Blue Charm by Jaz Joyner

      We’re barely moved in. Yet, my Barbie of a mother’s already decorated a sizable corner in our house to show off her gaudy pageant winnings from back in the day. She once told me her favorite award was a dark blue ribbon that read Most Poised in golden cursive stitching.

She’d say with a gratified grin,

“Even without a crown, royalty must have poise. Poise is the most important virtue  of any important person, you know.”

    Flash forward to now, as my mom scurries around like a little squirrel. Poise. Please.

“Get the boxes in the study first, Rainn! Bring them up to your room, immediately!”

      Mom pushes a big desk towards the hallway with all her might and I hear her squeal in despair. She could obviously use some help. I’m sitting on an uncomfortable step, doodling in the notepad she gave me for cursive practice as if I were writing something of importance. I’d help out but I can’t stand, my legs won’t let me; Possibly because I didn’t want them to. Ok, so I didn’t want them to. The stairs were hard wood and shiny like their second function was a convenient mirror for the ever- vain. I see why my parents picked this house.

     It’s nothing like the old house, and I’m not sure if I like it yet. She’s calling again, like a screeching alarm on a school day. What’s the point? I thought. Just because my bags are unpacked doesn’t magically make this place my home. I set down my notepad, full of doodles and four letter words. I’m 15 and a girl but I have this thing for vulgarity, in spite of that fact.   I’ve been told 15 year old girls should refrain from this sort of behavior. However, I pride myself in surprising my teachers with loud, spastic bleeps, Tourrets -esque if you will. My mom used to hate leaving her in-house work space to bail me out of the principal’s office.

She writes. My dad reads. For a living, I mean. I think that’s the only reason my mom got published, even though she swears her book was “worth every sparkling review.” It’s ironic how much positive reception she gets for writing about raising the perfect child.

I think they secretly wanted me to move from my old school. I had made such a name for myself; I don’t think they could bare it. Heaven forbid their flawless reputation be on the line. It’s a day’s drive to my old home. I guess I shouldn’t call it home anymore. I hate my dad for getting promoted.

I had a best friend. Dagan. Ok, only friend. He taught me everything I know about cursing and sneaking live rats into certain punk’s lockers. My parents hate Dagan. Or I should say hated, since they probably won’t see him for a while. I think that’s secretly a reason for our move, too.

     My new school reeked of plastic charm and good will. Uniformed robots would smirk and murmur as they passed me down the hall to the lunch room, with their neat little brown bags full of organic, jicama tossed-salads packed by their perfect littlerobot parents. I’d come home every day with my mom and she’d ask,

“Have a good day at school?”

I’d always give her some smartass remark like,

“Oh, mother, you know every day is a good day when you’re given the privilege to learn!”

She’d get annoyed with me then and stop talking. Sometimes she’d gather up the brass to critique my attire or my hair.

“Rainn, honey if only you would wear those dresses I bought you. They’re in the catalog! Just like those ridiculous slacks you chose to throw on instead. I’m sure the girls at school would be far more receptive to you.”

      She goes on but I tune out by then. I’d stare out the unblemished window of my mom’s vintage Beemer into an abyss of chic boutiques and five star restaurants; the kind you need reservations months in advance to get in .Mom loved those.

     I’m standing now, on those hard steps, contemplating my next move like my life depends on it. Mom still shouts as if I hadn’t heard her the first thirty times. I always wished for siblings. Not because I want automatic friends for life (not that I can’t use that). No, I want siblings so they can help carry the load of my parents.  How do they manage? My parents, I mean. All of the time and dedication it takes for them to put on such a show every day. It seems impossible, if you don’t have a backstage pass, like me.

I see all of those faulty ropes and curtains separating them from reality, and I wasn’t fooled. Honestly, I didn’t get how other people didn’t see it. I mean they weren’t’ the best actors in town, that’s for damn sure. But somehow, some way, people did fall for it. And I was stuck, by default, playing their perfect little princess. That was my role, even if I didn’t want it. And trust me, I didn’t want it.

Sometimes they’d even try to fool me, like I was some idiot sitting in for the day in place of their daughter. They’d do this thing where they shared what could be a perfectly normal, spousal love-peck on the lips. It would be that, if of course they actually loved each other. But instead they looked like what I’d imagine the adult form of my robot classmates would look like if they had a mission to save their planet and the only way they could is by touching together on the lips in an odd, yet simulated-romance kind of way. Why did they feel the need to perform for me? Once, I caught my mom fishing for a compliment from dad.

She asked, “ Oh, I feel old honey, I think I need botox. Should I make an appointment?”

