Staceyann Chin

Artifact: Excerpt of If Only Out of Vanity by Staceyann Chin

Will I still be lesbian then
or will the church or family finally convince me
to marry some man with a smaller dick
than the one my woman uses to afford me
violent and multiple orgasms

Will the staff smile at me
humor my eccentricities to my face
but laugh at me in their private resting rooms
saying she must have been something in her day

Most days I don’t know what I will be like then
but everyday—I know what I want to be now
I want to be that voice that makes Guilani
so scared he hires two (butch) black bodyguards

I want to write the poem
that The New York Times cannot print
because it might start some kind of black or lesbian
or even a white revolution

Identification: This poem is one of her most infamous works and has been performed on several stages since 2009. The poem discusses how other people may see her in her older years and how her life, centered around political and social revolution, will be perceived by others. She mentions many controversial topics including the church, being forced to marry, and being boisterous to the point the media censors her and the powerful fear her spoken word. Similar to slam poetry, spoken word and performance have been her stronghold for a good portion of her career. She has spoken out about many injustices facing the LGBT poetry and recently spoke on the Orlando shooting from last month (which was not revolutionary to the point The New York Times refused to print it, but If Only Out of Vanity seemingly was at the time).

Annotation: Staceyann Chin is from Jamaica. She is also of Chinese and African descent. Because of this, she has spoken out not only on sexuality but on how her race and how the two intersect. While this is different from the revolutionary work of black female scholars like Lorde, who have a specific history of oppression in the United States, other non-Caucasian races still face discrimination at the hand of white privilege. Even in Jamaica, she’s reminisced on how she was mistreated as a gay woman. Queer women of color have continually addressed injustice, and Chin’s work through poetry is a colorful way to do so. Her work continually mentions sparking a revolution whether “black or lesbian or even a white revolution” and her advocacy reflects that.

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