On episode 10 of BTRtoday‘s When We See Each Other, I chatted with the politically conscious rapper, Billy Dean Thomas. We talked about everything, from the elections to what book they are currently reading. Billy Dean just recently dropped their album, For Better or Worse, which is available everywhere. I highly recommend checking it out! It was a real pleasure talking with Billy Dean, and listening back to the convo gave me hope for the future. You can check out the interview HERE.
On episode 9 of BTRtoday’s When We See Each Other, I chatted with the multi-genre duo The Black Creatures from Kansas City. We talked about all the things: their latest album, Wild Echoes, gender identity, race, current books they’re reading…! Check it out! This podcast is produced by Stereoactive Media.
On the latest episode of BRtoday‘s When We See Each Other, I interviewed Witch Prophet, a soul artists from Toronto, about their album, ‘DNA Activation,’ as well as their experience in the music industry as a Black and queer artist. ‘DNA Activation’ is a rich blend of R&B, Hip Hop, Jazz and African vibes, that draws on Witch Prophet’s Ethiopian/Eritrean ancestry and heritage. You can check out the interview HERE.
On this episode of BTRtoday‘s When We See Each Other, I interviewed Black queer, gender-nonconforming femme, soul music artist NYALLAH. We chatted about their debut album, Reflections, and how much it is a look back at the past and journeying into a healing future. We also talked about their experience in the indie music scene as a Black queer, GNC, femme. Check it out HERE or anywhere you get your podcasts!
On this week’s of BTRtoday‘s When We See Each Other, I interview Black trans artist Anjimile. His album, Giver Taker, is scheduled to be released on September 18th, under the record label Father/Daugther Records. His gorgeous single, Maker which delves into gender/Trans identity and coming out, is so generous in sound and movement that you must listen, and mark the date for the rest of the album! It’s definitely going to be memorable! Also on this episode, there is music from R&B rising star TruVonne, and the contemplative track by composer Shannon Sea. You can listen to the interview and entire episode HERE!
A face in a square box, while my life has always been nonlinear in design to capture me in a pose. The lighting will have to render me in all essence that includes lines below my chin, possessing the means of my neck. My hair is wild and tightly coiled, a definition of my set ablaze heart. My forehead creased with question marks. My eyes as glorious as of a late afternoon’s sun glowing in the panorama. My ears piqued with sound, restless around my oval universe, seeking new varieties and variables. My nose broad and brimming my smile across my cheekful geometry. My thick layered cake lips blowing a kiss to the world.
This story first appeared in Curve magazine.
There is nothing more unwelcoming than stares, especially when they are asserting you do not belong. Going out for Jovany and Eva has been more of an issue than Jovany’s fear of crowds. They decided it was less uncomfortable for their existence together to stay put in the apartment, in small circles of course, close friends. Since it is never seemingly worth the trouble of traveling only to be gawked at, harassed, and at the end of the night, feeling defeated. They would fight with each other like the sex and the love was the problem. It suddenly becomes less or more in the tiny space inhabited.
They have not been out in a while. In fact, neither of them experienced the new weather. The weather: perfect for sitting outside, sipping on something, and enjoying a good cigarette. They decided to meet at a pub after work. Eva chose the pub which she frequented during her law school days, an Irish pub with an outdoor patio. Jovany has never been to this place.
Jovany arrives at the pub and finds Eva outside. Relieved to see Eva’s familiar face, they do not interrupt, but watches Eva doing exactly what they both at least imagined. Eva is not preoccupied with her phone, but instead smiling unconsciously, appreciating the transition of the day. They beam at each other once Eva senses she is being observed. The pub manager comes out to greet Jovany and ask for ID, saying to Eva, “He looks like he’s 12!” Jovany gives a cynical grin, since this is not the first time someone confuses age, confuses gender. And they are aware that this won’t be the last time they will be ignored because of this confusion. Jovany hands over their Louisiana State ID. The manager glances at it and smirks towards Eva. Her back facing Jovany as she asks, “He doesn’t have a New York State license?”
“You mean you need a New York State license to have a beer?” Eva replies. “So what exactly do people from other states do while visiting New York? And by the way it is they, not he.”
“What?” The manager responds confused.
“THEY!!” Jovany and Eva says in unison.
The manager scoffs, “Whatever! It has to be a New York State ID,” she demands sucking her teeth.
