Back in 2009, Shannon Larratt, lost the once famous web site BME (Body Modification E-zine) he created. I seized the “moment”, or turning point i should call it, to ask a fallen king the outlook he might have on a world he once ruled. This interview was published on two different blogs the same year. Time passing, I see a few people are trying to re-write the history and the so called “community” is reproducing the same mistake – creating a norm one should follow if he wants to be accepted, perhaps not to be banned. So I decided to re-publish this interview. An important message to the new generation(s) and a tribute to Shannon’s memory – RIP.
Lukas Zpira : Hi Shannon. You created in 1995 (correct ?!) BME which has become and still is to this day the website of reference
for body modification, from the very extreme to the more basic. How did it begin and what is your background ?
Shannon Larratt : I founded BME in late 1994. At the time I was working as a computer programmer developing community software for interactive telephone systems, and I had just gotten a job making body jewelry at Stainless Studios, where I got to work with the highly influential piercer Tom Brazda. BME was started as a personal site because I wanted a place to talk about what I was interested in, and I discovered that other people felt the same way, and the whole thing snowballed.
LZ : What role did the virtual community IAM have in the evolution of this scene ?
SL : IAM was formed when most of the activities in the body modification world already existed, but IAM definitely acted as an accelerate, creating an insulated environment in which things moved very quickly… On IAM fringe activities would go from “really far out, even in BME-land” to mainstream in a matter of months, and because IAM had such a high percentage of influential body artists as members, these subcultural changes entered the “real world” not long afterwards.
LZ : There was through BME a certain mimicry effect. The artists were influencing each other and the people interested were copying what they saw on the website. We could almost say that there was a kind of BME style imposed within this community. What are your thoughts on this phenomena ?
SL : I think it’s very true that there was a phenomena of mimicry (and amplified mimicry where the mimic would try and out-do the person they were inspired by). Even though we were a culture that embraced individualism, there did at times seem to be a “dress code”. It always bothered me — and still bothers me — that there are so few strong and unique voices in this community. But I suppose in all fields on all subjects, only a small percentage of people are leaders and trend-setters…
LZ : Don’t you think that some people have taken too big of a leap and have gone through very radical modifications in order to exist within this community ?
SL : One of the side effects of IAM, was that it gave us the illusion of a supportive community. People could spend time on IAM and get the impression that the whole world was on their side — that what we were doing was “normal” and “acceptable”. I think this made it easier for some people to push their journeys farther than what they were really comfortable with, and as a result there were some people who found themselves in difficult situations that they couldn’t handle…
I hate to think about it, but I think BME shares some responsibility in a couple of suicides, where BME helped convince people it was a good idea to modify themselves far past what they were personally ready for in the real world. I think it was hard for people to be held up as heroes on BME, and then get beat down by the flesh-and-blood humans they interacted with on a daily basis. Of course this is ultimately the person’s own responsibility — and the fault lies with a cruel and unaccepting world — but it definitely haunts me.
LZ : What about the practitioners performing these extremely radical body modifications on some people without any consideration to the consequences, weren’t they doing these just so that they could get recognition and acquire status ?
SL : I’m sure there is some truth to the idea that some practitioners were just pushing boundaries to get noticed, and I think it’s unfortunate. When I got into body modification I was living on a farm in the country, and there were no studios or body modification media that I had access to, let alone people who’d cheer you on — I grew up in a vacuum. So for me, my interest in body modification is intuitive and instinctual. I wish it was like that for everyone, but that’s something we’ve lost. I think body modification is best when it’s a true expression of the self — when it’s a reflection of what you think others want from you, then I think you’re allowing yourself to be oppressed on a very profound level.
LZ : Wasn’t it a dangerous choice to privilege and put forth the most extreme modifications rather than the most artistic ?
SL : “Most artistic” is of course a very subjective judgment! I put forward and showcased the modifications that appealed to me personally. I don’t think it’s fair to say that I gave priority to “extreme” over “artistic” — I gave priority to what I liked. Of course my own personality and the personality of the site were deeply interlinked, so I can understand that it might seem like what you’ve characterized in your question.
LZ : You were often reproached of managing the site in a dictatorial way and there were some significant conflicts like Steve getting banned from IAM or people doing everything they could to be in your good books and get favorable position on the site and specially on modblog. How do you respond to your detractors ?
