Several days before embarking for the 4th Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference in St. Croix, I was perched on my haunches around parts of my apartment sweet-talking to my pum pum; over bedroom carpet and bathroom floor, trying to coax a medium-sized yoni egg down. What would TSA think if their scanners picked up something dark and ominously egg-shaped tucked beyond my vaginal canal? This was more than a small worry. In perfect timing though, my yoni answers my breath and directives. Working with a yoni egg is (among other things) an exercise in patience, in tuning in, surrender and understanding your own fears.
Next thing is I leave and I reach. Two days into arrival, my waist beads break after the return from dipping them by hand into the ocean’s morning warmth. I take this as a sign they have probably completed the work they were meant to do, or I have worn them the hell out. Attempting to pick up small beads of mauve, rose and gunmental gray feel like a kind of penance. Conference agenda beckons, so with no time fuh dat, I abandon the goal. When I return to my hotel room, seeing the floor clear, the Ziploc bag on the bathroom counter top crowded with what I didn’t do — by the women who clean rooms, undoubtedly black or brown and Caribbean; I am grateful for their hands, their deft sweeping, their attentive eyes missing nothing. I miss my beads’ snug embrace above my hips though, the way the stones press into my skin beyond my belly’s jiggle.
Earlier this year, a wise Jamaican woman informed me that healing also happens on an energetic level and because energy flows, you can start small in one area of your life and this will invariably flow into other areas of your life. A crucial aspect of that is being mindful and intentional about what your energetic flow is like. What thoughts am I feeding myself with? Where are those instances where I can pivot from that energetic shift to another one that nourishes me better? Can I treat myself with compassion in these instances?
Meeting new people can test my projections: the things I ricochet internally and outward and back; the endlessly seeping wound. The conference gave me many opportunities to reflect on these. It goes without saying that though wonderful, this was hardly strictly utopia either; we were not all people who think the same way about everything. There were moments of dark antagonism, both real and perceived. But in there too, flashes of necessary illumination. I am still mastering how to take ownership of my projections and handle myself with the same care I allow for others.
What does healing look like to you? To me, it might look like three Caribbean women frankly talking desire and sex and consent, buffeted by sea breeze. It might look like another conversation, ripe with honesty about vulvas and revelation, the mush and the wet want of sex. Sexual conversation is a really good place to lay yourself bare with folks (pun intended). What better place to throw off the shackles of societal conventions around respectability and nuzzle down inside declarations of our own desires, and what better place than a pussy or an anus? Though Caribbean sex talk is plentiful in our societies: kaiso and picong and comedy sketch and dancehall and rum shop and street corner and “gyal, sit down like a lady,” whose sex is acceptable and whose isn’t?
How often do I get to freely indulge in ribald expression with other women whom I have newly met? Not nearly often enough for me, apparently. I told a friend afterwards, “I have never had a discussion like that with women who aren’t all straight (or mostly straight).” I have never held community with diverse West Indian sexualities before to know how much I needed it. In resisting, or attempting to resist, the cultural narratives so many societies have thrust onto us as black and brown women, transmen, gender non-conforming folx and queer women, you make breathing room possible for someone else who is not there yet.
Of course, people’s lives are also much more than just the “issues” they represent and/or embody. It’s messy and beautiful and resilience and plenty more. Being a West Indian activist of the diaspora and living outside the home region means confronting issues of accessibility and privilege and above all, it means listening to those who live and fight and do the hard work on the ground in the region day in and out as the authority on their own lives. I am reminded that moving forward, I need to remember to ask how and in what ways I can be of service to the friends I’ve built connections with.
What do you need that I can assist with, either through mobilizing or emotional support? What are you crowdfunding, who needs clapback back-up, signal boosting or someone to bounce around some ideas with? I am reminded that the culture that grew me and I lovingly theorise on from afar is consistently growing and thriving (or regressing) in ways and I am not there to intimately know, but I need to make more time to engage with that through the regional people that I know and not just the articles that I read.
Twice at different airports, I became leaky, a certifiable basket case of tearful emotions with all of my raging, sensitive Cancer moon. How am I so moved by this gathering of activists, the photographic art and the poetry, space-making, knowledge sharing, the weirdness of being and feeling? In Puerto-Rico, I spill most of what I am carrying and another conference attendee helps me gather, hold space and honour what I am bumbling through with care and without judgement.
Knowing yuhself only gets messier the further you dig, but that isn’t always such a bad thing after all. Thank-you CWSDC 2016 for being a space to help me unearth more of who I am and who I am working towards being.
Big shout-outs to Earth & Alkemy for the body beads and for offering to fix them for me; I’ll be taking you up on that offer soon. Gave her a link if you want any; trust meh, they will change yuh life.
My conference Prezi probably makes way less sense without the talking points but feel free to get into it if anyone’s interested.