National Poetry Month: LGBTQ Poets Who Inspire

by Madeleine Roberts

These poems and young poets are so inspiring as they paint a pictures of our world as a place where everyone is treated equally and all people can live life freely.

This year, HRC is celebrating National Poetry Month by asking young people nationwide to write poems about what equality means to them and share them with us. These poems and young poets are so inspiring as they paint a pictures of our world as a place where everyone is treated equally and all people can live life freely.

This vision of love and inclusion has always been explored by poets who use the art form to bring us closer to a world where all people, including LGBTQ people, are fully included in every community. Among them are inspiring LGBTQ poets including Audre Lorde, Andrea Gibson, Mary Oliver, Fatimah Asghar and Chen Chen. Learn more about them below:

Audre Lorde was a Black feminist, lesbian, poet, mother and justice warrior. Her writing, activism and poetry speak to the struggle often faced by people who have been marginalized by society, including LGBTQ people and people of color. The last four stanzas of one of her most famous poems, “The Black Unicorn,” show that even though progress has been made, more work remains in the fight for full equality for all people: “The black unicorn is restless / the black unicorn is unrelenting / the black unicorn is not / free.”

Mary Oliver, an out poet who believed “poetry mustn’t be fancy,” wrote at length about nature and the beauty of the world around us. Inspired by other queer women poets including Edna St. Vincent Millay, she explored the intersection of herself as a queer woman and the world in which she lived, embracing everyday beauty.

Andrea Gibson is a poet and activist whose work focuses on gender, politics and the struggles that LGBTQ people still face. Many of their poems are spoken word, a form of poetry and performance art characterized by rhyme, repetition, improvisation and word play that frequently speaks to issues of social justice and community. One of Gibson’s most moving poems is their tribute to the victims of the deadly Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016.

Fatimah Asghar is a Pakistani, Kashmiri, American poet and queer woman. In her debut book of poems, “If They Come For Us,” Asghar focuses on navigating coming of age and questioning her sexuality without guidance from her parents, who passed away when she was young. The book explores what it means to hold an intersectional identity in today’s world, while still remembering the history of those who came before.

Chen Chen is an up-and-coming poet who also explores the intersection of identities in today’s world in his poetry. His poem “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities” captures the heart of his work: “To be, in my spare time, / America for my uncle, who wants to be China / for me. … To be a cyclone / of laughter when my parents say / their new coworker is like that, they can tell / because he wears pink socks, see, you don’t, so you can’t, / can’t be one of them. To be the one / my parents raised me to be -- / a season from the planet / of planet-sized storms.”

A.W. is another young poet who is taking up the reins of the next generation of poets advocating for equality. A.W.’s poem “Differences” inspires us to be who we are, treat everyone equally and always stand up for ourselves and our friends: “Treat people well, don’t treat them different because they're different, all people should be able to do what other people can do if it is a good choice.”

For more information on how HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program harnesses the power of poetry in our lesson plans, visit the Welcoming Schools website. HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program and lesson plans help children share and explore issues they are passionate about, make connections around social justice and build inclusive communities by learning about and celebrating one another.

HRC Foundation's Welcoming Schools is the nation's premier professional development program providing training and resources to elementary school educators to:

  • Welcome diverse families;
  • Create LGBTQ and gender-inclusive schools;
  • Prevent bias-based bullying;
  • Support transgender and non-binary students.
LGBTQ+ Youth