Ampersands: a gray area

Black and white are colors we’ve been hearing a lot about lately. Well, if I could pause and be a nerd for just a second, neither of these are colors, but rather, illusions. Black is the presence of all colors and white is the absence of color. Okay, so I really just want to talk about gray today.

I wrote a poem when I was in college titled, Uncertainty. In it, I rendered the somber and mixed feelings of having alternative sexual feelings but also being spiritual. I lived on Seaver Street, and there were two Catholic churches, each a 15-minute walk away. One of them did their service in Spanish and the other did their service in English. I interchangeably went to both. I didn’t know enough Spanish to follow along for the entire service but it felt good. It felt so good knowing that I did not have to know everything to feel what I felt – the awe and softness that reverence brought to my life. In the same breath, as I walked to either church every Sunday, I would always think about my unresolved feelings about who I was prone to love.

In my expression of myself, masculinity defines me. I am more masculine than I am feminine, but these are not genders. I was designated woman at birth and that’s fine. We need something to put in the box, yea? Whether I remove my breasts or not, take the hormones or not, I will still be a woman AND a man. This is MY experience. Even as I write this, I am uncertain, because I wonder to myself if I will want more. Will I want more after I’ve done the things that will push my physical self into a new expression of my spirit self. I also stand the chance of being MORE misunderstood if I press forward. I focus rather, on the fact that I am shining light on an area that we don’t see clearly enough to think of as anything but ‘transient’. It’s seen as transitional, instead of being an actual place. I embrace that gray place. I am a ‘JanBerry’…fruit of my own tree. There is no one like me, and there is no one like you either. Own it. Embrace it.

I feel like the reason most people need to know whether you are a man or a woman is to know how to treat you..which biases to employ. The people that have seen me have felt me with their hearts – and used the eyes that aren’t on their face. I think from those eyes, perhaps everything looks gray, because you can always feel the tension between multiple perspectives of the same truth.

Recently, I told my brother that I was going to be making some changes to my body, and immediately he assumed that I wanted to transition all the way to male. I do not, but this is an expression of that inclination humans have towards seeing something as one or the other, and their being nothing in between. I am ‘in between’. I am gray. I am both/and…but I get it, ampersands are never the focus of a sentence when it’s used. Ampersands are a gray area.

‘Ands’ recognise a sameness that we cannot always express in words, but we lean into it. The ‘ands’ have it? I dunno, I felt like this writing needed a cute ending..but shit, maybe it doesn’t and…

– JanBerry. 26June2020. 6.23am

He Touched Me

The male security guard at my primary school. My uncle that I lived with. The male neighbor at my aunts house. The male neighbor at Ms Elaine’s apartment, where my mother and father left me when my mom went away. The man sitting next to me in the cinema. The older boy at the park from the neighboring primary school. My Additional Math teacher in high school. The teenage daughter of my father’s friend. One of my former best friends.
 
They all touched me, inappropriately, without permission, violating my trust and spirit.

I didn’t start to unpack all of this until I was an adult. I delayed even the feeling of it. I just pressed pause, and came back to it at 24, when, as an adult, I began to voraciously read about sexual abuse, sexuality and sex. Around that same time, I began to cry, often…crying all the tears I never cried. I cried for myself and all the young girls that were touched. I cried for the woman I had become, and cried for all the times I hadn’t cried before. When I finally released the pause button, the river came down and it lasted many years.

I unburdened fault – it was never mine. I released shame – it was never mine.

At first it was through logic, which is where my masculine energy always wants to start. The statistics and numbers had proven that there was nothing particularly special about me. My weakness and femaleness were more perceived than actual. This happened to more girls and women than were ever reported. The numbers were alarming. 1 in every 3 women. In some countries and regions, it was higher..every woman..1 in every 2 women. 

For a while, I still blamed it for who I became. I would think for a long while that it had made me gay, back when I needed something to blame, because my sexuality was a problem I needed to solve. I healed..the tears helped, but it was really forgiving myself and being truthful with myself about the experience that helped me close the scars. I forgave myself for feeling like it was all my fault. I told myself the truth that for a long while I really did hate men and I felt unsafe. It helped me own the feminine energy within me that needed safety so that I could understand how to nurture it within myself and my relationships. I resolved my masculine energy that felt powerless to protect myself. I admitted that it did break a part of my spirit and soul, and that it would take me many years to rebuild. I could never have fixed that which I had not admitted was broken.

In the midst of this uprising, so many voices are clamoring. They’re saying, “Look at my pain.” So many of us have suppressed our pains because no-one around us seems to think that they’re important enough to stop and acknowledge it..to acknowledge us. When we see that black lives thrash around in their anger and pain, we feel the familiar hauntings that we ourselves have turned away from. We are faced with all the feelings that we have minimized. We are confronted by the regret we feel for telling the ones that have dared to speak up that they are exaggerating..overreacting.. Everyone wants their pains validated now, because ripping the bandaid off of one scar tends to make the others bleed. There is so much..pain.

I write this for Toyin. I say her name like the day I said my own name in the mirror one day, “Jan, it’s not your fault..but you still have to own the feelings that came with it.”

Feel your pain lovelies..your anger too. You are worth every moment of your abated frustrations and tears.

– JanBerry. 16Jun2020. 8.25am 

In between things

A few days ago I made a decision about my gender expression. It so happened that yesterday, I passed by the very same beach where all this brave discovery began 6 years ago. I sat and meditated for a while and then made a video.

The video below is episode 2, from 6 years ago and is truly where I started with a deeper level of self discovery.

The Inside Out Story – ep 2

..and this is the video that I made…episode 5..