SL : What happened with Steve was wrong, and the breakdown of my relationship with Steve is one of my big regrets. Steve was a responsible practitioner, far more so than most, to say nothing of what an important pioneer he was. He was caught up in a completely unfair witch-hunt. I feel terrible about the way he was treated.
As to the general trend of being a dictator, BME came about as an act of will on my part, as much as it was also a community effort, and to maintain that personal vision, a “dictatorial” approach was the right way to run it. The problem was that when I started to have personal problems, those problems were experienced by the site as well.
LZ : The scene has evolved considerably between 2000 and now, a lot of things went from being completely underground to mainstream. How do you perceive this evolution. What role did BME, IAM, MODBLOG or even BME encyclopedia play ?
SL : It’s amazing how much things have gone mainstream. Truly unbelievable! BME played a central role in this societal transformation by being a beacon that drew together enough people to give the movement critical mass, and to lead the way and encourage the growth of this community, and to give it legitimacy. I think without BME (or some similar site) the body modification world would be a very different — and much smaller — place.
LZ : Surely you have come across some very interesting and intriguing things or characters throughout this period, which ones come to mind ?
SL : I’ve met so many fascinating people, but for me, I am most interested in male genital modification, because as a general rule, it’s the most “pure”… The most free of outside influence, and the most instinctual. I’ve been posting many of my interviews on that subject at bodmodsex.com and it’ll end up in a book later this year.
LZ : How do you think the body modification world will evolve? What are the major tendencies coming up ?
SL : I think body modification is at a stasis point right now — not that much is changing, and there’s not that much new to be added. This coupled with the mainstreaming of body modification I suspect will kill off most of body modification other than tattooing — piercing is certainly already a fraction of what it was a decade ago. A lot of what made body modification special on a cultural level has been irreversibly lost — in many ways our success has been our failure.
LZ : For a while there was a rumour going around that you had been offered 1.9 million to sell BME but that you had refused in order to keep some integrity…true or false ?
SL : Well, I did end up selling the site for a significant amount of money, but it wasn’t a matter of integrity… I didn’t really have any choice in the matter. Basically I was so far in debt from defending myself legally that I had to choose between selling the site or declaring bankruptcy. It didn’t matter that I had a “winning” case in proving that I was the owner of the site (that was the core of the legal dispute — the claim that I was only a “figurehead” and not the actual owner or force behind the site). One of the things I discovered is that if someone else has more money than you and are willing to spend it on lawyers, “right and wrong” are not very important!
LZ : Was BME a profitable website? if so how much? were the donations considerable ?
SL : BME was hugely profitable. That said, because I trusted others to manage my finances, I was under the impression that BME was barely breaking even though it really was a license to print money. I was much more interested in BME on a creative level than a business level.
LZ : BME has moved several times between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Why is that ?
SL : The BME “offices” always moved with me since I did the work out of my home. No special meaning there. As to the server moves between Canada and the US, this was primarily due to concerns about prosecution — related to both obscenity and age-related records-keeping laws — in the US, which has cheaper webhosting than Canada, but stricter laws. In the earlier days, moves were also dictated by who was offering me free hosting (before BME was a commercial business that paid its own bills).
LZ : There was recently within the BME community somewhat of a “putsch” in which you found yourself ejected from the site. How did this happen? I know that you don’t have access to the site anymore and i’ve noticed that those who have taken your place are re-writing the history of BME and minimizing your implication and the role you played. Is this correct ?
SL : The “ejection” happened for two main reasons — anger and greed. Anger is what fuels the rewriting of the history and the vitriol against me that exists on the site.
The lawsuit was rather surreal as well, with BME being used against me… Claims to the effect of “anyone who supports the sort of thing that BME is about is clearly too crazy to run a successful business like BME” were presented in order to further the idea that I was just a “mascot”. Many of my diary entries, pictures of my own body modifications, and so on were used to paint a very negative picture of me to the conservative legal system. It’s ironic, because I remember one of the first articles I published, in 1995, was about a husband whose wife used their mutual interest in body piercing to paint him very successful as an unstable abuser and took him for everything he had in their divorce.
LZ : What are you doing at the moment? Where are you at now in the projects you had on the go in which many people were involved like the film you had started which was suppose to come out a while back ?
