Encountering racism from other gay men when I came out caused me to interrogate my own identity, questioning what I’m able to become if a lot of the world told me “no.” The more I thought on this, over time it eventually sank in that the answer was (and always has been): anything I wanted to be.
My debut poetry collection Mythical Man is made up of poems spun from my experiences as a gay Asian man in the 21st-century, and it explores this journey of identity-making through love, lust, and heartbreak, while reflecting on my ancestral roots. The collection challenges ideas of male beauty, gay sex, and toxic masculinity in contemporary gay culture.
From writing my book, I’ve come to learn that as a gay man of color, navigating queer spaces is oftentimes a tricky experience to do in order to feel safely seen and confident in who I am as a minority. Below are seven other poetry books that also explore what it’s like being a person of color in queer spaces.
War / Torn by Hasan Namir
The poems in Namir’s War / Torn explore what it truly feels like to belong, and what it means to create an identity. The tenderness in these poems is as poignant as the violence Namir invokes throughout the collection, both working in tandem to interrogate the nuanced identity of existing as an Iraqi-Canadian in queer spaces.
Love Cake by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
In Love Cake, the poems ask, “What happens when we encounter unsafe spaces in queer communities as a person of color?” And they do so with a profound voice that draws you in and doesn’t let go. This collection is a memorable exploration on how queer people of color utilize love and desire to transform violence.
Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral
Corral seamlessly blends English and Spanish together in meticulously crafted poems to convey his experiences as a gay Chicano man. Slow Lightning is a collection that captivates you with unexpected imagery, forms, and phrases that establishes Corral as a masterfully formed poetic voice.
Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed
In Indecency, Reed boldly explores the inequity and injustice in his critique of white supremacy culture. These poems unashamedly push the boundaries of social order while unpacking personal intimacies and exploring topics such as masculinity, skin, culture, and sexuality.
a place called No Homeland by Kai Cheng Thom
When you enter a place called No Homeland, the poems captivate you with a spoken-word quality, echoing Thom’s history as a performance artist. Spinning together folklore, magic, and trans feminism, these poems urgently question how we define inclusiveness.
This Wound is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt
The beautiful poems in Belcourt’s breathtaking collection don’t shy away from sex and love to explore the intersections of being gay and Indigenous, while looking at how Indigenous people stay positive. It’s a powerful debut that is full of hope for a decolonial kind of heaven where “everyone is at least a little gay.”
Disintegrate/Dissociate by Arielle Twist
Twist’s debut is a powerhouse of poems exploring complicated human relationships. Written with a tender rage, this collection speaks to what it means to exist as an Indigenous trans woman, carrying a thread of hope throughout for a better, softer future through sparse but poignant poems.
even this page is white by Vivek Shraya
Bold and provocative, Shraya’s poems don’t hold back to tear down understandings of what it means to be a racialized queer person. They are intelligent and beautifully stark in how they illuminate everyday racism.
Slant by Andy Quan
In this compelling collection Quan asks, “How do we belong?” through poems that explore race, gay sexuality, and the Chinese diaspora. It’s a witty book that really gets to the crux of being a gay Asian man.