My Defamation

In early 2020 a defamation campaign was begun about me, centering upon an anonymous, defamatory website begun by essentially three persons. The first and primary motivator of the defamation was a woman who came to study with me, fell in love with me, became a dear friend, but one for whom—and I was clear and direct with her about this from the outset—I did not return romantic or sexual feelings. I will treat further down of her history of childhood sexual abuse, particularly in regards to how the trauma of that sexual history may have influenced this situation, and certainly how that history, upon deep reflection, influenced my understanding of my own judgement with regard to the whole matter. The second situation involved two individuals who were, at the time, in the throes of the normal confusions that often attend inconclusive attraction—a man who studied with me wonderfully and seriously for several years, and a woman in my theater company who played opposite myself in a scene from my play, HAMLETTE AND OPHELIA. 

 

In the winter of 2021, that campaign, and its already established platform of defamation, was joined and abetted by my ex-partner, when they discovered, four months after our breakup, that I had begun another intimate relationship. So there are essentially three situations, and four persons, responsible for the defamation. I will speak about each of these in turn, below. 

 

There are no actual “events” or “facts” of infamy around any of these situations, only feelings and projections shattered, natural and understandable human mistakes incurred, hearts broken in love itself and in the desire for love, and, in the case of my relationship with my ex-partner, the long and arduous journey of destined souls in a committed, devoted, and yet imperfect relationship. Because the situations involve subtleties of behavior and perception, rather than egregious transgressions, and involve as well the tender psyches and spirits of people I have cared for deeply, I have not addressed this defamation in the general infosphere, until now. Rather, I imagined that the persons involved would come to understand that pain and human complexity in love, especially where personal historical wounding is present, eventually have their yield in understanding in the soul, and become less about blame and attack and more about sorrow, understanding, personal responsibility, and, ultimately, true power. But at least some of those individuals, my ex-partner foremost among them, continue to attack my person and, as they [my ex-partner] vowed, to attempt to “destroy [my] life.” They scour the internet and target the sponsors of whatever offerings I might be giving in the world, contacting them and lying about my person, and sending them to the defamatory and spurious material. Therefore it seems unavoidably necessary for me to speak clearly about the origins, nature, and motivation of these defamations, and also to share what I have learned from each of them. 

 

I will also be addressing the smattering of other impactful defamations on that website, which come ostensibly from students who have been incited to air their grievances anonymously, and which format seems to have encouraged a few students to blatantly lie about my conduct in classes and the atmosphere of those classes. I will address these allegations further down, but I will state clearly here at the outset that no one who has actually studied with me could conjure any atmosphere, or any incident, whereupon I would grope students randomly or pay any particular kind of prurient sexual attention to them. The precise opposite has been the atmosphere of every single class or workshop I have taught for over 25 years, and thousands of students can attest to that verity.

 

I venture on this strange and almost unimaginable task with the greatest of care. That care comes from the inalienable fact that I loved and cared for each of these four persons aforementioned, albeit in different ways and to vastly differing degrees. That care remains; it simply must, for the qualities that drew me to those persons, whether as students or collaborators in art, or, in the one case, a commitment of love representing a major portion of my adult life—these qualities must still be, in some essential way, who these persons are. I would never tarnish the historical sincerity of our relationships; I would never, through hatred or blame, or through my own pain, erase or cancel who they were to me, for that would mean that I was not a person when I loved and cared for them. Hating them in bitterness, for what they have tried to do to me, would mean erasing my own person from myself, my own life and history—and to erase that history would be also to erase the potential for any future that I might call my own. We are inalienably made from those we love and those who love us, and we owe our loves to those with whom we’ve shared our lives.

