New Trans Voices: Hear From the Trans Poets Workshop NYC

New Trans Voices: Hear From the Trans Poets Workshop NYC

Tpoets9 0

Kay Ulanday Barrett



homebois we don’t write enough love poems.
we re-name ourselves izzie from Isabella,
casey from Cassandra, kay from Kathleen.

we run out of ink for our stories cuz we’ve been
running through doors of male and female, never satisfied.
we stunnin’ baggy jeans and bright colors over the sirens,
we stop cars and walk with stride that makes the concrete self-conscious
about it’s own stability.

hitting pavement at the tip-toes of summer,
there you go talkin’ about how you  
“need a woman pregnant and barefoot.”

as I shutter asking,
           are you gonna find a stiletto ready to stab you
if the knight sticks don’t come get you first?

asking- are you gonna be that bullet that is a mouth?
asking- are you gonna be that missile that blasts your woman until she misses you,
even when you will both be in the same bed?

if we make ourselves harder than bone,
            make us a legacy that is beyond all this.

cuz I’ve been running through doors of male and female,
never satisfied.

that makes you nervous doesn’t it?
are you worried, your palms sweaty

because I am NOT that kind of a man


           and that might make you obsolete, that means this whole system
needs a revision. that means, we have to ask ourselves daily

are you are doing your homework?

homebois, we don’t write enough love poems to
ourselves. spell out our soft syllables unapologetically, letting
the ferocity in us extend us a strength beyond stiff jaw and cold silence,
the stuff of abandoned buildings.

let us unfold the photos with us dipped in lace and dresses and laugh.
let the most tender cipher surround us not be our mother’s tears for the loss
of a daughter.

let us hold our breaths for the sakia gunns and the fong lee’s, as it
could easily be our sweat on this sidewalk.
let us adore the swiftness of kisses in moonlight rather than the
pummeling cusses of strangers scared of difference.
let the tensile ace bandage be a testament across this chest, waving like prophets
of a gender war.

let every poor black brown and yellow butch see her way into
a paintbrush, a camera, an uprock, a computer, and not into the hips of
hand grenades chucked on someone else’s homeland.
to every person who squirms in the bathrooms, classrooms, and on stages
next to me, let them know that this moment is a clue of your queerness.
let them know my titas are at casinos burning this American dream away too

let them know my kuyas christen their kid’s foreheads and give me daps with the same hands.
let them know that each time they make fun of us, they could be in a feather boa,
singing prince, showing their wives some force that will drive them toward and not away.
let their children run up and down the city  as the confident queer kids, who get
scholarships to college for a GSA or for promoting safety at school,
you being the backward parent they divulge to teachers they are ashamed of.

let me not reveal my monster each time I hear “I’ll fuck you straight.”
let my fingers not be readied trigger, grabbing sharp objects for stabbing back,
to turn them into the  bloodiest meat they make of me
with their pyramid of power.

let me walk away without harm, disbanding my razor-edge
that could cut their lifelines, slice steel song into their temples,
shear off their pride as soon as they start to unzip their pants.

let us know we can do this
and make it clear:
we choose not to.

universe, if we can make ourselves harder than bone,  harder than stone,
           make us a legacy that is beyond all this.

A 2009 Campus Pride Hot List artist, 2013 Trans Justice Funding Project Panelist, and 2013 Trans 100 Honoree, Kay Ulanday Barrett is a poet, performer, educator, and martial artist navigating life as a disabled pin@y amerikan transgender queer in the U.S. with struggle, resistance, and laughter. Please see his online swerve at: and on twitter @kulandaybarrett.

Tpoets10 0

Maxe Crandall

for JR Blair
Raising banners is attractive,
makes one burst with personality.
Women have a lot to say about these things,
while assuredly "not speaking"
to men through style.
To wit, Jackie O likes her girlfriend
thank you very much
and would rather not see her burned at the stake.
Besides, Jackie’s busy at the nursery, where she
works nights, fretting over hibiscus,
and O the constellations!
Meanwhile, in her everlasting trenchcoat,
Dionne Warwick stares down her enemies,
reducing them to straining teenagers
and secretly considering herself
"America’s Last Action Diva."

Like us, she spends much of her time
leaning against doorframes and talking
on the telephone, dreaming of cartoon heroes
while fingering the long cord.
The men tend to more commemorative cruelties.
With Chris Brown in his wretched kingdom,
the stakes of celebrity vassalage get knobby
around the nobodies he becomes and then shuns.
Speaking of Violence, the first episode ponders
Hemingway's flagrant remarks about lesbians.
In the second installment, rumor has it
Papa will hand over one of his savage sweaters
to the singer. To close, the forest weeps
new rivers suddenly, as in myth.

Everyone knows gold is a shaking color,
a key to what the early bisexuals taught us,
with their oratorical chanting: "Earthquake,
or milkshake?" which is to suggest
there will always be progress,
be infighting—
but to clash, and to do it well,
one must couch objection
in abstention

and eat and yell, and eat and yell,
and eat and yell

Maxe Crandall is a 2014 Poets House Emerging Fellow. Maxe’s first chapbook, the play Together Men Make Paradigms, is forthcoming from Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs. You can purchase tickets for the July 10 performance in the Hot! Festival at Dixon Place here!

