June is many people’s favorite month for more than one reason. June is when most schools get out, it’s the month that starts the season of summer, the nights get longer, and the days get warmer. But June is also very important to many people because it has been named the month of Pride. In case you don’t know, Pride was created to recognize the Stonewall Uprising and the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community. Pride was created to celebrate the bravery of the figures such as Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé Da Larverie, and others who advocated and fought for LGBTQ+ voices to be heard and respected. In honor of Pride Month and the struggles the community has faced, I will be highlighting and recommending some of my personal favorite queer writers.
Danez Smith, Poet – Don’t Call Us Dead
Danez Smith is a queer poet from Minnesota that has had the opportunity to win various different poetry awards and honors from many different agencies. Over the years they have published many pieces of work, but Don’t Call Us Dead speaks on the internationality of being a person of color, gay, and being perceived as masculine. Smith has numerous poems in the book that addresses what it was like for them. When I read the book, it opened my eyes to a world I had no concept of, because there are many things in their life that I will never have to experience. Unique and heartbreaking scenes of people’s lives take form and come to life as you read through their work. Some of my favorite poems in Don’t Call Us Dead include: “at the down-low house party”, “it won’t be a bullet”, “dinosaurs in the hood” and “bare”. Smith opened my eyes to what their struggles are, which made me realize the struggles that many others go through that I will never experience in the same way.
Alison Bechdel, Graphic Novelist – Fun Home
Alison Bechdel is a very popular cartoonist and graphic novelist that has been creating art since the early 1980s. Bechdel started a comic strip titled Dykes To Watch Out For. While this comic strip ran for twenty-five years became widely popular, she wrote and illustrated a graphic novel titled Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. The graphic novel talks about parts of her life including the good and the bad memories. Its title is important to the novel too because her family managed a funeral home. She talks about her parents, family, her sexuality, her coming out to her parents, and how her father’s life and death played a significant role in her life. It is a wonderful graphic novel that talks about difficult topics in a creative way. It technically falls into the young adult reader category, but in my opinion, is worth the read at any age. It does have scenes that can be triggering to some audiences as it contains scenes of death.
Arati Warrier, Poet – “Drag Queen Application”
Arati Warrier is a poet from Texas. Warrier uses the pronouns (she/they) and has many poems about their experience in their body. On her website, she includes videos of her performing the poems that she has written. Anyone who watches those videos is able to hear the pain, power, and passion behind her words. Shade Literary Arts recently highlighted two of her poems in their 2021 Spring/Summer Issue. One of them is titled “Drag Queen Application” and it’s written as an interview. The poem asks a series of questions, and the stanzas consist of thought-provoking replies. Within the lines of the Warrier talks about the art, beauty, dedication of drag while intertwining the insecurities and limitations of it altogether in a harmony that left me speechless. Arati Warrier sends a message in all of their poems, this one included. While this is one of my favorite poems by them, I highly recommend seeking out other pieces that they have written. The piece “Alive” and many others have been performed and the recording has been posted on her personal website.
Audre Lorde, Writer – “Who Said It Was Simple”
To say that Audre Lorde is just a poet would be completely wrong as she published work in many different genres. She wrote various pieces throughout different stages of her life. Born and raised in New York, Lorde began publishing her work in the late 1960s, while also raising a family and getting a divorce by the end of the decade. Lorde identified and described herself as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior [and] poet” (Poetry Foundation). The way that Lorde describes herself can be seen in different pieces throughout her life. The poem “Who Said It Was Simple” from her poetry book From a Land Where Other People Live, talks about her struggles as a black lesbian woman and how she is perceived by the public. She talks about her feelings of anger in having others choose what part of her they see and recognize. It is a short poem that I had to read over a few times to fully understand, but even from the first read, I could hear the struggle she is forced to face.
Justice Ameer, Poet – “body without the “d”"
Justice Ameer is a trans poet of color who uses the pronouns (xe/xem/xyr). Much like Danez Smith, Ameer has many fellowships and awards. Xyr poem “body without the “d”” focuses on the body, biology, and the feelings one can have towards their own body. I don’t know what inspired Justice Ameer to write this poem, but the voice sounds as if it was written with the emotions of personal experiences. The title plays a role in this poem as well, the word body is repeated multiple times throughout. But just as the title instructs, it is written as “bo’y” without the “d”. Writing body like this allows the reader to understand it in different ways, depending on if it is read as a body or a boy. This piece exposes me to experiences I will likely never have to go through, but ones that are common to many individuals around the world. Xe was able to capture what it is like to be in the wrong body. With this poem, the struggle behind the trans experience is presented in a way that it cannot be denied or dismissed.
The LGBTQ+ community is often silenced and erased from most topics of conversation. In 2021 there are still people actively fighting against the acceptance, equal treatment, and rights of this community. These writers used their art as a way to uplift and amplify the voices of their experiences and the experiences of others in the community. The month of June is used to give recognition to the community and honor the struggles that so many people have gone through before. So, take this month to support LGBTQ+ writers, artists, musicians, scientists, doctors, teachers, first responders, veterans, etc. This list could be just a start. There are hundreds of thousands of voices waiting to be heard, all you have to do is be willing to hear them and listen.