working at a day job while I focus on various web development work. (Shameless plug: if you’re looking for a web designer, please contact me!)

My long term goals are to settle down a little bit. I’d love to own a sewing machine again and have a garden with peas and carrots. I want to have cats. I really want to live in a farmhouse somewhere near the ocean.

GLIDER:  Will you and Clive be doing writing/video on your own projects in BVI? (ie. an expat’s magazine, whatever)

GILLIAN:  I’d love to. Clive’s done a lot of video work and with my recent All Grrls Suscon mini-documentary, I feel confident that he and I could create another installment for Uvitaritu, or do something on our own. I plan on writing online about our time here, similar to MyGambia blog.
SOLARIS You’ve been to all these amazing places and done loads of exciting things but is there any place or thing that you would want to do or go so badly that if you did it or went there that you could be content if you never travelled again after that?

I don’t think any one place can really make you want to stop travelling. If anything, a terrible experience would make me want to stay in one spot for the rest of my life. Visiting different places makes me want to keep doing it— it never has the opposite effect. In the past six years I’ve lead a very full life.

I’ve seen volcanoes in Italy, visited fetish bars in France, gone shopping in London, lived amongst some of the poorest people in the world in West Africa, worked for billionaires in Florida and millionaires in Luxembourg, gone on countless road trips through the United States and Canada, smoked hash in Amsterdam, sunbathed on black sand beaches in Greece, and most recently, camped in the jungle in the British Virgin Islands… I never want to stop, but I’ll probably slow down. My lifestyle is often exhausting.

CERE If a dildo is inserted in a man’s ass but the words “good game” are uttered afterwards, is it still gay?
GILLIAN:  No, it’s not gay. You can do anything as long as you say “good game” afterwards. If I grab your balls it’s not considered cheating on my boyfriend as long as I say “good game.” If you grab my boobs or ass, I’m only allowed to enjoy it if you say “good game,” etc etc. The power of “good game” is limitless.

My experience working for has been wonderful. I’ve been able to talk to the most interesting people, live in Mexico and work for a company that has changed the body modification industry. I’ve been a small part in something very big, and I have every one of you to thank. Thank you to those who agreed to be interviewed by me and let everyone take a peak into your life. Thank you to Shannon and Rachel who saw something in my writing and took a chance on me, and thank you, most of all, to the people who read my articles and supported me along the way.

“For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.”
Judy Garland

Signing off,

— Gillian Hyde (IAM:typealice)

Gillian Hyde (IAM:typealice) is a vagabond, though her roots run deep into Nova Scotian soil. She’s lived and worked on three continents since 2001, and has never lived anywhere for longer than eight months since the age of 16. She loves fonts, puns, being barefoot and office supplies. Calm to her is the roar of the ocean.

Online presentation copyright © 2005 LLC. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published online, 2005 by LLC from La Paz, BCS, Mexico.

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