Last night I slammed at Da Poetry Lounge for the Women of The World Poetry Qualifier. Da poetry Lounge has never been a "home" venue for me per se, but I've been going here on and off for the better part of 10 years, and all the times (just a handful probably) I was able to step on its stage, I always felt a huge presence around me, a sort of power that helped me touch the presence of my own performance in a way I never could in any other venue (200+ people watching you will do that I'm sure) I always felt there were a lot of people in that room that respect the art form and the craft, and feel the labor of many people that have worked hard to make the venue a beautiful community space for a diversity of voices to be heard.
I had all kinds of feels leading up to deciding on whether or not I should slam. I was nervous about stepping into a space that wasn't specifically queer, and for me as a trans woman competing against established cis women writers, who are all fucking amazing in each of their own voices, and are rooted in the community made me really nervous. I was also afraid of the ways that I've been conditioned to fear or be weary of patriarchy, or how I've come to assume that non-queer spaces weren't going to be welcoming to me.
But things came together really quickly and with the encouragement of two friends who are also part of the DPL family (Fisseha W. Moges and Yesika Salgado thanks y'all!) and an old friend Philip De Guzman visiting from out of town and driving me there and supporting me) I decided I would go for it.
I put my name in the proverbial hat and let the chips fall were they may. Then My name got called, and all the demons in my head came to the forefront, the voices telling me that my gender was gonna be policed or that transmisogyny and patriarchy was going to somehow rear its ugly head on me in the middle of that stage, but I quieted them for a minute, I stepped up, knowing I was going to deliver a powerful message of how transphobia has killed so many of our siblings in the last year, and as I started in on the piece, I could feel the energy of the crowd joining me, snaps, and cheers and applause, immediately I felt at home in the piece and felt enough support to finish it strong. I did. My scores didn't really reflect how powerful that moment felt for me, but I don't do this work for the scores. I didn't make it to the next round but that's mostly because the other women competing (as I mentioned earlier) were all exceptional and seasoned poets who have mastery of their craft in a way that demands respect, and perfect scores. (Im working to get there)
The rest of the slam unfolded and I was inspired by the amazing work shared on that stage and just grateful to have been able to share that stage with amazing artists, and grateful that I was able to make it trough this first time experience not only unscathed by any feelings of gender policing or unwelcoming vibes, but actually with some high fives and smiles on my way back to my seat, and more inspired and energized to continue along the path.
As the night concluded and as I was on my way out, the host and one of the founding members of DPL chased me down to let me know that I killed it, and that he appreciated my work. I was taken back big time because it really affirmed above my fears how welcoming a space DPL is for a trans poet such as I. Instead of my fear of being policed by organizers of the event, I was appreciated and welcomed. I know my fears weren't founded on anything tangible other than the fact that I assume most spaces aren't welcome to trans people (cause they aren't) but I forgot that some places, even if they aren't explicitly queer are still committed to making safe spaces for all artists to say their truth and tell their story without judgement, no matter what story you are telling.
I've spent the last two+ years and the beginning of my transition insulating myself in queer community only, and rightly so because I've needed (and still do) that safety to explore my identity, and to forge who I am and who I am becoming. But last night has given me a new sense of ability and confidence to step out boldly from the safety of exclusively queer spaces (which I will still need), I have been feeling stronger in my own self and what I want to do, that the outside world, though sometimes unwelcoming, does not scare me to the point of Hiding away. I feel empowered to bring my work into mainstream circles and know that I can hold my own in these spaces and spread the word of what liberation and acceptance looks for trans folks like me. I went to sleep last night grateful, and excited. I'll be back for more DPL, and the poetry world in general, I've big things in store for myself in 2016, and I'm ready to take my art and passion for it to another level.
A good way to end 2015, and a good jumping point for 2016.