Non-binary transgender poet and writer Rae White speaks on how being queer has made them rethink the world and see it from a different perspective. 

When they were a kid, White would make paper books, more affectionately known as a “baby’s first zine” and has always embraced a sense of play when it comes to writing. Though they studied writing at university, they didn’t write for 10 years because there were lingering fears that their writing wasn’t good enough or that their voice wasn’t relevant in the writing sphere. 

Since then, White has returned to play with words, enjoying the spaces that words live in and has published their second poetry collection titled Exactly As I Am. Exactly As I Am is a compelling body of work that White describes as openly defiant, unruly, odd, and queer. 

White states that the practice of writing and the process of unlearning all the standard conventions when it comes to poetry’s form or voice almost parallels the way heteronormative society dictates how people should live and the queer response to that as rejecting such terms. 

‘We’re Taught Poetry by Cis-White, Hetero Men and I Never Saw Myself in that Work’

“We’re taught poetry by cis-white, hetero men and I never saw myself in that work and I didn’t think that I would be a poet, so finding other queer poets has helped with that. And, unlearning the rules and doing what I wanted really shaped my writing journey as well,” White says. 

The Milk Teeth writer speaks on the importance of gender identity, believing it is important for other people to see themselves in writing and wanted to have that in the foreground of their latest collection. 

Exactly As I Am is divided up into sections that all have the root prefix ‘Ex’ ascribed to them (Exclude, Exist, Exclaim, Exhale, Exalt). White explains the choice behind structuring the text through those subsections as marked points to focus on gender identity, discrimination, and gender euphoria. Where ‘Exclude’ highlights trans people being excluded in spaces and assigned or denied certain rights; ‘Exist’ is about travelling through the world as a trans person; ‘Exclaim’ rebels against the status quo and asserts that discrimination is not welcome; ‘Exhale’ is about finding those who are like you; and ‘Extract’ celebrates gender euphoria and the queer community, specifically those who are also trans like White. 

‘Poetry Finds Its Own Space on the Page’

“These poems were defiant, rebellious and experimental about gender,” White says. They believe that “poetry finds its own space on the page” and described writing as one that gives a cathartic release. 

Writing is heavily rooted in White’s queer identity who states that as a trans person, there’s a lot to queerness for them. More than just their personal identity, when asked about what queerness means to them, White adds, “the fact that I can find a community, and the community that I’ve found with other queer people has been absolutely beautiful.” 

They hope that fellow young queers get a sense of community with the knowledge that they’re not alone and “we’re all in this together.” 

“It always comes back to community and to the joy of making art and knowing that there’s other people like you making art,” White says. 

Rae White’s new collection Exactly As I Am will be released on July 5. There will be a launch for the book at Avid Reader in Brisbane (and via Zoom) on July 13. White will also be releasing a collaborative poem in celebration of International Non-Binary People’s Day on July 14.

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