    He didn’t say what he should have. He told her to get the botox. Ouch. If anything I think my mom wishes she was still that pageant girl. So she could at least present some sort of beauty to the world, even if she didn’t feel it. I think that’s when their relationship started dying. She tries so hard to be like her trophies, it’s ridiculous. Botox  day is when I acquired this X-ray vision on fakeness I’m so glad to have now. I go out of my way to be the opposite of how one would expect the only daughter of Harold and Blair Swenton to behave. You could call it a rebellion. I call it survival.

       I went down the steps, slowly but surely. I spotted those auburn curls as my mom marched grumpily to the front of the stairwell and plopped a box twice her size at her feet. She just missed them. I think to myself how funny it would be if she did.

“Rainn, this is unacceptable! I’m tired of you mopping around like the world is against you. You sit around like some miserable homeless child. You are far to privileged to be so ungrateful! Now get down her and gather these boxes with me!”

   I never understood what she meant by that. You sit around like some homeless child. She acted like just because she and dad had some cash, I should be floating around like some graceful Disney princess that just found out her father is secretly the king of  Happyville. I’m supposed to be happy now? Really?

I say, “I think I’d rather be homeless than living in this lie of a family!”

     My mom’s really pissed now; like she truly values our mother, daughter relationship; or the lack thereof. I laugh in her face, but regret it immediately.  A laugh, not in an amused way, but in a sarcastic, mocking sort of fashion that makes parents want to slap their children. Only, parents usually don’t go that far. You know, wanting to but not actually doing it. But at this point, I’m in perfect slapping distance, and she smacks me one good. It should hurt. I feel nothing.

     I don’t even want to hit her back. She doesn’t deserve my energy. In a weird way I feel like she didn’t mean to do it. I think she’s mad, but not at me. She’s mad because I’m right. At least I want to think that. I walk away. She shouts back to me but all I hear is       “Wawwawawwa.” like from Charlie Brown, except worse. Dad’s home. Mom runs to him like she’s the child. I see them from where I stand, in a corner full of tiaras, like I’m giving myself a time out.

      I hear her talking about me. Like she was the teacher’s favorite little tattle tale. I don’t care what she said. I don’t care what he said. I don’t care. He calls me. No use hiding anymore, I think. He nags and nags and calls himself punishing me.

“No TV, no computer games, no art class, this week, or next week, or the week after that!”

    He goes on and on through a list of things he thinks interest me. I wish I could say he’s wrong, but he not. I’ll miss those things for sure. Way to make your kid hate you more. I don’t even tell him about Mom. It won’t make a difference anyway. They’re a team, and I’m the outsider. I don’t want to play their game and they punished me for it.

   I wonder if Mom’s right. That I should be happy, because I go to one of the best private schools in the country, and I live in a house that’s ever ready for a Better Homes photo shoot, and my parent’s wealth and prestige automatically make me a shoe-in for the best prep SAT courses in town. Not to mention in spite of my defiance I’ll maintain all As just to piss off the teachers that hate me. This would lead me into a fine, prestigious university where I’ll double major in something like Classical Civilizations and Anthropology. My fake parents would be so fake proud of me. I’d be considered an accomplished young woman. My successful parents could brag about their little girl.

“She’s gonna’ be a success, just like her old man.” He’d say with a boisterous laugh to his country club buddies.

“I always knew she’d grow out of that awkward phase!” She would say with a tint of blue charm her fellow, wealthy housewives so admired.

   That would be my initiation onto their team. I’d be blue like the ribbon my mother won for Most Poised and anyone that wasn’t would envy me. And I could look down at the jealous ones on my charming, blue pedestal. One could assume I’d be happy there. If only they don’t see behind that charming, blue curtain.

Advertisements

Master the Art of Playing it Cool

Master the art of Playing it Cool with these 6 simple steps!

1. Get that grin off your face. No self-respecting cool person smiles that much.

2. Reveal very little about yourself. Mystery is sexy and obviously always cool. Even when you’re getting to know someone and they tell you their life story, be super duper vague about your own life. Say things like “I don’t know, I’m just…” and ” Yeah, I mean, I like, you know…” and don’t finish your sentences. Everyone loves an enigma.

3. You just met someone that makes your heart palpitate like an African drum. You go on a date that feels magical and you can’t quite remember if it was a dream when you wake up the next day. You haven’t connected with someone like this in so long, or ever, really. So of course ignore them, naturally.

