Strap yourself in for the beautiful chat we had with Rae White.
Rae is a well-known writer in the Meanjin community, whose collection of poetry called Milk Teeth (University of Queensland Press) won the 2017 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize.
Along with kicking poetry goals, Rae also runs Enbylife, which is an incredible journal collection for gender diverse and non-binary creatives.
My name is Rae White, pronouns they/them. I’m a queer trans person living on unceded Jagera and Turrbal land (Meanjin [Brisbane]) in so-called Australia.
How did you find yourself identifying as queer?
Mmm, I don’t remember the exact moment. A lot of things just melded together and started making sense. I originally began using the word genderqueer for myself (instead of non-binary) and the word queer was the bit that stuck around. I think being trans is part of my queer identity - because my queerness encompasses both my sexuality and gender. Also, honestly, queer is such a poetic word. I love it! The letters in QUEER look both fierce and reassuring. It feels good to say and rolls perfectly off the tongue. It’s a word that feels, sounds, and looks like home. I’m so proud to be queer.
What have been the biggest challenges along the way in that journey for you?
Oh wow so many. One major challenge for me has been carving out my queer identity, seeking out the movies, games, books, etc. that I can see myself represented in, and connecting with my community (heck, just finding them in the first place can be tricky!)
I’ve had some folks tell me my book helped them on their journey to discovering their gender and that means so so much! We need more diverse media, more diverse books. I applaud my fellow queer writers and poets for taking up space and writing their stories.
What have been some highlights?
Definitely meeting fellow queer and enby poets and zine makers. The community is so alive and welcoming and I just want that to be the case for everyone. I hope all queers can find their people.
So we hear you run the incredible @enbylife insta. Tell us how that came about and what it entails!
I’ve always been passionate about the stories folks like myself can tell and I want us to be heard. I want to use any kind of platform I have as a writer to uplift the voices of my queer, non-binary, transgender, and gender diverse siblings. If I simply take up space myself, continue climbing the ‘poetry awards ladder’ or whatever, that’s not enough. I need to bring other queers up with me. Taking up space by myself is fine - but making space together is how we create community.
What do you think are some common misconceptions about enby's?
Oh so many gross ones! That we’re all Women Lite, that we’re all tall thin androgynous white people, that we all use they/them pronouns, and that we’re only a new Tumblr trend. None of these are true of course.
Poetry hey? How did you get into writing poetry? Do you find it therapeutic?
I love poetry! I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of poetry growing up. I didn’t see myself in what I was reading - because surprise! the poetry I read in school was by straight white cis men. And that’s fine if it’s your jam, but it’s not what I could connect with.
So when I started reading poetry by fellow queers, I started writing my own and I realised it was what my life had been waiting for. Sounds super corny, right? But poetry somehow just completed my life so perfectly and became the number one artistic way I express myself. Even when I’m writing a short story or painting etc, it still feels like poetry: the succinct wordplay of poetry is what underlies everything I do. And yes, it’s hugely cathartic! My therapist will often encourage me at the end of a session, ‘Now, go write a poem about it!’
What's one thing you'd tell your younger self?
Use your words. Write, speak, listen. Communicate with the people in your life. And that fancy new thing called the internet? It will help you search for everything you’ve questioned and been missing. And it will lead you to books that will crack open your tiny queer-hearted world.