AccessAbility Arts interview (Jay Rose Ana)
Welcome to another AccessAbility Arts interview! I'm delighted to be able to shine a light on the fantastic work being done by inspiring women, multicultural groups, LGBTQIA+ community members and disabilities in the sphere of art and accessibility. I spoke to the wonderful Jay Rose Ana. She’s a Worcestershire poet, originally from the heart of the Midlands in the United Kingdom. She explores the world from her laptop and writes her words through lived experiences, a deep soul, and a creative imagination. Jay Rose Ana is hostess of Words Collide Poetry Open-Mic and The Poetic Podcast.
If you're on social media, give her a follow https://www.youtube.com/@JayRoseAna. https://www.jayroseana.com
Here is the interview
Daniel: Hi Jay! How are you? What motivated you to transition to a transgender woman?
Jay: Hey Daniel! I’m good thanks. My name is Jay Rose Ana, my pronouns are she/her but don’t worry if you get them wrong. I am not precious about these things.
I was medically diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria in 2019 and am currently transitioning from male to transgender female. I had been a reasonably successful man, running my own business as a technology blogger and software developer. I did all the things a stereotypical ‘man’ is expected to do, having grown up in the West Midlands of the UK in the ‘70s. I never really felt comfortable with myself although I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. I felt this from a really young age, but it was not something that was socially acceptable to talk about, in those times, so I kept myself to myself.
In late 2018, driving home in the rain, one night, from a week-long mental health first aid course, I realised what that problem was - my gender does not align. I immediately felt a weight lift, like taking off an old coat, and have never looked back.
Daniel: What inspires your poetry as a transgender woman?
Jay: I almost never did poetry at all although though I have always been interested in the work of Dylan Thomas, WH Auden, Poe, and others, primarily from a story-telling perspective. I found poetry a way to express things I simply couldn't say using words and logic alone and, over time, I learned to speak from my heart. Poetry has helped me come to terms with several things in my life, most of which formed the basis of my debut poetry collection, Whispers in the Wind.
Inspirations for my poetry are everyday things, and everyday people, the ordinariness of life when it becomes out of the ordinary, as is the case of transitioning gender and when things like just going to the toilet become a cause for debate. Much of my story-telling poetry, such as those in my Cosmos in the Closet collection, are based on real people I have met, and their life experiences, combined with an exaggerated version of me and my life experiences.
Daniel: Can you tell us a bit about Non-Epileptic Attack Disorder (NEAD), and how it impacts your life?
Jay: NEAD, is one of the Functional Neurological Disorders. It hit me, out of the blue, was caused by a cascade of stressors, hormone medications, tinnitus, and chronic kidney disease (CKD) overlapping like multiple weatherfronts. I don’t talk about CKD very much because it is one of those things where, for the first time in my life, my doctor felt the need to sit me down and seriously talk to me about mortality rates, and life spans, so I am still very much processing that stuff, whilst trying to live my best life.
Initially, I had no idea NEAD was happening. I thought my family, and others, were playing a joke on me, but they were not. At its worst, I was experiencing three blackouts per day, each with up to around five hours memory loss, and occurring with only a moment’s notice. For a while specialists thought it was Meniere’s Disease, but they settled on NEAD.
I have tinnitus and mild hearing loss and wear hearing aids which help a lot, manage the tinnitus best they can, although I don’t really understand the science behind it. My NEAD improved a year after treatment, as I became much better at knowing when an attack is likely to occur. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced an attack for some time. It does mean that I must be careful about where I travel and how, making sure I always have batteries for my hearing aids, and manage my stress levels and layers of stress, and it really helps for me to have a quiet place to go to should I need it.
Daniel: We all know how important it is to look after our mental health, so tell us, do you have any strategies you use to maintain positive mental health in your daily life?
Jay: I am learning to recognise and let go of negative stressors although it’s not always easy. For a long time in my life, prior to transition, I was really introverted. I kept a lot of things inside and always tried to put a smile on my face regardless of what was happening around me. Since transition, a shift has occurred, I would say I am more open and transparent, and I don’t mind crying sometimes. I tell myself it’s okay to do that, it’s a way of processing. Because of all that I feel so much happier within myself, and I hope that comes through, although I am still working through a few things. I am still quite introverted, and shy at times, but I think that is my nature, so I am okay with it, and during those times I tend to focus on my YouTube and TikTok channels where I can work at my own pace.