4. Show nothing is too cool for you by speaking less. Say you just watched a fantastic film you found so empowering that it made you reconsider you life choices up to this point. As you exit the theater, your friend excitedly asks,   ” How’d you like it? You coolly respond, ” It was good.”

5. A.H.P.- Always have pockets. Your pockets are your superpower for cool in all social situations. While you watch your super-powerless friends stand uncomfortably with their arms folded or hanging awkwardly at their sides, you exude the air of confidence with one or two of your coool hands placed in your pockets, speaking all smoothly to your peers like the cool kid you are. But don’t you remove that hand there, buddy, or you will find free hand motion as a certain form of kryptonite. Your voice will crack, your legs will wobble, and you will become a Cinderella pumpkin of the awesomeness that was once hands-in-pocket-you.

6. Always,always, always care what every person thinks of you. This way, your guard will be up no matter what, so no one will catch you off guard and reveal the Oz that is your inner nerd.

 

Disclaimer: Resident queerdo, Jas Joyner, is in no way qualified to tell anyone what is actually cool as Jas is indeed a perpetual dork. All things listed above should not be practiced in one’s real life. 

 

Why We’re Awesome: Girls Who Code

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” — Maya Angelou

Why We’re Awesome- A series spotlighting wonderful organizations that empower women and girls all over the world.

Science. Blerg. Many young girls will tell you it is their least favorite subject. But not these girls! Girls Who Code is a New York City based organization with the goal to close the gender gap in science based careers by training young girls interested in learning computer specialist techniques.  Hence the name: Girls Who Code.

Girls Who Code aims to provide computer science education and exposure to 1 million young women by 2020.

This is an organization that the U.S. education system has been needing for a long, long while. After all, to say girls don’t like science and math is simply a myth created from the way our education system is structured. Don’t agree? Check out the facts below.

In middle school, 74% of girls express interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), but when choosing a college major, just 0.3% of high school girls select computer science.

Women today represent 12% of all computer science graduates. In 1984, they represented 37%.

Thank you, Girls Who Code, for helping young girls find their love for science, again. Programs like this are making  the U.S. just a little more like the progressive place we all hope to see one day, and that’s why Girls Who Code is awesome.

Girls Who Code began in NYC, but is currently working to launch programs in San Francisco, Detroit and San Jose in the year 2013.

Sharing Time!

First of all, I have such a huge aversion to telling people about things I’m doing. This may be a silly aversion, or in fact totally validated- I just know when I go on my blog to yap about things I’m doing I can’t help but feel like an obnoxious little beetle. So instead of making this a shameless promotion-fest, I’d love for us all to get involved! Below, I’ll share with you some things I’ve done recently,and in the comments I’d LOVE for you to tell me what YOU’RE doing, so I can check it out. And seriously, I really will check it out. 

Jas’s article on Black women, Queers and Sex Ed was just featured on Bitch Magazine. (See the original here)

Story Time! Jas’s short story, “Next Joke” is now a The-Toast.net thing

And finally, finally, finally- Check out the new JasSoandSo Facebook page. Jas will buy you a house filled with kisses if you like it. Figuratively, of course.

This has been a shameless promotion brought to you by Jas Joyner. Murp.

Thank you all so much for reading! Now, post you’re cool things below because I can’t wait to read about them!

Gender and the In Between- A Gender Queer’s Journey

Featured on Afropunk.com and SheWired.com!

As a child, I spoke as few words as possible. The sound of my feminine voice disgusted me. I hated to be called a girl, while loving the color pink. I was a budding genderqueer.

Boys are different from girls, they said.  Fundamentally different, they’d persist. Boys don’t have long hair. Boys don’t like pink. Boys don’t cry and boys are tough. Girls like playing with dolls. Girls do poorly at math and enjoy frilly things.

Boys.  I studied them. I developed obsessions with male classmates with the utter desire to someday become all that they were. I would play make believe with my siblings in which I’d only be satisfied if I took on a male role.  I connected with boys in a way I never could with girls, and never quite understood why. I would wear suspenders as a tween and feel like a boss because they would make it look like I had no chest. When I started to develop, I would wrap myself in a bandage, not realizing that was a trope practiced all too often in the trans community. I would do this until my gender identity was challenged.

“You are so flat,” my very influential peers would say, prompting me to ask my mother to buy me my first training bra.

And then I discovered the internet. I learned about the term transgender. I looked at hundreds upon hundreds of befores and afters, FtMs. Top surgeries, bottom surgeries, hormones. I would read and read until my eyes would blur from my families’ bright Dell desktop screen, and I’d sink in my chair, feeling the emptiness grow inside of me. It was as if the more I searched for myself, the more lost I got. Because I couldn’t avoid my feelings; I didn’t feel fully male.

