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

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.