 

The care with which I write is colored, as well, by my own heartbreak. I do not mind letting these defaming persons know that their lies and distortions have succeeded in hurting me deeply. I am not interested in conventional battles over contemporary forms of toughness. But my own heartbreak has had almost the opposite effect of belligerence; it has made me want to hold their own delicate lives carefully. We are all delicate. We are all woven into the fabric of human life and society in the most fragile and provisional way. Through lies and slander, stemming from personal disappointment and pain, to actively seek to break someone’s relationship to existence itself—which has been their intent toward me—is, from my point of view, impossible. Simply the ability to survive at all in this difficult life, this hard world, simply to move into the right relations of one’s gifts, cares, and passions, simply to contribute and participate in any true way in this life, and to create any enduring meaning, this alone is hard enough, and I would never interrupt that process, that chance, for anyone, no matter how cruel they have been to me. I feel that way about these four individuals. I am still for, rather than against their lives. I write with care, because I want nothing but for them to thrive, to flourish in their native gifts, and to take responsibility for their choices and actions in such a way that they own the true power of their existences, however challenging and complex that may be. And so, in these descriptions, at this time, I will not be using their names. For I want only to set the record straight for those unaware of the truth who come across, or are steered toward, their slander. But in doing so I do not wish to harm any of my defamers.


 

THE FIRST DEFAMER: A DEAR FRIEND

 

In June of 2019 a bright, intelligent woman came to study in one of my Depth Sexuality workshops. Depth Sexuality was a course of study encompassing the broadest range of topics under the huge rubric of Eros studies, such as culture, history, health, movement, trauma, anatomy, etc. She exuded personal esprit and health, made friends very quickly, and disarmed many of us with her sincerity—for she spoke immediately and openly (and seemingly with a well-earned command of personal health) about her prolonged sexual abuse when she was a child. This woman had a powerfully positive experience at that workshop, and her sincerity, in turn, influenced the workshop beautifully. Soon after, she contacted me; we spoke on the phone, she professed that she was in love with me and asked me if she could court me. I explained that I did not have those feelings for her and that that would not be possible. She spoke about wanting to continue studying with me, and, though I had not chosen her to be a member of my theater company (she had auditioned), to explore ways that she might be involved in the theater in the capacity of assistant. I responded that so long as she understood that there was no chance that we would be lovers, she could come to study, and we would explore her possible role as an assistant in the theater. At this time, I was single for the first time in nearly twenty years. (From 2000—2010 I was with a single woman, a true and dear companion and a profoundest love who, to this day, is a dear friend, and from 2010 to 2018 I had been in another monogamous relationship. At this time I was broken up with that partner.) This woman did come to Santa Fe to study, and eventually to assist me with the theater. Over the ensuing few months we developed a very deep and rewarding friendship and working relationship. However, periodically during that time she would imply or insinuate that we would eventually be lovers, an insistence that was often accompanied by her attempts to touch me inappropriately. I would rebuff these overtures and respond to her insinuations that this type of relationship was still not possible, that nothing had changed. At one point, she became so insistent on the matter that I expressed to her that her delusional hopes, if they continued, would render our relationship untenable, and that she would have to leave. 

 

As I mentioned, I was single, broken up with my partner, during this time. But in truth I had not left my partner, in my heart, mind, or body, and during the near year of our breakup I was sexual with no one. A few months after this woman came to Santa Fe, my ex-partner and I reunited. When she—the woman I am writing about—understood that I was once again engaged with my former partner, she had a crisis, imagined that she had been manipulated and betrayed, and began the process of inversion, hatred, and slander, that led to her creating the defamatory website and the spreading of lies to hurt me. 
 

 

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM THE EVENT

 

The essential question that must be asked and answered is: Why did I allow a woman with a history of sexual abuse, and who was professedly in love with me, to come so near to me, as student and assistant, and eventually as a dear friend? Was that a mistake? I think it was. Now, from this perspective, I cannot call it anything but a mistake. But calling it a mistake is sad, however necessary. The sadness has to do with the nature of wound, for wound constellates its need to heal by virtue of the desire for relationship. Wound, to a greater or lesser degree, brings all of us into our friendships and erotic relations, in one form or another. And the failure of my clear and firm boundaries to create an actual healing, in this case, is terribly sad. My faith in the efficacy of my own comportment, my own boundaries, feels naive to me, and represents to me now a failure in judgement.

