Imagine a school board meeting where a group of adults is discussing bathroom policies for trans students. Not difficult to do, right? Now, picture a trans student surrounded by other students offering support as adults reinforce transphobic policies.
This was one of the sketches performed in this year’s Queeriosity showcase at Louder than a Bomb, the largest youth poetry festival in the world. The sketch moved H. Melt, a poet and Queeriosity co-facilitator.
“It was a great piece about allyship and supporting trans voices. … It showed that it is often not fellow students and young people who are enforcing policies of transphobia, but adults who are acting in the name of ‘protecting their (cis) children.’”
Queer youth have important stories to tell, and empowering their voices is what Queeriosity is all about — a monthly poetry salon for LGBTQ youth in Chicago. It’s a child program of the Young Chicago Authors (YCA) organization, which hosts Louder than a Bomb and offers other educational, performance and publication opportunities to young local talent.
Three local poets and artists co-facilitate the queer-inclusive salon: H. Melt, Britteney Black Rose Kapri, and Jamila Woods — all talented queer-identified poets and performers. During each salon, one of the facilitators assumes the role of “Sqribe” who, according to Woods, takes notes throughout the session and creates a poem, including quotes from the pieces performed, and uses them to create and perform a poem to close out each salon.
“To me,” Woods explains, “the role of the Sqribe speaks to the purpose of Queeriosity as a space, and the way that poetry can be used as a tool to affirm and empower the queer community within YCA spaces.”
Queeriosity arose out of a need for a space specifically for queer youth involved with YCA. The salon “borrows its name from our sister organization Youth Speaks, which hosts a Queeriosity reading every year during their Brave New Voices Festival,” says Woods. “Our program began as a once-a-year showcase during Louder Than a Bomb, and over the past three years has expanded to a monthly poetry salon that features workshops, guest performers, field trips and public showcase events.”
Individuals from ages 12-25 are welcome to participate. The wide age range comes out of the hip-hop tradition, Woods explains.
“We emphasize the importance of each voice in the cypher. The great thing about that is that learning happens in all sorts of ways, not just the traditional idea of the younger folks learning from the older people. We aim to create a space free of assumptions, where a middle schooler can feel just as comfortable sharing their ideas and thoughts as a college student would.”
Melt believes that this has special significance for queer youth.
“I’ve met people who are in middle school who have come to understand their queerness at an incredibly young age,” Melt says. “I’ve also met people who have not come into their queerness until they were elders. So, we try to make space for that within the framework of the organization. We try to create a space that is not ageist, while also intentionally providing space for and centering young people.”
Check out Queeriosity’s upcoming events for more information.