Vlog | Before I go… Pictures from Roma Pride 2015

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Saturday, June 13th, was Roma Pride March. Since 1994, Rome’s lgbtq community has celebrated Pride Week.  Thousands came together to take over the streets, including representatives from major companies, such as Microsoft. It was truly an inspiring day and is another reason why I love Rome.

 

Happy Roma Pride Day!

from GIS.

In a matter of 20 minutes, Roma Pride March will officially begin. If it’s anything like last year, then that means it will start in about an hour. Hence, I am still at home writing this post.  😉 I’m looking forward to capturing some footage of this event and sharing it here.

If you are in Rome, come out to Piazza della Repubblica.  Event starts at 4:30PM!

Happy Saturday! Happy Pride!

Until Tomorrow,
D.

25 Sept 2014 | Book Presentation & Reading by Caleb Crain of Necessary Errors

In Rome? Join me for this event!

JCU // Creative Writing Workshop

Image found: http://mashable.com/ Image found: http://mashable.com/

A Book Presentation and Reading by Caleb Crain:

Sponsored by the JCU Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation

WHEN: Thursday, September 25, 2014,  6:30-8:00 PM

WHERE: Aula Magna Regina – Guarini Campus

The Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation in collaboration with the United States Embassy and the LGBT Alliance Club will be sponsoring a presentation and reading of Caleb Crain‘s debut novel,Necessary ErrorsThe novel has already been praised as “one of the year’s best books” by the Wall Street Journal.

The reading will be followed by a Q&A session, as well as a panel discussion featuring Mr. Crain,Professor Carlos Dews,representatives of the LGBT Alliance Club, Mr. Andrea Maccarrone, Chairman of Rome’s Circolo Mario Mieli, and Federica Aceto, the novel’s translator.

RSVP: cwinstitute@johncabot.edu

Download official event invitation.

Please show photo ID at the entrance.

(From the John…

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Hair, Sexuality…Weight (Part 2 of 3)

Disclaimer:  The following thoughts are simply my own.  I do not and cannot speak on behalf of any particular group.  These thoughts also address issues concerning weight fluctuations and its impact on self-esteem.  If this type of topic causes discomfort, please do not continue reading.  It took me a great deal of time to decide to address this issue…and thus, I do not do so lightly.  I only hope to share some of the experiences in my life journey that have brought me to this point of whom I am, i.e. a person I love most dearly.

—–

Untitled (self-portrait,taken with camera phone, S - 148190348542769Hair 101:

Since childhood I understood something quite clear about the value of hair as a woman. Perhaps it would be better to state, “as a Black woman.”

I understood that the relationship I would have with my hair would be one of constant struggle.  I watched my mother, my sisters, aunts, and friends go through the battle of having to straighten their hair.  Not only that, some even went to task of getting weaves, whether by sewing or glueing.  All in an effort to have that ever-coveted “long, flowing, hair.”  I didn’t understand it then, and it some ways I still don’t.

I only knew that,between my mother’s desire for me to grow my hair long and society’s expectation for me not to look androgynous, I could not cut my hair.  Well…that was until I turned 15. 😉  What changed?

Acrylic on canvas, 9X12, 1998

Acrylic on canvas, 9X12, 1998

Well, I began to embrace my sexuality.

While still living in Jamaica, at the age of 11, I knew that I was “different.”  I write “different,” because at that time, I did not know the word “lesbian.”  After all, I grew up in a highly patriarchal and homophobic society, and had beenand  attending all-girls Catholic school for some years as well as living in a convent–even though that last point might make you wonder how I hadn’t learned the word.  But enough kidding around.  Seriously, I had no idea.  I simply knew that I liked girls better than boys.

At the age of 13, I did have a pseudo-boyfriend…I suppose because it was expected of me.  Still, I didn’t feel the expected spark or any type of magical feeling when I thought of or spoke with him.  Of course, that would all change after I moved to America and met my first girlfriend at the age 15.