“It’s a Louisiana ID, and as far as I remember, Louisiana is still a part of the United States. And by the way, I’m not invisible. I’m right here!” Jovany shouts. It has gotten under their skin, since even the very simple, small things have been adding up.
Earlier, while heading back to work after lunch, Jovany saw a beautiful dress which they believed Eva would love to wear, and they would love to see Eva dance in. Jovany stood at the store window, mesmerized by the fantasy. They walked into the store and immediately asked if they could see the dress in the window. The attendant looked at Jovany for a long time, and finally explained the value of the dress, and that it did not run in their size. Jovany, still high from the fantasy, did not catch the nuances, and instead hastily repeated, “She would look amazing. Can I see it?” Realizing Jovany was not listening to the subtle refusal, the attendant told them, “Ok, I’ll check…”
The store was not busy. After waiting for some time, Jovany searched for the attendant. They asked again for the dress, and the attendant said the dress was out of stock. Remembering Eva’s size, Jovany replied, “I really think the one in the window would fit her. Can I see it?”
“They told me I can’t take it down… It’s only for display,” the attendant said completely annoyed by Jovany’s cluelessness.
“But what if I want to buy it?” Jovany hissed with a hard smile, waking up. “Can I please see it?”
The attendant left again, but Jovany’s excitement was now flavored with distaste. They considered relinquishing the desire of seeing Eva’s face while she opened the box and saw the beautiful dress, and then danced in it. I should just go… I shouldn’t without it. Eva would love it. It’s in the colors she likes, and the cut is perfect. Besides, what does that say about me? I give up when people act stupid? But I am not here to teach anyone anything! I just want to buy a fucking dress! Jovany could not find what they needed to withstand the bitter taste eroding any of the joy they experienced. All they now wanted was to escape.
Having no fight left, they angrily grab their bag and says, “We should leave.” Disgusted, Eva gets up and announces, “I’m never setting foot in this place again. And I’ll be sure to inform my friends who come to your pub as to why.”
After several blocks of walking in silence, Jovany says, “I’m sure she could give a rat’s ass about your friends not coming to the pub, but I understand your need for vindication.”
“What!?” Eva stops and slams her purse to the ground. “What does that mean, Jovany? I’m really disturbed by all this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to that pub. I even know her, we were chatting before you arrived. I’ve never experienced any of this borderline prejudice there.”
“Well of course, you’re white, babe. What else could it be?”
“Maybe it’s more than your blinders that you feel so self-assured about,” Eva says annoyed, walking swiftly.
“What blinders? What are you talking about?”
Eva, now at the corner of the street, hops into a cab and leaves.
Walking in the dark, still feeling the heat internally, Jovany considers Eva’s remark. They begin to think, Eva is somewhat right, that race was also coupled with many other things. It could be my ambiguous gender? Who gives a fuck about my ambiguous gender! But that argument quickly becomes a conflict, as they remember their father’s last visit. He was overwhelmed by their appearance.
He had not seen them in several years, and they were no longer the awkward tomboy trying to fit into a dress. They however, looked more like him, as they no longer hunched their broad shoulders into an unconscious cave attempting to be shorter than 6’.2”. They no longer folded their long arms to hide their reach, or even their large hands, instead they let them dangle. Even the way they dressed was astonishing, as it was more comfortable, more expressive than the Jovany he knew. But it was too much at once, and his first reaction was an uneasy laugh followed by, “I now have a son.”
“Ah, yeah… I guess…?” Jovany said as they hugged tightly.
Their father held on the tightest, as he felt the same fear he experienced when Jovany came out as queer. He felt it more so now with great urgency, as he saw, more than ever, what he considered to be a dangerous road Jovany was on, as a black person whose gender is ambiguous. He thought maybe their voice could still protect them from harm, so he blurted, “You still have your beautiful voice.”
Jovany did not understand what their father meant until this moment. They believe it was their high soprano voice which confused the manager the most, which led to a deeper confusion. That they were physically there with someone they were not supposed to be with?
Eva was not a model, but she was constantly told that she could be. She had the traditional beauty aesthetic, which made her stand out for random propositions of both marriage, and promises of stardom. Eva, albeit her secret enjoyment of the attention she received, still could not completely believe in its sincerity. Besides, she had a deep seated appreciation for knowing and showing just how strong she is, and how much the scars she earned from living was so much a part of her sense of self.
