Trans Poet Kit Yan's Slam Poetry Focuses on Identity Growth


On Wednesday, March 20, renowned trans poet Kit Yan gave a performance of his unique blend of acoustic song and slam poetry to a collection of St. Mary’s students and faculty, in Daugherty-Palmer Commons (DPC). Hailing from New York City and having been featured in HBO’s documentary Asians Aloud, Yan has appeared in front of audiences numbering in hundreds of thousands. His performance at St. Mary’s in front of an intimate crowd was not lacking in the thought provoking and confrontational material for which Yan has become known.

Yan’s set covered a gamut of issues from gender, sexuality, and sex to family, love, and the painful process of growing up. Yan opened the evening with a warning about the explicit nature of his poetry and the hour-long set that followed did not disappoint. Through impressive wordplay and often hilarious verses, Yan spoke about life as an Asian-American trans man. His poems detailed graphic sexual encounters as a young person in New York, struggles with family accepting his sexuality, and his personal journey through adolescence exploring his identity.

Yan’s performance, however, transcended sexuality and gender. Yan’s stirring poems touched on the issues that all young people relate to. “Is anyone in here in love tonight?” he asked, in between poems. “I love love so much!”

Yan went on to perform, accompanied by his own ukulele playing, poems dedicated to the ones he has loved, and what love has been in his own life. “Your touch makes every bathroom brawl, every parental humiliation, and every pronoun mistake okay,” Yan said in one poem.

Senior Josh Santangelo, who helped organize the event on behalf of Feminists United for Sexual Equality (FUSE), was thrilled with the evening. “There was a long planning process to get to tonight, but I was really happy with the turnout and the performance,” Santangelo said. “After being a fan and seeing many of these poems online, it was awesome to see them performed live.”

Senior Andrew Reighart was equally impressed by the performance. “I’d only seen slam poetry on TV before this… It was so interactive and really thought provoking. I really appreciated how upfront Kit was in breaking boundaries with his language and subject matter.”

For Yan, performing slam poetry has been a key piece of his journey of identity. “Spoken word is the people’s art for self expression. It allows me to explore the topics closest to me, all aspects of my identity, be it race, sex, or family,” Yan said following the show, “and through writing I process these issues.”

Yan was grateful to his St. Mary’s audience and already looks forward to coming back. “I perform at all sorts of venues on tour, from bars to festivals to clubs,” Yan said. “The energy here was really cool.”