10 Queer Spoken Word Artists For You To Get Obsessed With

I fell down the rabbit hole of spoken word a few years ago and have yet to bother climbing out. It’s warm and inviting down here, like a secret cave stocked with an endless supply of brownies and mint green nail polish. Poetry gives us the power to speak truth into existence without asking for an answer in return. We may all worship at the well-spoken altar of Andrea Gibson, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more out there to love! Here are ten LGBTQ spoken word artists you should consider crushing on (one of whom was a Straddler on the Street!):

1. Janani Balasubramanian – Trans/national

“I understand that your bodies have not always been yours,
but they have always been beautiful.
You have always had words for them.
My testosterone is now made by Israel’s largest company.
There is colonization running through my bloodstream.
Every time I take a shot, my muscles feel out of place for several days.”


2. Denise Frohman – Dear Straight People

“Dear Queer young girl,
I see you.
You don’t want them to see you
so you change the pronouns in your love poems to him
instead of her –
I used to do that.
Dear straight people,
you make young poets make bad edits.”

3. Staceyann Chin – Speech at the Gay Games VII

Two spirit
Non-gender conforming
every year we add a new fucking letter
yet every year
I become more and more afraid to say
who I am
under the pretense of unity I swallow something I should have said
about the epidemic of AIDS in Africa
or the violence against teenage girls in East New York
or the mortality rate of young boys on the south side of Chicago.”


4. Joanna Hoffman – Pride

“So when my straight friend asks me why there is no straight pride parade I tell her,
“You can’t be proud of something you’ve never had to fight for.”
This is for every wedding I watched from the sidelines,
every fairy tale with stipulations,
every it’s a choice, it’s a phase, you’re disgusting,
every swollen choke of shame I learned to coat my throat with,
every gay kid who ever believed nothing would ever make this better,
because home meant break the parts of yourself
that don’t fit into the plaster of who you’re supposed to be.”

5. Anis Gisele – Untitled

“The day she told you to never come back
you tripped, on your tin can voice.
You’ve been confused by its sound ever since.
Breathe, when you are on stage, or your body will not trust
that you won’t dissolve in the anxiety of holding up the truth.”

6. Nicole Masangkay – My Gender is for Mothers

“When you remember that
This world was built against this gender on this body
And that the odds are against love and safety
I will trace the big dipper onto the soft canvas of your back
Watch constellations wrinkle gravity at the brimming outstretch of your smile
Catch curves folding under covers with my earthbound hands
And crumple the sky’s hemline to custom-fit your palms
When this world will not fit our safety
I will give you the universe with my fingertips
And the most gentle bends of my body”

7. T. Miller – Coming Out

“This world cares nothing about how many clocks we own.
There will never be a right time for us to be ourselves.
So when you leave home,
make sure your picture is just how you want to be remembered
in case you return as someone else or not at all.”

8. Ashley Catharine – Artists Don’t Make Mistakes

“Like this body you’ve given me hasn’t fulfilled its purpose,
Like it’s supposed to have wings
but my packaging has been tampered with.
Some days I can’t seem to choke out words
big enough to fit me because this larger size
often makes me feel so small.”

9. Kai Davis – Homicidal Rainbow

“I can’t hide behind bathroom stalls.
They always find me,
amongst black and white linoleum and piss.
I can’t forget they call me faggot, and fruit,
and Tinkerbell, but I thought that bitch had wings
and I never once felt like I could fly.”


10. Shanita Jackson & Dakota Odur – Gay is the New Black/Civil Rights

“My legacy has been swept under rugs
No one has ever sung me a spiritual to lead me to the promised land
or made me rainbow cake to remind me of where I come from.
We are history’s middle children who have to wear glitter to get attention.
We are your siblings. We are not looking to replace you on our family tree,
we just want a hug at Christmastime.”

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Kemi has written 2 articles for us.


  1. Love love love Staceyann Chin.

    I’m wondering why Andrea Gibson isn’t on here, but maybe because she gets so much rec already?

  2. Oh, I really needed this. I am newly in love with Janani Balasubramanian & Kai Davis, have fallen for Denise Frohman before, and look forward to getting to know the rest at the end of the work week.

  3. Watched them all at once and got chills 10 times. I’m almost overwhelmed with all of the smiling and chest clutching I just did. It’s wonderful to be reminded of all of the beautiful people being creative and strong. Inspiring, even.

  4. I love spoken word!!! Sierra DeMulder isn’t on the list but is awesome, she does a poem about Michelle Bachman that is great. Also, she does one about what it would be like to be Jeffery Dahmer’s Mother… and it is creepy, crazy awesome!

    Also, I feel like every woman should see this one by Katie Makkai:


  5. I love this article, because duh, but also, LOOK HOW THIS LIST JUST ALMOST DOUBLED IN SIZE ALREADY because Autostraddle readers are awesome. Pardon me while I disappear into spoken word world for a few weeks or maybe forever.

  6. Unlike Andrea Gibson who cancelled her performance at MichFest 2013, Staceyann Chin didn’t, taking money from a woman who blatantly denies trans women their womanhood. She’s no queer spoken word artist I’ll ever get obsessed with.

  7. I actually know Denice Frohman in real life. We had to fight to get her and the woman she’s in a duo with, Alyesha Wise, to my campus because their name was Pussies, Pens, and Politics. It was a huge ordeal and we almost ended up filing a lawsuit.

  8. Jasmine Mans NEEDS to be on this list!!!! She’s a young Black queer poet who is a member of the spoken word collective The Strivers Row. She’s FANTASTIC, here’s a video of her performing ‘Dear Ex-Lover’ about her first heartbreak from a relationship she had with a woman.


  9. I’m on the Entertainment Committee for the Sisterspace Women’s Weekend and in addition to musicians and comedians, we’ve had several spoken word artists. We’ve had Staceyann Chin and Ms. Wise in addition to Alix Olsen and Innocence Bello, all of whom are capable of making you laugh, cry and almost forget to breathe, with their words. I can definitely say that I will be combing through this list for upcoming performances. Thank you for posting this!

  10. This is from a really long time ago, but Mary Lambert is a queer Spoken Word poet who’s poem “Body Love Pt. 1” speaks to everyone who has dealt with body image issues.

  11. We’ve had Staceyann Chin and Ms. Wise in addition to Alix Olsen and Innocence Bello, all of whom are capable of making you laugh, cry and almost forget to breathe, with their words. I can definitely say that I will be combing through this list for upcoming performances. Thank you for posting this!

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