 

So many students fall in love with their teachers. It’s happened countless times in my own experience, and it happens in yoga classes, universities, etc., all over the spheres of society. So often, so long as the teacher’s boundaries are intact, enraptured students eventually sublimate their feelings into the work that they are studying under the tutelage of the teacher; the work becomes the thing, not the person. I thought that the strength and clarity of my sexual boundary would afford this woman a chance to engage with her many gifts in a uniquely safe environment for her. What I have come to understand is that intimacy in friendship, to me, must necessarily mean something different to someone whose boundaries had been so disastrously crossed at such a young age. And I now believe that I should not have befriended her, that I should not, I mean, have had the confidence that my certitude of boundary would translate to keeping her safe from herself. That confidence on my part represents a misunderstanding of the disaster of trauma. I know now that I simply could never have been a healing presence for this person so long as she was in love with me and I was not in love with her. And because it was obvious that she was in love with me, I should not have allowed her to come, or, when I saw that her love for me was not progressing in a sublimation toward the work itself, I should have asked her to leave. 

 

This represents a steep learning curve for me on the subject of trauma itself—and on the tragic limitations of love within the field of trauma. For, as a friend, I did love and care for her very much indeed. But it is very clear, from this vantage point, that her love turned so instantly to hate the instant her erotic projection came crashing down, when I reunited with my partner. In that moment her delusion was exposed, and she must have felt terrified, abandoned, and betrayed. For I, who, in her mind, was one day to be her romantic and erotic healer, had suddenly, in her mind, become a dangerous person, simply by virtue of being the one she had projected upon and the selfsame one who, by reuniting with my partner, had so suddenly taken that screen away. This sense of me being dangerous—of being the very wound that, in her mind, I was in the position to heal—is the energy that fueled the creation of the defamatory website. 

 

To pose further challenging questions: If a deeply wounded person professed their love for me now, and wanted to study with me, would I let them? My answer now would be that we are all wounded, and we all need a place to study and practice the integrity of being, which might become our health. So yes, for there are no audience members of plays that are not wounded, no students, no readers of books or poems that are unwounded. Wound is one of the great forces of the reach for beauty, and to prevent wound and human attraction in all aspects of one’s life is to commit a kind of suicide against the very faith of humanity and the soul. But would I allow her to be near me, personally, to be my assistant, and to come so close as to become a very dear friend? No, I would certainly not, and I am very sorry that I did, sorry for the pain that her love for me incurred in her soul, and sorry that that decision has to be true: that love, however pure, is terribly limited in the face of extreme trauma. 


 

THE SECOND DEFAMERS: 

A SERIOUS STUDENT AND AN ARTISTIC COLLABORATOR   

 

The second situation—the two other persons involved in creating the defamatory website—has to do with a man and a woman who began a relationship with each other at the time that I was beginning to rehearse a small scene from my play, HAMLETTE AND OPHELIA. In the audition/workshop, it was clear that the two of them were in some kind of romantic relation. That woman won the part of Ophelia. The man, who was a serious and committed student, and who participated in the entire spectrum of the work of the institute, also became a member of the theater company. HAMLETTE AND OPHELIA imagines the iconic lovers in a transgender, lesbian relationship, hundreds of years after the advent of Shakespeare’s original play. Because I was playing the role of Hamlette, and because the scene, as with Shakespeare’s characters, evokes an intimate love story, I explained to the man at the time that he needn’t imagine any literalization on my part of Shakespeare’s transformed lovers; in other words, the play was a play, and the immanence of the play, that is to say the profound personalization required for any powerful playing, did not in any way imply a literal narrative of romance of the actors involved. Months went by; we rehearsed. In time, it was evident that the woman was heartbroken; she spoke very emotionally to members of the company, and to myself, about the fact that the man in question was now seeing another, younger lover, and that he had proclaimed his freedom to be with multiple lovers at once, which was difficult for her. It was particularly difficult for her, she said to me, and to others, that the man’s love interests were younger women, as she herself was somewhat older than him. This situation continued, and from my interactions with this woman, it was clear that she was no longer together with the man. She was obviously saddened by this.