SL : I’m limited by legal contract in what I can do unfortunately — I wish I was able to have more of a role in the body modification world. But I’m working on print projects (some of which is documented on bodmodsex.com and my personal blog at zentastic.com) in the body modification arena, as well as working on my art in general, and various other projects. The one good thing about the sale of the site is that it gives me some time to relax and explore my options… And of course to enjoy being a father. When the legal process started, we were basically told that the likely outcome was that “one of you will get the business, and the other will get your daughter” — my priority was always to make sure that my daughter continued living with me.
LZ : What can you say about your personal development throughout the years running BME? Are the people who were close to you at the time still are ?
SL : The “ejection” has truly showed me who was my friend and who wasn’t. It’s been very interesting learning that — seeing people who I thought were old friends spread really nasty lies about me. But it’s also been nice seeing who my real friends are, and that’s the side of that coin I’ve tried to focus on. I still have many friends from the early days of BME that I am very close with. Many of them have been pushed off BME as well.
LZ : If you could do it all over again, what would you change ?
SL : The main thing I regret was not getting treatment for the tumor in my leg (which admittedly I didn’t know I had). As a result of being constantly in pain, I became a heavy user of marijuana, which had a number of devastating side effects.
First, it made me far too trusting and reliant on others — and I chose the wrong people to trust and rely on. Because I trusted others to help me with the financial aspects of the site — managing them completely — I let people who saw BME as a business steal it from me bit by bit, which outside of the personal loss to me, has meant a huge loss to the community in general and I worry will ultimately mean the death of the site, or at least see it change into something very different from what I’d envisioned. It’s been very difficult watching the site lose its way, and being forced to stay silent — I’m legally forbidden from blogging about body modification or running anything “competing”.
Second, and in some ways worse than the loss of the site, I allowed myself to be influenced by the negativity and cliquism of those around me because I wasn’t standing up for myself emotionally. It was more important to me to feel like those immediately around me were “on my side” and there for me than to do what I felt was right. This meant that I went along with the vendetta against Steve Haworth, and that I went along with the vendetta against you when BME published the deeply unfair review of your book — I feel absolutely terrible at both of these betrayals, and others. I went along with attacks on members of the community on far too many occasions. It is a huge regret.
I have a lot of things from the five or so years that I was a heavy pot smoker that I’m ashamed of, but letting go of control of the things I cared about, and letting them be corrupted by other people’s anger and greed are the worst ones. If I could do things over again, this is what I would address.
That said, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve got a really great life. Sure, there’s things that I’d do differently and things that I regret, but I don’t regret where I’ve ended up in life, and I’m a very lucky and very blessed person.
LZ : You certainly heard about Andrew Niland’s case who’s been arrested in Canada for having performed a labia reduction on a consenting adult. In Japan there is a piercer in jail for illegal practices. Toro, another piercer is prosecuted in France for having done a suspension for a TV show on a minor but with his mother’s consent, i also had a trial (fortunately i won the case) for a scarification i did on a minor who showed up with a false mother. What do you think of this repressive attitude found at a international level? I always thought that the work of re-appropriation of the body was a political action… do you agree with that
SL : I agree completely. If we do not own our bodies — if we can be prosecuted for manipulations of our own bodies or those of consenting individuals — then we are slaves. There is no right more fundamental than the ownership of ones own body.
…. Less than an hour after i put up Shannon Larratt’s interview online i received a message from Rachel Larratt, accusing me of spreading lies. I therefore suggested that she reply via an interview which she accepted to do. Ironically i’ve yet to receive any answers from her except some pretexts saying that my questions were incomprehensible and unclear (after consulting with her “friends”) and that she didn’t have time to answer.
So after almost 2 months of waiting, I decided to post the questions as such. That was 6 years ago. To date my questions regarding this topic remain unanswered and we never had any debate … I was banned and removed from the “community’s” history.
to Rachel :
“Let us situate things. My interview with Shannon was in no way an attack against you nor did i seek to take sides in this conflict.Shannon and i are far from being the best of friends but even though the mutual respect we have for each other is undeniable, our opinions and views have often been on opposite sides of the scale. i don’t need to prove my impartiality.
It seemed necessary to hear out what Shannon had to say, not only about this conflict which feeds the internet with a good amount of gossip, although there is much to say about that. No, this was not my goal. Considering the extent of the history of our “movement” (if i can call it that) this ordeal will most likely be anecdotal in a few years from now . My point was simply to seize the “moment”, or turning point i should call it, to ask a fallen king the outlook he might have on a world he once ruled. So let me take your reaction as an opportunity to continue this assessment.
