16 Portraits of LGBT Seniors Finding Community Through Poetry
By Advocate.com Editors
Steven Reigns has taught free autobiographical poetry workshops to LGBT elders for 11 years.
Award-winning poet Steven Reigns conceptualized and created My Life is Poetry, an autobiographically poetry writing workshop for LGBT seniors, 11 years ago. It brings critical education and emotional expression to a chronically underserved population. The workshop was the first of its kind in the country. The annual workshops and culminating public readings have been thriving. The workshops and readings have ignited discussions, helped normalize the LGBT aging process and experience, bridged a gap between communities and generations, helped connect isolated LGBT seniors with peers, and connected LGBT elders with the pleasure of writing poetry.
Reigns states, “Autobiographical poetry is a great tool to examine the themes, emotions, and moments in one's complex life. By exploring the depth of one's life experience, universals are revealed, giving a writer and reader a sense of interconnection and not being alone.” The sense of not being alone is an important one for LGBT seniors.
Growing up LGBT dramatically alters ones perception of the world. LGBT elders of today experienced life before the liberating Stonewall riots in 1969, saw the devastation of HIV in the '80s, and witnessed the emergence of queer representation in the media and the shifting political landscape. These stories are important to express and document, though they are not shared widely.
Reigns wanted to change that: “This workshop and the writings that come from it are a platform to help others empathize and experience what it is like to be an LGBT senior. For an inexperienced writer, tackling an autobiographical poem is more manageable than trying to write one's entire life story in a memoir. We are a society built on storytelling and using the poetic form to compress these stories into line breaks and stanzas is a rewarding challenge.” The act of autobiographical poetry writing leads to deep self-reflection and appreciation. Participants have crafted enjoyable, perplexing, humorous, shameful, and sometimes troubling life experiences into poetry. These elder LGBT students will share their work at a reading Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Los Angeles. Admission is free.