 

We did not speak much about her situation regarding the man, but I did bring to her attention some of the archetypal trappings of an older woman-younger man relationship, and that, if her heart was set on him for a devoted and concentrated companion, she should be aware that she might be easily hurt. I did not advise her to steer away from him; only to be aware of the potential archetypal pattern, and to see her passion also from that perspective. 

 

All during this time we had been rehearsing, working the scene to try and enter the feeling of its intimacy. At a certain point, she and I spoke about the energy that was between us in rehearsal, and together we owned that, though it was palpable, it was not the stuff of a destined romantic or sexually intimate relationship. In a very mature and beautiful way, we shared together the sweetness of knowing the parameters of whatever feeling was between us, and were grateful simply to play the scene. Over all of the months of our rehearsal, I never met with her outside of a scheduled rehearsal time, never went on a date, talked to her only once or twice on the telephone; certainly never kissed her, in “life” or in rehearsal—indeed, I took a kiss out of the script because I thought it would create the possibility for misinterpretation.

 

In time, these two turned toward each other, as lovers, again, exactly in what capacity and timing I am not sure. I was happy to imagine them getting back together. But in the course of their coming together, the woman spoke to the man about my warnings regarding the archetypal pattern that can sometimes manifest in such situations. The man felt deeply betrayed, and he mistook her retelling of this counsel as evidence of an attempt to discredit him in order for me to win her romantic affection, and essentially to take his place. But none of that was true; I did not have romantic or sexual intentions toward this woman, and we had already come to understand that the limited feeling was mutual, despite a real fondness, infused with the experience of the play. Indeed, as I witnessed the enduring quality of her passion for him, I encouraged her to be with him, repeating that if she loved him truly, she was meant to be with him, come what may.

 

These events dovetailed in time with the first defamer’s crisis and inversion, and under that influence, in combination with the assumptions and misrepresentations of erotic intention, the woman and the man seemed to bond over the idea that I was consciously manipulating the situation to my own end. 

 

In this atmosphere of unsteady allegiances and frayed trust, these two individuals joined the first defamer in the creation of the defamatory website. The three of them made a concerted effort to contact any student who might have had the least grievance with me, in any capacity whatsoever, over the course of 25 years of teaching, encouraging them to make anonymous written statements on the website that would harm my reputation.


 

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM THE EVENT

 

At the time of this situation, I was a debut theater director, and SACRA, the company, was an amateur group of actors. A theater of immanence, which is the poetics of SACRA theater, means, in short, an extreme personalism of the role one is playing, which is not the same as a literal or absolute identification with that role. That distinction is a deeply nuanced artistic tension, and, as a debut director, I did not understand the degree of artistic maturity necessary to embody immanent playing. I imagined, naively, that amateur actors could explore aspects of their characters to great and challenging depths, without a literal transference of the narrative upon their sense of themselves as persons.

 

Additionally, all of the members of the theater company were students of mine studying across a broad range of ontological and spiritual subjects. The requirements for such didactic study, and the requirements for artistic exploration, especially experimental theater, are vastly different. There is a certain kind of trust, a timeworn container based on a proper authority, between a teacher and a student, that is qualitatively different from the artistic and experimental collegiality required of a theater company. I now feel that it is potentially problematic to have students as members of the theater company, inasmuch as those different valuations can collide, as they seem to have for these individuals, causing bewilderment and dismay.

 

I understand this young man’s dismay. The erotic economies must have seemed pulled out from under his feet. For his teacher to essentially assure him that she [his teacher] would not interfere with his erotic life, on the one hand, at the beginning, and then, when the man’s affections turned to other women, and the loss of focus on the first woman seemed to break her heart, for that same teacher to seem to criticize him, as if she [the teacher] was in competition with him, when before she had praised him and promised to him her essential lack of interference—this must have been destabilizing, and I am very sorry he had to experience that. Again, the situation is complex, the misreadings easy to understand. But there is a reality underneath that complexity that is concrete, which I have explained above.

 

If I were to imagine living it over again, I would have met with the two of them together, asked them point blank the nature of their relationship, asked the man what his intentions were toward her, and asked them both, together and in person, whether they were comfortable with the situation at hand, and what, if not, they would like to do to change it. 