Only one thing really surprises me, why hasn’t anyone done it already ?”
– what is BME for you. From the time you first got involved right up until now, what has been your journey like within the site, the community and all that gravitates around it ?
– What brought on the eviction of Shannon and how was he perceived by the BME staff just before his departure ?
-Shannon’s ownership of the website was common knowledge but it was called into question. How was this possible ?
-There has been a strong change of current within BME since about a year now and the modblog articles are becoming more and more consensual. Which direction is the new BME heading ?
-A rather large number of BME members have gone as far as getting the BME logo tattooed or scarred. What are your thoughts on these people and on the ones who have helped impose these aesthetic standards? What do you think the future holds for them and what place do they have in the new BME community ?
– Don’t you think that some people have taken too big of a leap and have gone through very radical modifications in order to exist within this community? What about the practitioners performing these extremely radical body modifications on some people without any consideration to the consequences also in order to exist within this community ?
– IAM seems to be shutting itself out from the exterior world and its will to be communitarian ever since its creation has somewhat turned it into a ghetto, perhaps a lot of members feel that the site doesn’t correspond to them anymore and are now turning to more open social networks such as myspace and Facebook. Even BME is present on both of these platforms. What are your views on this ?
-I am truly surprised by the lack of support given to Andrew Niland**, which let me remind you as been two month in jail for body modification practices, and i am equally surprised to see the topic deleted from modblog – I posted 3 similar cases, 1 in Japan and 2 in France. Shouldn’t this “community” be entitled to a bit more support ?
– Substantial debates are a rarity considering the seriousness of body modifications and their implications. Of course there are some interesting interviews but unfortunately they tend to focus more on technical aspects (then what follows is mostly bickering) rather than fundamental questioning. Why so little assertiveness in opinions? When will we see on bmeblog a posts that will raise more than just another onomatopoeia or trigger comments that exceed 10 words ?
-I am one of those who worry about the normalization of body modifications. We are rapidly entering a type of consensus which i believe is taking on a form of totalitarianism that dictates a vision of body modification that is clean and smooth along with a displayed determination to fit in the established order. I am thinking particularly of APP, BMX etc..which are often set up more out of corporatist protectionism motivated by economical reasons than anything else (this says as a philosophical point of view). Isn’t the goal of these practices a certain type of self examination and questioning ?
-Is BME a good business? What are the stakes of this coup d’état? And my last question to you is; You are surrounded by a lot of people and amongst these people are some who betrayed Shannon. Are you not afraid of what we could call the “Caesars’s Curse” ?
**2 weeks before his trail, Andrew killed himself… this interview was already online since 4 months. Rachel never reacted publicly about that, BME has never supported the case…
Finita, la commedia
As the saying goes, “by the time you read this I’ll be dead.” Caitlin has probably posted it by my request, or it’s been posted as part of a dead-man switch. I have known this was coming for years, at times even hoped for it, and most of that time I haven’t ever been afraid of it, although as it’s grown closer I’ve felt equal parts dread and relief, with a little bit of panic mixxed in. I wish I could have lived much, much longer as there is still so much I want to do and see and be a part of, although in the time I had I could not have asked for a more wonderful life. I’ve had the opportunity to do remarkable things, see my dreams made real and changed the world and the lives of many for the better, loved and been loved, and have an amazing daughter who I hope will have her own wonderful life. My biggest sadness is not being able to be a part of more of it, and I have spent many days in tears trying to figure out a way to squeeze more meaningful time out of this life. There’s just so much more I want to do — and I think everyone knows I’ve done a lot. But not enough. If I knew my live was going to be this short, I would have pushed harder, not frittered so much of it away. I wish I’d seized every single opportunity, not just “many of them”, thinking “I can do that next year.” I’ve always thought that for me the “undiscovered country” was in the Star Trek sense of the word — that is, the glorious future — but instead I’ve gotten stuck with Hamlet’s “undiscovered country”, or death: “But that the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns, puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of?”
