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Poet H. Melt shows why gender isn’t always simple

Gender is often not as simple as it seems. This principle underlies the work of H. Melt, a 25-year-old trans poet who uses the pronoun “they” and released “The Plural, The Blurring,” their debut poetry collection, last week.

Melt grew up in a community of young Chicago poets when there were far fewer representations of trans people in media and literature. Those that did exist were one-dimensional, defined by the violence for which trans people are at an elevated risk.

But this approach does not reflect actual trans people’s lives, Melt said. “There wasn’t a lot of writing that I felt was joyous, or writing that was about affirming or validating moments in trans people’s lives,” Melt said.

That trend continues to be prevalent in media, they said. “We see violence against trans people. We see all the ways that trans people are denied access to health care. We see trans people being policed and criminalized. [That] is all real and happening and really important, but I would also love to see just trans people being successful and enjoying their lives,” they said. “I would love to see them living in a world where they can be themselves.”

H. Melt’s work is concerned with building that world, in part by blurring the binaries that govern the ways many people think of gender, they said.

“It’s really important for me to be able to walk around in the world and be recognized as what I am, which is a trans person that does not fit into the binary of what people think of in terms of gender,” they said. “I’m, unfortunately, one of the only people who’s going to recognize and assert myself as a queer trans person, as a gender-nonconforming trans person. The vast majority of people are not going to recognize me as the person that I am.”

“The Plural, The Blurring” — which Melt composed in the vein of Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B” — claims space for that identity at the front and center of the poem.

The piece addresses class inequality within queer communities, pointing out the commodification of gay culture in the form of “gaycations” and “gay friendly apartments.” The poem points out that those status markers leave out people “Who don’t have a roof, / shower, doctor or job.”

Instead of these systems, the poem envisions an America composed of “The plural. The blurring,” challenging stereotypical notions of gender and the queer community.

“One of the things that I’m interested in doing is breaking down these ideas of what the queer community looks like, what and who trans people are, what the definition of a trans person is,” Melt said.

Those ideas are applicable to cisgender people as well, they said.

“There’s a lot of in-between spaces for people to experiment and blend and mix all these different aspects of their identities. You don’t have to fit in these pre-existing definitions or ways of being,” they said. “And I think that this whole idea is applicable to everyone’s life, regardless of whether or not they’re trans.”

THE PLURAL, THE BLURRING
After Langston Hughes’ Theme for English B

I am twenty two
white and Jewish
born in Chicago.

I went to college in vermont.
Came back home to attend
the art institute downtown.

I am the only Trans person
in most class rooms
in most rooms.

I ride the red line
home to Edgewater
where Trans people live
down the block.

Straight america, I hear you
on the radio, on the streets
advertising gaycations and
gay friendly apartments.

What about people
who never get a week
off from work.

Who don’t have a roof,
shower, doctor or job.

I like a few straights.
I like the gays who
don’t call me she.

I’d like my mother
to call me by my real name.
Being Trans doesn’t make me
not like my mother.

She is a part of me.
She is apart from me.
She is not me.

I am They. That’s American.
The plural. The blurring.
It’s clear. We’re here.

Forever.

H. Melt is a poet and artist who was born in Chicago. Their work proudly documents Chicago’s queer and trans communities. Their writing has been published by many places including Lambda Literary, The Offing and Them, the first trans literary journal in the United States. They are the author of “The Plural, The Blurring” (Red Beard Press, 2015). This poem was originally published by “EOAGH” and appears in H. Melt’s book “The Plural, The Blurring.”

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