By Tanya Munoz and Tommy Brannigan
On Wednesday, March 1st, Columbia College Chicago’s building, Conway Center was a joyous and queer get together. People packed the room for one of YCA’s many open mics, Queeriosity, a poetry salon for queer, and questioning youth, to perform, hear, and write poems. Around 6pm, queer folks came through the doors, signed up to perform, laughed with one another, complemented one another, ate donuts, and sat next to someone who probably had a similar coming out story. The lights were dim, the DJ table was decorated in rainbow and heart banners, and their was a small table that displayed handmade zines from local Chicago artists. Behind the table was H. Melt, in pink suspenders, one of the facilitators for Queeriosity.
One of the best parts about Queeriosity are the hosts. At this installation, Jamila Woods and Amar Taylor kept the crowd laughing and feeling safe throughout the entire night just with their presence. Woods walked on stage with a clipboard and warm smile, “This is about to be really awkward because I am a really awkward person,” she said as she invited us to be ourselves. That’s exactly what everyone did that night: Be unapologetically themselves, without being interrupted or judged. The first poem that we heard was from the host, Amar Taylor. His poem was a middle finger to cis-men who have made living as a transgender man difficult and dangerous.
Many poets echoed the same feeling, taking the stage to express and grieve about the ongoing, and deadly violence towards transgender people, especially black transgender folks. Some of our favorite quotes we heard from this night were: “Eyes on my crotch, but you call me the pervert,” and “My identity could kill me.” The crowd responded with snaps and hums of awe. The crowd was supportive of each other because we know that most of the time the world isn’t so supportive of us.
We got the opportunity to talk to the youth at the open mic and ask them what Queeriosity meant to them, and what message they wanted their poem to deliver.
“I think it’s a really great way to give space to queer poets to talk and not be interrupted and have space to just speak for themselves,” participant Jose Green said. “I want people to know how unsafe it is to make queer women cling onto masculinity to get away from male predators.”
Very rarely are queer youth represented in books, movies, TV shows — and when we are, we are a prop, over sexualized, or given the same background story; we’re not complex. Queeriosity is an important open mic to attend because you will hear real stories from real queer people. It’s the real deal.
Kopano Muhammed, 18, a singer/songwriter, takes a deep breath and lets out a smile when asked what she likes about Queeriosity. “I’m looking forward to being in a queer community because I don’t really have the privilege of doing that all that time. And it’s really good to feel secure about my sexuality and to know that there are people here to love me and welcome me to the community.” At Queeriosity, you will feel accepted and welcomed. If you ever wanted a shoulder to lean on, someone to listen to your struggles, this open mic is it. Although the poems that are performed center on heavy and painful moments, this community is also uplifting. Muhammed performed a refreshing and original song called “Angels.” Kopano says it’s about a girl she likes, and believing in herself — something many people in the crowd related to.
Another poet, Sofia Terenzio said, “It’s important to stick together. Given our country’s political status, it’s really hopeful to see spaces like this doing really great things.” Queeriosity doesn’t allow for the erasure of queer youth, instead creating a space for queer youth to showcase their beauty, talent, and thoughts, while also showing how powerful communities can be when gathered together.