You see, when I moved to Florida, I was still struggling with my relationship with God/the Universe and my growing understanding that I was “different” (a.k.a lesbian).  I spent time studying with the Jehovah Witness, the Mormons, and even the Moonies–yeah, I was that serious! ;).

I wrote letters to Catholic organizations, and even received a heartwarming pamphlet called “Pastoral Care for the Homosexual,” which basically told me that God/the Universe didn’t hate me, I just needed to remain celibate for the remainder of my life.  Right.

at sixteenAfter lots of studying, writing, many tears, I decided that these Christian religions had it all wrong.  I believed, rightfully so, that God/the Universe doesn’t make any mistakes…and God/the Universe surely didn’t make one by creating me.  So, I cut my hair…

Wait…I know it may seem like a leap.  But you see, I was ready to claim my sexuality.  I was ready to shed the heterosexual norm that had been dominating my existence up until that point.

—-

Homosexuality 101:

You see, I had somehow zoomed my way through Cass’ Sexual Orientation Identity Formation Model:  going from identity confusion to identity pride.  I cut my hair, donned some flannel (see above picture), bought Melissa Etheridge cassettes/CDs, learned Indigo Girls songs on my guitar, started pointing out every lesbian I could to my mother, cut out every article I could find about lesbians and/or lesbian life, signed up with various Youth LGBT organizations, and even began volunteering at L.U.C.H.A (an HIV/AIDS Care Centre).  You get the picture.

With my decision to walk away from my Catholic/Christian faith, I no longer felt the need to pander to societal expectations.  I didn’t have to concern myself with what it meant to be a “woman” or even a “Black woman” per se, because it seemed to have very little to do with me.  I had simply to work on creating me, a “me” not bound by any restrictions of heterosexual society.  In essence, I became a social” nomad, without a sense of belongingness.

—-

Weight 101:

At that young age, I hardly saw images of lesbians beyond the famous ones, singers and politicians.  I didn’t see images of young lesbians like myself.  If anything I understood that the lesbian community had long modeled itself on the heterosexual community, i.e. of having dominant/submissive role relationships a.k.a butch/femme.  Of course, please understand, that that was in 90’s and also my exposure to the LGBQT community was very limited prior to going to university.

—-

So, what does any of this have to do with weight?  

at twenty-twoWell, the reality was (is) that in my household “long hair” was not the only concern, “being thin” was too.

References to how thin someone was or should be was a constant in my life growing up.  Furthermore, I happened to be the tallest girl in the family as well as the thinnest (a result of both nature and nurture).

My weight was constantly observed and lauded (alongside my academic achievements).  It is no wonder that there was and still is such a huge distance between my sisters and myself.

Being thin, however, had its advantages for me being a young lesbian.  I wore masculine clothing with ease.  I could look and was androgynous when I chose.  I was more able to attract the attention of other young lesbians (whether out or not).  In other words, I had chosen to externalize my sexuality in the most obvious way.

Again, this refers to that time and I am not saying that sexuality can only be externalized by dressing androgynously.

—-

College Years

Then something happened.

At the age of 17, I entered Stanford University.  In a span of a year, I watched my hair grow by the miracle of extensions (braids), my academic abilities plummet, my weight increased by double digits, and my overall self-esteem shatter in fragments so microscopic that I was certain that I would never recover those pieces (which ended up working out okay after all…because that wasn’t actually self-esteem).

I returned home at a weight that I consider to be still below average.  I was hardly overweight.   The result of this gain, however, was the gift of my being signed up to take personal training sessions at a local gym.  I went once or twice to appease the powers that be.  Then I did the next best thing:  I ran away.

Well, not really.  I simply chose to spend a good portion of my summer vacation away from home.  And I continued that practice all throughout college.

Acrylic on Canvas Board, 18X24, 1997

“Is This Your Weapon?” Acrylic on Canvas Board, 18X24, 1997

Interestingly enough, it was also at that time (after coming out to my mother on a cross-country road trip from California to Florida) that I decided to keep my extensions and try giving the heterosexual dating thing a try once again.  And I did…to spectacular failure.

Many, many awful things happened that are best left undiscussed at this point.