The last three or four years have been a daily struggle, beginning with a multi-layered pain made up of a never-ending, never-lulling dull throbbing from the core of my muscles beginning in my legs and eventually spreading out over my entire body, coupled with a constant burning sensation in my skin that made it impossible for me to feel anyone’s touch without it being a bitter agony. I held out hope that a treatment for the pain if not a cure could be found, but every difficult diagnostic step only confirmed the degenerative condition replacing healthy tissue with junk calcium was incurable, and every new attempt to treat the pain only emphasized that it was inescapable. Not only that, but every day it grew. As impossibly painful every day of this process has been, it has been made more difficult by knowing that the next day will always be worse, and every day that goes by I have less defences against a more powerful foe. There was a time that I believed that I could cope with the unending pain, but then the pain’s root began catching up to me as less and less healthy muscle tissue remained. Every day I could walk a little less. Carry a little less. Use my hands a little less. Bit by bit it chipped away at me. As I write this even standing up is indescribably painful, even sitting up, and the idea of walking nightmarish, although I have done my best to hide it and keep it buried. In addition to the muscles breaking down, neurological and autonomic problems have been creeping up, either because of the condition itself or because of the treatment. I’ve certainly said this before, but I don’t feel like I have the strength to keep trying less and less likely options. My mind is the only thing I have left. This has actually been written over several months as I try and assemble it in small pieces while I have enough lucidity to do so. The remainders of my days feel emptier and intellectually lonelier — I can’t begin to describe the horror of going from a voracious reader and consumer of knowledge to someone who looks at a page full of words and sees only a hash of lines and shapes, devoid of real meaning. In any case, I’m done. I’m tired out. I don’t want to do this any more. I have had a very good life, but it’s not good any more.
I do admit that the closest I come to any sense of “life after death” is my nagging suspicion that we’re living in a simulation… I don’t know that I buy the statistical argument (since there is only one “real” reality, and a huge number of simulations, we are almost certainly in a simulation), because it makes so many big assumptions, but there are other convincing hints — the quantized nature of reality, so of the weirdness at the edges of perception, and so on, to say nothing of how “special” life feels. If such a thing is true, I don’t know if perception continues outside of the simulation. I doubt it to be honest. But thinking about such things makes me value both the unreality of existence, the interconnectedness of consciousness, how temporary existence is, and also how permanent and real it is, if that makes any sense… I do hope there’s “more”, but I have accepted the likelihood that there isn’t, and find comfort in both. And really, if it’s a simulation, I have no idea of you just blip out of existence and get your data set analyzed, or if there’s some eternal being that actually experiences your life post-life, as if waking from a dream or playing a game, or if we reboot in some technological reincarnation. We’re all the centre of our universe. That is, right now I feel I could be the only sentience in world filled NPCs. But if you’re reading this, and I’m gone, well, then I guess I was the NPC and you’re the only true consciousness, haha. Naw, I don’t really think any of think on any serious level but I do enjoy thinking about it. And to be clear, as a “no doubts” atheist, I am quite firmly rooted in reality the majority of the time.
I have mixed feelings about the medical treatment that I’ve received. From everything I have seen and understand, I don’t believe that anything could have been done to fundamentally “cure” me (although I suspect that cures for these sorts of genetic conditions will come in a decade or two — I wish I could have made it that long). This condition is what it is, and it was probably fated for me the day I was born. On the positive side, I was given genetic gifts that made me uniquely qualified to achieve the things I did (and again — I wish I had done more), so I really can’t justly complain that I got some bad with the good. But I do believe that there were fundamental shortcomings in the way both my condition and my pain was treated, and that the last few years could have been much more pleasant if the pain had been more aggressively managed. I believe this was in part because of the prejudice of multiple doctors due to my appearance causing them to stereotype me as drug seeking (and the simple reality is that it can be hard to tell, and we are so cruel as to prefer to “punish” the sick than to “reward” the mentally ill). I wish there was some way to make those doctors understand the cruelty they enacted. A patient should have the right to a pain free life, even if that comes with some risk. I understand that doctors are pressured due to our “war on drugs” mentality, but I don’t think all the blame should go on the politicians. In some ways it’s pointless to second guess any of that now because what’s done is done, but the other side of that coin is that countless others in Canada and abroad are going through this right now even if I’ve escaped it. As to the shortcomings in treating my core disease — I’d say that I’ve had virtually no treatment, and unfortunately that is true for almost every sufferer of rare genetic myopathies around the world. Support groups online are horriffic. So I don’t think this is a problem with Canada per se, just that when it comes to genetic diseases, I’m just a little too early in history still. I have also felt very alone when it comes to end-of-life counselling. For a lot of this process I have felt very alone — really, I think the only person who’s really been able to understand it is Caitlin because she’s the only person that’s seen it all first hand and in private with guards down. The last medical thing I want to mention is that I want to strongly advocate for “right to die” legislation. Canada currently has no such thing. It is my strong believe that if I had known that there was a “safe”, pain-free way for me to go at a time of my choosing, hopefully at home surrouded by love, it would have brought me not just enormous peace, but I believe would have given me strength to fight this even longer than I have. As Isaac Asimov said, “No decent human being would allow an animal to suffer without putting it out of its misery. It is only to human beings that human beings are so cruel as to allow them to live on in pain, in hopelessness, in living death, without moving a muscle to help them.” And this is how I have felt for a long time now, trapped in this nightmarish prison of pain. Losing my motor skills hasn’t been fun either, but the pain is the worst part. After writing that I can’t help but think of Keats. I really do hope people will one day have as much right to control their deaths as to control their lives — it is in many ways, the fundamental human right, even more fundamental than thought and self-expression.
