A Look Inside My Introduction to Queer Studies Classes: Poetry and Identity

Today my wonderful students in both sections of Introduction to GLBT Studies (or Queer Studies) at the University of Houston explored various aspects of identity! 

We started off by listening to and discussing a variety of performance poems: “Until We Could,” “Lost Voices,” and “For Anyone Who’s Been Told it’s ‘Just a Phase’.”

Then we wrote a poem as a class. I started it by typing “Growing up it was always expected” and then let the students run with it. One of them in each class typed everything. The only rule was every thing said went into the poem! I “tricked” people a few times! Both classes did an excellent job! Lucky for you, they gave me permission to share these with you. They are below.

Then we listened to Lee Mokobe’s poem about being transgender.

Next, I gave students the following prompt (stolen from my friend and colleague Dr. Trevor Boffone – who is the other professor at the University of Houston who teaches sections of this class):

There are numerous ways to identify who we are. Who are you? How do you identify yourself to others? Who are you to your friends, to your family, to strangers? Who are you at school, work, or other locations such as church or the gym? What about race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, ableness? Are any of these categories important to how you view yourself? If so, which ones and why? If not, why not? Think about your identity. How would you describe yourself? What does this description say about you? What is the history of your identity? Have you changed? Have you always been the same? Answer one, all, or none of the above questions.

In response, some students wrote individual poems, some drew sketches and portraits, some made lists, some wrote beautiful essays – the results were all unique and wonderful. Students had an opportunity to read some of or all of what they wrote. They are all so supportive of each other!

Then we listened to and discussed Audre Lorde’s “There is No Hierarchy of Oppression” and looked at her self-care questionnaire.

Finally, we listened to “Son of a Preacher Man” while wrapping up the class.

During the last few minutes I asked students to write any final thoughts or questions about identity or the day and to turn something in for an assignment grade – for which they all got full credit!

And now I present the stream of consciousness poems to you written as an entire class.

The first one, as decided by the students, is titled, 2:30 Expectations 

Growing up it was always expected
To be a woman
What is a woman
Still figuring it out
Ooo fun
Oh my gosh
Fragile and sensitive
Pink not blue
Have to wear dresses
Growing up it was expected
Play sports
To go to dance class
Don’t go outside the fence
To be a bad driver
To go to college
Never being good enough
Follow the curfew
Be home before the street lights come on
A right
But he’s a boy, he’ll be ok
As long as he marries a woman
Be independent
To know who I am before I know who I am
To do things as told
To be strong
Have grandkids
Do well in school
Stay close to your brother
Find a man with a good job
Don’t be too friendly
It’s your fault if anything happens
Be safe
Be careful
Never show your fears
Never let them see you sweat
Never try to be someone you’re not
Be a leader not a follower
Be perfect
What is perfect
No one is perfect
Don’t talk to strangers, but don’t be mean to strangers
Don’t let them see you cry else you’ll look weak
How can I be everything they expect me to be?
Give him a fake number so he’ll go away
Have faith that you’ll find your way
Too many demands
Believe in something
Hold on, it’ll get better
I forgot the original sentence
Follow your dreams
Be reasonable
Be successful
Be responsible
Be an adult
Grow the hell up
Pick a gender already
Get married already
I don’t wanna
When are you going to have kids?
Do you think that will attract a man?
I am not trying to attract a man
Who needs a man?
No one needs a man
No offense
Full offense
I like this as an ending
Damn it
That’s good
Is the goal like three pages or something
The end

The second class named their poem SHIT POST:

Growing up it was always expected
To be normal
To follow the rules
To be straight
To have goals
To go to school
Africans don’t play
No no no…..
Anything we say
Growing up it was always expected
To be like your siblings
To be better than your siblings
Who needs siblings?
They’re annoying
Yea yea yea
To make good grades
I don’t know
To be better than the rest
To be independent
To be outgoing
To fit in
To be the man
To not be weak
Be responsible
To have a boyfriend
Who needs men?
To be a doctor
What are we doing?
It’s alright
Get a career then you can get pregnant
Social norms
To fix your brothers and dads plates
I’m sorry… I don’t know why I’m doing it
I have nothing
Whats the point of this ?
Reflecting on expectations
To dress like your friends
To have friends
To have nice things
Never give up
But don’t be a copy cat
To fit in
To be understood
Yea I said like four things
To eat healthy
Hmmmm…. No
To play sports
To give up your career for your family
To be a ballerina
To not be a football player
To be a football player
To be extremely wealthy
To not be shy
To be kind
Accepting of others
No to judge people
Love your family
To wanna kill your family
Had dark teenage years
Okay that’s going on the record… okay
To graduate high school
To be beautiful
To be handsome
To be able to immediately go into college
To be skinny
To be perfect
Does this person even exist?
Maybe with Photoshop
To be ashamed of my culture
To embrace your culture
The masculine man
The feminine woman
To shave your arm pits
Oh yea… you should do it
That’s sexist
That’s racist
That’s homophobic
The End

It was a fun, full class! Teaching is the best!

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda