Queer Poems For Pride

As June comes and goes, we often celebrate the beginning of warmth and laughter with summer approaching. June is also the month to celebrate Queer Pride. On June 28, 1969, The Stonewall Riots began and pushed through for six nights. The outrage against cops harassing LGBTQ+ folx was pioneered by two incredible trans sex-workers, Martha P. Johnson, a black woman, and Sylvia Rivera, a Hispanic woman.

Poetry is something I notice quite often within the LGBTQ+ community and I resonate with it. I've been reading Sappho since I can remember, and much more recently (as you'll come to notice), Andrea Gibson has become another favorite poet of mine. Many activists choose poetry as one of their weapon to fight against injustice and I've collected 15 of them to share.

It is important to remember our roots, all the lives lost and bled dry for us to be where we are even if it isn't perfect. While Pride Month is a celebration filled with marches, parades, and an abundance of love, we need to remember what, and who, we are fighting for. What we will always be fighting for...

(Sidenote: Every poem will have a link to that specific video, but you can also watch the playlist here.)

"Dear Straight People" by Denice Frohman

Denice Frohman performing "Dear Straight People" for Button Poetry at the Women of the World Poetry Slam of 2013.

Button Poetry

Content Warning: Thoughts of suicide

"Dear queer young girl, I see you, but you don't want them to see you so you change the pronouns in your love poems to 'him' instead of 'her'. I used to do that. Dear straight people, you make young poets make bad edits."

Denice Frohman is powerful in this piece and works to call out straight people who do harm to the community, especially in regards to microaggressions. Their voice becomes alight with passion as the poem continues and this was the first poem to show me just how okay it is to be angry at my oppressors.

You can watch it here.

"A Letter To The Girl I Used To Be" by Ethan Smith

Ethan Smith performing "A Letter to the Girl I Used To Be" at CUPSI in 2014.

Button Poetry

Content Warning: Dysphoria, talk of death

"I've been trying to write this letter for 6 months. I still can't decide if it should be an apology or not."

Ethan Smith captured the tone of this poem brilliantly. He writes a letter to his younger self about all that they've gone through and how much they've had to endure, and I saw myself wanting to reach out to my younger self too.

You can watch it here.

"Orlando" by Andrea Gibson

Andrea Gibson performing "Orlando" at Camp Bar in 2015.

Button Poetry

Content Warning: Orlando shooting, mentions of blood and death, swearing

"Dear God, how broke do you have to be to not buy people time to get out the fucking door when the song goes to hell? When this world drunk on hate decides blood is wine and drinks its fill in the only place they ever thought was safe?"

Andrea Gibson is my all-time favorite poet and this poem will forever continue to punch me in the gut when I listen to it. They talk of what happened that night and where they were when they found out the news. It's incredibly heartbreaking.

You can watch it here.

"Boy of Tragedy" by Donté Johnson

Donté Johnson performing "Boy of Tragedy" for All Def Poetry.

All Def Poetry

Content Warning: Talk of death, racism, colonialism; uses gendered insults and language as examples

"See, when you are black and gay, every day is a tightrope, an execution, the last call for oxygen."

As a white queer, I often find myself forgetting just how privileged I am to simply be white. A couple of poems remind me of all the work I still need to do for my POC siblings, but this one hit me extremely hard. Donté Johnson has a voice like silk and makes me remember how many haunted breaths I'm taking.

You can watch it here.

"Phases" by Kevin Kantor and Sienna Burnett

Kevin Kantor and Sienna Burnett performing "Phases" for CUPSI 2015.

Button Poetry

Content Warning: Mentions of a suicide

"Do not fight your own pull. Trust in your own gravity. We are closer to the stars than they ever will be."

This poem, also recently featured on BuzzFeed, is one that sends chills down my spine every time I listen to it. These two do a wonderful job at helping folx realize their own potential and just how close to the heavens we are. I feel heard every time this comes on and I tend to get a little choked up while I'm at it.

You can watch it here.

"Witch Hunt" by Arati Warrier

Arati Warrier performing "Witch Hunt" at the Texas Grand Slam of 2014

Button Poetry

Content Warning: Homophobia from family, racism, colonialism

"My people are carrying the burden of 200 years of colonial thinking. Watch how quickly the Supreme Court can make an alien of you. Watch how they light your skin on fire and call your attempts to breathe inhumane."

Arati Warrier truly invokes heart wrenching feeling from the audience, not to mention herself, when this is performed. She talks of being Indian and what that means when coinciding with her queerness. She talks of her fears, of her doubts, of how she wishes she could be herself. It's a fantastic piece, with an even more fitting title.

You can watch it here.

"Bras and Binders" by Ayla, Em, and Abby (Denver Team)

Ayla, Em, and Abby performing "Bras and Binders" for the 2015 Brave New Voices final.

Youth Speaks

Content Warning: Dysphoria, implied mention of assault

"You are not a requirement for my gender. You are not a part of this skin."

Having a lighter feel to it, it's easy to smile during this poem. Many small jokes are cracked, but the undertones of this piece is extremely serious. They talk of how bras and binders are like boyfriends, and continue that metaphor throughout the video.

You can watch it here.

"Some Things You Need To Know Before Dating Me" by Jamie Mortara

Jamie Mortara performing "Some Things You Need To Know Before Dating Me" at the AWPs of 2016

Button Poetry

Content Warning: talk of suicidal ideologies

"Don't you dare try and figure me out. Too many people have claimed they can read me like a book and then they went and put me on shelf."