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain–
To thy high requiem become a sod.
It’s hard not to quote the whole thing — take the time to read it if you don’t know it — and while these days I’ve been feeling more like the author of the poem, at times when I am able to get my head over water, I wonder if there is a part of me that is more nightingale’s song than sod… Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music: —-do I wake or sleep?
As I mentioned, as an atheist, I am thoroughly convinced that this is the literal end of my adventures, and again, I do find some comfort in that, knowing that my suffering is over. But I was also raised on stories, and I believe that real immortality comes from the stories that are told about you and your life and the way your deeds live on in the lives of others. I have some worries about the process of dying (that it will hurt, or that it will “go wrong” in some way), but I have no fear of death itself in part because I know that the life I chose allowed me to have a special role in changing the course of human civilization — as egotistical or even petty as that may sound, especially if you’re in the group of people that sees body modification as “just another fashion”. Perhaps it’s petty or vain to give body modification such significance, but there’s never been a point in human history where individuals have had this level of self-expressive control over their morphology and physical decorations. The work that I was a part of enriched changed the lives of millions of people for the better (and yes, a few for the worse, but I have no doubt it was a dramatic net positive), and probably even saved the lives of thousands. A friend told me once that my role was that of a “catalyst” — that I started fires inside people that helped them to change themselves (or become themselves) in positive way. I feel so lucky to have found myself in that position, and I want to offer my heartfelt thanks for everyone who made that possible. And I’d like to think that even though I was a big puzzle piece in body modification, that I was a smaller but still important puzzle piece in a larger movement of people from all sorts of diffierent subcultures fighting for mutual support in a diverse patheon of self-expression and dream chasing. I soemtimes regret that I never finished my memoir. I suppose if there’s interest in it in the future, Caitlin has all my notes for it, all my blogs, all my personal photos and videos, to say nothing of the many people who could contribute stories, so if there’s a place for it, I’m sure it will happen. If not, well, let me smile thinking that there is and let that illusion return to dust as I do.
In any case, on body modification, I hope that others will continue this mission. For a while I thought that BME was no longer needed, that its core mission had been achieved. But when I started blogging on the subject again last year, it became clear to me that while there were many, many sites and people posting body modification media, there are very few people providing the mix of community support, political activism, and hard information that BME always strove for. I think that BME can still provide that, but it’s not going to happen without a lot of good people stepping up to help, because it’s clearly having trouble keeping its head over water for a broad range of reasons. For a long time the body modification community, while deeply isolated from the mainstream in a way that may be hard for younger people today to really relate to, had a wonderful sense of solidarity — a sense that we’re all in this together, a sense of all supporting each other’s personal paths, from the subtle to the extreme — but now it feels like there’s infighting and intra-community prejudice. We once all worked together to better ourselves and share our experiences — for example the creation of BME’s various knowledge-bases (birthed from the earlier Usenet FAQs) that brought the world level-headed accurate information on modifications and their risks, as well as the thousands of detailed “experiences” that people wrote — whereas now it seems like the majority of modification media is just about posting pictures, devoid of any real stories or information, reducing them to visual pornography for people to “cheer and jeer” at. All of these changes have slowly eaten away at the character of the body modification community and changed it in subtle and unpleasant ways. I do think this is a fixable problem though, and I have talked to many, many wonderful people (both artists and enthusiasts) who have a strong passion for body modification that I am sure could be part of a restoration effort. I truly hope they will fight to keep changing the world for the better. I still believe that BME is the best place to use as a home for this due to the invaluable content it contains and the inertia it has (and I hope Rachel will accept the help that is offered), but this change has to be bigger than BME as well. I hope that everyone will use their voice for good — if you see something interesting, try and post it along with information about it (or even do a five-question interview), speak out against prejudice and support people’s self-expression, even if it’s not something you would ever want to do or can even relate to, and support the best parts of the industry. Sometimes people give me credit for the things BME achieved, but the reality is that whatever role as a guide or catalyst I played is nothing in comparison to the community as a whole — the little contributions we each made added up into something colossally beautiful. That needs to keep happening. I could go on and on, but I’ve accepted that the time has come for me to rest. I am so proud of everything we have achieved together and I want to see it go on forever. I believe in the good in this community and the importance of our contribution to the human spirit. It would be a very sad thing for this mission to grind to a halt.