Tpoets11 0

Phoenix Nastasha Russell


I’ve been beaten down and left for dead and still I rise.
There were those that I thought had my back should I fall but when it happened there was no one to call…..and yet through it all still I rise.
There have been times when I was abused by the very ones that I thought cared for me, but I made it out with my soul still intact so I say to you… still I rise
Where there was nothing but falsehoods and the maybe I should or could from those that I viewed as role models but the advise that was given was nothing I could believe in ………yet still I rise.
I give unconditional love to those that I call my friends and although that love may not be wholeheartedly returned …….still I rise.
I’ve been looking for the true meaning of my actions and my deepest regrets, seeking the answers as to why did this happen and the realization that if I had only thought this through and done this differently that I wouldn’t be dealing with this horrible outcome but, what I’ve come to realize is that it is all destined, it’s all a learning experience…….and still I rise
Those with the purest of hearts; those free of malice intent in the way their daily lives are spent …… are the ones that suffer the most …… having a pure heart comes with a grave cost …. When you open yourself up to those you trust and in return they cause you to feel lonely and lost ……and still I rise.
Reflecting on the material things that I’ve lost; items that came at a great cost.  They were either taken from me by some sneak thief in the night …… a coward full of jealousy and spite, not caring about the struggles I’ve gone through to get what I’ve got…..these material things can be replaced but the trust I once had in people is now gone without a trace …….. and still I rise
I got caught up in the “I coulda, woulda, shoulda”, when remembering quite a bit of the experiences of my life some things I’m so ashamed I’ve done that I wish I could find a safe non-judgmental place to hide, somewhere where I don’t feel the dumb mistakes I’ve made would affect my self esteem and pride……yet still I rise
How do I nurture and restore to the forefront that kinder, more loving, gentler side………the parts of me now locked away and hidden so deep inside?  Me always remembering that my life has been one bumpy rollercoaster ride…….full of high ups and drastic drops from astounding heights and of my being thrown all around. Me wishing only that I could plant my feet once again on solid ground and praying that I manage to get off this rollercoaster ride somehow……and still I rise.
Hey have you seen my pride come running this way?  That part of me that seems to always get in the way of making wise decisions and coming to clear conclusions concerning the events of my day…….my true purpose in life is yet to be found and I will never find it if my pride is left unbound; keeping me on that rollercoaster with it high ups and tragic downs…….yet still I rise.
It’s all been a sordid affair……wanting to be there where the treatment of me will finally be fair, but I'm forced to remain here in this frame of mind, just where will destiny take me this time?  When will we be free to climb the wondrous life tree the one we planted when we finally made it out of slavery…its roots so nice and deep…..holding much of our rich history…….history to be explored not ignored as if some of the facts aren’t straight.  Being held back and oppressed and the ones responsible still have no sense of regret……and still I rise.
I've been told that consequences are a direct reaction to the choices you make......well I choose to live happy and free but in total contradiction to my choice the consequences have been oppression as if time has been turned back to the days of bigotry and slavery.......and still I rise
I'm sitting here all wrapped up in myself full of self doubt, self pity no room for anything else.  At times I feel so out of place, as if being of Trans experience and of color is nothing but a disgrace, but as we fight for equality we will prove this is not the case ….. and still I rise.
Babies being thrown away children being kidnapped or shot, rapist, pedophiles roaming our streets, cops accosting, arresting or shooting the wrong people as they patrol their assigned beats……Oh, we’ve come so far but have yet so far to go, but hey this isn’t a secret it’s something we all know ….. and still I rise
Like the phoenix being rebirthed from the ashes of its own demise …….still still still I rise.

Phoenix Nastasha Russell is an accomplished poet, whose raw, sensual, energetic and enlightening words have been featured in books like Rivers of Emotions and websites like A fantastic performer, Phoenix will bring you to your feet or have you doubled over with laughter.  

Tpoets12 0

Charli Cleland


Loving me is difficult.
Because sometimes
I shed my skin too quickly
Trying to forget what it feels like
To be held by the brown callous palms
Of uncles, friends and strangers.

My new skin never remembers
The coolness of your touch
On the parts of my body where you need maps and lights to navigate safely.

Loving me is difficult
Because sometimes
When it hurts too much to become
I wear masculinity like a cloak
And refuse to leave enough room for you in the spaces between my fingers

I forget the taste of your mouth
And allow bitterness to drip from my lips
The kind of bitterness that tastes like hate

Loving me is difficult
Because sometimes
I ask you not to say “I love you”
Afraid that it will sound a lot like
The first one I ever heard
I will be 8 again, trapped beneath the taste of sweat and disgust.

I forget, that your I love yous
Sound like caresses and taste like nectar.

Loving me is difficult
Because sometimes
I package my anger and grief neatly
And hide it in my sternum
Waiting for it to become potent enough to poison you

I haven’t learned how to stop eating my emotions.
Or how to stop throwing them up on your lovely blue dress.

Loving me is difficult
Because sometimes
When you kiss me
I slip marriage into your mouth
And refuse to perform the Heimlich
When it becomes lodged in your throat

I forget that you choose me every day
And choosing me in a wedding dress won’t change a thing.

Loving me is difficult
Because sometimes
I forget to see the world in you

I forget that your pupils are galaxies
And you are wind.

Loving me is difficult
I am still learning to not pick at my wounds.

Charli Cleland is a two-spirit Ghanaian spoken word poet, photographer and law activist based in Brooklyn. His works, both poetic and visual, focus on themes of gender identity, race, love and the complex cycles of internal psychic life.


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