While this poem is not inherently LGBTQ+ related, the author falls under that community. To me, though, it feels like many of the points they make can relate to many queer folx within the community, and it was important for me to realize that queer people can write poetry without it being queer related.

You can watch it here.

"Pray the Gay Away" by Thomas Hill

Thomas Hill performing "Pray the Gay Away" at the 2013 Brave New Voices.

DC youthSLAM

Content Warning: Graphic

"This blood is an itch; cancer in every capillary. I've been scratching my skin raw trying to make myself pure. Maybe then my father would hug me as tight as he does his bible."

Although the author wrote this for his friend that got sent to a conversion camp, this poem deals with the battle that many gay Christian's face, especially when forced to pick between their identity and their faith.

You can watch it here.

"The Queer Hokey-Pokey" by Joy Young

Joy Young performing "The Queer Hokey-Pokey" at IWPS in 2014.

Button Poetry

Content Warning: None

"She beamed about it— her hair her own queer bat-signal in the sky announcing her lesbian arrival, though she's been here as long as I remember."

This poem seemed silly at first as it deals with a 'queer' haircut, and then the author goes on to explain it and I realized it made sense. I have a 'queer' haircut. Without it, I don't know if I'd feel queer enough and that's a huge problem.

You can watch it here.

"A Letter To White Queers, A Letter To Myself" by Andrea Gibson

Andrea Gibson performing "A Letter to White Queers, A Letter to Myself" at Columbia College in South Carolina.

Lizzie Camilli

Content Warning: Police brutality, mentions of black folx that have died due to racism, death mention

"Who are my people? What determines whose death will storm my chest, will flood my eyes? Will make me want to burn down a fucking city and pray with every ounce of my winded grace that more than smoke will rise?"

Andrea Gibson leaves you breathless with this poem. It was a letter addressed to me that I needed to hear. It is a reminder that I take up more space than I should and I need to be using my whiteness as a weapon to break down racism. Me being queer doesn't excuse the fact that I still hold a privilege, a position of power, over those fighting to the surface.

You can watch it here.

"God Is Gay" by Elliot Darrow

Elliot Darrow performing "God is Gay" at the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational.

Button Poetry

Content Warning: Bible verses, mentions of Westoro Baptist Church, uses the 'F' slur

"For we have become blinded by bigotry and forgotten that God gave us the rainbow as a promise that we will never be flooded again, neither with rain nor ignorance."

Sometimes I forget that I was raised Lutheran and, by extension, Christian. I forget how much of an impact that lifestyle left on me and my development, especially when trying to figure out my identity. I think a lot of LGBTQ+ folx questioning their faith, whether it be Christianity or not, can take something from this piece.

You can watch it here.

"I Do" by Andrea Gibson

Andrea Gibson performing "I Do".

voxfeminista

Content Warning: Mention of death by old age

"I do want to spend my life with you. And I want to know that fifty years from now when you're in a hospital room and getting ready to die, when visiting hours are for family members only, I want to know they'll let me in to say goodbye."

Being queer left me constantly counting my days. I didn't know if I'd survive the next day, and initially, this poem scared me. This poem looks to the future, makes plans with lovers, and it makes me realize that I want a love like that. I want to be old, and to be queer, and to be so full of love I shatter into millions of pieces on my deathbed.

You can watch it here.

"A Series of Queer Love Notes" by Twoey Gray

Twoey Gray performing "A Series of Queer Love Notes" at the 2016 QEW International Poetry Slam.

SlamFind

Content Warning: Mentions of assault, police, and violence; inter-community discourse

"Something's wrong when assault looks like initiation. When rainbow flags are hanging in banks that ask for gender verification. When the queer and trans street youth could care less about legalization but the activists get their marriage license and hand in their resignation."

Twoey Gray does so well at voicing her anger about Pride and how people are using it wrong. The author sheds a light on the drawbacks of what pride has become and about how it's losing its meaning when we shun the queer homeless, queer sex-workers, queer anyone.

You can watch it here.

"Your Life" by Andrea Gibson

A screen capture of Andrea Gibson during a succession of folx that are not cisgender.

Andrea Gibson

Content Warning: Dysphoria, transphobia, mention of blood

"You want a hard life that is your life. Your life at the locker room that doesn't stop demanding to keep your eyes on the floor. Your life at the prom where you run home in a snowstorm, chucking your last pair of heels in a snowbank, realizing you are the only boy you want ever wanted to tear your dress off for."

This is my ultimate favorite poem, and of course it's by Andrea Gibson. This poem hurts in all of the right places and brings to light how I've been feeling my whole life. This piece hits hard and you watch the poem through the eyes of a young child, almost forcing you to see it through your younger self. It gives a sense of fresh air, of hope beyond the falling sunset, and a sense of comfort in those you choose to call family.

You can watch it here.

As Pride comes to a close, I wish nothing but the best for all LGBTQ+ folx. I hope this month brings you light and kindness, but I also hope you remember where you came from. Our journey is not done yet and we still have a ways to go. These 15 poems showcase a range of activism that inspires people to continue forward. When all else fails and the world seems to be crashing on its side, look for people who love you, identity and all, and will help you rebuild a world of compassion, of acceptance, and of resilience.

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