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Public eye: Danaka Kahn, 39

New York street interviews: Stories from the sidewalk as told by real New Yorkers about their lives in the city that never sleeps.

Photograph: Jay Muhlin

Washington Square Park

You getting some exercise? You could say that. In the past six months, as I started accepting myself, I fell in love with hooping.

All that mandatory hip-thrusting. Well, yeah! It opens everything up.

What do you mean, accepting yourself? I've been struggling with gender for years. I'd been confusing it with sexuality. A lot of the world doesn't seem to understand that gender and sexuality are two different things.

Break it down for us. Basically there is straight and gay, right? And a whole continuum there. The reality is that someone can be born in a male body and see themselves as more of a woman inside, but they can still be attracted to women. Even though when people see someone cross-dressing, they're like, Oh that guy is gay.

So that's you? Yeah, that's kind of where I fall: I don't really relate to either gender, but I've started to try to accept that and be myself. I kind of stopped caring in the past year. That was, like, the biggest thing.

How did you stop caring? Well, I do this form of chiropractic care called Network Spinal Analysis. It basically releases your nervous system and allows you to really become yourself.

Chiropractic helped you change your identity? Totally. But also, I was living in Mexico last year and I got connected with a shaman who's also a psychologist. He was sent to Tibet when he was five because people realized he could heal with his hands. So I went to a few workshops with him and he was like, "Just laugh!"

He went all the way to Tibet to learn that? Yes, really. He's a top martial artist and other crazy-serious stuff, and then he comes back and he's all about joy. So, I force myself to laugh every day for 15 minutes.

That sounds kind of hard. It is, especially when you don't want to. But what's really wild is that you condition yourself. And what I realized is that when I'm laughing, I really don't care. I feel like I can dress as I want, be as I want, and I just don't worry about it anymore. It's almost like the neurosis disappears.

More from Danaka

"I'm not the only software engineer who hoops—I met another one last week."

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