 

As with the first defamer, I wish only for these two to have extraordinary lives, for they are individuals of quality and sincerity.


 

THE THIRD DEFAMER: MY FORMER PARTNER

 

The preceding information explains the situations and persons involved in the creation of the defamatory platform. For someone such as myself, who has never been on social media, and who lives a life of privacy, concentrated, particular love, silence, and study, the pain of being lied about in the infinity of the infosphere is simply indescribable. But by far the most intense pain comes recently, with the advent of the break-up with the aforementioned partner, the one with whom I reunited after nearly a year’s separation. 

 

We were together essentially for ten years, in a monogamous, deeply devoted relationship that encompassed all of our beings, our pasts, and our hopes for the future. We have untold pages upon pages of love letters describing the processes of our intimacy, our gratitude, our astonishment at the healing and the beauty and the power of our consummations—and a thousand times as many hours of conversation. Alongside those consummations, we had much strife, for many reasons, and this is not the place to outline the admixture of symmetries and asymmetries of our souls. But suffice it to say that our love was large and true and fierce and committed and consensual and respectful and tender, for all of those years. 

 

In May of 2021 we finally broke up, understanding, together, and in the profoundest grief, that the pain of our disharmonies was more formidable, and more inalienable, than the fulfillment of our consummations. In August of 2021, I began a romantically intimate relationship with a woman who had been an increasingly close friend, and an artistic partner, over the course of the previous year. My now ex-partner, with whom I was at this time in a deep, warm, and supportive friendship, upon discovering that I had moved on in my intimate life, not only attacked me physically, but  incurred a radical inversion of feeling and perception, nay, of reality itself, regarding everything that heretofore we perceived as sacred in our life together. Much as with the friend that I have described above, though of a scale so much larger and more penetrating, because of the long and deep love we had shared, they turned love to hatred literally overnight. They repeatedly told me that they were going to devote themself to destroying my life. They said that they would support all of the lies on the defamatory website, and actively spread those lies, which lies before now they had found appalling in their heinousness, distortion, and fabrication. Indeed, they had defended me against them more fiercely than anyone, knowing me as they did, and knowing, therefore, how constitutionally incapable I was of committing any such infractions. But in their pain-altered state, they now vowed to contribute their own fabrications, about my being and our history, to the very same website which they had sought to eliminate through legal counsel which they had researched and found on my behalf. Their own pain in the face of the incontrovertible fact of our permanent break-up found, in other words, a correlative of satisfaction in the immediate ability to hurt me terribly. They knew, in other words, that the power of their unique intimacy with me would have tremendous currency in the ability to administer pain upon my person and reputation, through the readymade platform of defamation. 

 

Currently, they are nearly single-handedly, mostly anonymously, spearheading the attacks on my person and reputation, scouring the internet and contacting whatever persons or boards are sponsoring my offerings and lying to them about my person, and directing them to the defamatory website, all in an attempt, as they said, to “destroy [my] life.” They have even illegally hijacked my Google profile, effectively locking me out of my own business, and using their own words to speak on that profile, as if they were me admitting to the false accusations. They have even hacked the profile to the extent that it is now rerouted to the very defamatory website in question, and have denied my formal requests to regain access. Their own slanderous “testimonial,” which now tops the series of comments on the website, inverts every single sacred aspect of my person or our relationship, from our intimate life, to my own biography, even to my hallowed relationship with my dear dog.  

 

But is a soul, a life, destroyable in this way? No. If I have had a steep learning curve with regard to my failures of judgement, as I have described above, I have had an equally steep learning curve about the power of truth. To know the truth of the life that I have lived with this person, of my care, of my love, of their love for me, of the constancy of nurturance, the respect, the abetting of each other toward our respective fruitions; to know how I tried to care for the young man and woman in the theater, as I have described above; to know how I have failed them to a degree, as I have described; to know the deeply altruistic hope that I had for the first defamer’s healing, and how I never took advantage of her affections, but always steered her gently back to the truth of our friendship—to know these things in every contour and corner of my soul is a grace that is indestructible. For a life is truly destroyed only when the soul of that life turns against itself—only when the soul judges its own substance as deceitful, sordid, willfully cruel, and ungrateful—not when someone extrinsic to one’s soul lies about one, no matter how much damage that incurs. 

