Editor’s note: Poet Andrea Gibson identifies as gender-queer. Gender-queer individuals do not adhere to the he or she pronouns and instead choose to adhere to the pronoun they. The East Tennessean respects Gibson’s identity and is publishing this article in a state that reflects that.
Slam-poet Andrea Gibson brought some intense emotions and laughter in her reading last Thursday in Brown Hall.
Gibson’s poetry touched on many sensitive topics in society, ranging from white supremacy, to senseless deaths in the queer community.
Helping to Educate Regarding Orientation, Equality and the Spectrum — ETSU’s LGBTQ-straight alliance — brought forward the idea of bringing Gibson to ETSU, which brought 263 people to the event.
“We serve as a social group,”said Emma Fredrick, graduate adviser of HEROES, “but we also do education and activism on campus and in the community.”
Fredrick and HEROES President Ben Schaller said that the Multicultural Center, the Department of Psychology, the Women Studies program, Oasis, the counseling center, In Top Form, ETSU Diversity Educators and Thrive — an element of the counseling center — helped make this event happen.
“I help facilitate as the president of the organization,” Schaller said. “I help lead meetings, help start conversations with larger organizations like the Multicultural Center and start conversations on bringing speakers like Andrea Gibson to campus, with the help of so many people.”
When deciding which guests to bring to campus, the organization emphasizes those speakers or artists with significant student interest.
“Last year, Gibson was in Asheville, and a group of us went up there,” Fredrick said. “I think it was really amazing for everyone who went, and a lot of us have been following Gibson for years. Gibson is kind of a personal hero to a lot of us, so we wanted to bring somebody who people were passionate about where it would be entertaining as well as emotionally hard hitting and not just educational.”
Gibson’s set list was packed full of emotion. There were many times Gibson’s voice became more powerful or softer depending on the topic; you could truly hear the passion in their words.
Gibson spoke about their sister with a heavy heart and kindly asked members of the audience not to record the poem. It was extremely emotional.
The organization would like to continue to bring people like Gibson to campus.
“There is a web-series called ‘Her Story,’ it’s written by and stars trans and queer people,” Fredrick said, “which is novel in media. So, we’re really hoping to bring them to campus if possible.”
“Her Story” is about two trans women in Los Angeles who have given up on finding true love. The series shows the lives of women in queer communities and the complications associated with the crossway of label identity and love.
“How often trans women are played by cis-dudes (non-trans men) is so interesting,” Schaller said, “especially when there are plenty of transgender actors and actresses out there.”
The transgender roles in the show are played by individuals who are transexual in real life. Likewise, the queer roles in the series are played by individuals who identify as queer in real life.
Individuals interested in being involved with HEROES can attend the organization’s 7 p.m. meetings, which are held every Monday in Rogers-Stout.
“We have all kinds of events all the time that are beyond meetings,” Fredrick said. “So, following us on social media will help tell you what events we have coming up.”