I first found Andrea Gibson’s spoken word poetry when I was sixteen. I was browsing through YouTube one night after sixth form college and I came across this video (below). As I watched that video, for the first time in weeks I really listened. Looking back at this moment I now realise that I listened because I finally felt as though someone was speaking to me.
A little background for those of you who aren’t familiar with Andrea Gibson, or their poetry: they’re a queer, genderqueer poet, spoken word artist, hope-less/ful romantic and activist.
Three years later, toward the end of my second year in university, Andrea Gibson came to perform in a city near me. I booked tickets for myself and for a friend who had told me I could sleep at their place after the show. While I watched the support acts I noticed Andrea, out of the corner of my eye; they sat in a darkened corner of the room and listened, carefully, in the same contemplative engagement which reminded me of myself, when I had first found their poetry. The show was a uniquely intimate experience which I’m forever grateful for. After the show I met Andrea and I thanked them, hugged them and went into the rest of my life a changed person. What really struck me was that, aged sixteen I hadn’t even thought I would be here in three years, and yet here I was, in a situation so wonderful I could have never imagined it those few years ago.
In university, I wasn’t often able to be myself; I became disillusioned with literature, poetry and theory for much of my degree. When I wrote my dissertation I took a risk which enabled me to bring joy back into learning, writing 10,000 words on trans and non-binary people in literature and poetry with, you guessed it, a focus on Andrea Gibson’s work. Their poetry has been central to my understanding of queerness and gender (and, specifically, my own gender identity) and it was a joy to be able to write about them in order to earn my lit degree.
This year, as I finally started to feel more at home with myself, my queerness and my gender, I found myself once again scrolling through YouTube videos of Andrea Gibson’s work, often at the most difficult times, when I needed reassurance. Internally, I was questioning everything, I was looking for some kind of sign that it would be okay to be myself and that I would be okay. Then I clicked onto this video.
I listened, clinging onto each word like a pinky promise with myself, that I could be me and that I would be okay. I remembered myself, six years ago, how I had hung onto the syllables of their poetry for dear life and hoped that I had some kind of future. I remembered myself four years ago, meeting Andrea Gibson and thanking them, the sense of overwhelming, ethereal joy which I had felt. I remembered myself just two years ago, still struggling to be myself and yet, holding onto these little pieces of spoken word in the hope that they would form some kind of map which would take me to where I needed to be. That’s around the time I started sobbing.
I am able to be myself, and I am okay.
I have to thank Andrea Gibson and their beautifully articulate, outspoken and honest work for so many years of reassurance and joy. I’ll be seeing Andrea Gibson live again this June, and you should too- tickets here. Check out some of their poetry and let me know your favourite poem. Perhaps even tell me about someone who has had a big impact on your life, whether in relation to your queerness, gender identity or simply your confidence and happiness.- AB
this is part of my ‘let’s talk about…’ series, where I discuss the impact of influencers & pop culture figures & artists of all trades on my own life and identity, read more here