The Inside Out Story – ep 5

Since travel bans started, I’ve realised that the main reason I wanted to leave Trinidad so badly is that I didn’t want to face Trinbagonian attitudes and pressures toward the transition I had been deciding upon. This country is an amalgam of homophobia, transphobia, gender misunderstanding, alongside chauvinist and misogynist ideals. The list continues with the sentiments expressed in hypocritical barbershop conversations that don’t bring us, as a country, any closer to loving people outside of the gender and sexuality ‘norms’ that we think legitimize our opinions.

I share my life so that people like me could know that we are real and gain the courage to overcome Caribbean sentiment. Differences in gender and gender expression is not a ‘white people thing’.. For me, “..my whole life I’ve felt like I am in between things.” I think we, myself included, the whole world have been really stuck on a very ‘this’ or ‘that’ way of looking at gender but the more I understand myself, the more I’m able to articulate it. When I say ‘between things’, I don’t mean between genders (male and female). I mean between my ability to express my masculinity and being perceived as being more feminine than I am because of my curvaceousness and other physical female traits.

I don’t want to be a man – I don’t want to switch out my vagina for something else. I don’t want to change my name or write ‘MALE’ on my forms.. what I do want, is to be able to express my masculinity visibly. I tend to overcompensate on feminizing myself because of my body. I want my masculinity to be SEEN but I still want to BE a woman (in terms of my gender assignment but not femininity).

Disclaimer: Please note, this is MY experience of my gender and gender expression, and is not to be applied to everyone you consider to be different in these areas.

In my green

I am extremely grateful for the growth I’ve experienced in the last few months. It has made me more courageous and also more resilient. Best of all, I have become clearer and clearer about my intentions and desires, shaped in knowledge of self.

Carnival is always a milestone for me, particularly J’ouvert. It is a time of expression which is rooted in identity. It is a time of re-birth, which is rooted in growth. It is a time of vibration, the essence of who we are as human beings. At this junction, I give space to allow the oscillation of my spirit to touch others and to be touched – even, in the literal sense, as people lather paint on my body on J’ouvert morning.

Disciplined practices of contemplation, meditation, deliberate rest and a balanced diet have been molding my body, soul and spirit – my character, my expression…ultimately, my identity in this life.It is my experience that in the periods that I have had the most expansion, the paint color in the J’ouvert has also been very symbolic for me. I’ve already written a post about blue in the year 2017 (janberryblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/far-from-finished). And now, green. Talk about vibration! Thank you 3 Canal. In the last 3-4 months, I’ve taken to using green hearts a lot. They mean for me, an outflow of natural love – the kind of unbridled showering of love that nature embodies. Love as a force in nature takes many forms, but it is consistent. It is consistently growing.

My writing lays the path that my heart is making and then my soul follows, and as it comes into being, it becomes clearer to me as well as to onlookers.

The book cover of Godcall is deeply meaningful and was a foretelling. I have finally reached the color that I was pressing toward. The black was the soil, the muck which we often think of as base. The black is the beginning – the root – the oil – and without it, we can go nowhere. A seed must be first planted there. This period was dark but beautiful. There was much crying, watering my seed with my own tears There was also much healing. The blue was transitional and liberating – attaining the environment the seed needed to become what it would become.

The green cumulus, as my tears accumulating into them as a mass of tiny droplets.. These clouds have the potential to bring either fair or dread weather. It depends on how they develop…the season..the environment.The pink mist is an unveiling – a sheathing of feminine energy, brought to the surface and removed. All that would remain is that which was mine to begin with, and had not been narrated over my life.

And now, I am at green…standing in my tall, dark beauty…my tall, dark queer beauty.So what is the outflow of all this personal philosophy – it just means, I am more me than I’ve ever been.

1) I fully transitioned my wardrobe to androgynous/male clothing.
2) I’ve been successful in explaining to my male admirers that no, it’s not just a wine or a this or that or whatever they think it is. It’s more like two hyper-masculine straight (non-gay) men rubbing up on each other. Dude, don’t touch me…and especially not like that.
3) But yes, I enjoy the company of effeminate men also because I’m drawn to feminine energy. I prefer female gender and genitalia..important for me to sustain a long-term relationship, but really, it’s feminine energy that I am drawn to. The more of it I feel from someone, the more I find them irresistible.
4) I am in my green. It has pulled my shoulder blades back and lifted my chin, giving me a swagger that comes from deep within.

It’s not easy being green. Kermit was right, but damn, it sure is a happy place!

Feminism and the demise of society

Feminism was the beginning of the demise of society. I mean among other things of course…when we started telling femininity that it should not display itself for masculinity..and to do so would be objectifying itself. Objectification is the dehumanization of a person – the same as seeing a whole woman as just a slick hole. But I do want my woman on display..and I speak for men too when I say, yes, we want you to flaunt it…Wear that lingerie, batty rider or thong..call it fattt and know it. When you overthink it without overstanding it, you deny yourself the intentions of the indulgence. The passion is robbed when you intellectualize desire..and douse the embers of what was meant to be a holy fire. In the context of a relationship, regardless of gender, there are two instincts..receiving and giving. This interplay unfolds in so many ways..but to definitively say that it only happens one way, is to misunderstand the energies present – masculine and feminine are never absent, even in the singular.

I want her…
I want her to want me wanting her.
I want her femininity.
I want her to want me.
I want her to want my masculinity..
I want her to understand her energy..
And thus, understand mine.
I want her..
Do you get it? This is all DIVINE.
– janberry. copyright 909am.13feb2020.
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#poeticprose #poetryinprose #writing #writer #feminism #opinion #divinefeminine #divinemasculine #knowthyself #isaidit #unpopularopinion