The result was that by the time I returned to being true to myself, the damage that I had inflicted upon my body was quite severe.  Thus, in the span of three years, I had gained upwards of 60 pounds and the number kept climbing up to and beyond graduation.

—-

Letting Go of/Creating The Image

I wore braids until mid-October 1999.  I was living in Berlin at the time and my study abroad program had travelled for the weekend to Weimar to visit the city as well as to see the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and the Bauhaus School of Art and Architecture.  It was during that trip that I decided to remove my braids and let my semi-formed loc’s embrace the air and light of day. 🙂

It was the best feeling in the world, i.e. letting go of something that was not naturally a part of myself.

My hair had grown long enough for me to be able to manage it and I was excited to see what it would do and how it would grow.

After graduating, as I stated before, my weight had already taken on a life of its own.  I failed to take responsibility for it, using it instead as an emotional shield to warn people away from me.  I decided then that I would do whatever it took to return to a healthy physical state.

Just as in my teenage years, I felt I had the freedom then to reinvent myself.  And it would not be the last time.

at twenty-fourIn 2002, with the help of my eldest sister, I started working at fitness club.  First, I started just as a desk attendant, but was happy to take tips from the trainers and also to have free use of the equipment.

In time, I became a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and a spokesperson for the fitness club.  I became a fitter and healthier version of my former self.  I was neither the thin/fragile-looking teenager, nor was I the heavy/tired-looking college student.

—-

Graduate School

2004 I entered graduate school with my hair, body, sexuality, and self-esteem intact.  How I would leave it…that would be another thing.

All the discipline that I had learned while working as a trainer were tossed to the wayside and replaced with the discipline of study and working full-time to make ends meet.  My long-time girlfriend from Florida had moved with me to Boston and our relationship grew further apart the more I worked and studied…until it finally dissolved.

In 2006 I graduated, and was elated to find myself already employed and dating the woman who would later become my life-partner, April.  My health was steadily deteriorating just as steadily as my hair was growing.  Finally in 2008, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia; and April and I married.  It should have been the happiest day of my life.  It wasn’t.

The night before my wedding had found me in the hospital, barely able to move, and suffering unbelievable amounts of pain.  My wedding day was a medicated fog tinged with worries about the final details and dealing with family concerns.  My weight too had been skyrocketing.  Eventually by March 2009, I would reach my highest weight ever…193.  What happened next would change my entire life…


Until Next Time,

D.

Antique Bakery, I’m smiling…

How wonderful it is that a live adaptation of a really great gay manga been made…in Korea.. 🙂 Go diversity! Yay!

Antique Bakery by Yoshinaga Fumi

The Anime

And the manga

Coming out… Repeat that?

Image of famous LGB Poster found on http://www.missivemaven.com/

Image of famous "....Too Straight" LGB Poster found on http://www.missivemaven.com/

I remember the first time I saw this poster at the Fire Station House (I believe it is now called the “Pride House”) on Stanford campus.  It is quite difficult still to capture in words the precise feeling of joy that the sight gave me.  The idea of these famous people of different races and talents were identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual was beyond belief and tremendously comforting, especially for my then 17 year old self.
I spent my undergraduate years working actively as a member of the lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer/questioning community (LGBQQT… Yes, we tried to cover everyone).  In some ways, I hoped that my work on campus was meaningful and helpful.  For myself it was as it meant doing something for my community and also belonging to a community.
The reality was that back then I did not feel accepted as a part of the Black student community either while in a southern public high school or at Stanford due to my sexuality.  Being Black, lesbian, and highly partial to heavy metal and dressing goth didn’t seem to fit in with what I understood those community expectations to be, which were to be… straight and into hip-hop/rap and R&B (okay, I did some stereotyping of my own ;))  Also,  I never seemed to fit in with the profile of people’s notion of a “Jamaican.”
Apparently, I didn’t sound Jamaican (and still don’t I’ve been told).  I didn’t act Jamaican (this is due the aforementioned heavy metal/goth thing).  I was also a good student and made friends within the non-Black community (this was an issue in high school not college).  All of these factors afforded me the label of “oreo” in high school, i.e. “Black on the outside, White on the inside.”  Teenagers can be so very cruel… and tedious.  Regardless of the critique, I still continued to be my quite strange Jamaican self to this day and am the happier for it.
Coming out

