As part of the Pride Resource Center’s LGBT history month, Kay Ulanday Barrett was invited to Colorado State University by RamEvents to give the keynote speech as an end to a month of activities.
To call it a speech, however, is somewhat misleading, according to Barrett.
“I don’t really like keynote ‘speeches’, so this is going to be much more of a performance,” Barrett said.
Barrett is a poet and author who wrote “When the Chant Comes,” a compilation of poetry by Barrett about gender, skin color and his disability.
Barrett recited nine poems, each of which were influenced and derived from his identity as a disabled pilipinx-american transgender queer.
After presentation of Barrett’s poems, the floor was opened for a question and answer session.
Barrett was asked about his favorite city, his definition of activism, as well as violence aimed at transgender women and his views on psychology and therapy.
Barrett said that therapy can be imprisonment based on his own experience.
“I was in a session with a good-hearted, straight, white, cisgender female therapist,” Barrett said. “One of the first things she asked me to do was pretend I wasn’t Pilipino. I walked out of the session.”
Barrett also touched on the fact that transgender women are widely targeted victims of crime in the United States, especially if they are women of color, and what people can do to support them.
“We can assist trans women when they are targeted,” Barrett said. “In order to be supportive, it is necessary and helpful to work in solidarity with trans women, ask what can be done to provide love to them and promote a strong culture of healing and support to each of their individual needs.”
The performance was laced with profanity and harsh language, but it was designed to be that way in order to convey a much more relaxed image of Barrett living out his identity as he normally would.
Barrett’s fourth poem was a powerful testimonial and was compiled of things that he had heard and been told in his life. This poem was preceded by a trigger warning for misogynistic, fat-phobic and anti-migrant language.
Lines from this poem included, “Please step off the scale,” and, “What did you do for someone to attack you?”
Each of his successive poems were about violence against transgender people of color across the United States.
His final poem was entitled “Right to Release” and spoke of the hardships personified by transgender access to bathrooms.
“I don’t even want to wash my hands for fear of screams and taunts,” Barrett said. “Is it so wrong to want to clench your jaw in the light?”
Barrett is a social worker by trade and believes that activism is a very broad term because not everyone can attend protests and march into the streets; sometimes activism is taking care of children while the parents are protesting.
“I want us to be versatile in what activism is,” Barrett said.
Collegian reporter Ryan Tougaw can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @rjtougaw.