I’m a field guide to the inner world, helping people transform their sexual and emotional patterns to have better relationships and more personal power.
“Mink with a time bomb.”
(That’s how someone recently described me.)
Originally hailing from just outside New York City, I have worked in the field of adult sexuality education since 2011 have studied and learned from many wonderful teachers in the world of adult sexuality education and empowerment, on subjects such as communication, boundaries, BDSM, and polyamory/non-monogamy.
In my private counseling practice I work with individuals at many different stages of their sexual journeys, helping them feel more sexually whole and to have deeper intimacy in their relationships. I’m a trained practitioner of Internal Family Systems therapy and I currently serve as a co-leader for the American Psychological Association’s task force on Consensual Non-Monogamy. I welcome LGBTQ+ and non-monogamous clients into my practice and provide a safe space to explore topics around sexuality, including BDSM and sex work.
I come from a feminist, systems-based approach that looks not only at individual experience, but the bigger context of gender, race, culture and identity that we’re all swimming in here in 21st century dominator culture. In my world, the personal is political, vulnerability is both essential and an aphrodisiac, and self-love is a radical act. I believe we can’t forgo a structural analysis in making sense of even the most personal part of our lives. As a mixed-race Chinese American with diverse cultural and spiritual heritages, I hold an anti-racist perspective and aim to address how white supremacy culture has disenfranchised people of color from their sexual autonomy, wellness and joy.
On a more personal level, my pull to this work emerged from my own lived experience of sexual darkness, confusion and pain. I know what it feels like to be stuck in sexual disconnection because I spent many years there as a result of violation, homophobia and my own disempowerment. I was blessed to find mentors and support on my journey at an early age. I know what it feels like to walk through the fire and, in turn, I have witnessed and assisted many people in their own process of awakening.
- I was voted “most mysterious” in my high school yearbook
- Leonore sounds like “Lee-oh-nore.” My last name is pronounced “Chee-ah”; it’s an Indonesian-Chinese name (谢) that means “to thank”
- I read The Red Tent at age 12 and promptly told my parents I wanted to join a women’s moon circle, which they supported (go Mom & Dad!!!). Growing up in a women’s community that honors the Goddess is probably the #1 thing from childhood that has shaped who I am today
- I learned German in college so I could read Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry in the original
- Inspired by the Huntress archetype, I spent several years living in the northeastern US learning how to track animals, hunt deer and tan hides. I now live and write on Ohlone territory (Bay Area) in California, but the mountains are my true love and I escape there whenever I can.
MEDIA & INTERVIEWS
- Connecting to Our Sexual Selves – Healing Culture Podcast
- Sexuality, Hunting and Pursuing Empathy Over Conquest – A Worldview Apart Podcast
- Sexual Wildness, the Erotic and Mythology – Sex Gets Real Podcast
I was activated into this work through painful struggles with my own sexuality and self-worth. That pain forged a determination to help others avoid what I have been through — and to experience what I now know to be possible:
- a vibrant, healthy sexuality that has been liberated from shame, guilt and unfinished emotional business
- consistent access to pleasure and ecstasy, which generate passion, purpose and aliveness
- intimately connected relationships, free from coercion/violence/manipulation, with secure attachments and respect for one another’s autonomy.
I no longer feel the shame, guilt, self-policing and self-loathing that once permeated so many facets of my sexuality and relationships (with others and myself). Sexuality, intimacy and my body have returned to their rightful place as sources of connection, pleasure and creativity.
The Waters We Swim In
People often ask me if I work with people who have experienced sexual trauma, to which I reply: “Having a sexuality in this culture is traumatic.”
There are so many judgments about sexuality and gender, so many rules about who we have to be, and so many consequences if we don’t conform.
The old models of gender and power are crumbling, and our culture of sexuality is very unsettled. Terms like “toxic masculinity” and “emotional labor” have entered the mainstream. It’s exciting! And disorienting, unstable and sometimes nerve-wracking.
This Was My Struggle Too
I grew up within the invisible narrative that many people socialized as women must deal with: safety meant staying small, following the rules and being obedient. There was a lot of pressure to be pretty, to get attention and also to be an achiever who succeeded and never showed vulnerability.
Sex wasn’t talked about, and when it came up I sensed the discomfort and disapproval of adults. The culture of silence around sex created the perfect environment for predation and pain.
As a young teen, I was shamed and ostracized for falling in love with my female best friend. I felt like there was something wrong with me. Early sexual experiences were confusing and deeply difficult. I didn’t know how to make sense of the powerful, overwhelming sensations that were both pleasurable and violating.
I didn’t understand at the time how much this eroded my sense of self-worth and ability to be honest and authentic in relationships (of all kinds — not just sexual ones).
Shame metastasized at my core and my attempts to “get over it” just deepened the feeling that I was wearing a mask, driving me into periods of depression, self-hatred and disordered eating.
Many people struggle like this and don’t know where to turn. Unaddressed sexual wounding can create major downstream consequences that affect many different parts of our lives.
Our sexuality is a huge part of our health, happiness and well-being, and it needs attention and care to flourish and grow.
As long as we stay stuck in denial and deprivation, our lives don’t change and we never experience the joy, beauty and freedom that are our birthright.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.
How I Broke Free
After college, I worked at the United Nations for a non-profit that focused on women’s rights — then I found my way to the world of feminist sexuality education… and my life changed.
Writing summaries on the dry and bureaucratic Security Council meetings quickly paled in comparison to the radical healing work that I saw occurring in these sexuality workshops!
I quit my job at the UN and dove headfirst into the world of sexuality education, finding teachers and role models of evolved sexuality, polyamory, and BDSM whose liberation both inspired and terrified me.
I realized the box I had unconsciously been living in and that I had the power to choose my life direction and sexual expression — that ultimately, contorting myself to be a heterosexual, monogamous, non-threatening “good girl” was useless and not the legacy I wanted to leave behind on my deathbed.
I realized that there is no one right way to be a sexual person, but that my own sexuality was key to my personal power — and the less I tried to “belong” inside the world’s external rules, judgments, fears and restrictions, the more I felt the inner wellspring of eros: courage, creativity and joy.
And yes — it has sometimes meant leaving relationships and situations, having challenging conversations, and surrendering to heartbreak. It’s always been worth it, because the tradeoff has brought deeper belonging, access to wildness, renewed agency, greater wholeness, way better relationships without contortion or coercion, unbelievably more pleasure and WAY more fun.
I continue to explore the beautiful, wild terrain of eros, intimacy, power and the soul on my own journey, and in private practice, group retreats, and speaking/teaching in the world.
My Mission to Help You
Our sexuality can be like a lotus flower that grows in the mud, unfurling its petals to the sun above. I know the healing that’s possible when we turn the dark parts of our experience — everything we want to get away from and avoid — into fertile soil that births the new.
It’s one thing to read about this journey; it’s another thing entirely to experience it.
I want you to experience the same joy and liberation that comes from accepting and valuing every part of yourself. I want you to know in every cell of your body how powerful your pleasure is, and that this path is part of your birthright too.
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