Social Media Coordinator
Happy Black History Month! Having one month out of the year is never enough to exemplify the beauty, complexity, and impact the black community has had on the entire world. However, I will try to compress my thoughts and feelings about this month as a nonbinary Afro-Latinx in 600 words or less. Let me introduce myself. My name is Jas Florentino. I am from Douglasville, GA, a small town 30 minutes west of Atlanta, GA. I come from a beautiful family with healthy, vibrant Afro-Dominican roots. Since I was a child, something always felt a little different between the other students and me. I knew my person, my being, who I was in this world did not fit into the box of “male” or “female.” My relationship with my body and how it translated into outside society did not “fit.” As a young child, I chocked these feelings as acting like a “tomboy” or being “one of the boys” as most of us would. When I entered high-school, things got much more challenging. I realized my identity was much more than a “tomboy” label. I felt loss, like a burden, too complicated to express who I was to my friends and family. Eventually, I started to retreat within myself.
I lost motivation in school, sports, and socialization. I rejected the world because I believed it rejected me. When I got to college, I was blessed with finding black queer community . I was exposed to black leaders that rejected the gender binary and live in their truth. Individuals such as Amandla Stenberg, Indya Moore, Janelle Monae, Angel Haze…. the list is endless, all live in their fact as unapologetically non-binary black people. I knew my strength was within me, to be authentic. To be true to my being.
August 2018, I came out to my friends as a non-binary individual, with they/them pronouns. Immediately, I was met with love…as well as questions.
“Are you a boy?”
“Do you want to take testosterone?”
“How do you know?”
“Why not change your name completely?”
Although most of these questions are incredibly invasive and should never be asked to any trans person or non-binary individual, these are questions consistently thrown at me. First, gender is a spectrum, a performance, an individual embodiment. What I mean by this is that gender is performed and interpreted by the person exhibiting that gender. You can be a girl, that likes traditionally girly things. You can be a boy, that loves to get their makeup done. You can be non-binary and wear skirts, as well as masculine suits. You can be a woman and prefer male clothes. You can be a man and flow in and out of femininity and masculinity. I do want to note, although I am highlighting man, woman, and non-binary identities, there is a vast and beautiful list of gender identities existing among us. Also, gender is so much more than clothes and interests… it is feeling. Gender is so personal. It is hard to explain the feeling you get after years of feeling misplaced and finally finding the verbiage that sits right with your soul. Its euphoria. Its peace. Its utopia.
My existence is because of the strong black trans women that fought for my existence, like Ms. Marsha P Johnson, Vanessa Warri, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy . My existence is because of the black people that fought to stay alive during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. My existence is because of the queer black love that holds me when I feel like I am too much to carry.
I am so thankful to live this life. Happy Black History Month.
Oops, more than 600 words.
PS: This is my personal experience. Ask your trans and non-binary friends how they want to be loved.
Sincerely Black and Here,