 

My life is not destroyed, for the values by which I live have only been reinforced by the brutality of this analogue of evil that I am experiencing through these lies and attacks, fueled mostly now by my own ex-partner. The heartbreak that this incurs is of course indescribable. But this kind of “destruction,” the destruction that stems from anger and bitterness, the destruction that refuses to incorporate the complexity of love which must sometimes incur heartbreak and transformation—this is not the kind of destruction that has the power to actually destroy someone. Only my own soul can know how to destroy me. And, terribly thankfully, in the light of all of this defamation, and because these lies are just that, lies, my own soul is only my further, deeper friend, and my closest ally.


 

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM THE EVENT

 

I don’t know, I don’t know what I have learned from this situation; it is too soon for me to tell. The incomprehensibility of such an immediate and radical change regarding such a committed and devoted relationship, over such a long period of time, has dumbfounded my sensibility. Perhaps in time I will understand that I have learned something extraordinary about love itself. I am not sure. I can say that I have learned that love does not die entirely, even under the weight of the most brutal distortions. I have learned that what love I gave and received in this relationship is still mine to have given and to have received; that history is not altered, despite the staggering incomprehensibility of the present. All the memories of a shared understanding of love remain with me. They form a kind of prayer for the consecration of love itself. I suppose I have learned that one does not have to even forgive, so long as one holds to what love once was, so long as one has no recourse to diminish one’s love. In this way I suppose that I have learned that love is eternal. 


THE SMATTERING OF OTHER DEFAMERS

 

These persons aforementioned and the situations I have described represent the primary movers of the defamations. The irony is that, on the defamatory website, aside from the top post, which is recent and from my ex-partner, the two or three most inflammatory contributions seem to come, at least ostensibly, not from these foundational defamers but rather from some of those students who were contacted or solicited. I say ostensibly, for when a website publishes writings by anonymous authors, registering complaints without the accountability of their persons, no one can say for sure who wrote those “testimonials.” But whoever they may be, I need to say with absolute clarity that the accusations are blatantly false. For never have I groped anyone in any of my classes, never have I lasciviously watched someone touch their own erogenous zones, never have I fondled anyone’s genitalia in the middle of martial arts classes, or lingered in the bathroom to lewdly glance at women undressing. All my teaching has taken place in a single, crowded room, and any such actions would surely have been seen by more than these few individuals; no one, in other words, would study with me—and rightfully so—if anything like this had ever happened in our classes.

 

Why would people lie like this? Who can say. Perhaps the tensions that the radical reach of my teachings can incur on the soul might produce, in some very few individuals, the need to fantasize my own reprehensibility in order to somehow accommodate their own inability to absorb or assimilate the responsibility that the work of transformation demands. But that is only a conjecture. Another conjecture might be that the transgender body seems to offer itself to the shadow of convention as a scapegoat for fears. But whatever the reasons, the most important thing for anyone reading this to understand is that none of these things happened. My classes have always been devoid of any sexual infraction or ambient of lasciviousness. The container has been risky in its philosophical, emotional, spiritual, and experiential reach, but always my personal comportment has been of integrity in this regard. 

Lastly, please know that I have always been, and continue to be, utterly available for any questions regarding anything to do with this subject. Please feel free to contact me at: zhenevere@zheneveresophiadao.com

There is a TESTIMONIALS page on this website. If any students, former or present—for I have had thousands of students over more than 25 years of teaching—if any of you reading this description feel compelled to corroborate in testimony what I have said about my personal comportment as a teacher, and the kinds of atmospheres I create and steward, your words might be useful to the untold numbers of persons who have never studied with me, and who are therefore the targets of these defamations, not ever having met me or even been in a room with me. There is a testimonial submit form at the bottom of the TESTIMONIALS page.

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