I didn’t know any trans people in my anti-queer, southern town, and definitely wasn’t going to be the first. So what did I do? I conformed. Like the scared child that I was, I began to present myself as outrageously feminine, so no one would suspect anything strange. It was as if I thought people could see through me, and wanted to give them no reason to use thier x-ray vision to spot my insecurities…or my weirdness.

I fell into a bout of shame, hating my natural femininity because I’d used a false, hyper-femininity as a wall to hide behind for so long. Oh, what a person will do to fit in.

I wanted no more shame, so I turned to the bottomless internet once again, searching for a reason to love myself. I studied femininity and the power of it all. I learned that being feminine does not equate weakness. There is strength in the power of women. In femininity, there is beauty; not the skin deep kind but the unconditional kind.  Through countless articles and books, and studying empowered feminist women like Betty Dobson and bell hooks, I learned to love my female body, and now I don’t want to lose it.

So here I am, yin and yang. Masculine and feminine. I wear my hair long but learned to walk from male role models growing up. The color pink still makes me smile, but I feel like a lie when wearing a dress. I still bind and wear clothes from the men or boys section, and prefer to hide my curves (the little bit that I have anyway). Not because I want to look male, but because it is how I feel most comfortable.

I call myself a boi, a budding term used in the lesbian and queer community, and truly believe if energies were gendered, I would be just that. I have little to no desire to have surgery or take hormones, though I like it when you call me “he.” I don’t mind “she” or “they” because I am that, too. All of the above, please. Sometimes I feel completely male, and wish on those days I had an attractive male body to wear. But most days I feel like both. I know it is confusing. I even confuse myself sometimes, but that’s simply how I feel. I don’t feel masculine enough to be male, nor am I feminine enough to be female. I love and accept my female body, though I ask you to not suspect that makes me a “woman.”

Through my journey, I find that in terms of gender identity, you are what you say you are. A man that wears makeup and has double D’s is still a man if he tells you so. It takes no more criteria than that. What it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman are social constructs, and though the masses follow these standards, you don’t have to. I don’t have to. I prefer to say I am in between genders, masculine of center, and as I feel, I am.

I spoke recently to a dear friend that had a challenging question for me;

“Why don’t you just ignore gender? Why don’t you just be who you are and not worry about what that makes you, be it male, female or otherwise?”

I sat there, stumped and silent, too caught off guard to admit my annoyance. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but this anger boiled inside me. I slowly felt the tingle as my senses returned and I blurted out,

“Because nobody wants to be an outsider!”

I certainly didn’t think before I spoke, but couldn’t ignore the truth behind my words. Nobody wants to be an outsider. No one wants to feel like they belong nowhere. So many queer and trans people walk through their lives never feeling fully human, as if there is something alien about us that no one will ever understand. That is why we search for acceptance. That is why we challenge the gender binary and tell you to call us Zir. We’re fighting for our visibility, because we don’t like feeling invisible. We are not transsexual, we are sometimes not even transgender, but we’re definitely all over the gender spectrum, as a gender “binary”  is all but an illusion.

I’ve wanted to talk about this for a while now, but due to the fear of officially coming out as a genderfuck, I’ve avoided it. But as you see with this whole rant, I don’t care who knows anymore. I am tired of hiding in the binary and this is my way of connecting with all you gender queer and trans folk out there that are not interested in going all the way, on either side of the gender binary. We are the in betweeners, and we’re proud. Finally. 

Smartest Queer Black Women Series (Twitter Included)

Fast Company recently released their 2013 “Smartest Women on Twitter” list in which you will find no, I repeat, no black women. At all. So, in honor of  black-queer greatness, here’s a new series to present to you amazing, intelligent  black, queer women that are smart enough to be on anyone’s “Smartest” list. These women have greatly impacted the fight towards black LGBT visibility,social justice, and all around wonderfulness- and as a nice touch, all will have Twitter accounts.

Stacyann Chin- Poet, Writer, Activist- Twitter/stacyannchin

Staceyann Chin, a native Jamaican,  has written a number of  thought-provoking poems and even had a one-woman show at New York City’s  Nuyorican Poets Cafe.  She was co-writer and original performer in Russel Simmon’s Poetry Def Jam on Broadway. She wrote a memoir entitled “The Other Side of Paradise,” and was featured on “The Oprah Show” where she expressed the difficulties coming out as a lesbian in Jamaica.  She has spoken openly about her pregnancy through In vitro fertilization, and proudly represents as a single, lesbian mom.