"True Mirror Image," photography by Dolores Juhas (2010). Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

I’ve never really had to “come out” in any really major ways.  I told my mother I was a lesbian when I was 18, but then proceeded to confuse her by dating men for a year after that.  I also took my first girlfriend to prom in 1995, but that failed to make the headlines in central Florida even though the issue continues to cause scandal in the south.  I guess Poinciana High was ahead of its time, but didn’t know it.

My sisters eventually asked me some years after my coming out to my mother if I were indeed a lesbian, and I believe I answered them.  We are a private family for the most part, and can be evasive in disclosing our personal lives.
From the time I arrived at Stanford in 1995 until… well… last year, I have managed to live a life completely and utterly surrounded by the gay community.  I actually didn’t have any straight friends that I could readily identify.  I could take it a step further actually.  I actually didn’t really have any gay male friends I could readily identify.  That’s right, I have spent a good portion of my adult life surrounded solely by women, primarily lesbians until recently.
Being known as a lesbian has been a crucial part of my identity.  It is something that most people would have known about me within… oh, five minutes of a conversation.  My self-identity was a kind of list that I could state like this, “Hi, I am D. I am Jamaican.  I am lesbian.  I am a confirmed Catholic.  I am Buddhist.  I am a therapist….”  and so on.
I suppose one could say that every conversation was a process of coming out.  In a way that is the lot in life for those of us who are perceived as “different” in some way from the majority of society.
Repeat that???

"Not the self-destruct button" found at http://www.connectedprincipals.com/archives/4100. I had to include this image... It was just too funny not to do so.

I believe it was my senior year at Stanford when a lesbian friend of mine asked to speak with me about something personal-I should have recognized my calling then.  Of course, I thought that this was going to be news of the start or end of a relationship.  I was right.  It was news of the start of a new relationship.  The relationship, however, was not what I expected.

She sat me down and told me that she had met someone very very special in the past weeks.  I said things like “Uh huh” (being a young adult and all).  She then told me that this very very special person was a man.  I said things like “Uh huh.”  (being a young adult and all).
And then it hit me.  She said the word “man,” but she is a lesbian like me.
It was jarring.  However, I have a tendency to be open to change.  This was simply a change and one that I could easily accept.  She was my friend that was all.
What was shocking was to hear that when she had told other lesbian friends about her new love, they had abandoned her and had felt betrayed by her…  (It made me think of the 90s lesbian film Go Fish.)  Wow, I thought… I am so glad not to be in that position…
Repeat that????

"If you had 5 minutes...," collage with magazine and cardstock by Diedré M. Blake, (2010)

Fast forward some decade plus to my current life.  My ex stated to me, in no uncertain terms, approximately two years ago that she thought that I was straight or interested in dating men.

Now, given the fact that I’ve self-identified as lesbian since the age of 11, the idea seemed quite preposterous.  Even my dating of men at the age of 18 was a complete experiment on my part… and it was an utter disaster-even my mother told me to quit while I was ahead!
More recently as my world has expanded to include more diverse groups of people, I recognize that I am open to dating whomever I please.  Does it mean that I have de-label myself “lesbian”?  Should I now proclaim bisexuality?  Eh, I don’t think so.
I am simply myself.  And to be quite frank, I am quite sick labels in general… and if I must have one, then I will go back to the good ole tried and true “Queer” that was (and possibly is) so popular in California.
Until next time!
Best,
D. 

Self-potrait, photography by Dolores Juhas

Photographs are by Croatian photographer, Dolores Juhas, whose work has been featured in such magazines as Italian Vogue.  You can visit her website at http://www.dolores-juhas.tk or email her: d_juhas@yahoo.co.uk.  She has her own blog at http://themax.bloger.hr