I do love to get out as well. As you know, I love people and I get a lot of energy from people, I get a lot of positive energy from you Daniel, I have told you so many times. I also love supporting other poets, it’s becoming a real passion of mine, which is why I started Mini Poetry Press. I find supporting others, and seeing them grow, through hearing their stories, really helpful in maintaining my own positive mental health.
Daniel: You’ve got a book out, called Whispers In The Wind (which you all should read). Can you tell the readers what the topics are in this collection?
Jay: That’s very kind of you to mention it Daniel (you have a book out too, The Scope of Art and Poetry!). Whispers in the Wind ended up being a different book than I set out to write. It is centred around the mental health collapse I experienced, in 2021, which still impacts my life, although it is much better and more under control these days. The book has five sections, around coming to terms with mental health issues, and trying to better understand those things using poetry. We are multi-layered humans and not one thing defines us, which is at the heart of my book. In my case this is my life as a transgender woman, a difficult childhood, grief for my friend who took their own life when I was younger (which I pushed down deep inside for decades), and stress factors around everyday life like money, family, and other things which impact me. The last section is one of rebuilding and hope, I am particularly proud of Witness, which I wrote for my grandson (yes! I am a grandmother, even I can’t believe it but I love it!!).
Daniel: I heard you’ve got another collection coming out. Can you tell everyone about that?
Jay: I have a new collection coming out, She’s Trans, Don’t Panic! Which is the headline poem. This is an autobiographical collection of poetry around my own gender transition and my road to finding fabulous! I feel lucky because whilst some days haven’t been easy, I feel incredibly fortunate to have received so much love and support for my transition; this isn’t typical for people who transition. I want to show that it can be done, it can be done fabulously, and that there is love out there, and acceptance, but I also want to keep it real and reflect on some of the challenges I have faced like being run off the road in my car, and the time I was firmly pushed against the wall by a drunk who wanted to tell me I look pretty. There are some funny experiences in the book also, like the first time I went to have my eyebrows threaded!
We are living in difficult times for transgender individuals, and I can only hope the conversation keeps going because we are all humans, and no matter of gender, race, or anything else, being who we are, being true to ourselves, and being open and honest, are important values. We must never let go of them, even when times seem impossible.
Daniel: Poetry and art can be a great tool for society and looking back at history. What do you think is the power of poetry - or any art - and what role do you believe artists have in modern society?
Jay: I am a quite simple being, so I don’t get too involved in big world problems and I try, wherever possible, to focus on the here and now. Most of the struggles I experience are small-world problems: being kind, trying to get through each day, being my authentic self, and trying to be more confident in myself and empathic to others. I think others share some, or all, of these values, so that is where I pitch my poetry. I also want to help support others, as I found poetry to be really helpful in dealing with my inner sense of self, so I try and encourage that in others wherever I can.
Daniel: You publish poetry as well, and I think your method of publishing poetry is an interesting one. For people who don’t know, can you explain how you do it?
Jay: I started Mini Poetry Press as a platform for authors to get their work out there quickly and because I get most of my satisfaction through seeing others find their confidence to tell their story and to see them grow as writers and performers. Mini Poetry Press takes two forms: Mini Press and Maxi Press. Mini Press is a small, single-story book, usually around 12-16 pages, where we support poets and storytellers get their stories out there. They are designed to be collectible so you can build your own collection of favourite stories and storytellers. Maxi Press is a larger, more traditional print. We have upcoming projects for two anthologies, one to collect all the Mini Press stories together into a larger anthology, and another anthology on a specific theme to celebrate the best of contemporary poetry.
Mini Poetry Press is still in its infancy though and I am taking my time to make sure we get it right and find brilliant storytellers with stories to tell. We are already in the process of opening Mini Poetry Press to new writers so watch this space!
Daniel: And lastly. We all need to relax, chill, and switch off sometimes. So how do you relax?
Jay: I love family time and watching, and guiding where I can, my kids grow up. I am also planning to live on a canal boat, in the future, so I spend a lot of time exploring boats and marinas and all things like that. For me, boating is a slower pace of life, a more relaxing pace, where I can let my mind stop and just be present in the moment.
I also love Cake. Cake and everything around it. Tea shops, coffee shops, the whole experience. For me, cake symbolises community, one of the last places where people can meet in person and share everyday stories with each other. I love meeting new people, one of the things I have found, since transitioning gender, is people sometimes come up and ask if they can sit with me whilst they have their coffee or tea. I love that. That never happened to me, not once, prior to transition.
When I am not doing poetry I make video games, I love creating interactive things, but that is a whole other story.
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