Ulelli: Hi, how are you?
Michael: I’m good thanks.
Ulelli: Tell me your name.
Michael: I’m Michael Frances James and I’m from Trinidad and Tobago and I’m 24 years old.
Ulelli: So …tell me a bit about yourself.
Michael: A bit about myself, I was born October 11, 1992, I lived in Trinidad and Tobago till I was 6 then we moved to Virginia where my dad worked in DC for about 5 years or just around there then we came back and I went to secondary school here then and now I go to college in the US I’m in really great school and doing Biology and double major and I’m also doing undeclared minor in LGBT studies because I can’t have all 3 on my transcript, do you want specific gender, crown and things where do you want to go?
Ulelli: Yea, I want to know if it’s about that and expression of the way you present yourself
Michael: Ok I really like the term queer, I always have since I was about 10, I was reading a book, it was CS Lewis “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, the children going to the sea and they see something weird and Lucy said oh, how queer and from that time on I always love the term queer, mom was very funny, she said honey be careful how you use that word because you might offend some people but once you are using it correctly I’ll support you go for it it’s great and so I like it, as I came out after 19/20 after high school, I kind of came out initially as gay because you can’t be, no one likes bi-sexual they like you know, you have to be something or the other, either you’re gay, even though I have girl crush when I was younger, then I said maybe I was bi-sexual but I don’t like it, it doesn’t feel right then I really just settled on queer in terms of sexuality sense. That was happening in my first year of college to actually just engage guys in public like I don’t know that’s fine and then in the second year of college, I was like ah, like this whole gender thing, I mean we opened up a can of worms of sexuality and now we just questioning everything and I said this gender thing is coming up short so I started going out with the girls, and I’m like just put a little eyeliner on me there stuff like that, now towards the end of the second semester into my second year of college, I’ll be miles away applying my eyeliner and lipstick, you recently I’ve gotten point where I bought couple dresses and skirts for myself so yea and gender sense as well. Just living life, trying to have a good time, so here is my gender sexuality stuff.
Ulelli: How was it for you, in the Caribbean when you walk past in female clothing, do you walk on the street or just at home or private events?
Michael: So in Trinidad I’m definitely, I’m a little bit behind and where my public expression is in the US, my school in the US I cannot just do what I want all the time I got to go to class in eyeliners and dresses and skirts and so on and all that kind of stuff, in Trinidad I’m definitely a lot more reticent, it’s definitely I’m just a little bit behind so I got private events, friends and my house you know that kind of stuff, you know I’ll do whatever I feel, I’ll wear eyeliner a little bit of lip gloss, I haven’t actually gone out wearing a dress or skirt in Trinidad yet just because I feel like though out high school I was already, I mean everyone decided, I was already a flamboyant like extra whatever, however you want to put it in a person, all though high school everyone decided I was gay long before eyeliner, I never had any time to stop and think about and so I was already harassed from my emotions for being too intellectual, for using standard English because my mom was a grammar teacher and all these different things so I’m a lot reticent in general in Trinidad and there’s a lot of place in Trinidad that I can’t go like my mom and dad is back but my mom is like very uncomfortable in certain part the way people in Trinidad look at her so she feels like when she go down town to buy things, people will watch her and call her all kind of stuff like that it’s kind of like I have the dark hair the black features actually and I just walk and if I don’t open my mouth, if I don’t gesticulate too much I can pass in any place in Trinidad, if I speak, if I start to gesticulate, if I’m too friendly and smile at someone then it’s like immediately they watch you and so it can be very uncomfortable. One time I went, as I think about this, one time I went to a back of Diego Martin Pettit Valley, I went to get my hair done, my family was like no one knows how to give me dreads or twist and stuff like that, I wanted to have my hair braided or twisted so I went to a shed at the back of Diego Martin, I was just sitting down and they were doing my hair and the little that I heard in this conversation between this female hair dresser and this one guy is like, he was a pretty, pretty boy like his hair done perfectly and all that but still uncertain in his masculinity and they were literally in front of me discussing how I couldn’t possibly be a gay boy, I would have known better than to come down at the back in Petit Valley there and get my hair done, I was like ok I’m totally out of here you not holding my hair at this moment, it was like really awkward it was just like I had just come out of a relationship with a girl I really liked her, I was like in that moment I was like this is not safe for me, I’m very uncomfortable and then they were asking me what time of women I like and I was like well I don’t know it’s kind of like here is a picture of her, look at her smiling, I’m like I like girls that’s the end of the story and you know, it can be very uncomfortable in Trinidad sometimes but these are like true life tales (laughs) .
Michael: True life tales blatantly they discussing.
Ulelli: They didn’t think you understood English or whatever …
Michael: I don’t know it was part, to some extent It felt like it was a threat, of like, partially it was like a threatening way, like he would know better to come back here it was almost like don’t come back here and I was like wow well I won’t come back and get my hair done by you, I will go by someone else but it was interesting like it was 1. Testing me and like 2. They were threatening me, I’m like ok here is my evidence and I’m never coming back here again.
Ulelli: Oh my gosh
Ulelli: What do you want to like tell persons out there let them understand gender expression?
Michael: I mean I really people to just to take a moment and think about the diversity that it could be and that it is for some people and it’s not inherently a threatening thing, like nobody is out to get you with their gender expression, nobody is trying to, we not going to ruin the fabric of the society I don’t know like any of these things that people talk about I’m most like I’m not even trying to talk to people who want to get mad about my gender expression. I more want to represent something like represent something with possibility of openness for the people that are worried and concerned out there about feelings gender expressions because I think I am very privileged to be from the kind of family of economic and social class and I don’t have to be inherently fearful on a daily basis for my life, for my wellbeing and for my social and economic wellbeing depending how I express my gender and I can pass and I can comfortably avoid some issues, it’s important for people to understand that diversity can exist. You know I personally could take, I could take theoretical actions not physical actions because I can’t take lash, but take that social and backfire, people can get mad at me, watch me stink eye and the next person who comes along a generation later or four years later won’t have to be stressed out about it so I just want to kind of exist and my existent effect more change on evolution as much as possible.
Michael: My pleasure.