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Jay Barry – From oppression transformed into expression

By: Amanda Sandström Beijer

Photos: Lukas Viar

They say that if you want to see the change, so be it. Something that Jay is a great evidence of. As the founder of ’Drag Energy Catwalk’ - they lead a cat walking workshop across Tempelhofer Feldt - as a way to share their message of unity, strength and acceptance.

Jay Barry at Tempelhofer Feldt

Jay was born in Perth, Australia but never felt at home there. After moving around for a bit they settled in Berlin.

”I moved to Melbourne, then London and now Berlin. I love the freedom that Berlin can offer, to be naked in a park in the middle of the city is revolutionary to me and sits beautifully with my free spirit.”

”Later I became very connected to a queer community and space through Stretch Festival, hosted by The Village, after one of the festivals I thought ‘I could just not go back London.’ This feeling of belonging coupled with the oncoming Brexit was enough for me to make the move.”

The first time they visited Berlin wasn’t a very pleasant introduction to the city, however.

”It was in 2008 in the winter and I was sick with pneumonia. It was the first country I visited on my own where I didn't speak the language. To be honest I was scared and I really didn't like it. I hadn't found my groove. Then I came back many many times over the years to exhibit my art and became determined to figure out what the allure of Berlin was. Eventually I did!”

Meeting with Jay gives you an impression that they’ve had some time to live, trial and error. Today they are sober, vegan and successfully execute all kinds of creative projects.

”BABE, I have been around! Yes”, they laugh. ”My life started with a lot of experience and its been an ongoing wild ride ever since. I exhibit a lot, but there is so much more. I am currently trying to find outlets for what I feel is really important to share. Life experiences shared by others with me personally or through LGBTIQ history and my own trial and error shaped me more than anything, because being an independent, queer, creative, activist meant that mainstream culture didn't offer enough.”

”I definitely found ways to articulate emotion, trauma and now joy and connection in Berlin through sharing art, going to amazing workshops and now doing my own embodiment workshops. There is a lot of potential energy available in this city.”

Jay Barry at Tempelhofer Feldt

Jay means that even if the switch to a sober lifestyle does change your whole lifestyle, it doesn’t have to change your interests and can be integrated in the life you already live.

”There’s a wonderful sober community here in Berlin, I have to say I’m not super connected with it but it’s there if you need it.”

”I still go dancing in clubs for two days but I just don't wake up feeling bad after it anymore. I have experienced Berlin sober and as a recreational drug and alcohol user and I much prefer the sensitivity I have now to discover the world without needing substances. If you can moderate your use that is fantastic, unfortunately I am very all or nothing and the negative affects eventually outweighed the positives. You never regret waking up feeling amazing, knowing, where you are and not having spent all your money.”

”I like that people don't question my choice here, I don't feel that people pressure me at all. People in Berlin are very much on their own journeys and there is room for me to be me. I just keep on dancing like a crazy ass machine! It gets tricky when it comes to dating but that is not a priority for me,” they laugh.

And the energy doesn’t stop. Jay founded ’ Drag Energy Catwalk’ and if you haven’t already seen them marching Tempelhofer Feldt down, you will want to, or be part of it yourself.

”It’s my baby and I love it! It started because I missed drag and didn't have space to prance around in heels at home potentially inciting the ire of my neighbors while punching holes in the wooden floors so I thought why not try it outside. I went to Tempelhofer Feld to ’WALK THE RUNWAY’ literally, since it’s an airport. I wanted to feel free and alive, I also wanted to claim my space in Berlin and not feel shy or ashamed of my queerness and interests.”

”Fortunately Tempelhof is a space for everyone with diverse interests and I love being out there with kite boarders, skaters, yogis and picnickers. Then I realized that the power, confidence and self-love I was generating from this process could be shared, I wanted more options of fun things to do in a sober setting so I formalized my methodology by writing a manifesto and invited people to come down and pl