The Feminine Masculine

by Chavelita from da Block.

The concept of transcending masculinity and femininity is still confusing to me because, I’ll be honest, the binary of thinking and internalizing identities and expressions is still something I grapple with regularly.

But there has been a shift.

These expressions of femininity and masculinity operated in isolation in my head. I had clear distinctions of what was what and what I’d perform to be just that. These beliefs were embedded both on a conscious and subconscious level. Although I felt so radical, my ego boasting in “consciousness” it was all clogged with the same heteronormative bs that I was claiming to be against. The political arguments that I was part of included all these convoluted words that I hadn’t come across before heading to college. I was reciting what I’d learned as oppose to embodying the transformation that I sought.

Months prior to graduating, I met my partner. This transformed and challenged me in so many ways. It shook my foundation, rooted in deeply strict forms of being. I was with a woman. Who was gonna do what? And who was gonna play what role? It’s actually really amusing to think back about how incredibly confusing that was and, at times, can still be. The internalized ideas of performing masculinity and femininity were so deeply attached to the person who “looked” the most masculine. “Naturally,” I assumed she would play this role of mainstream masculinity rooted in her being this strong, desensitized provider of unconditional economic and emotional support. I expected all these things from her. In contrast, I was to embody the femininity that my mother had taught me; to be a lady. This meant that my appearance was to be graceful, that my demeanor gentle, my voice less coarse, be friendlier, a little sweeter, that I’d comb my hair, polish my nails, and shave my legs. In a sense, I’d been performing that version of femininity for a while. It made me happy to feel beautiful in the way my mother has felt beautiful, pretty, girly and feminine but there was more to me. I was blocking myself from being me without really knowing or understand what or why.

I really came to understand more of myself as both a masculine and feminine embodying person through my partner’s involvement with Brown Boi. Through her own deconstruction of masculinity, I began to reflect on my own understandings of my gender and performance. I began to disentangle the complexities of my very existence, understanding that I operated in multiplicity. The very fluidity that I’d rejected, yet simultaneously craved for, was coming into practice and fruition.  I learned what it meant to be honest with myself. Through that journey, I started to uncover my fears, the very ones that had stopped me from being my true self. These fears were really rooted societal expectations of my being. I realized that I also performed and possessed masculine energy and that, ultimately, that was okay.

In some ways I embodied a deeply traumatic form of masculinity that I had learned and inherited from my experiences dealing with power and trauma. I wanted to exude power and be powerful, not for reasons that established connections or positive transformation, but the kind of power that would keep me safe by distancing anything that could hurt me. I can see myself standing there, wearing a body hugging ensemble, hair flowing and larger than ever, lips stained red, embodying a type of feminine appearance, yet my demeanor was an aggressive form of masculinity in which my words were used to release power that left me intact and the other person belittled. In this sense, I presented femininity but emanated masculinity while simultaneously rejecting traditional notions of femininity, sweetness and gentleness, in order to prove that I was a powerful woman. I began to ask myself, “What was I really shielding myself from?” “How did this type of masculinity really protect me?”

As time went on, I began to uncover the shield of masculinity that I was hiding behind. This was all to protect myself from a type of pain and trauma that extends beyond me. As I learned and allowed to be my real and true self, I began to see the shields and superficial performance slowly melt away. I no longer had to operate as one or the other or perform both in their gender role extremities because I could really just be me as oppose to what I thought was expected of me. I relearned how to be both masculine and feminine in a positive way, one that is for the fulfillment of my self as oppose to the protection of self.

At the end of the day, it is difficult to be true to yourself when most places push you to be somebody else. I still have a difficult time just being. I’ve learned to say that it’s okay, that I have nothing to be afraid of. Although we know that there’s much of the world that expects you to be somebody else, there is also beautiful and nourishing communities that encourage and support finding our true selves and remain who we are even when we are in the places that expect us to be otherwise.

Chavelita from da Block is a 27 years-wise, depending on what mood and day, glam-fabulous or chilled out lipstick wearing kinda gal. Thinking about social justice, children, art, food, colors, glitter, make-up, equity, fashion, family, love, hair, music, community, the motherland, and hustling for that $$$ every day.

She’s a TRUE gemini. Double-dose of REALness. But she’s really a cry-baby softy.



Shiva, Shakti, BBP and an Ethic of Love

by Niralli D’Costa

In my spiritual tradition, Shiva (the divine masculine) falls at the feet of Shakti (the divine feminine) in full surrender and devotion. He is unconditional awareness and absolute love and She is the dance of creation and destruction that is the continual unfolding of the Universe. One cannot exist without the other.  On a social level, love is expressed as justice. Justice reflects a balance in relationship to various parts of a whole. In the realm of society, the divine masculine principle can be seen as promoting balance through justice while the divine feminine is expressed in the diverse manifestations of individual identity, roles, and expression.

At a time in our culture when both masculine and feminine energies have been distorted to reflect human ignorance and greed, we see the manipulation and commercialization of the feminine in the form of life negating standards of beauty and the exploitation of Earth’s resources, and the abuse of the masculine in power imbalances resulting in inequality and injustice. Under these circumstances it can be easy to feel angry and want to deconstruct the systems that are responsible for so much suffering. As a result many of our social movements excel at critiquing the social structures and norms that cause so much pain and suffering for us all, but seem to have forgotten the essential link between love and justice.

The Brown Boi Project draws this connection between love and justice by building transformative relationships based in mutual reciprocity at the crossroads of the gender justice, racial justice, and lgbtiq social movements.  Relationship based social change is at the core of Brown Boi’s work of generating new models of healthy masculinity. Brown Boi asks people to examine the privilege they hold because of their masculinity in our male dominated society. This kind of reflective work requires the kind of love and awareness that Shiva as a representative of the divine masculine represents.

Brown Boi works with people of color that identify with masculinity across a spectrum of gender identity and sexual orientation including straight cisgender men, queer men, gender non-conforming and trans men, and masculine women. This inclusivity reflects an embrace of the divine feminine manifest in the diverse range of human experience and expression. Brown Boi’s gender justice framework is rooted in the understanding that transforming masculinity lies in coming into right relationship with the feminine both within and out in the world. If you have ever been in a BBP space you have felt the sense of inclusiveness and embrace of the continuum of gender expression and racial identities. Beyond that there is a feeling of safety knowing that your challenges and shortcomings will be met with authenticity and love. BBP invites us to show up with all of who we are, knowing that without full acceptance, transformation is not possible. Just as Shiva does not exist with Shakti, the BBP knows that the work of social transformation does not exist without relationships based in love.


Niralli D’Costa (MFT #54007) is a Holistic Psychotherapist and founder of the Oakland Holistic Psychotherapy Center. Niralli teaches people to access the wisdom inherent in their bodies and in 2013 launched the experiential workshop series Moving Through the Chakras. To learn more about Niralli’s work visit her website at

Photo Credit: Vay Miko Hoang, March 2011 Cohort