LGBTQI Awareness Month
While LGBTQI celebrities and politicians may have gained more visibility in popular media over the last decade, LGBTQI scholars, writers, and artists remain some of the most influential figures in creating and strengthening LGBTQI communities. The rich tradition of LGBTQI poetry has created a foundation for queer expression and advocacy, and poets today continue to inspire self-acceptance, allyship, and support for LGBTQI individuals. In honor of LGBTQI awareness moth, we recognize five notable LGBTQ poets.
Rich was born in Baltimore in 1929 to a family that strongly encouraged her intellectual pursuits. She attended Radcliffe College, and in her final year was selected for the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. She received several fellowship, teaching positions, and awards for her poetry, which was growing more radical as she experienced the 1960s. Rich has been called "one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century" and was credited with bringing "the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse."
Born in 1975 in Colorado, Andrea Gibson is an award-winning spoken word artist, poet, and activist. She has published several books, with her work focusing on gender norms, politics, social reform and LGBTQ struggles. In 2008, Gibson became the first poet ever to win the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Gibson tours at colleges at universities across the country, bringing up issues including war, bullying, white privilege, sexuality, love, and spirituality.
Audre Lorde was a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” who dedicated her life and work to addressing injustice and oppression. She wrote her first poem in the eighth grade, and pursued an education first at Hunter College in New York City, and then at Columbia University for a master’s degree in library science. She often criticized mainstream feminism for focusing on experiences of middle class white women, and proposed some feminist theory of her own. Her most famous collection of work is Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.
Jordan was born in Harlem in 1936 to Jamaican immigrant parents. Jordan’s father exposed her to literature during elementary school, and she pursued her passion for writing throughout her academic career. While enrolled at Barnard College, Jordan became conscious of and resistant against the racism and sexism she encountered from her white peers and professors, she expresses this sentiment in her book Civil Wars. She identified as bisexual in her writing and her commitment to social justice influenced her poetry and scholarship. Jordan taught at numerous institutions including Yale University, Connecticut College, UC Berkeley in the fields of African American Literature, Feminist Studies, and LGBT Studies. She became known as the “Poet of the People” because of her mission to inspire students to use poetry as a means of artistic expression. Jordan passed away in 2002 from breast cancer, but her activism, poetry, and academic insight remain relevant and inspiring to students, academics, and activists.
Staceyann Chin is a spoken-word poet, performing artist, and activist. She is of Chinese-Jamaican and Afro-Jamaican descent and her work often discusses her struggles of growing up as gay and multiracial in Jamaica. Her work has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Pittsburgh Daily, and has been featured on 60 Minutes.