Eva’s father was partly responsible for her deep seated appreciation of self, he taught her how to hunt, how to build a fire and a tent out of nothing. Eva, never wanting to depend on anyone, she taught herself more than how to handle a gun for killing deer. She repaired everything around the apartment, as she felt her femme self still can occupy those spaces.
“This is not enough, Jovany. Every time we go out we end up here. Do you remember the last time we went out? You probably don’t, but I do. We were at your friend’s birthday party. You didn’t want to go, and I still don’t understand why, since you are in complete awe of Winnie. I know that night was awful, and you were having a difficult time with the amount of people in the bar. And yes, I remember the shoving match with the frat boy in the men’s room. I know the wonen’s room was occupied and you needed to go. And I know about the time the security guard pushed you up against the wall. Or the time a guy tried to kick your ass because his girlfriend was in the bathroom. Or the time at your job when someone said you were in the wrong place. Yes, I know all of this. You told me, but there is something else you’re not telling me, and I see it eating away at you. It’s me, Jovany! It’s me, Eva! Please tell me.”
“Why did you leave? You leaving is just as much a part of it all! That you can just easily remove yourself from EVERYTHING when it becomes difficult! And that’s so much of your whiteness, and how it plays out with you being ‘pretty’… Even when you pretend that it’s not real. I thought about what you said, though. And you are somewhat right, if I get what you meant by blinders. In fact you, you have your own set of blinders… If you cannot or choose not to see how race impacted what happened and what continues to happen. A woman loving a woman – that might be ‘tolerable’ depending on who’s watching and at what particular time, because we are seemingly still living in the days of tribalism. In some spaces it might be okay to love a woman and have her love you, unless she doesn’t fit into solely belonging to a particular group. Which I get every day. That yes, I do deserve love, as long as my nonbinary/non-conforming black ass is not loving from that pool of women that straight cis-gender white men are entitled to have. And yeah, I do feel like I am the complete betrayer of black women… When they don’t necessarily want me, or even have too… What I see is ownership every day. Every single time we are out together. Yeah, I get this message every time when I want to hold your hand. It doesn’t matter if we’ve been introduced as a couple, you’ll still be hit on right in front of me. And I know, even when you say you don’t care, that you do care and you do like it. Even as I’m being hated for no other reason. Our relationship isn’t considered real, Eva. Even our sex, when it’s no one’s business, is up for fucking debate! Do you remember your own cousin’s thoughts about us? She was drunk, but whatever. You know what she believes, ‘You guys are not really having sex, Eva. Evita! She’s a virgin. Like come on, she has never had sex with a dude.’ Do you remember that? Do you remember her saying that shit to us? Emily doesn’t fucking know me like that!!! But oh yeah she gets to assume and openly discuss! Never mind the countless times of being misgendered, or the times her boyfriend being weirded out and thinks I’m going to rob them. Because well, that’s what black people do, especially when you can’t figure out their gender, right? Can’t you not see it? This is what is making me crazy, and you’re not helping! I also don’t need you to rescue me!!!!
The next day, Eva sees Jovany’s response to her note on the refrigerator. She slowly sits on the kitchen chair as she reads. Staring at the floor, she covers her mouth and cries quietly. Jovany is asleep on the sofa bed. Still enraged by the evening, they decided they needed to sleep alone. Eva collects herself, walks to the sofa bed, and carefully wraps herself within Jovany’s arms.
“Are you fake sleeping?”
“Maybe…?” Jovany playfully answers, eyes shut, trying not to smile.
“Fake sleeper.” Eva kisses Jovany’s cheek.
“I read your note… I’m so sorry I left you… That wasn’t right…”
“You think?” Jovany taunts.
“I suck,” Eva tease, hoping Jovany would ease up and let her in.
“You do!” Jovany says not totally giving it up, but also not completely shutting Eva out.
Jovany opens their eyes, and they look at each other quietly. They both laugh.
Eva starts, “I love Emily to death, but she can be an asshole.”
“Yeah, she is an ass. And I want nothing to do with her.”
“So you’re saying I shouldn’t spend time with my family? You know how hard this is on me too, you know, right? Eva says defensively.
“I’m not saying that at all… Stop throwing it back on me!” Jovany responds pulling away.
“So what do you want me to do? I mean, we grew up together. She’s my family!”