My only real regrets lie with not being able to spend more time with those who stay on… My pain is over now, I hope that those who remain can find some solace in knowing that I’m not suffering any more. I wish I could have given them more and especially when it comes to Caitlin and my daughter I feel like they’ve both given me so much more than I could ever return. Caitlin suffered through my immature years, and when things finally started falling into place for us, it all got taken away so cruelly, and she has suffered alongside me though all of this. I owe her more than I could ever explain here and love her so much. And my daughter is probably singlehandedly responsible for turning me into a mature person, and is the reason I’ve held on for as long as I have. No one have I loved more. I would have given up years ago if it weren’t for hoping to spend more time with her. That brings me to one last thing that may be in bad taste. I’ve dedicated my life to helping build and protect the world of body modification and self-expression in general. Even though I was only a small part of the community that ultimately deserves the majority credit, I’d like to believe that I’ve contributed in a unique way, and personally touched many lives for the better, and that the world would be a quite different place were it not for the specific flavor of the efforts I was catalytic in. Of course I have made many mistakes and at times missed my ideals due to my own shortcomings, but in general I’ve tried to help create a world where everyone could express themselves as felt right, and be the person that they imagined themselves to be. To push for people to make their dreams and passions come true, to find new paths to joy and fulfilment, to define a better sense of self and a sense of ones place in the cosmos, bound by awareness and intellectual honesty, caution while exploring the reckless, and mutual respect. I’ve tried to encourage people to uplift each other and be good to each other, especially when it comes to self-expression, and I hope I’ve made meaningful contributions to the so-called human condition. If I have touched your life in some positive way, and you feel you want to give something back to me personally, I am hoping that there are some among you who would be willing to contribute to a trust fund to support my daughter. The person I trust to manage this is Caitlin, who you can reach by email or PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, a few people have contacted me in the past asking for ashes for creamation art and body modification projects (ink rubbings, implants, and so on). Of course I’m not offended if everyone changes their mind, but I have to admit that I love the idea of living on in the artform (and community) that I’ve loved so much in such a way. Again, the right way to do that would be to contact Caitlin (I just mentioned her email), and ask her to send you some — just be willing to contribute to a share of the costs of cremation of course.
Thank you to everyone who made my life wonderful. I love you all. I wish there had been more of it, and I wish I had more to give. I’m sorry there is so much unfinished, so much left to do, but I am glad to know many wonderful people who will complete it. Last minute reflections and bits of advice… seize every opportunity that’s in front of you and live life to the fullest. Even with everything I’ve done, there is so much more I wish I’d squeezed in. Don’t let a single day (well, maybe a single day) be idle. Have every adventure you can, and explore every street — although treat the one-way streets with caution. Don’t fritter you life away into television, random browsing, and pointless substance abuse (I have at times been guilty of all of these) — although remember there are valid uses for them, both for growth and entertainment. Have passion about the future, and in the present. Especially if you’re young, push your education and your skills to their limits on every level. Don’t just graduate highschool, get a degree, get a doctorate if you can. I know these things aren’t for everyone, they they are for most, and they also open doors to some of the most special adventures. Even if you can’t afford proper schooling there are many, many ways to learn, free courses to volunteering, and so on. Value your health, and the health of our planet, and strive beyond its borders. We have such a glorious future, but never forget that your part in that future could end at any moment, so live a life that you can be pround of. And of course love and treat each other well.
As much as these last years have been the most difficult I can imagine, and there are still many deeds to be done, please know that I have had a wonderful adventure and enjoyed it immensely on the whole.
Live Long and Prosper!
Love always, Shannon Larratt