Archer Asks: Non-binary poet Rae White on trans storytelling and gender euphoria
By: Archer Magazine
Rae White is a non-binary transgender writer, educator and zine maker. Their poetry collection Milk Teeth (University of Queensland Press) won the 2017 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, was shortlisted for the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and commended in the 2018 Anne Elder Award. Rae is the editor of #EnbyLife, a journal for non-binary and gender diverse creatives. They are the Events and Marketing Manager at Queensland Poetry. Rae’s poetry has been published in Australian Poetry Journal, Cordite, Meanjin, Overland, Rabbit and others.
Archer Magazine spoke to Rae White about their second poetry collection Exactly As I Am, out now through UQP.
Image: Rae White, Credit: Queensland Poetry Festival 2018
Archer Magazine: Hi Rae, thanks for chatting to us. Can you tell us about Exactly As I Am, your new poetry collection?
Rae White: Exactly As I Am is a new volume of poetry that rises from my lived experience as a non-binary transgender person. The poems are defiant and unruly in their themes and their structure, as well as hopeful and healing.
When writing Exactly As I Am, my aim was to dissect and scrutinise the spaces transgender people are both assigned and denied in society, and explore the themes of gender identity, gender discrimination and gender euphoria. In a nutshell, this book is very, very trans!
AM: On that note, how has poetry and storytelling helped you express or explore your identity?
RW: Poetry has gifted me the tools to weave words as a form of catharsis and play. For me, writing is both heaps of fun and a form of self-expression. Poetry and storytelling have also allowed me to explore my own narrative and identity, giving me the opportunity to write myself into existence and create the trans-queer stories I never read when I was a kid. This is such a huge deal, because trans folks have been erased throughout history, and it’s an incredible privilege for me to be able to write my stories and poems and have them read by others.
I think the first book I truly saw myself in, the first book where I came across a non-binary character, was Alison Evans’s Ida. I was 30 at that point, and in the last six or so years I’ve seen trans and non-binary voices grow so much in literature. It’s awesome to see so many folks exploring their identities through writing.
AM: What themes are most prevalent in your poetry, particularly in Exactly As I Am?
RW: In this collection, the overarching themes are gender identity, gender discrimination and gender euphoria. That’s the plant-based meat of the poetry, as it were. The seasoning is: sprinkles of climate change, a pinch of capitalism, a dusting of whimsy and humour and a hearty dash of Aussie bird life.
One of the key things I wanted to explore in this collection was gender euphoria. So often when trans stories are focused on, they’re about our trauma and our struggles, and often written from or for a cis gaze. I wanted to explore those aspects from a trans lens – as well as focus on the sheer joy that comes from knowing who you are and seeing yourself for the first time, as well as the joy that comes from finding community and knowing there are other people in the world just like you!
AM: Your poems talk about the realities of trans existence, but from a perspective that’s refreshingly joyous and uplifting. What impacts do you hope your poems have on those that read them?
RW: First and foremost, I hope these poems find other trans and gender diverse people, because I want to show them love, hope and euphoria. I want folks to see themselves in my writing and know they’re not alone. And if a fellow enby person decides to write poetry too, or embrace their artistic calling, then that’s a wonderful bonus! I love knowing more of us writing, crafting, painting, singing ourselves into history.
Of course, I also hope these poems give cisgender and straight folks an understanding of transness and experiences of queerness. I hope Exactly As I Am can offer all people: a connection, a community, a call to action.
AM: Who are some of the any queer and trans poets that you’re inspired by?
RW: Oh wow, so many! It’s fantastic to see an increase in marginalised voices in poetry and see trans folks being published, awarded, uplifted and applauded. Shout out to my fellow trans, non-binary and gender diverse poets Josie/Jocelyn Deane, Dan Hogan, Rory Green, Tyza Hart, Emma Simington, essa may ranapiri, Eliana Gray, Maddie Godfrey, Alex Gallagher, and so many more!
I also have the privilege of publishing non-binary and gender diverse creatives as the editor of #EnbyLife Journal. Each and every person I publish is so talented, and I’d definitely urge people to check out our poetry section if they’re looking for new, inspiring poets to read.
AM: Thank you for chatting with us, Rae! Where can we find more of your work?
RW: You can buy my first poetry collection Milk Teeth on the UQP website or at most bookstores. If they don’t have it in stock, you can order it in. You can also check out my website for more of my writing, including short stories and interactive poetry like Twine and Bitsy games.
And I have a couple of poems in the recently released Nothing to Hide anthology of trans and gender-diverse writing, edited by Sam Elkin, Alex Gallagher, Yves Rees and Bobuq Sayed.
You can grab a copy of Exactly As I Am by Rae White through UQP.
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