Oh course it’s not, directly. It’s just when that’s the only place you can feel whole or seen it becomes this sort of corrupted lifeblood. Every compliment to my work becomes “yes you are real, yes you are valid” echoing in my mind when no other space to hear or feel that exists. The desire to win at slams is not pure to my talent but rather a desperate cry for validation; that my suffering is sad enough, my story is good enough.
I’ll completely honest: poetry and spoken word and that community saved my life. Maybe it wasn’t just them, maybe it was a lot of things. But they were a big part of what kept me going, strong and mostly importantly: alive.
The problem is, when that was one of only a few spaces; the only community space, where I felt like I could fully exist. The arts are invaluable to our society and I am so happy for everyone who can find joy and meaning and sustenance in that. BUT to be regulated to a life of Arts and Crafts* when your talents are so much more than that; that is oppression. As it stands now, so many people end up making a career of their queerness because it is the only option to left them. We are so much more than our queerness.
Poetry got me through grief and got me through but my relationship with poetry is nothing more than coping; it has never been for anyone else but me and even if my poetry has the potential to help people, that doesn’t mean that’s what I should do or is the best use of my many diverse talents. Talents, which I lost sight of after watching my career fall away in the aftermath of mental illness and sexual assault. I am more than my suffering; I am more than my poetry about my suffering.
I don’t want to be trapped in a cycle of hurting and spinning words of comfort to others with the same hurts. I deserve more than that. We deserve more than that. More than to be delegated to spaces where we are forever wrapping bandages over our wounds. And perhaps because that is where we are most seen (as it is most urgent that we tend to our wounds) it is easy to disregard our existence in other spaces; but we need to exist beyond spaces of pain.
We are then perceived to be ‘hyper-visible’ (and thus unreal) because we may be forced to flock to these spaces of art and healing (or in parallel; sex work) and so our existence is seen as performative / sexualized / niche ; as we may be over represented in this areas without representation in other places. It is important to be honest about the circumstances which may push us to artistic or sexual fringes but also to allow us to do so, as without these things we may not survive.
It is not enough to cheer for our truths in creative circles; we need allies to demand our presence in all industries. The trans and gender variant people I have met since coming out has informed me that we truely are everywhere, with a wealth of underutilized talents as we fringe along art like it is survival, not fully being able to dive in, to become all that we are.
Even before I knew I was trans I was considering sex work because sexuality was an area where I felt real; and so know when I stand on a stage spilling my authentic words I realized it was much the same need: validation/existence/realness. But I would stumble off that stage and sometimes be met with lovers of my work, who still misgendered me, who still thank me for my writing by saying “hey girl” ~ and I realize there is no way to do my work (whatever that might be) while expecting to seen for what I am. Our society has simply not created, nurtured or held that space for us.
I know this is important though, this appropriate validation of success, because when it is given to an idea of me that is not me, I do not receive it. I do not feel it. It hangs like empty words in the air, and to be able to look past this invisibility to take the gratitude I am entitled to is a mental workout. I can handle people struggling to adjust their language, but when they are willfully ignorant and refuse to even attempt accommodations, it screams like a void inside me as I feel myself pushed to the edges where I seek milked over words of pain and poetry instead of nurturing the universe(s) I wish to birth through sagas.
Their hatred (disbelief; willing us to nonexistence) is a distraction and it keeps us from becoming all that we are, confining us to cam sites and spoken stages where we use art to survive and find sustenance.
* craft as in magickal / (witch)craft / occult attempts