“I don’t know, Eva! Maybe, I dunno, talk to her, let her know that this is affecting us. It’s affecting me, and it’s fucking wrong! Wrong!!! Either way, I’m not going to subject myself to that shit anymore. You can hang out with her because that’s your cousin you grew up with!”
“Wow, you’re not being fair here.”
“I’m not being fair? Are you hearing me at all!?” They look at each other again, but this time Jovany despondently turns away. Eva holding back her tears, unexpectedly grabs Jovany and says, “I understand… I understand…” The embrace last for awhile, until Eva gently rubs her nose against Jovany’s neck. She whispers, “Also, maybe not tribalism, but more specifically segregation? Remember, Loving versus Virginia.”
Jovany immediately springs up, “But isn’t that the point of tribalism, to dominate and own? And isn’t it easier to do this when you can visually decide that, that person is the enemy and/or inferior? It’s fucking insane there is a need for a law saying it’s ok, when it clearly still isn’t, that two consenting adults can be together and start fucking. Whatever! We should go live in the wild or something…You can teach me how to fish and shoot game.”
Eva half laughs, “Jesus…this again? Are you trying to start a fight?” She abruptly gets up off the sofa bed. “What are we eating for breakfast?”
“Exactly, we can live off the land!”
Eva rolls her eyes, “Stop it! What are we eating, Jovany?”
“Bacon, with some cilantro, scrambled scallion eggs…” Jovany says almost singingly, as they get up. “Seasoned tomato paste, on toasted olive oil garlic bread…” They sing as their voice trails off to the kitchen. Eva puts the sofa bed back into place, and folds the blankets. She stops, heartsick, and with an uncertain stare, she painstakingly looks out into the now early afternoon sky. In the kitchen, Jovany turns the stove on and exhales a long tired sigh.
Esme and Zami are siamese twins
Esme, the temperament of water, fell in love with whirlwinds:
The secrecy held in the world beneath the ocean.
After admiring the girl in the reflection she dove in
Living far beneath the surface, returning for fireflies in summer
Sometimes just to listen to the city’s rooftop raindrop drummers.
Zami, the temperament of fire, her blood runs close to her skin
At the bald of her hands and feet feel the rush of cold sin.
One night she awoke breathless, off her body cold sweat dripping
She ran out of space and slowly the walls crept in.
Anxious for air and with fervor in her muscles
Leaping for the night, scaling over walls and fences, Esme became bionical.
Esme and Zami are siamese twins
No overnight miracle of a mischievous nymph.
There was time for a breath between days for a hush
And defeat to soak itself at the root of a purpose.
Hear it escape in a wail, a laboring sigh to playful fantasies
Masked in the ringlets of an occasional lover’s kisses.
Zami was leaping over water over two nights
Stopping to rest, finding shade from the moon light
Under the thick yellow of a poui tree in bloom
Catching breath, crouching to her knees, smelling Esme’s perfume.
Blue moss, wild strawberries decorated her
The dancing Esme muses on stories told by her mother.
Tightly closing her eyes, she keeps the music to herself
Repeating the words in a lullaby.
Her mossy blue arms reach for no one
But the gentle caress of the ocean.
Zami bemused, came closer to the moon
Caught by Esme’s mystery about her lips, about her blue nakedness.
She found pleasures so much so she had forgotten
About walls and fences to scale, but found comfort in this harbinger.
Finally she held her breath and dipped her head in.
Surprised Esme, but not afraid she smiled and began to sing
Tal vez amor
Tal vez tu debes mi amor
Saber como nadar
Saber como nadar
Antes de hundir
Tu cabeza en mi agua.
Esme and Zami, they are siamese twins
Joined to the heart and mind ever since
Zami found shade from the moonlight
Under the blooming poui tree one night.
Letting go of the tree branches
Letting go of her fences
She relaxed and extended her arms
Looking up to face the moon shining
She pushed her chest out to embrace
The currents. To kiss the waves.
Well thank goodness for dat, cause I woulda been confused
being as it’s a queer disco ball spinning its bacchanal lights tonight
shiny confetti glimpses of why you’re here, staring right back at me
from across the room.
Did you find my gaze entertaining?
One to test out but never wake up to, cause you’re so sure
you don’t want what society prescribes, and yet you’re here
with us, where poverty procures a so call lesser being.
You wait for him.
I’ve become your novelty of sorts, I’ve become your snicker
with your friends in a corner, watching me to see me
build up the gumption, waiting for the right song to cheer me on.
