Today, we honor the memory of transgender people whose lives have been lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. Transgender Day of Remembrance shines a light on the losses we face due to bigotry and violence and serves as a reminder for us all to continue to fight for justice. In support of #TDOR, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite poems that bring attention to the transgender community.
“Hierarchy” by Miles Walser
This spoken word poem was written and performed by Miles Walser in the 2013 National Poetry Slam prelims. Chronicling the experiences of two different characters, Walser points out the differences that exist within oppression.
“The Moon is Trans” by J. Jennifer Espinoza
This bold and beautiful poem begins with a bang. “From this moment forward, the moon is trans,” writes Espinoza. “You don’t get to write about the moon anymore unless you respect that.” Espinoza likens the moon to a spectacle, misunderstood and unheard, but never delicate or weak.
“Real Boy/Real Girl” by Max Binder and Mo Crist
This poem was performed by rhymic duo Max Binder and Mo Crist in 2016’s College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. “To be gendered is to answer every question before it is asked,” the two say in unison, bringing to light the social constructs surrounding gender. They also unpack what it means to be fully ourselves. “Home is a body where you get to be you, no strings attached,” they say.
“Batter My Heart, Transgender’d God” by Meg Day
This poem appears in Meg Day’s 2014 collection, Last Psalm at Sea Level. Day’s powerful hymn is at once haunting and beautiful, as it illustrates the oppression and violence of transgendered people in the form of a prayer. Day puts fear into words, writing “Terror, do not depart / but nest in the hollows of my loins & keep me on all fours.”
“Exclusively on Venus” by Trace Peterson
Originally appearing in The Brooklyn Rail, this playful yet poignant poem offers a twist on the familiar, “roses are red, violets are blue,” format. Peterson juxtaposes casual, mundane lines with sharp and specific experiences, writing lines as simple as “we ate at a restaurant / and forgot to put the leftovers in the fridge” to “I tricked my doctors / and stole all the medication to hide it in a cave and share it with other trans people.” The whiplash of this narrative allows the reader to experience all aspects of the speaker’s life—beyond being trans.
“Maybe All Transgender People are Really Vampires” by Chrysanthemum Tran
In this sharp and stirring spoken word performance, Tran uses a bold metaphor to make a point. The poet draws on themes of gothic fiction with references to Transylvanian castles, vampire-hunting, lost reflections, and the undead. “Most trans people can’t even walk home without the uncertainty of how their own blood might puddle across the pavement,” says Tran. “I’m so tired of comparing myself to ghosts to prove that I too deserve an average lifespan over 32.”
“Song for the Kicked Out” by Kay Ulanday Barrett
This rhythmic anthem offers a sense of community for those who may feel isolated, pushed away, or lost. The poem provides a retelling of Barrett’s own struggle, but not without a sense of resilience and community. “Together we are a prayer, a chant, a song, no matter what,” writes Barret.