Did it make you feel wanted?
Most beautiful of all? When I didn’t ask for your name
your number, who you’d like to fuck on a regular
I didn’t ask for your life, I asked you to dance.
I wear my swagger wrong, I swear it on my body
and cross my legs too feminine, I’m too fooled to know
when I’m too masculine for the ladies
while I squat and spit, squirt like the rest of them
they look at me weird while I’m with them but they don’t know
the extent of my story, waiting in line to pee so desperately.
For the women looking out, and telling me it’s the ladies, I bleed just like you
I invite you to see my red blood stains and be reminded that not every fruit is the same
and for the ones who find just fucking around is good enough until marriage
well, maybe you should date guys who are into fetishes. Because isn’t that what you want, a fish with meat?
Too many times fludity is just a masquerade waiting for a Jane Austen man
Galloping on his horse from a distance
Ooh darling you can give me your feminist queer theory all day long
while all that is queer about you is late like last night’s dream
and all that is feminist about you is just by being a woman
talk to me baby when you can’t cling to your safety status quo image: white, the pretty that is expected to be adored, and, when you realize how forced to love you are like the rest of them.
It happened again. I went to the bathroom at my job, and this woman who I’ve seen around the office for as long as I’ve been working at this organization (5 years), questioned my place in the women’s bathroom. I’m quite sure that today wasn’t the first time that she’s seen me around, and even though the organization has been growing rapidly, and yes there’s always a new face every week, you would have to try really hard not to notice me for five years.
Anyway, bathroom incident #5 occured today at 10:00am. I was combing my afro as she was coming in the bathroom, and she did a double take, to make sure that she was in the correct bathroom, then satisfied that yes, it is indeed the women’s bathroom, she asked, “Are you sure you are in the right place?” I was pretty much expecting her to say something after she did a double take, so I asked her, “Are you sure, you’re in the right place?” No response.
Mind you, there’s probably less than 40 people on my floor and the bathrooms are not open to the public. If you’re a visitor, you’d have to go through the receptionist first to even gain access into any of the offices. Basically, it’s very unlikely that I was a confused stranger using the bathrooms. And again, I have been working at this organization for 5 years. I’ve seen this woman around and she has seen me.
Bathroom Incident # 4 occurred last week Monday. This guy, who I’m 100% certain has seen me around, because we’ve been on the elevator together, I’ve said hello to him and he has said hello to me. So really when I was walking into the women’s, and he was like, “That’s the women’s bathroom,” twice, he doesn’t have an excuse (at this point no one does) because he heard my voice, and quite frankly you’re just a complete dumbass if you’re still confused about my sex/gender after listening to my voice. You would be at least cautious of making any judgments aloud, and thus making a fool of yourself.
Bathroom Incident # 3 occurred in 2005. The following remark was made when I entered the bathroom, “Now I know why this bathroom feels so masculine,” she said looking straight at me. There aren’t any urinals in the women’s bathroom at my job. The lighting is state of the art in the bathroom. However, it’s very cool in the women’s bathroom at my job, and at times “feels” to me pretty sterile. So maybe that was her reasoning behind those words, because I really don’t see how me using the women’s bathroom has suddenly changed the “feel” of it. Under my buttoned down skirt, I have breasts, and beneath my slacks and my underwear, is my pussy.
Bathroom Incident # 2 occurred in 2004. “This is the women’s bathroom. You’re in the women’s bathroom.” I said, “Do you want to come in here with me to check, to make sure?” No response.
Bathroom Incident # 1 occurred in 2003. Combatively, she said over and over again, “You are in the wrong place… You should know better than to use the women’s bathroom. You’re in the wrong place.” I was in complete shock, I didn’t know what to say to her, because I had only been working at the job for at most 3 months.
I work for a successful non-profit arts organization. Even though the workforce is fairly large for a non-profit, it’s not like a big conglomerate where you don’t know (at least by face) a fellow employee. You’d see each other on the elevator, at parties, at all staff meetings, etc. And since, I’ve been working there for the length of time mentioned above, I’m deeply disturbed and disappointed by all of this. Like everyone working full-time, I spend nearly all of my life at this job, and so I should never have to feel this way every time I use the bathroom. No one should feel like this.
I’ve written about this issue before. And I’m sure I’ll be writing about it again.